27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 10.29 a.m., and read prayers.
– Order! I wish to mention to honourable senators that this day being 11th November, at 11 o’clock this morning I shall invite honourable senators to stand with me in remembrance of those who have fallen in the defence of their country.
– My attention has been drawn to the entry into the chamber of 3 honourable senators to a matter which arose a week ago when Senator McLaren, on 4th November, addressed a question to me. I take note of the dress worn by Senators McLaren, Keeffe and Poyser. Without in any way expressing a judgment on their clothing, I think it would be appropriate if the House Committee of the Senate were to be asked to consider the matter of dress of Senators and make recommendations to the Senate. Accordingly I propose to call an early meeting of the Senate House Committee for this specific purpose. Pending the Committee’s report and determination of the matter by the Senate I suggest that Senators McLaren, Poyser and Keeffe revert to the regular style of dress for attendance in this chamber.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into and report upon:
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. Is it correct that the Criminology Research Act, which was passed some time ago, has not yet been proclaimed? If so why has it not been proclaimed? When is it proposed to proclaim it?
– I am unable to say whether the Criminology Research Act has been proclaimed, which of course is the decision as to whether it should come into operation. I certainly am able to say to the honourable senator that the appointments contemplated by the Act have not been made. There have been difficulties in ascertaining what salaries shall be payable to appointees and in determining who the appointees shall be. As soon as I am able, in the immediate future, I propose to give my attention to these matters. I trust that the operation of the Act will be effective early in the new year.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry read the reported statement of the Chairman of Dalgetys Australia Ltd relating to the problem of the level of indebtedness in the rural industries? Has the Minister noted the comment that in the view of the speaker there is a need for the provision of long term moderate interest finance in restructuring rural debts? Can the Minister indicate any government developments in this area of assistance to rural industries?
– 1 have seen the newspaper report of what Mr Vines said. 1 have not read his speech in full. 1 should think that the honourable senator would realise that the Government is doing something to meet the situation in the rural industries. Firstly, it has provided a $ 10Om loan to the States for reconstruction purposes. Also a feasibility study is being carried out at present by the Department of Primary Industry into the possibility of establishing a farm loans insurance corporation. Further, the Minister for Primary Industry has asked the Bureau of Agricultural Economics to do a study into the supply of or the demand for credit in the rural industries. When these 2 reports come to hand the Government will have a much better idea of the situation obtaining in the rural industries at present.
– 1 ask the Minister for Health this question: Are oysters from the Georges River in Sydney brought to Canberra for consumption? Is there anything in the reports that due to sewage pollution of the river oysters from that source contain bacteria which may cause typhoid or hepatitis? Does the Department of Health carry out tests in this regard?
– - In the first place, I would not know whether oysters from Botany Bay or Sydney are brought to Canberra. I suspect that they are because I have had some splendid oysters in the Parliament House dining room. The purity of the oysters from a health point of view is essentially a State matter.
– Coming to Canberra?
What I referred to as a State matter is not the bringing of the oysters to Canberra but the question of the wholesomeness of the oysters from a health point of view. Yesterday I was asked a question concerning what is almost a related matter, that is the condition of canned tuna that is sold in this country. I said I would seek some information about it, and I will also seek information about the oysters which are the subject of the honourable senator’s question. 1 repeat, however, that if oysters grown in Botany Bay or the Hawkesbury River or anywhere else in New South Wales are infected to the extent that they become dangerous to health that would be primarily a matter for the New South Wales Minister for Health.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Is the Minister aware that in recent weeks, according to reports from the various selling centres throughout Australia, prices for types of wool which were dropped from the Australian Wool Commission support scheme, such as locks, bellies, crutchings and discoloured wools, and which make a presentable percentage of the overall offerings, have risen generally by from 20 per cent to 50 per cent and in some cases 100 per cent? Does the Minister not understand that if the Wool Commission stopped buying in at auction as on aggressive competitor a similar rise in values of higher grade wools could be possible? Will the Minister use his influence to stop the crazy window dressing activities of the Wool Commission and prevent it from stockpiling these vast quantities of wool at taxpayers’ expense and let the world market determine the real value of wool?
– When 1 saw these reports I sought some information on the matter. I have been informed that the reports mentioned by the honourable senator are grossly misleading. The correct situation is that when the Commission withdrew its support from low grade wools at the start of the current selling season the price of these wools dropped very substantially. This is what I have been saying in the Senate. I have said that the price had dropped by from 12 per cent to 34 per cent. Despite the recent increase in the prices for these wools they have not yet recovered to the levels which ruled at the close of last selling season when they were protected by the Commission. The claim that the Commission has been trying to hide the recent improvements in the price of low grade wools is completely untrue. The Commission has published the closing price quotations for last week, and these show an improvement of 4c a kilogram cleaned for merino carding wools compared with the close of the preceding week. In the price quotations for the 2 weeks prior to this, rises of 3c and 2c a kilogram respectively are shown. The joint wool selling organisation which represents selling brokers, wool buyers and wool growers, and which co-operates with the Commission in issuing market reports, highlighted in its report of last week the strong demand for carding wools and the marked improvement in the price for these wool1:. I think thai the continual questioning of me by the honourable senator in an attempt to place the Commission in a bad light is doing a lot of harm to the wool industry, and this highlights the Labor Party policy in regard to the Commission.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. I ask: Is the Minister aware of the disruption to sailing clubs through the overturning of boats and the risks run by amateur fishermen last week-end in South Australia? ls the Minister also aware that concern has been expressed by some sailing clubs and amateur fishermen at the lateness at which strong wind warnings and changes in weather conditions were issued over radio stations? Will the Minister take steps to ensure that in future there is closer cooperation between the weather bureau and the Department of Civil Aviation to enable the early dissemination of weather forecasts through the news media, particularly the radio stations?
– Long before I inherited the Civil Aviation portfolio I was aware that it is publicly thought that the Department of Civil Aviation has access to weather forecasting information that, is better than that available to anybody else. I want to point out that the weather forecasting information available to the Department of Civil Aviation comes from the Bureau of Meteorology to which the Department contributes a large part of the budget. That same information, therefore, ought to be available to anybody who needs to have reliable weather information. Why it is not the case I find hard to understand. But as T also represent in this place the Minister for Shipping and Transport, whom I think might have some interest in sailing clubs, and the Minister for the Interior, who has the Bureau of Meteorology under his supervision, I shall consolidate my information and see whether I can do something through the various arrangements that are now available to improve the situation to which the honourable senator has referred.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy. As a brief preface to the question, 1 suggest that the Minister is well aware of how important to Tasmania and Australia our fishing industry is, and how frequently fishing boats from other countries poach within our territorial waters. In fact, I suggest that sometimes we do not know just how much poaching goes on. in view of the Government’s decision to spend such a great deal of its defence allocation upon destroyers which most probably would be easily destroyed in time of war, will the Minister say whether consideration has been given to the alternative of building a larger number of high speed coastguard ships which could be used to patrol Tasmanian and other Australian territorial waters against poaching of fish? If the Government has this or some similar plan under consideration, will the Minister say whether a sufficient number of these ships will be based in Tasmania to patrol the Tasmanian coastline and protect the fishing industry?
– I will bring to the attention of the Minister for the Navy the points made by the honourable senator and obtain some information for him. But I point out to him that the Navy, as well as the Air Force, has patrols right around Australia, and they are continually on the watch for shipping. If a ship is seen acting in a suspicious manner or if a patrol sees a ship that it does not recognise, it immediately reports that ship to whoever is in charge of that particular area, and investigations are then made into the matter. I do not want the honourable senator to be under the impression that Tasmania and the waters around it are not under patrol, because they are. I will take the action that I have said I will take.
My question, which is directed to the Minister for Health, follows a question asked of him by Senator Willesee. Is the Minister aware that oyster farmers on the Georges River of New South Wales put their oysters through a very fine filteration process for purposes of purity before the oysters go on to the Australian and, indeed, the export market? Will he not only confer with the Minister for Health in New South Wales about the matter of the Georges River oysters, but also ask his Department to investigate the contamination of all rivers and esturaries in Australia and, where necessary, take any action which will protect the oyster market, the livelihood of the oyster growers and also the export value of the industry to Australia?
I agree with Senator Douglas McClelland that the oyster industry and, indeed, the oyster farmers particularly in the Botany Bay area make a tremendous contribution to the joy that we all get in eating the oyster. I am aware that the oyster farmers have a filtration process. I am aware also that from the point of view of not only the Australian market but also the overseas market this is a very important industry for the Australian economy. I want to make it abundantly clear that in my response to Senator Willesee I was not suggesting any criticism. I merely accepted my responsibility and said not only would I refer the subject matter of the question to the State authorities but I would get some further information from them. I hope that anything I said would not be interpreted as meaning that I was accepting the proposition that any deterioration was being caused to the oyster industry. The subsequent part of the question, which refers to environmental influences on all the waterways of Australia, touches on a very wide subject. I think I would prefer to report that part of the question to the relevant Minister.
Senator Webster having addressed a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry.
– Order! The question will be placed on the notice paper.
– Mr President, 1 ask that you rule the question out of order.
THE PRESIDENT- I will give due consideration to that request.
– If Senator Webster wishes to suggest that any other honourable senator in this place would ask a question because of financial inducement offered to him, let him say so directly and the mater can be referred to the Privileges Committee, but he is not entitled, under the guise of asking a question in this way, to make insinuations indirectly which he is not prepared to make directly.
THE PRESIDENT- I shall look at the transcript of the question when it is available. In the meantime I have ruled that the question be placed on notice.
– I direct a question to the Acting Minister for Immigration. What control does the Minister for Immigration exercise in ensuring that private employers such as the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd do not distort migrant intake targets determined by the Commonwealth Government by virtue of their own overseas migrant recruiting compaigns. Will he take heed of the warning expressed this morning by the Acting National Secretary of the Federated Ironworkers Association, supported by other union leaders, that the current steel industry work force is more than enough to meet the needs of the industry and that any additional work force created by BHP would cause unwarranted and unwanted industrial friction?
– My understanding is that there is no prospect of private employers distorting the immigration programme by overseas migrant recruitment campaigns. The campaigns themselves take place within the framework of the assisted passage programme, and this is carefully controlled in size and structure by the Department of Immigration. The Department takes into account present and future employment prospects, on which it is advised by the Department of Labour and National Service. The Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd in particular has always maintained very close liaison with the Department. One could observe equally that there is an Immigration Advisory Council which is most notably chaired by a member of the Senate, lt does remarkably good work. Represented on the Council are the employers and the unions, and from time to time it examines the overall immigration programme. I therefore imagine that the matter is under fairly careful control.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Supply: What was the cause of the lack of security at the Weapons Research Establishment at Salisbury, South Australia, which permitted the sale by public auction of classified documents as disclosed in the reply to question number 1365 furnished yesterday by the Attorney-General? What action has been taken to tighten up security to ensure that future secret defence documents will not be offered for sale by public auction?
– I understand that the incident to which the honourable senator has referred happened in 1964. I therefore ask the honourable senator to place his question on the notice paper and ( will obtain the information he seeks.
– 1 address my question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Because in the course of a recent visit overseas 1 found that governments in Europe and in the United States were lowering interest rates considerably as a measure to counter rising prices and to stimulate their flagging economies, will the Treasurer explain to the Parliament why in Australia we persist in excessive interest rates which promote inflation, saddle home builders in particular with heavy burdens of debt, depress the vital building industry and conduce to the coming depression?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe honourable senator’s question relates to what has been termed classic fiscal policy, which means the manipulation of interest as part of adjustments to the economy, lt has been raised previously during this session. I can only repeat the answers that 1 have given in the past law weeks. I will refer the question to the Treasurer, but I point out that the movement of the interest rate is connected to the fiscal policy of a country. For example, it would be very dangerous to argue, as the question seems to imply, that because the interest rate is lowered in certain parts of Europe it necessarily follows that this is a good thing for the Australian economy. That is an over simplification and on reflection Senator McManus might agree that it would be a terribly dangerous thing to do.
I could conduct research in the Library and within 10 minutes discover circumstances where the interest rates in certain countries of Europe were being raised because of internal fiscal policy while in other countries in Europe the interest rates were being lowered. It depends on the circumstances of the country concerned and would involve consideration of the balance of exports in relation to internal requirements. For a variety of reasons it is a decision that governments have to take in good faith, acting on the best advice available and on the basis of what is best for a particular country vis-a-vis other countries. However, I think the question should he sent to the Treasurer so that he can give a more detailed reply than question time permits.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science whether he can inform the Senate of the stage reached in the campaign by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation against the sirex wasp? Has any progress been made in the control or the total elimination of this pest? Can the Minister give any information about the areas or States most affected by the wasp?
– The sirex wasp has caused an immense amount of trouble overseas in softwood pine forests. The problem for Australia is the danger of the wasp coming here in crates containing overseas material exported to Australia. There is a very careful inspection of crates that land on any waterfront in this country. The crates are mostly fumigated and/or destroyed when that is considered warranted. Any failure in the inspection process is worth reporting.
– I invite honourable senators to join with me in observing 2 minutes silence. (Honourable senators stood in their places).
I thank honourable senators.
– Some years ago there was a notable outbreak of sirex wasp in Tasmania in a pine forest on an island not far from the Hobart Airport. The forest was totally destroyed. There have been some outbreaks in Victoria. There has always been concern about the Sirex wasp and there has been close investigation of it. I think it will be found that the work of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation is complemented by the work of the Forestry and Timber Bureau research section. I have told the honourable senator what I know of this matter which I realise is important. Australian softwood forests are extremely important. This problem is important to South Australia, a State well planted with softwood forests, soI will ask for the latest information on the state of progress of research work and control and will let the honourable senator have it.
– My question is directed to you, Mr President, and arises out of my concern about the question asked by Senator Webster. Am I to under stand that you have allowed that question to stand? If so, what opportunities will be provided to the members of my Party in this place to refute those scurrilous allegations?
– I gave an undertaking to the Leader of the Opposition that, for the time being, the question would be put on notice. I undertook to look at it later this morning. I have asked that a copy of the transcript of the question be provided to me as soon as possible. I shall make an ultimate decision on the question as soon as that is available to me.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation and relates to reports of further dismissals by Qantas Airways Limited. I ask the Minister: Is it a fact that in April this year dismissal notices were issued to 17 flight engineers and that these dismissal notices were withdrawn in May? Is it now the position that those 17 flight engineers have been given further positive dismissal notices? Is it a fact that a new programme of dismissals and/or retirements has been adopted by the Qantas management?
– I have to comment, again, as I have commented on many occasions, that it is not the job of the Minister for Civil Aviation or the Department of Civil Aviation to manage and operate Qantas. We cannot do so. We are not supposed to do so; it is not our responsibility and we are not so charged. However we do have an interest in the whole civil aviation business. So far as Qantas is concerned, if we can help from time to time we will help on either side, and have done so. The flight engineers position was part of a total technical air crew problem at a time when Qantas found that its costs were rising sharply and its market was declining. It had to make economies. This was a managerial decision. It made economies in the pilot area and in the total air crew area. Amongst these people were the flight engineers to whom dismissal notices were sent.
I believe - my memory will have to serve me here, subject to correction later on - that the flight engineers made some arrangement with the management for the dismissal notices to be delayed and for a long service leave appropriation to be built into the operation to give more time. That is the situation as I understand it. Conjecture about the future will be just conjecture as far as I am concerned. However I will seek to check out this position and find out any up to date information that I do not have for the benefit of the honourable senator.
- Senator Devitt, I want to add to the observation I made earlier. The reason why I ordered the question to be put on notice was that it will be excised from the tape and not included in the rebroadcast of question time. The effect of my ruling that it be put on notice is that it will be wiped off the tape and will not be broadcast.
– I refer to the question I asked of the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. With your permission, Mr President, I wish to withdraw the question unreservedly.
– Can the Minister representing the Postmaster-General advise me whether any agreement has been reached between the Postmaster-General’s Department engineers and the Heathcote State Park Trust on the route to be followed by telephone cables which initially could have menaced certain virgin forest areas?
– I understand the position is that consideration is currently being given lo the whole question. I understand that a number of submissions were received from the secretary, I think, of the Heathcote State Park Trust. Those submissions followed an inspection of the site by the interested parties. Consideration is being given to the whole issue which the honourable senator’s question canvasses.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Does the Minister agree that the time has arrived when, in the public interest, there ought to be legislative provi- sion requiring that ail substantial contributions to political parties, direct or indirect be published, included in the balance sheets of companies, and certainly in some public register available to all?
– 1 wish to take a point of order. The question refers to the financing of political parties.
– Order! There is no point of order.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI am asked to express a view in relation to the publication of details of the financial structure of political parties. This is a very interesting question and, to use an Australianism, it has been booted around for many years, to my conscious knowledge. I know the requirements of the Party to which I have the great privilege to belong; I know the standards which it applies in relation to its financial support. It is a public document. 1 hope that the same rule applies to other parties. But really this is a policy matter and I think that perhaps the question should be placed on notice.
– 1 direct my question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, and 1 ask it following the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Environment in relation to telephone directories. Will the Minister request the Postmaster-General to incorporate all country telephone directories into one country directory for the convenience of both rural and city people, at the same time as he puts into effect the recommendations of the Standing Committee?
– I am aware that the Postmaster-General has been giving consideration to the recommendations of the Senate Standing Committee to which Senator Young has referred. The recommendations of that Committee are not capable of easy implementation, and I know that the Postmaster-General is concerned about various difficulties which would arise by incorporating into the telephone directory many of the matters which the Committee has recommended and which apparently it has assumed could easily be incorporated. I can only convey the honourable senator’s points to the PostmasterGeneral for his consideration, but I think I should say, from my discussions with the Postmaster-General, that it should be assumed that there will be an acceptance of all the recommendations of that Committee because of the practical difficulties of implementation which are being experienced.
– I address to the Attorney-General a question which refers to his enjoyment of a reply that was given yesterday by Senator Drake-Brockman when he claimed that the Australian Country Party spoke with one voice. Has the Minister received a copy of a speech made in the New South Wales Legislative Council on 11th August last by the Honourable W. G. Keighley, M.A., M.L.C., advocating abortion law reform? Is it a fact that that honourable member is a member of the Country Party? Does the Minister know whether his views are the views of the Country Party? Does the Minister also know that Mr Keighley claims that in Sydney one detective in three is engaged in abortion investigation, and that this ratio is very high in the light of the multitude of duties carried out by detectives in Sydney?
THE PRESIDENT- Order! The honourable senator is asking a question which is not within the ministerial responsibility of the Minister to whom he has addressed the question.
– My final paragraph links it up.
THE PRESIDENT- Then I wish that the honourable senator had put the last paragraph first so that it would have given some guidance to me.
– Could the Attorney-General inform the Senate whether the same high ratio of investigation into abortions is carried out by police in the Australian Capital Territory?
– I can only say that the Australian Capital Territory Police Force is the responsibility of the Minister for the Interior. In those circumsances I am unable to answer the honourable senator’s question in any form.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. Is a drug named Amiloride, which is an important drug in the management of cardiovascular diseases, not available to the general public as a pharmaceutical benefit? Does a pharmaceutical company operating in New South Wales produce this drug under the name of Midamor? Was that company informed by the Department of Health that the former Minister for Health, acting upon the recommendation of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, had approved the inclusion of the drug in the schedule of benefits as from 1st August? Will the Minister request his Department to investigate the matter as one of urgency to ensure that this important drug which is used in the treatment of heart disease is made available to the general public at a very early date?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe honourable senator has asked whether a particular drug is on the schedule of benefits. He will appreciate, perhaps more than most honourable senators, that there is a very comprehensive list of drugs on the schedule. It is equally true that the Government must, under legislation passed by this Parliament, have regard to the advice it receives from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee as to whether a drug should be taken out of or placed in the schedule. A related aspect is, as I understand the honourable senator’s question, whether there is another drug which has the same efficacy as the first drug that he mention and, if so, whether some consideration ought to be given to placing it on the list. I will obtain the full facts in relation to this matter and make them available to the honourable senator. Obviously I will not be able to do that today and the Senate will not be sitting next week. Therefore I will commit myself to writing a letter to the honourable senator in the next few days about this matter.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: Has the Prime Minister assured British officials that measures will be taken to control securities markets in Australia? If he has, can the
Leader of the Government say whether he was expressing a Government decision or a personal opinion?
– That question obviously would need to be referred to the Prime Minister’s Department.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Is it a fact that the Australian Consulate at Dili, Portuguese Timor, was closed on 30th June of this year? Was it closed because of the unsatisfactory accommodation which was available to our representative? Were alternative buildings sought before the Consulate was closed and were offers of alternative accommodation rejected? What steps are being taken to maintain and expand our trade relations there?
– 1 have once again made the mistake of volunteering, Mr President. I do know that the Consulate at Dili was closed, but I could not be precise about the date. 1 cannot give the reasons why it was closed. I do know that some official arrangements have been made to cater for the problems of people who wish to go from Portuguese Timor to Australia. I understand that facilities have been made available for this purpose at Darwin. I am unable to say whether it was closed because of unsatisfactory accommodation or insufficient activity. All I can do for the honourable senator is direct his question to the Department of Foreign Affairs and see whether it has made any arrangements to keep these facilities going in any other form.
– I direct a question to the Acting Minister for Immigration. Does the Minister feel that the plight of Mr Silva, the Chilean migrant referred to in the Press this morning, who has professional qualifications in the electronic field, has been caused by a lack of liaison in recognising the professional qualifications of Latin Americans?
– I am not very familiar with this matter. The reference 1 saw to it was extremely brief. 1 did not see the article in the Press in time to contact the Department of Immigration and obtain further information about it. In may well be a part of the problem which was referred to earlier in the day. Some difficulty seems to be experienced from lime to time in relation to the Commonwealth immigration programme - in which the honourable senator takes a great interest - in getting the States to recognise the qualifications of Commonwealth people whom immigration authorities feel are desirable to have in this country. I will make some further inquiries in regard to Mr Silva and the general question of recognition of Latin American professional qualifications in Australia.
– Is the Minister representing the Postmaster-Genera! aware of the demand by those people and businessmen who live and trade beyond the great metropolitan areas of this country that the communications network which is provided by the Commonwealth be provided to all Australian citizens at the same cost rate? As this principle is pursued by the Postmaster-General’s Department, on Government direction in relation to postal facilities why cannot all telecommunications costs and rates be uniform throughout Australia?
– The honourable senator’s interest in this field is well known but I think he will appreciate, as I do, that to answer his question would involve one in intricate matters of costing and performance, quite apart from the question as to whether the Government at a particular time can undertake what would be involved in such a project. All I can do is convey the honourable senator’s interest and his particular request to the Postmaster-General. If the PostmasterGeneral feels that he can add anything to what he has previously said on this subject I am sure he will let the honourable senator know.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. In view of his reply yesterday to question No. 1365 to the effect that a Mr Usher was in possession of classified Commonwealth documents and was not instructed by the
Commonwealth police not to mention that he had possession of them, is Mr Usher or any other person with knowledge of the information in the clasified documents free to make that information public? Were the documents in question cables to and from another country about rocket firing?
– 1 do not know what point the honourable senator is pursuing by asking that question. He has asked for details of events which received some currency in the newspapers some time ago and the answer to the question which he had put on notice was given yesterday. That answer revealed that these events occurred in 1964 and that the classified documents which Mr Usher came across in the filing cabinet which he purchased were given by him to the security service and there his interest in this matter ended. So there is no question of anybody having this information and being able freely to use it as he wished to use it, neither is there any interest in making any comment or remark on the nature of that classified information. In those circumstances and for those reasons I do not propose to take any further steps with regard to the honourable senator’s question.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate and by way of preface might I say that in answering I hope he will not display the same amount of sensitivity as did the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Is it true that the United States Deputy Secretary of Defense, Mr Packard, will be given free access to the Pine Gap base while permission is still refused Australian members of Parliament to enjoy the same right? Is it true that when the Leader of the Opposition visited the base he was refused admission to key areas and saw only mess halls, recreational facilities and ancillary features? When will the Government reverse this embarrassing and absurd situation so that responsible parliamentarians will have the right to know what is happening in their own country?
With your indulgence, Mr President, might 1 say that if I thought that discharging the duties of my office meant that I would lose my sensitivity I would resign within the hour because sensitivity is a trait of human nature which we a JJ want to preserve. As to the question, I ask that it go on notice.
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer whether his attention has been drawn to the Press statement appearing in the Adelaide Advertiser’ of last Wednesday in which the Executive Director of the Master Builders Association of South Australia, Mr K. C. West, stated that the cost of building a $10,000 house had increased by $25 a week since 1st January. Because house finance from banks and lending institutions has not kept pace with rising costs, propective house buyers are finding that they need an extra $1,000 deposit. The problem of finding this additional capital is creating a situation where people are unable to proceed with building. Will the Minister consult the Treasurer for the purpose of having home borrowing finance increased from the present figure to a figure which will enable home buyers to borrow sufficient from the lending institutions to overcome the increase so that they will not have to resort to increased crippling second mortgage finance?
I did not see the article to which the honourable senator refers but, in fairness to the question, I must say that I have seen other statements which posed the same problem in relation to housing costs. I am aware that both at governmental level and in the private sector of the economy there have been movements in the increase of the amount of loan that one could normally obtain. I think that this really touches the fringe of the rather comprehensive question which Senator Drury has posed. I shall send the question not only to the Treasurer but also to the Minister for Housing so that he can reflect upon it and supply an answer.
– Is the Minister for Health aware of the criticism voiced in the annual report of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories about the restrictions placed on its operations which are leading to rapidly declining profits? Is he also aware that the director of Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, Dr Lane, has told the House of Representatives Select Committee on Pharmaceutical Benefits that the CSL could sell certain drugs at a much lower profit than commerical drug companies? In view of these revelations, will the Government lift the restrictions so that a Commonwealth instrumentality can operate profitably and also supply drugs to the public at a lower cost?
– 1 have some information in relation to that question. The present provisions of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Act 1961-1970 restrict the Commission to the production and sale of biological products of a kind used for therapeutic purposes. Since its inception in 1916 CSL has been concerned only with products of a biological origin and with research into such products. Consequently, the general orientation of the laboratories, in terms of plant, equipment and qualifications of staff has always been towards the biological sciences. It is my understanding that in replying to a series of questions asked by members of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Pharmaceutical Benefits Dr Lane stressed certain purely personal opinions in an entirely hypothetical context. I did see the reference in the annual report which was drawn to my attention. I think that in fairness I should say that it really echoes much the same views as I had read in the Press.
Whether the production of non-biological drugs by CSL could actually be achieved at a lower cost than that of other manufacturers is clearly a theoretical question at this time. The manufacture of any product is dependent upon a considerable volume of production - we all understand that situation - which in turn is influenced by the extent of market penetration achieved. The costs involved in the provision of building, plant and equipment for the production of non-biological drugs and the economic viability of such production would require a very detailed examination, both as to the type and range of products to be produced and a cost benefit analysis of manufacturing processes and marketing arrangements. A great majority of non-biological products available for therapeutic use as pharmaceutical benefits are covered by patent, registered trade mark or both. In any event, having regard to those decisions as I understand the position some alteration would be required to the charter of the CSL.
– Does the Leader of the Government in the Senate approve of the Prime Minister’s intrusion into American domestic politics by criticising Senator Edmund Muskie for a statement that Senator Muskie later denied ever making? Does not the Prime Minister realise what embarrassment this ill-mannered remark could cause to Australia if Senator Muskie defeats President Nixon next year and becomes the new President of the United States of America?
The whole question is framed on Press reports which, as I read them, varied in a whole series of ways in setting out what was alleged to have been asked our Prime Minister and what he was alleged to have said. I think that the matter has been properly resolved in the United States. I say to Senator Cavanagh that it is terribly dangerous ‘o make a judgment and to reach a conclusion after reading a variety of international Press reports which, for good and sufficient reasons no doubt, give a brief presentation of what is alleged to have happened and sometimes give a wrong impression of the facts. I think that the honourable senator has given an importance to the matter that it does not rate.
– Earlier in question time I asked a question of the Minister for Civil Aviation concerning the closure of the Consulate at Dili, Portuguese Timor. I very much appreciated the reply thai I received. As Senator Wright the Minister who represents the Minister for Foreign Affairs, is now in the chamber, I wonder whether he would care to add anything to the reply that I have received thus far from Senator Cotton?
THE PRESIDENT- Order! I think that the honourable senator should frame a question to Senator Wright. I do not think that it is proper that Senator Wright should continue an answer to a question given by another Minister.
– MayI make a comment on this matter? The efficiency of my staff in my office has ensured that the question was retailed to me on my return to the House -
THE PRESIDENT- Order! A question is asked on behalf of senators, not on behalf of anyone else, and not on behalf of your staff.
-I do not see the relevance of that remark, Mr President.
THE PRESIDENT- It is relevant as far as I am concerned.
– What I am saying is that in deference to honourable senators who ask questions in my absence my staff records those questions for me. If they have relevance to my responsibility they are retailed to me in express words. Therefore, out of courtesy to Senator Laucke, I would feel it proper that I provide such information as I have in response to his question.
– By leave of the Senate?
– Not on this occasion, Sir.
– Are you challenging my ruling?
– I am asserting my right to answer an honourable senator’s question.
– Well, I will defer the matter for consideration. But I rule at the present moment that you cannot pick up and answer a question that has been asked by an honourable senator when you were not present. If Senator Laucke cares to ask his question again, I will ask you to reply to it.
-I ask this question of Senator Wright. Is it a fact that the consulate at Dili, Portuguese Timor, was closed on 30th June of this year? Was this closure due to lack of accommodation adequate for the purpose of representation by a consul at Dili? Were alternative buildings offered to the consulate for use for its activities? Whatis the position in regard to retaining and expanding our trade relations with Portuguse Timor?
– My colleague, Senator Laucke, is correct in suggesting that the Consulate was closed this year. It was closed because consular business through the office represented only about 3 matters per calendar month and the cost of operating the Consulate was taken into consideration. The buildings that were then occupied were in disrepair and in a condition inappropriate to consulate effort. I am not aware of any offer of alternative accommodation, but my advice is that the only way of providing suitable alternative accommodation is the construction of new premises which the Department of Works, on request from the Department of Foreign Affairs, advised would cost some $80,000. As it was expected that the operating costs of the consulate would entail about$50,000 a year it was not thought that the volume of business warranted the reconstruction. The decision was aided by the fact that we had recently appointed a new ambassador to Portugal itself. As to trade considerations, they are not large, but I would refer to the Department of Trade and Industry for fuller information. The Department of Foreign Affairs assures me that close liaison is maintained between the 2 departments to ensure that that aspect of our operations is not prejudiced.
(Question No. 1458)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The PostmasterGeneral has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1473)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice:
Is coal purchased from Australia by Japan being stored on the sea bed near Japan? If so, in what quantities?
– The Minister for Trade and Industry has supplied the following answer:
Inquiries have been made in Japan andI have been informed that the suggestion that the Japan ese are stockpiling Australian coal on the sea bed is without substance.
However,I understand there was talk in Japan a few years ago about the feasibility of stockpiling coal under water and that some investigatory work on the technical aspects may have been undertaken.
(Question No. 1442)
asked the Acting Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
How many immigrants were processed for entry to Australia by British Authorities in (a) Poland, (b) Roumania, (c) Bulgaria, (d) Hungary, and (e) Czechoslovakia during the past five years?
What is the basis of reimbursement to the British Government for such services?
– The Acting Minister for Immigration has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The numbers of immigrants processed for migrant entry into Australia and granted migrant visas by the British Authorities during the past five years in the countries mentioned were:
For these services the British Government receives the equivalent of £E.4 per visa issued. It retains the £E.2 fee paid by each visa granted and receives an additional £E.2 from the Australian Government for each visa issued.
(Question No. 1448)
asked the Acting Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
How many applications by citizens of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to join relatives in Australia have been held in abeyance in the past 5 years due to the attitude of the Soviet Government?
– The Acting Minister for Immigration has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The following are the numbers of people resident in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics who were (a) sponsored for migrant visas for Australia to join relatives here and who (b) obtained passports and exit permits and were granted Australian migrant visas in each of the past 5 years:
Of the nominees who did not obtain exit facilities and visas it must be assumed that a number, for personal reasons, had no wish to resettle abroad or moved to countries other than Australia.
With regard to the others, reports from sponsors suggest that some of these may have experienced delay and difficulty in obtaining permission from the Soviet authorities to leave their homeland.
No accurate information is available with regard to the numbers concerned.
(Question No. 149S)
asked the Acting Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
– The Acting Minister for Immigration has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
As evidence of the importance which the Government attaches to migrant education, the funds provided for the more diversified programme in the current financial year are in the vicinity of S5m compared with an expenditure of $3.8m last year. However, even the addtional amount provided was not sufficient for planned development in all areas of the programme, and some reduction was necessary in the funds available for the continuation class programme as well as in other areas. State Education Departments, which are responsible on a reimbursement basis for arranging the continuation classes and appointing teachers, were asked therefore to effect a rationalisation of the programme by closing single classes where the number of migrants attending had fallen below the acceptable level and by regrouping the remaining classes in centralised areas to afford more effective instruction whilst maintaining as wide a coverage as possible. The New South Wales Education Department initially was able to close 73 classes including 54 in the Sydney metropolitan area.
(Question No. 1S29)
asked the Acting Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
With reference to the publication ‘Migration Facts/Figures 1970-71’, what is:
the break-down on a nationality basis of the 27,343 persons who were naturalised;
the countries of origin of the 275 person refused naturalisation, and the reasons tor such refusal; and
the countries of origin of the 7,750 persons who were registered as Australian citizens?
– Yesterday Senator Brown asked me when he could expect answers to questions Nos1301 and 1302. Inquiries were made of the Department of Shipping and Transport about this matter yesterday afternoon. I am now advised that the answers are in the process of preparation.
– I present the report of the Tariff Board on the following subject:
Track for tractors.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, I present the report relating to the following proposed work:
Central Zone Sewerage Scheme at Darwin, Norlhern Territory.
– I withdraw Notice of Motion No. 2 standing in my name and ask for leave to make a brief statement.
– Is leave granted?
– On 5th October I gave notice of a motion for the disallowance of the amendment to the Air Force regulations contained in Statutory Rules 1971 No. 78, so that the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances might have time to inquire further into certain aspects of these regulations which are of concern to honourable senators. The Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman) has now given the Committee an assurance that he will promulgate certain amendments to these regulations which will overcome the Committee’s objections.I therefore withdraw the Notice of Motion.
Motion (by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) agreed to:
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday, 23rd November at 2.30 p.m.
Debate resumed from 4 November (vide page1695), on motion by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This Bill proposes the borrowing by the Commonwealth of $US1 1,3 10,400, which is roughly$A 10,100,000, from the Export-Import Bank of the United States of America and the Boeing company and the appropriation from the Loan Fund of an amount not exceeding$A 13, 1 50,000 to assist Qantas Airways Ltd in purchasing not more than 2 Boeing 747 aircraft and spares. The proceeds of the loan will assist Qantas in financing the purchase of a fifth and sixth Boeing and spares, with an option to cancel the sixth if necessary.
The Bill also provides some minor amendments to the 1968 legislation. I suggest that the legislation allows the Parliament to discuss a number of important issues related to the operations of Qantas. We all know that Qantas has had a proud record in the past. From very small beginnings, assisted by the philosophy of the Labor Party during the World War II years, and staffed by very expert people, Qantas has become a formidable airline carrier. Bui now there appears to be a crisis in the affairs of Qantas. We are all very concerned about it. The crisis has occasioned very drastic retrenchments of highly skilled personnel from the organisation. Press reports, which the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) is not able to confirm or deny, state that further retrenchments and/or retirements are likely because of the crisis. We are not able to understand the viability of Qantas in the present intense competition from overseas airlines, but the situation is such that Parliament ought to discuss the matter, lt ought to be informed more than it is.
On behalf of the Opposition 1 move the following amendment to the motion that the Bill be now read a second time:
Al end of motion add: but the Senate is of the opinion thai firm arrangements should have been made for substantial coproduction procedures for imported aircraft and a joint select committee should be appointed to inquire into and report upon the effectiveness of Qantas management in relation to crew retrenchment, migrant carriage contracts, the future role of Qantas In the major international aviation scene- both from commercial and defence aspects, the question of Qantas’ role in Australia’s balance of payments, entry into and extent of activity in international charter operations, charter fare structures, the company’s continued viability as the national flag carrier in Australian aviation and its industrial relations ‘ policies and practices.’ 1 indicate for the benefit of the Minister that this amendment is not exactly the same as the one that was moved in the House of Representatives. By this time, no doubt, he has had an opportunity to see the difference.
The situation to which 1 have been referring seems to be a crisis. As everybody knows, for about 12 months now - certainly since April this year when retrenchments were forecast - the Press has engaged in many speculations. But, when we senators have attempted to obtain answers on those speculations or when we have met representatives of the industry, the information given to us has been no more perfect than it is today. So. my first proposition is that the Parliament ought to know more.
With reference to the attitude of the Minister, let me say that whatever 1 say about him in this debate is certainly not a personal reference; it is a reference on the basis of what seems to be his philosophy and that of the Government in respect of Qantas. 1 know that, generally speaking, their proposition would be similar to what would be advanced by a Labor government: We would not interfere unnecessarily with a national enterprise that was doing well. But the controversy is so intense, the information given is so obtuse and the circumstances of the retrenchments are so important that much more information should be given to the Parliament.
The position is that our national flag carrier is to lose a large number of skilled people and that many more are certainly under the shadow of dismissal. Nobody knows exactly what the position is. Until very recently the managers of Qantas were fairly optimistic about its position. Last year and early this year the prospects were that Qantas would suffer all the rigours of the competition now prevailing. There are many new developments in the aviation industry which ought to be considered in a broader sense. Even the information that may be provided during the debate on this matter is not the sort of expert information that we want. We have not been able to obtain such information in the Estimates committees. That is only natural. That is the reason why the Opposition proposes that a select committee be appointed to consider the position.
All of us members of the Parliament have loyally supported Qantas in ils endeavours to ride the rigours of competition. We have all welcomed its achievements. Everybody has been proud to fly on Qantas aircraft. But surely we have reached a situation, in the current reported crisis, when we ought to know more about it. We cannot obtain that information from the Minister because, it seems to me, his philosophy is to stand aside from the affairs of Qantas as much as possible when, in my opinion, he should be devoting himself to the task of seeing whether some of the things that are happening can be corrected. If they cannot be corrected, he should advise the Parliament in more definite terms.
One of the most important aspects ot this matter - this Bill gives us the opportunity to discuss it - is the subject of coproduction or Australia sharing in the manufacture of the equipment that we are purchasing. As everybody in the Parliament - particularly in the Senate - knows, we have canvassed the subject on several occasions. For many years now we have said that the Government should be more active in ensuring that the Australian aircraft industry gets some part of the production work that goes into the making of the massive number of pieces of equipment in these very expensive aircraft. Each one of them is worth about S20m. This is the priority subject as far as we are concerned. Whilst there have been some minor moves in this field, they have involved only sprats of work. I use the word ‘sprats’ bearing in mind the huge programme for the importation of aircraft.
I wish to quote now some figures which have been prepared by the research section of the Parliamentary Library. Some of them have been reported earlier, but the position has been brought up to date. They give the total value of imports of aircraft and parts thereof into Australia from 1967-8 to 1970-71. I make it clear that they include not only civilian aircraft but also defence aircraft. The table refers to the types of aircraft involved, the sizes of the aircraft, which include helicopters, and spare parts. In 1967-8 the total value of these imports was $136,286,000; in 1968- 69 it was $131,590,000; in 1969-70 it was $127,182,000; and in 1970-71 it increased to $159,028,000. As most people know, in addition to those imports, we import various munitions and war stores. This also has been the subject of argument. According to a table supplied by the Parliamentary Library, in 1970-71 the value of such imports was nearly $90m.
This situation has been developing, and many members of the Parliament - particularly from this side of the Parliament - have argued that the determination of the Government is not strong enough to make deals that will mean that more aircraft and parts are manufactured in Australia. We have pointed to the depressed state of the Australian aircraft industry which, as most people know, is composed of very efficient units. Our own Government Aircraft Factory is a highly specialised and technically equipped factory. It compares with the best in the world. Its staff has been reduced over the years. Id the last 6 months its staff has been reduced by SO skilled workers and is now less than 2,000. The Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Pty Ltd is another highly specialised organisation in aircraft work. In 12 months its staff has been reduced from 2,550 to 2,050. At its peak it has a staff of 3,500. In addition there is the Hawker Siddeley organisation which has technically expert people. It also is suffering the same sort of downturn. Rearrangements of the defence programme nave also reduced the amount of servicing work available to the industry from the Royal Australian Air Force and other units nf the Services.
While the Government is allowing this sort of decline, it is looking for solutions which, I believe, will not be satisfactory. It is talking about rationalisation and merging the very effective national factory - the Government Aircraft Factory - into some arrangement with the private sector. What it should be doing is making sure (hat in every deal it makes for the civilian airlines and other people in Australia it says: ‘We want to produce this part of the aircraft”. But what hat been the position? Over the years since this issue was first raised there have been some good intentions. The former Minister for Supply. Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, was interested in this matter. But we have had no more than $5m worth of offset orders from the Boeing company. That is only peanuts, if I may use that expression. It seems to me that that alone should cause honourable senators to support our proposition. If they want to support it only in part, at least that will represent progress. This is an important contribution that we should be making.
We should be saying in this Parliament that the decline of the aircraft manufacturing industry should be halted and that we will not be satisfied with being able to provide merely small bits and pieces for the industry. We should adopt that view not only from an economic aspect in view is? the ability of our own factories to perform work of this kind - but because wc should reduce considerably our need to place reliance on other powers for major equipment. I propose to refer briefly to the experience of the Japanese aircraft industry which, in a technical sense, started almost from scratch after the last world war. Now. because of Government promotion, Japan has entered strongly into the field of aircraft production. It is producing aircraft which it is exporting to Western Europe, and it is selling some light aircraft to Australia. Yet in Australia we are still talking about the need for offset orders to help our aircraft industry. The Government should take a firm attitude in this regard.
I shall mention the kind of situation which prompts me to suggest that a select committee be appointed. I have mentioned already that most people are of the opinion that Qantas Airways Ltd is facing a crisis in its operations. Although to some extent this crisis is related to the general down-turn of the aviation industry, which has become something of a rat race, and the introduction of new sophisticated aircraft, everybody is aware that the plight in which Qantas finds itself is due to some extent to the lack of appreciation of current trends by the management of Qantas. I refer to statements made by the management of Qantas and I propose to cite passages from the news sheet put out by the company. A circular issued by Qantas in January was headed ‘Qantas plans to meet new challenges’ and it stated, among other things:
Qantas has, over the last decade, achieved a substantial and profitable rate of expansion, which brought revenues and profits to record levels last year. As one of its main objectives, the company hopes to maintain and improve this record of profitable expansion, to permit it to continue to be a major contributor to Australia’s development and balance of payments. Projected market growth, and additional capacity to be provided by new aircraft types, provide a favourable environment for continued growth of the airline. Although continued expansion is within our reach, it will not occur by itself. The market potential along Qantas’s route systems is attracting increasing competition from other carriers.
The circular then goes on to mention the kind of problems that Qantas is facing. It mentions the development of more sophisticated approaches to the establishment of appropriate future strategies, of precise long range plans geared to those strategies and of methods of appraising performance against plans. It refers to expanded programmes of training of an increasing number of employees at all levels of staff and management. On 14th April 1971 the Qantas ‘News’, No. 8 of Vol. 19, carried a heading which revealed a trend different from that to whichI have referred. The heading was ‘Qantas faces financial crisis - Company battles costs in effort to stay our of the red’. This special edition of the News’ refers among other things to huge cost increases, coinciding with a drop in the growth rate in international air traffic, having brought Qantas to a situation where the company will have to struggle hard to remain profitable in the financial year that has just begun. The report states:
But the problem is being tackled, and the measures now in train should just enable us to stay inthe black in 1971-72.
In a report presented to the Parliament last year Sir Roland Wilson said:
During the past decade the company has grown very rapidly - from revenues of $68m in 1960-61 to almost$200m in 1969-70. With predictions of an upsurge ininternational air traffic in the years ahead, we see Qantas entering a new period of long-term development and continued vigorous growth. However, as we progress into the seventies, it becomes more evident that competition from foreign airlines operating into Australia will become increasingly severe. Increases in total capacity provided are tending to exceed increases in traffic, a situation which must ultimately lead to deterioration in financial results. Nevertheless, we are confident that Qantas is in a strong position to meet the challenges of the years ahead, when new generations of aircraft will be entering service with the company. We shall strive to maintain our competitive position on existing routes and broaden our markets to take full advantage of the opportunities that develop.
That passage would seem to indicate that certainly there are no heavy clouds on the horizon. I refer next to a report by Captain Ritchie, the General Manager of Qantas, on the anniversary of the company’s fiftieth year of service, in which he said:
In the last 10 years, world airline revenue passenger miles have quadrupled and the impact of mass air travel has penetrated deeper and deeper into our civilisation and, in the next 10 years, air travel is expected to at least triple in volume. Such meteoric growth has given rise to a precise and demanding art in the aircraft industry - the vital task of planning an airline fleet. Yet, this art must be practised in an indefinite atmosphere where production and passengers’ predictions are the ruling factors.
In the same report he went on to say:
The productivity of a Boeing 747 is about 2½ times that of the 707 and when we receive our 4 in August, October, November and December next year it will be the equivalent of receiving something like ten 707s. This will then give Qantas, by the end of 1971, the equivalent of about thirtyone 707 fleet, which is pleasingly close to our 1965 forecast requirement.
The annual report for 1970-71, which has been presented to the Parliament by the Minister, sets out in the conclusions at page 17, among other things:
On the basis of either capacity ton miles available, or actual loads carried, Qantas is the twelfth largest international airline. With S225m of revenue and over 12,750 employees, the company in many ways made, and will continue to make a substantial contribution to the country’s trade and national economy.
The short term outlook for Qantas is not as encouraging as we could wish. Some recent developments are giving cause for concern to the company. The influences which adversely affected our rate of traffic growth during the last months of the financial year have continued in the early part of the current year.
The report refers to cost increases being offset to some extent by small passenger fare increases which became effective in April 1971. It concludes by saying:
The Board expressed its appreciation to the thousands of Qantas employees who have been responsible for our accomplishments over the past year, and to the Director-General of Civil Aviation . . .
All those reports and statements do not present a gloomy picture, yet between the issue of the report last year and the one in September this year there have been substantial retrenchments which followed closely upon the rather optimistic reports from the management of Qantas. In November 1970 Qantas was recruiting skilled technical staff and it put to the Federal secretary of the Flight Engineers Association a proposal that might assist in recruiting flight engineers, and during December 1970 and January 1971 recruiting efforts were conducted in New Zealand, Hong Kong and England. These efforts included a proposal to former employees of Qantas who were employed by Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. The union was asked to contact these people to see whether they would return to Qantas and become part of the Qantas enterprise. In February 1971 five applicants were interviewed in London. During this time Qantas spent $1,000 on advertisements for staff. Then a dispute developed between the Australian Federation of Air Pilots and Qantas about superannuation and the operation of the 747 aircraft. Closely following those discussions was an announcement on 22nd April 1971 that 90 pilots, 42 cadet pilots and 70 flight engineers had been retrenched, although at that time 5 flight engineers were undergoing training. Since then a number of questions have been asked of the Minister about whether the information was correct, whether discussions between the staff unions affected and Qantas were held, and broadly what the Minister thought about the situation. On almost every occasion the Minister simply said that he had not been informed.
– I think you might remember that I did say that I was taking an active interest in the matter. In fairness to me, I think that should be said.
– I do not dispute that. The Minister was justified in assuming the role of the Minister for Civil Aviation as he saw it. We think that the role he is adopting or that the Government instructs him to adopt and the role the Prime Minister is adopting are wrong. An enterprise such as Qantas, with a fine record and with everything going for it, suddenly was faced with a crisis. It seems to us that the Minister and the Government should have acted quickly and should have adopted the role of mediator or organiser.
– I think you might happened, that is precisely what happened.
– I refer the Minister to the occasions on which I asked questions similar to the one that I asked today As far back as May of this year I asked about the small number of flight engineers - a highly skilled group - who were to be retrenched. Since then at almost regular intervals I have asked what is happening about them. The questions and answers are recorded in Hansard. I have asked whether they have been retrenched, whether there have been negotiations between the unions covering the flight engineers, the crews, the pilots, etc., and Qantas and whether the negotiations were being conducted in a way which would satisfy everybody that the retrenchments might be averted or the position corrected. I put it to the Minister that it is relatively easy to ask a Minister a question about his department. The Minister for Civil Aviation might like to draw a fine distinction about this, but when there are fairly heavy retrenchments in an industry it is relatively easy to get an answer quickly from a Minister in this place or in another place. We get an answer as to what the developments are, what can be done and on occasions what efforts are being made to avoid retrenchments. I asked a question about the position of the 17 flight engineers, not the 90 pilots or the 35 aircrew. On 29th September I asked this question:
My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. I refer again to the retrenchment notices issued by Qantas Airways Ltd to some 150 officers and workers, including air crew and flight engineers, some months ago, but to take effect from October. Is the Minister able to advise whether these retrenched staff will now be maintained in view of the agreement in relation to United States-Australia ait services? If he is not able to advise us at this time, will he find out the position and let the Senate know?
On that date the Minister replied:
Actually I am waiting on that information myself at the present time. As soon as 1 get it I will see that the honourable senator receives a copy of it.
On 12th October, as recorded at page 1275 of Hansard, I asked the Minister this question:
My question, which is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation relates to a report in the Press last Wednesday that retrenchment notices served on 50 flight engineers employed by Qantas Airways Limited had been withdrawn. As the Minister might recall, similar questions have been put to him several times during the last month. How is it that he, as the Minister, has been unable to supply this information to senators whilst the Press is able to get and report it? Is it because the information is not being given to the Minister or is it because the Minister has decided not to give the information to the Senate? In future will be supply information where it is available? What is the present position in relation to the retrenchments?
The Minister replied:
The honourable senator could have included a third factor in his comment, that is, that perhaps from time to time the Press is not accurate and perhaps the Press is speculating in making comment not based on fact. When a question is asked of me I ask the responsible people to let me have an answer if I have not got it myself. I have asked the people concerned - Qantas Airways Limited - to let me have an answer. I have not got it yet. I cannot say when I expect to get it, but I shall ask Qantas again. The honourable senator may be assured that I try to give the Senate accurate information when I have it. I do not base my replies on speculation, and I do not particularly appreciate it being said of me that I do.
On the same day, at a meeting of Senate Estimates Committee D, I followed up that question. I referred to the retrenchments and asked a broad question of the Minister. My questions are recorded in the Hansard of Estimates Committees C and D of 12th October. The Minister gave a broad and a very long reply. He reiterated the position to which I have referred earlier.
I do not want to quote what he said, but again he gave only a small amount of information. When he finished the Chairman, Senator Laucke, who is in the chamber, complimented him on the advice and the information given to the Committee. At page 121 of that Hansard I said:
Mr Chairman, 1 agree with you that the Minister has given us some views in depth. I had only hoped that he might bc able to say - he might think it is a small point - whether the information about the retention of the 15 flight engineers was correct, but he cannot say.
The Minister did not answer about the retrenchments. Honourable senators will notice that in replying to the questions I put to him earlier he said that he would ask Qantas and that he did not have the information. At the hearing of the Estimates Committee he said that he had not the information. The true position, as I am told by the union, is that in April retrenchment notices were issued to 70 flight engineers. In May, because the flight engineers union pointed out that some requirements of capacity could be offset by the engineers taking accumulated leave, the notices were withdrawn. It was only when we came into the chamber this morning that the Minister gave information about something which happened in May. I think I understand his position. It seems to me that he is standing aside because he wants Qantas to operate on some kind of commercial basis.
It seems to me that these matters are presenting a crisis. There have been threats of a strike by the pilots if the present retrenchment notices are not withdrawn. I am told that the Federation of Air Pilots was willing to subsidise the pay scales of the retrenched employees while they were temporarily unemployed by Qantas and employed in other employment. They would be receiving the same kind of pay rates that they would if they had been employed by Qantas. That would not have been as heavy handed as the payment of severance pay. Everybody knows that in industry these days severance pay, following the American pattern, often operates where people are displaced because of changes in employment and changes of techniques in industry.
I am told that the pilots put the proposition that they themselves would pay some part of their salary but that the proposition was refused.
I refer now to the charter subsidy of Qantas. As the Minister knows, for many months people both outside and inside the Parliament have been pressing the Government to set up a subsidiary. This was done, but it was done belatedly. British Overseas Airways Corporation was certainly first in the field. At present BOAC is operating charters through Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. One of the things about which the industry has been critical is the fact that some of the charter arrangements made to bring migrants to Australia over the last 2 years were neither profitable nor satisfactory to Qantas. Qantas, rather than carry this traffic, in the last 2 years obtained 180 charter flights and sub-let 145 of these to Caledonian Airways, a Scottish company. In fact, that airline was competing with Qantas on the return trip in respect of the passengers who would be travelling back to Europe. On 28th April 1971 Senator Mulvihill placed a question in these terms on the notice paper:
What is the breakdown by individual airlines of the transport of migrants?
The Ministers answer was as follows:
No statistics are maintained of the individual airlines who bring to Australia migrants who make their own travel arrangements, viz. unassisted migrants (approximately thirty (30) per cent of the total) and assisted migrants from the Americas and Denmark.
The following information therefore relates only to assisted migrants who travel on bookings made by the Department of Immigration or by the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration.
The proportion of assisted migrants who travel by air to sea travellers is now approximately 65 : 35.
Assisted migrants whotravel by air are carried either:
on charter flights: or
on commercial flights where seats not required for commercial passengers are available.
Department of Immigration Bookings
The detailed breakdown of passengers for the financial year 1970-71 (including forward bookings) is as follows:
booked through Qantas:
I interpose at this point to say that that was one of the things which was revealed, I understand by deputations to the Qantas management. There were complaints and suggestions that Qantas should have got into the field then, not in relation to affinity groups but in the form of a charter subsidiary company which was then on the go. The answer continues:
The detailed breakdown of ICEM bookings for the financial year 1970-71 (including forward bookings) is as follows:
I suppose it can be said that it is too late now to complain about these matters. But we raised them in the debate - I think it was in May - and certainly the pilots organisations have raised them with the Government. We are wondering now why the Government cannot tell us something more positive about the inauguration of the charter subsidiary and its viability and, of course, the future viability of Qantas. The whole matter raises a number of questions which should be answered and which should have been answered before.I refer to the retrenchments at the present time. Obviously, one of the questions is: Is it serious for Qantas and the staff? It is certainly serious for the staff. Another question is: Will there be more retrenchments? I I think Parliament ought to be informed about it. Will the staff come back to the industry or will it be lost for all time to Australia and the industry? Is the reason for not informing the Parliament based on the policies of the Government or is it because the Government is not getting the information from the Qantas management? Was the issue a subject of and dependent upon industrial negotiations? This raises a very important aspect. I know that the Flight Officers Tribunal tried to tackle this question. The Minister offered some reference to this when he said that if he was asked to intervene in an industrial matter he would do so, but he may want to correct or alter that according to what the position seems to be at the time, lt is obviously an industrial matter when people are sacked from an industry because the question whether they can be employed again at some future time is involved.
We hope that Qantas will recover from the downturn and that these people will not bc lost to Australia or to the industry when the vast amounts of money spent on training very highly specialised persons is considered. It seems lo me that it is an issue about which in another department the Minister or the Government would intervene or assist the unions and management to come to terms around the table. Was that done on this occasion? Why is it not possible for that to he done if it was not done? What is the future position? That, of course, is the main question. Did Qantas management make a mistake in late 1970 and early 1971 in recruiting technical staff and in not warning that staff that there could be some downturn because of the references to that aspect contained in the various reports from management? One would have thought that something concerning these matters would have been reported to the Parliament.
The final point with which we are very much concerned is the operation of the charter subsidiary and the forecasts for Qantas in the future, ls there to be a succeeding period of difficulties which could result in an altered operation of Australia’s national flag carrier, which would be a great loss to the country? If that position does arise; what corrective methods will be applied? It seems to me to be reasonable that a committee be employed to look into the matter. I refer to only 2 other incidental questions. Obviously, the question of the future of International Air Transport Association agreements comes into the picture. The pilots association and others are arguing that we have reached a stage where we should disregard those agreements to some extent. They claim that our pool partner, BOAC, is at present playing a doubleheaded penny. To conform with IATA obligations BOAC is issuing 2 rickets while at the same time taking advantage of what is an open go in respect to the charter provisions. We have been told of the breakdown that occurred at Lausanne. I understand that the whole question of fare deter minations has to be determined by February next year. What is the future?-. I am certain that the Senate would like to know what the prospects are.
The Opposition considers that not enough information has been given to the Parliament. There may be some argument that in times when there is the usual growth rate and no sackings or industrial trouble occur, the Minister for Civil Aviation might stand aside from these issues, but to the Opposition this does not seem to be the situation at the present time; nor has it been so since May of this year. The Opposition, therefore asks the Senate, to support the amendment that I have moved.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - ls the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment.
– The Loans (Qantas Airways Ltd) Bill (No. 2) 1971 which is before us has a specific purpose. It probably conies at a very vital lime in the history of Qantas Airways Ltd, Australia’s international airline, because this is a time of great challenge in the industry. Every Australian can be proud of the record of Qantas. It was not the first commercial airline - I think KLM had that distinction - but it was certainly the first overseas airline conducted, in the world. It stands as a tremendous monument to Australian initiative, courage and financial resourcefulness that a country with a population as small as ours could have played such an important role in the establishment of a major overseas airline, one which still ranks in the first dozen in the world.
This measure is necessary because any overseas airline operating on long haulage flights must continually improve its air fleet so as to include the latest planes capable of carrying passengers profitably. This Bill will enable Qantas to fulfil its commitment already entered into to buy aircraft. This is a very sensitive period for international airlines and at such a time it would not be good for either Australia or Qantas to suggest holding up this measure. I have in mind not only the lapse of time through failure to purchase now but also the damage to the image of Qantas which would result from entering into a commitment to buy aircraft and then being unable to fulfil the contract. That could have very serious repercussions not only for Qantas but also for everybody else engaged in our aviation industry. It would put in jeopardy the part that Qantas plays in our commercial and defence structure, and it does play a part in both.
The amendment proposed by the Australian Labor Party has been moved in somewhat more moderate terms than had been suggested. It carries no provision whatever to delay the legislation. We must consider the proposal before the Senate and not a proposal that was to some extent foreshadowed in the corridors. The activities of Qantas must be examined in determining whether we should approve the setting up of a select committee of the Senate or a joint committee of both Houses to explore the operations of Qantas, to determine whether failure has occurred, and if so, where. I suggest that after examining the commercial activities of Qantas the conclusion must be reached that there is no justification for dissatisfaction with or criticism of its management. Qantas competes in a tremendously difficult field under really loaded circumstances.
One of the circumstances loaded against Qantas is that the aircraft it uses always have to be purchased from another country. This means that Qantas must carry a huge quantity of spares while competing with airlines based in countries from which Qantas purchases the spares. Those overseas airlines do not have the same need to carry a huge range of spares and the accompanying financial obligation. That is a very important factor in the aviation industry because of the costs involved and the amount of capital that must lay idle in order to provide an adequate supply of spares. Not all the spares purchased may be used, but in running an airline the management must be ready for any eventuality. Millions of dollars have had to lie idle over the years and be financed by the company in order to remain in active competition with airlines not faced with that problem. That is one of the factors loaded against the operation of a successful international airline from a country such as Australia.
One of the factors affecting the conduct of a commercial airline in any small country is the revenue obtained in international currency. The inflow of such currency into the economy of a small nation is very important when viewed against the need to maintain for defence purposes airfields, aircraft and equipment. Many smaller countries, having that aspect in mind, are prepared to run their international airlines at a heavy loss. Indeed, they are forced to do so.
I am wondering whether Qantas has been treated with complete fairness over the years. It has always been able to show a profit on its operations. Whether the profit it has shown is in proportion to the enormous financial investment is a question involving the need for more research than I am able to do. Would a private company in its entirety have been prepared to carry on with the capital invested in Qantas while producing comparable profits? To answer that question requires a great deal of research and to some extent it would be a useless exercise. In any event, in all but one of the last 10 years Qantas has been able to show a profit. The exception was in 1966-67, when a small loss resulted. In that year Qantas had difficult and specific industrial problems. In an operation the size of that conducted by Qantas it would be a miracle if industrial trouble did not arise. I am certain that my friends in the Australian Labor Party would agree with that.
We always support the right to strike because we recognise that an industrial situation can develop in which the employees have no recourse to other methods. In 1966-67 Qantas showed a loss of $ 1.23m after encountering extreme industrial problems. Those problems can be understood, but even so Qantas seems to have observed its general obligation to its employees. In the last 10 years in round figures, Qantas has doubled the numbers of its staff. In that period the gross salaries and wages of its staff have increased 3i times. That seems to indicate that in a broad and general sense the employees are today much better off than they were 10 years ago. Qantas therefore seems to have reasonably met its obligation in generally expanding over the years. Its employees do not seem to have fallen behind because, although their numbers have doubled in the last 10 years, their gross salaries and wages have increased 3i times. In the course of running a very big organisation industrial problems must arise. Qantas has overcome these problems in the past. Justice has to be done to all parties. People are entitled to use pressures to make industrial gains for themselves.
We of the Democratic Labor Party join in the criticism of the Government for its lack of strength in preserving Australia’s aircraft industry in general. We have often spoken on this subject and reiterate our philosophy that we do not think Australia has any choice but to attempt to preserve its aircraft industry. Irrespective of losses incurred, all aspects of the use of aircraft in Australia have to be co-ordinated if the industry is to be maintained. There can be no qualification about that. We charge the Government with neglecting to accept a full measure of responsibility to press onward and preserve the aircraft industry. Let us get some competitive element between our aircraft factories because without it they could lose the vigour which is so essential to the defence aspects of our country.
Whether an inquiry into Qantas would sheet home responsibility for the coordination to its proper source, that is the Government, is another matter entirely. It is one about which we have very grave doubts indeed. It is not clear to us that an inquiry into Qantas by a select committee or a joint committee of both Houses of this Parliament would solve in any way the general problems of the aircraft industry. The inquiry could become submerged in the problems of Qantas. Those problems, as we all know, are new problems. From our investigations in the last week, Qantas appears to be making very positive efforts to overcome and control them. As it has successfully competed in the past we believe that before it is criticised it at least should be given the opportunity to go ahead in its own way to meet the new challenges that confront it with the introduction of new aircraft and because of the more highly competitive nature of the field in which it is competing. The field is becoming more highly competitive every day. Qantas should not be diverted into perhaps having to answer for the shortcomings of the organisation of the whole aircraft industry in this country. That clearly is not the obligation of Qantas. If Qantas has an obligation in this respect it is to co-operate with the Govern ment to the fullest extent possible, and there is no indication that Qantas has not always been prepared to do this.
We may or may not be right in concluding from our inquiries - perhaps our conclusion is based on insufficient evidence and perhaps it is not - that there does not seem to be sufficient co-operation between all the aspects of this industry in this country. We do not attribute blame for this in any way at all to Qantas. It is true that at the moment there seems to be definite evidence suggesting that an inquiry is taking place with a view to amalgamating, at least in Victoria, the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation and the Government Aircraft Factories in order to make them more viable. We will await the outcome of that inquiry.
I agree with the case made out by Senator Bishop for supporting our aircraft industry. We feel that the Government when purchasing commercial aircraft abroad, and particularly when purchasing military hardware, has not acted strongly enough in the past in demanding that this country should have the right to involve its own aircraft industry. It has not emphasised sufficiently to those nations from whom we purchase - they are people with whom we have friendly relations for the purposes of defence - the absolute necessity of Australia being commercially independent in conducting a viable aircraft industry as part of the defence of this country if the need should ever arise. Qantas seems to have made quite a reasonable contribution in this respect. We understand from evidence submitted to us that Qantas is servicing the most modern aircraft engines, not only for our own requirements but for other countries in the Indian Ocean region and the South Pacific area. This is a very good thing. It is maintaining a skilled aeronautical engineering staff and the necessary .equipment to engage in this type of activity.
We note also that Qantas is investing in the smaller airlines of other countries such as the Condominium of the New Herbrides and Fiji. This is a good thing from the point of view of Australia’s defence structure. Australia must gradually develop relations with these islands in the South Pacific area, small though they may be. Militarily they are almost dependent on Australia, as Australia could be dependent upon other countries in the event of an international conflict. They look to Australia for help as Australia is the most effective economic force in the geographic area for places like Fiji, the New Hebrides and Samoa. All those places are developing very small international airlines which we should assist in every possible way. Qantas is accepting its responsibility and is doing a very reasonable job in that regard.
It has been said that the Parliament has not been made sufficiently aware of all the circumstances relating to Qantas and that there seems to be some secrecy about the situation, particularly about the current necessity that Qantas maintains it has to reduce staff in particular areas. I have watched the television reports and have read the newspaper reports about the reasons given by the Qantas management. On a commercial level they seem to be reasonably acceptable explanations of what is happening. One can well envisage that if an organisation begins to use aircraft such as the latest 747 there will be a lesser demand for highly trained technical staff. That seems to be one of the purposes of developing that particular type of aircraft. One may regret this lessening of demand for technical people.
One is always a little apprehensive about the introduction of more modern techniques and more efficient machinery. Even in the clerical field we find that the clerks union is concerned about the introduction of too many computers and is wondering what may become of the staff that once was required. Somehow or other these questions have a habit of equating themselves in a modern prosperous community that is continually introducing new techniques, labour saving devices and bigger equipment for the purpose of carrying passengers or anything else at a cheaper rate in order to compete with others. These are very well known problems. I do not know that an investigation by a select committee of the 2 Houses of the Parliament would contribute very much on that score.
I can well understand in the present circumstances that Qantas is endeavouring to establish itself in the charter field. Unquestionably that is what it is now doing. Proving or disproving that the Government or Qantas was slow in getting off the mark to enter this field will do no good at this point of time. The essential thing is this: Are there any doubts that Qantas is taking all effective steps possible to enter this field in its own right and is not selling off to others any opportunity that Australia may have of partaking in what can be a very successful commercial sideline to the scheduled air routes operated throughout the world? Should its participation in charter flights be more direct? We have given some attention to whether this endeavour can be incorporated into the defence structure of this country. We have noted that as far as Australia is concerned our scheduled air routes have to pass over the terrain of other countries and for this we have to get approval in the form of flight rights. Indonesia and West Irian consist of a chain of islands which almost sever the whole of the Australian continent from the more popular scheduled air stops of today. I refer to Manila, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Hong Kong. At one time we were close to being denied the right of air passage over Indonesia.
The Australian Government, not necessarily Qantas, should be considering establishing and maintaining suitable staging places for aircraft operating in this part of the world, not so much for the scheduled air services that have a multiplicity of passenger requirements - that is people wanting to go to many different areas - but for charter flights. Today there is a concentrated passenger requirement in that most people are flying from point A to point B, and so far as Australia is concerned point B is usually the continent of Europe and Great Britain in particular. It seems to me that there could be good commercial prospects in Australia establishing in areas in the Indian Ocean which are under her control the necessary staging facilities for aircraft to refuel. In this way aircraft could take a more direct route to Europe, instead of having to pay the higher landing charges imposed in such places as, Singapore and Hong Kong, particularly on those occasions when few passengers require a stop-over in those places. Frequently people are in a hurry to get to Europe and Great Britain at the cheapest possible rate.
I mention this matter because of the enormous prospect there would be for Australia to use general aviation facilities as part of her genera) defence structure, lt is quite obvious that Indian Ocean facilities would offer a very material defence advantage to Australia. That is the point the Democratic Labor Party wishes to make on this question. But there seems to be little co-ordination between the defence arm of the Government and Qantas on this question. The Democratic Labor Party wishes to stress to the Government as strongly as possible that the only possible way in which it can co-ordinate these things is to take an active interest in bringing together all facets of the Australian airways industry and the defence structure of this country. Of course, the aircraft industry itself also will have to co-ordinate its capacity to make contributions to the manufacture of parts, both as original equipment and spares. We know of the engineering problems involved in tailormaking parts for engines, but there does seem to be a potential for some original equipment to be manufactured in this country. Only the Government can initiate discussions on these matters and coordinate these activities.
The initial construction or strengthening of airfields in various Australian possessions in the Indian Ocean should not be a commitment of Australia’s commercial airline. It should be a defence commitment clearly entered into by this country. We should have these resources available to us for use whenever they are required. We should not have to create them under the pressure to which we might be subjected at a time when we were endeavouring to defend ‘ ourselves against aggression. We feel that this Bill highlights all these factors, although most of them are irrelevant to the provisions of the Bill itself. There is no doubt that if Qantas is to keep the status which it has always managed to maintain, in spite of certain difficulties, it will have to be able to purchase the most modern aircraft and purchase them immediately. That is why this Bill must go through, the Parliament.
I have already mentioned the capacity of Qantas to show a profit in this highly competitive field. One factor which should not be overlooked and which adds to the mountainous problems of airlines such as Qantas is that fares for international air travel have not risen appreciately in the last 10 years. As the cost of everything else has increased - internal air fares have practically doubled in that period of. time - it has been an enormous accom;plishment on the part of the international airlines industry in general that air fares ‘ have varied very little. The Sydney to Lon- : don one-way fare stood at $627 in 1957. In 1970 it was $620, which represented a reduction of $7. That fare has been increased by $32 in the last 12 months. It is now showing a slight increase over the 1957 figure. The stability in international air fares has been due to the enormous increase in international air traffic and the fact that the industry itself is now levelling off. If the volume of traffic were to continue to increase at the past rate a lot of the increased cost of providing facilities could be absorbed by the use of larger aircraft. But because of the increased expense in terms of wages and salaries as opposed to the necessary increase in capital expenditure to purchase aircraft one cannot foresee what the air fares will be in the future, lt is conceivable and indeed probable that the airlines will become more competitive and the fares will be lower still. If that happens it will bring international air travel within the reach of still more people and increase the volume of traffic. The ultimate result could be much more cheaper fares.
Qantas stands on the threshold of a reorganisation not only of itself but also of the whole international airways industry. This will raise a lot of problems and Qantas is taking some steps to meet them. It has in the past always met problems and challenges quite successfully. T think it is too early to say that Qantas’ attempts to meet the challenges of today will not succeed. I realise that they are raising apprehension in the minds of many of the people who are intimately concerned. I can understand that those employees of Qantas who were looking forward to security and permanence with the company and who have now received dismissal notices will be more than concerned - they will be devastated. But the same thing is happening thoughout the airways industry. Solutions have to be found to these problems. 1 think Qantas is endeavouring to find these solutions.
I do not believe that we should at this stage be diverting our attention from the aircraft industry in general, particularly the imminent failure of the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation and the Government Aircraft Factories if something is not done to get them more business. They arc not failing because they cannot produce the most modern types of aircraft. They have been able to do so before. They have produced the most modern type of defence equipment. The Mirage aircaft produced in factories in Victoria were considered to be superior to the original prototypes brought out from France. Some of the ideas emanating from the production in Australia of that aircraft were ultimately incorporated in subsequent production in France. Our industries can do the job. They have done it before. But they have to receive assistance. Even though it may cost the taxpayers money, they will have to be assisted. These industries are essential to Australia. In my view an inquiry into the operations of Qantas will in no way at all contribute to the solution of the problems facing that airline. 1 propose to support the Bill at this point of time because 1 believe that it is the most practical proposition which has been put forward. I reject the amendment.
– I support the Loans (Qantas Airways Limited) Bill which will provide the necessary finance to assist Qantas Airways Ltd to purchase another 2 Boeing 747 jet aircraft. I was very sorry to hear Senator Bishop move the amendment on behalf of the Opposition. I do not think that Qantas deserves that sort of treatment. ]f we look through the history of this company we can bc very gratified and proud of what has been achieved since the establishment of Qantas. We can only take these things on results. If honourable senators look back to the paid up capital of the company in 1935-36 they will find that it amounted to $240,000. Today there is a paid up capital of S39.4m. The important line is: Net assets of the organisation in 1935-36 were $289,668 and today they total 1246,767,861. I note the increment in assets through the years. There has been steady progress. Often it has been quite outstanding progress. Overall this is an organisation which is operating with these results because it is directed by a body of men who are businessmen. I would hate to see any political interference with the conduct of the affairs of Qantas.
The results speak for themselves when one notes the increase in the assets of the company. This position has been achieved in profit making and tax paid to the Government through the years. In the last couple of years profitability has been achieved at a time when international airlines all over the world have suffered terrific losses. I give further credit to Qantas for extremely good management and for matching up to situations which come before h in a very competitive field. I think that the attitude as suggested by the Opposition is a wrong attitude to adopt at this stage. In effect the amendment means that all the affairs of Qantas should be looked at. This is totally unfair to the company and, I think, most detrimental to its future wellbeing.
We have to be clear in this matter. This is a public company incorporated 50 years ago under the Queensland Companies Act. It operates in all respects as a limited liability company, receiving no subsidy and liable for all applicable State and Commonwealth taxes. While overseas loans for the purchase of aircraft are negotiated, as in this case, by the Commonwealth, nevertheless the company is responsible for all repayments, including interest. This policy is common to other countries except possibly America where 80 per cent of the airlines which trade internationally are privately owned.
I feel that governments everywhere appreciate the great value of an international flag carrier, both economically and politically. J feel that with Qantas, our international flag carrier, we have every reason to be satisfied with what is going on. Over the last 4 years the net profits have totalled $23.5m. I ask honourable senators to look at some of the results of other companies. In 1969 Pan American World Airways lost $US28m. Last year it had a $US48m loss. Trans World Airlines Pty Ltd lost $US64m, and United Airlines had a loss of $US45m.
– They do not have to carry their spares to the extent that we have, either.
– No, that is so. American Airlines Incorporated had a loss of $US26m. Let us look at the profitable airlines. Qantas made a profit of $5. 8m.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– When the sitting of the Senate was suspended for the luncheon break I was developing my theme in relation to the achievements of Qantas in an extremely competitive industry. I think one has to give credence to the fact that the knife edge nature of overseas airline operations make them extremely vulnerable. In the case of Qantas a fall of only 1 per cent in .load factor is equivalent to an annual loss of revenue of almost S4m, which was the amount of the dividend payable to the Commonwealth in respect of its 1969-70 operations. The fact of a successful year in 1970 - a profit of $5.8m when other major’ airlines were losing colossal sums of money - is indicative of the business acumen and general ability, drive and initiative of those who direct the affairs of Qantas.
I referred earlier to the losses which have been incurred in the last year or so by overseas international carriers. I then said that in 1970 Pan-American World Airways lost $46m, Trans-World Airlines Pty Ltd lost $64m, and American Airlines Incorporated lost $26m. In total the 12 United States trunk carriers, including Pan-Am. lost $169m. I repeat these figures for the purpose of emphasising how satisfactorily - indeed gratifyingly - our national flag carrier is operating. We must not forget either that Qantas operates in the vicious tempo of international competition. Its position is very different from the setting in which our domestic airlines operate. The increased costs of operations in Australia are met with increased fares. This is pretty well an automatic adjustment, but that is not the position with Qantas.
I move now to some facts and figures in regard to this airline. In the last 4 years the dividends paid have been as follows: In 1967-68, 5 per cent; 1968-69. 7* per cent; 1969-70, 10 per cent; 1970-71, 7* per cent. In its long history - it was 50 years of age last year - Qantas has suffered only one operating loss and that was in 1966-67 when a loss of $lm was incurred. This adverse result was brought about by the very great industrial unrest at the time, particularly the pilots’ strike. Looking at the achievements of the airline since the Government acquired an interest in it in 1945, we see that Qantas has paid or provided a total of $28. lm in dividends and has paid the Commonwealth $20m in taxation. So we have had a $48. lm return from this organisation. The airline’s assets were built up from $3m to over $246m, which is a pretty good achievement by anybody’s assessment. I am proud that we have an organisation such as this. I hope that political interference with its activities will be held at bay. I commend the Minister for Civil Aviation, Senator Cotton, in this regard. He has insisted that intrusion into the affairs of management, direction and policies of Qantas would be wrong. I think the airline’s strength has come no doubt from that healthy freedom given to its board of management which can operate as it sees best as a group of businessmen. Being in business myself, if I can see results being achieved by those who are operating an enterprise I keep my nose right out of it, and I hope that the Minister, as in the past, will not intrude unnecessarily or unduly into the affairs of the airline.
– It is necessary now, is it not?
– No, on the contrary. We are achieving in our international line results which are quite magnificent when one compares them with those of other major international lines. I am speaking not from any emotive background in these matters but from facts and figures which I am quoting now. I have every confidence in Qantas. I noticed a reference in this morning’s Press to Qantair. This could well be the name of the bulk carrying system. There again we find that the board of management is getting into an activity in which other international lines are involved. Qantas can see an opening there and it is hopping into it as well.
– lt is 2 years out of date, you must admit.
– This is a big undertaking which involves a lot of finance and planning. As a matter of fact, it is very interesting to see that in a break-up of the private enterprise organisations of Australia Qantas ranks twenty-first. The Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd has assets worth $ 1,202m; Qantas has assets worth $240m. Through the whole gamut of these organisations Qantas is the twenty-first largest in Australia, and that is big business. It has to plan its moves and with this razor edge margin in profits it cannot take on any undertaking which cannot be seen to have a future, to have a solid expectation of success. In all these years of Qantas operations to have lost money in only one year is indeed a superb achievement.
The gross profits of the airline have totalled $7 1.2m, net profits have totalled $48m, and capital has increased from only $lm to $39.4m. This if a fantastic turnover on a given amount of capital base. Qantas has financed $205m from loans and its own resources. At 31st March of this year it was employing a staff of 12,782. The payroll for 1970-71 was $67m. As Senator Bishop has stated, Qantas is the twelfth largest international world airline based either on capacity ton miles or ton miles travelled. In 1970-71 Qantas operated 653 charters carrying almost 100,000 passengers. Revenue earned from this source was $27m. So there has been in this aspect of international traffic - charter flights - a very significant participation. In 1970-71 the airline carried 52,000 migrants on scheduled and charter flights. The net credit to Australia’s balance of payments last year was $90m.
I have every sympathy for those in the employ of Qantas who have been given notice of dismissal, but in the difficulties which beset the industry, one has to keep things in perspective. We should bear in mind the highly competitive nature of this industry, the fact that Pan-Am stood down 5,000 staff, that Trans-World Airlines has had to stand down 2,000 staff that United Airlines has stood down 2,400 staff, and that the profit of British Overseas Airways Corporation in the year ended March 1971 declined to $5m compared with $31m in the previous year. Qantas is valuable to the nation because it is carrying our flag proudly to some 46 cities of the world and providing for us tourist income of about $70m a year.
– What about the tourist income that it is stopping us from receiving?
– In what way?
– By its high fare structure.
– Qantas is operating in a very competitive field as far as fares are concerned. In regard to the new charter arrangements, what has been read would indicate very keenly priced fares. 1 do not think there is any detriment to our tourist industry because of any inordinately high fares. If its fares were inordinately high, other airlines would take over the trade which Qantas is now enjoying.
– When will these desirable charter arrangements commence?
– That I could not say.
– Why were not they introduced long ago?
– I said a moment ago that a huge enterprise such as this cannot turn to some new aspect of activity overnight. I believe that we are doing remarkably well, for a nation of our size, in Qantas being twelfth on the list of international airlines. I repeat that we cannot expect lo do these things as quickly as nations which are more prosperous than us or have stronger economies than ours.
As a background to our defence structure the Qantas fleet is a major asset. This is not often considered. Here we have a fleet of aircraft of immense background value in any case of emergency to the nation. This has been provided not at a cost to the Government, because Qantas repays its loans to the Government, it pays revenue to the Government and it pays taxes right down the line as any privately owned enterprise would have to do. In regard to foreign exchange earnings, I note that the highest foreign exchange earner among the commodities is’ metals and scrap at $626m. That is followed by cereal grains and cereal preparations at $597m, textile fibres and their waste at $550m and meat and meat preparations at $43 lm. And so we go down the list ,to Qantas, which at $140m is the ninth largest foreign exchange earner of all the industries of Australia. That indicates again the value of this airline to the nation and what it is achieving through its operations.
I believe that we should be proud of this airline. That is why I am reiterating its size, its achievements and its activities. Using the statistics of the 104 members of the Internationa) Air Transport Association, Qantas ranks as follows: In route mileage, seventh in the world; in passenger miles flown, twenty-second; in cargo ton miles flown, twenty-first; in mail ton miles flown, sixteenth; in number of staff, twenty-second; in hours flown, thirty-first; and in passengers carried, fifty-first. From all these facts and figures one can see that we have achieved pretty mightily through Qantas. I commend those who direct its affairs, as I commend the Minister on having kept his fingers out of the operations of the airline. I have no doubt that, with the attitudes and abilities of those who direct the company’s affairs, we can look forward to a future of success as has marked its past operation. I support the Bill and reject the amendment.
– in reply - A long amendment has been moved by Senator Bishop on behalf of the Australian Labor Party. In the process of listening to him I recorded about 3 1 points to which he directed his mind. In the process of listening to Senator Little I recorded about 27 points. Sundry other honourable senators have directed their minds to various aspects. I am quite anxious that I should give the Senate as much information as I possibly can. That indicates that I will be longer than I normally would be in replying to a second reading debate. As I go along I shall refer to various pieces of information that I have. I hope that in the process of doing that I will cover the points that have been made.
Senator Bishop suggested that 1 should be confirming or denying Press reports from time to time. He has been in the Senate and in public life for a long time. He would not have said that seriously. I say that because he would know what would happen to anybody who spent his life confirming or denying Press reports. I understand why he said that; but, after all, he and I are reasonably good friends and we know the problems of confirming or denying Press reports. The Parliament receives an annual report of Qantas Airways Ltd. That report is tabled.
In the Estimates committee to which Senator Bishop referred, when I was asked some questions on this matter I gave a definitive answer to the best of my ability. I do not want to quote it at great length. Honourable senators will find in the relevant pages of the Estimates committee Hansard a very clear statement of what I believe is the proper responsibility of a Minister for Civil Aviation to his Department in respect of those areas of responsibility that come within its broad purview. This is quite important for those people who are interested in this debate. If they like to refer to those pages they will see the attitude I adopted, which I think is a fair and reasonable one in relation to the kind of job I am called upon to do for my colleagues, for the public and for the Department. I will not elaborate on it. My attitude is set down there quite clearly and, I think, fairly and sensibly. So, rather than reading out those remarks or seeking to have them incorporated in Hansard, which I could well do but which would not serve a useful purpose, 1 merely refer honourable senators to them.
It is true that there has been much Press speculation. But honourable senators should be in no doubt that some of it is designed to serve particular causes which are not necessarily always the cause of Qantas or the Australian people. It is not unknown for other airlines around the world to give free flights to various people in the media, and it is not unknown, out of all that, for people to publicise material and to speculate in a way which is not always to the advantage of Australia. I am quite conscious of this. It is something for which I watch very carefully. Without doubt, in certain quarters there is a campaign to try to reduce Qantas’s share of the market. This is one of the things that happen in life. I am very watchful for it. I think all honourable senators probably are; so there is no need for me to say any more about it.
Senator Bishop made an appropriate comment when he said that the Labor Party would not interfere with an enterprise that was doing well. Senator Laucke has referred to this, as has Senator Little. The history of Qantas is one of having done extremely well for this country and its people. Now it is having a rather more difficult time; but it is still doing remarkably well by world airline standards. This is no time to cry wolf. It is no time to scream. It is no time to run out on the managers of Qantas. They are the people who are responsible for it continuing to do well. They have to take these sorts of decisions to enable it to do so. They are difficult decisions, and the managers of Qantas do not like them any more than Senator Bishop does.
As Senator Bishop said, there is a philosophical difference between us. But, listening to him, I found it difficult to find out what it really is. If ever the time came when the Labor Party formed the government of Australia - one does not see the prospect of that but one always has to have it in contemplation, and I say no more about my personal views on what that might produce - and if Senator Bishop became Minister for Civil Aviation-
– We would have efficiency.
– Not on what I have seen from some honourable senators opposite, in that event Senator Bishop would adopt rather the same philosophical approach as I adopt. He would have to do so. T suggest to the honourable senator that it might be worth his while to read Herbert Morrison on a government’s right and the wisdom of its interfering in the affairs of public corporations. This is a matter to which J have directed my attention, and as a group of people involved in government in a total sense I suggest that it would not be a bad exercise for others in this place to do so.
I have been asked by Senator Bishop to take a daily interest in the daily responsibility for what he describes as the ‘crisis’ in the affairs of Qantas. I do not think it is a crisis. I think it is a tightening up in a tough world scene where there is great over-capacity. Qantas is fighting for a market and is using its commercial wisdom and making commercial judgments, which is what it has to do. I remind honourable senators again of my comments to the Senate Estimates Committee, where I think the comments were properly made, as to a Minister’s responsibility. I believe that 1 have exercised my responsibility thoroughly and properly in the way that everybody would expect me to do and with a sense of reality. Qantas employs, in effect, 12,500 people. What is it that honourable senators suggest that I should do? Should I become the personnel and industrial officer for Qantas? To say the least, that would be extremely unreal.
– Heaven forbid.
– I thank the honourable senator. 1 am glad that he has seen the folly of his colleague’s proposition. I have information relating to other aspects which were raised by Senator Bishop. I listened to the honourable senator with interest because he has given much time and thought to this matter, and I take seriously the comments that he made. He dealt wilh co-production procedures and the offsets in defence production matters, which are of great interest to him and, indeed, to us all. I should comment here that this is properly a consideration for the Departments of Supply and Defence.
During the suspension of the sitting 1 was able to obtain some material which may be of some help to honourable senators, but before dealing with that 1 propose to refer lo the local production of the light aircraft N24. This aircraft went through its trial Mights yesterday under the inspection of the Department of Civil Aviation. The reports which came in last night were that the Australian prototype of the N24 light commercial aircraft was, from a civil aviation point of view, quite satisfactory and that the Department was’ quite impressed with it. Because we have lent our support to this project I thought that Senator Bishop might like to know that the performance of the aircraft ‘ during its trials yesterday at Avalon was quite encouraging.
– The Minister should buy one.
– Perhaps I should be made Treasurer as well as representing 8 other Ministers. In talking about offset production, to which the honourable senator directed attention, I propose to refer to a note that I have from the Defence Department to the Treasury. It states:
The Government has been active in pursuing the question of arranging offsets in respect of expenditure overseas on military and civil capital equipment, including aircraft.
Following initial approaches by Ministers and officials, in March 1970 a report by an Australian Defence Industries Mission which visited the United States of America to explore the possibility of increasing United States procurement from Australia was considered. An interdepartmental committee was set up to introduce a programme to achieve increased sales to America and overseas defence and other industries as an offset against Australian purchases of defence equipment. The Department of Civil Aviation is lo liaise with the Committee when proposals for purchase of civil aircraft in America are under consideration.
The Committee has been active in endeavouring to arrange offsets and has ‘had success in having some United States restrictions on purchases overseas waived. However, there has been a learning period both by the Australian aircraft industry and by overseas companies. Boeing has established a flow of offset work into Australia the value of which currently stands at about $3. 8m and are proposing substantial additional orders. Bell Helicopter Co. and Hawker Siddeley Aviation have also agreed to place some offset work in Australia. Some proposals have been rejected because of the unacceptable financial penalties involved
I interpolate the comment that in June at the Boeing factory at Seattle and at Everett I was told that they were highly impressed with the quality of work done by the Australian offset manufacturers, that they were most impressed with the way in which they had kept up deliveries, and that they saw the possibility of expansion in this area, principally because Australia had said that it would do only what it could do and that it would take on a job in the first stage only when it could do it rather well and was able to make sure that it could keep to its targets and programmes. The note which has been supplied to me continues:
Geographical separation of customer from supplier presents special problems in Australian offset programmes. All offset orders to date have involved the major use of imported materials, but there is reason to hope that in some cases offsets may, provide the spur to initiation of Australian production of materials that have hitherto been imported.
Offset orders received to date have been achieved at keen fixed prices which has assisted in stimulating cost awareness and provided a very real motivation for efficiency in the Australian aircraft industry. However, they have not been attractive to the industry from the point of view of profitability.
The future of offsets depends to a large extent on the determination of local industry to take advantage of the situation and its ability to compete on economic terms. There is no doubt that there are problems such as the difficulties being experienced by the industry in the United States … but the Government of Australia proposes to continue to work with industry to improve the flow of offset orders.
That gives some information on the offset position. Later, when referring to Senator Little’s comments, I shall have a little more to say on the subject. I come back again to where I interpolated, that undue interference by the Minister or the Department in the daily policy affairs of Qantas would not necessarily be a very good thing and might well be harmful. It has been mentioned that the Qantas people seem to have been late in making their determinations. I do not think one can fairly accuse them of this, although people in the Press have done so. There was a very dramatic change in their position in about February this year, and my information is that their forecasting was being exceeded by their results until about the end of December or January. Things then began to worsen very quickly. There was a big increase in Australian wage scales which reacted on the company. The overseas market for air traffic began to turn down and Qantas was caught in a double scissors. Necessarily it had to make some very quick adjustments.
It seems to me that if any group of honourable senators would like to talk to the Qantas management about the problems that they encounter and the way they have tried to overcome those problems, including long term difficulties and opportunities for their business, and if they would like that to be an event of their lives, if honourable senators approach me I shall endeavour to arrange for people representing Qantas management, accompanied by suitable experts in various areas of the business, to attend before any committee of either side of the Senate which likes to meet to talk to them. I suggest that that would be a very desirable thing to do and I would be happy to encourage it, because my attitude is simply that Qantas has belonged to the Australian people through time and always will belong lo the Australian people. The best level of understanding between the Australian Parliament and Qantas is certainly to be desired. So if honourable senators would like to do that, I ask them please to let me know.
The next point relates to fares and the initiative shown by Qantas in endeavouring to achieve something in this direction. Our plans for achieving a better situation in world fares have been worked on by Qantas for a long time. If I may describe the situation briefly, air travel seems to me to be taking a kind of tripod position for the future. There will continue to be the high class or first class travel for which people will pay an exclusive price for their own convenience and some speed. Then there is the group of people who will travel economy class on what I call ‘scheduled carriers’ and ‘scheduled lines’, meeting the kind of programme that suits the airline. The third area of travel is what might be called the ‘air bus’ type of travel where people will post themselves some months forward in time to pick up an air bus. That kind of travel is developing. It is for that reason that Qantas decided to go into the non-IATA charter field, and for that reason it sought approval from the Government which very quickly gave it authority to do so. Qantas traditionally has adopted the International Air Transport Association structure and has worked within the TATA framework, to which I may later refer if there is time.
What Qantas has done has been to take a quite forward look at charter opportunity and to do its best to engage in it. What I am hoping will happen is that at least while 1 am the Minister for Civil Aviation we will see a generation of cheaper air travel for Australians and for those who want to come here. That is something that I would very much like to see happen, but it will flow out of full aircraft flying a very economic route, without many frills, and for which the people will notify well ahead so that the aircraft will have a very high load factor and will travel very quickly and without very many stops between points. That is what the Government is trying to achieve and what Qantas is trying to achieve at present. This Government and overseas governments are at a very delicate stage of negotiation in an endeavour to get for Qantas appropriate landing positions and appropriate over-flying positions for the non-IATA charter subsidiary which will lead, in the end, to cheaper air travel. The matter is fraught with difficulty. It will not be helped by any suggestion that Australians, through their Parliament, do not have confidence in the company which over 50 years ago began in a farm paddock. I suggest that we would be well advised to support the Australian enterprise. I am quite sure that we will do so.
– You might have asked the Prime Minister to do that.
– He did not plan to travel by charter flight. Qantas has had to rely upon and will have to rely upon its financial viability. This will come out of an ability to generate a cash flow, which comes out of an ability to make profits. As Senator Laucke said, its history in this sense has been truly remarkable. It really has a most astonishing performance of financial competence. It ill behoves anybody to suggest that the people who have achieved this cannot continue to do so despite difficulties. They have faced similar difficulties in the past. Any enterprise has to face difficulties. But this is a remarkable performance. In the Australian scene, indeed in any scene, the history of people who lose money for a particular purpose that is not defined end up by not having a business. That is what has to be watched.
I think Qantas very properly wants to be financially successful, to enable it to finance expansion, to borrow money and to repay it. The end result of its operations has been that as at today’s date it has approximately $250m worth of assets, about 15 per cent of which has been contributed by Australians in cash, it has made a most remarkable contribution to the country’s earnings in the form of taxation and dividends, in about 10 years more than the capital has been repaid, and the amount added to foreign earnings has been tremendous. These things are the great benefits that have flowed from its operations. But we cannot be sure that those benefits would flow from the proposition that Qantas could afford to lose large sums for an illusory purpose. I do not think it could afford to do that. That might sound nice, but I would hate to be the Minister a few years later.
Qantas is fighting for its place in a tough aviation world. The losses of world aviation carriers have been referred to. The pressure on the international aviation world has been mentioned. Today we are living in a world of over-capacity in the aviation industry. Qantas is trying to fight for its share in that scene. That is not easy. I thought that Senator Bishop made one quite interesting comment and that there was something to be said for his view. Certainly I would like him to have a great deal more information about Qantas than he has. 1 would like to give it to him. but the pressure upon the time of the Parliament, myself and the Department precludes this to some extent. That is one of the reasons why I spoke at length during the deliberations of Senate Estimates Committee D. I tabled a report. It seems to me - 1 thought this earlier - there is merit in a more total series of comments being presented to Parliament at a later date. I do not find myself reacting against that suggestion in any way. I find myself saying that it is not a bad idea. But when am I to do it and how will the information be compiled?
– We could give you Senator Marriott as an Assistant Minister.
– Yes. I am reading through Senator Bishop’s comments to ensure that I do not miss any. He spoke about the problems associated with retrenchments. 1 think Senator Laucke quoted the various overseas losses, so there is no point in my quoting them again. Senator Bishop mentioned the offer of the Australian Federation of Air Pilots to subsidise salaries. The note I have states that Mr Caterson, the advocate for the Federation of Air Pilots, who is quite well known to me and who sees me quite often, approached the company with a suggestion that pilots take accrued annual leave and if necessary long service leave to allow second officers under notice of retrenchment to be retained. The company advised him that it would consider the proposition, but it asked him to come back with a firm proposal. He subsequently advised the company that the rank and file members did not support his suggestion. However, the pilots did make an offer to take their accrued annual leave to remove this potential financial liability from the company, the value of the leave taken to be used to subsidise the salaries of retrenched second officers while they worked in their new employment. The company considered this very carefully to my knowledge, but considered that it would not work and that it was an impractical proposition.
I think I have mentioned the commercial role of Qantas and I have covered the dividends it has made and the tax it has paid. The dividends amount to S21.9m and tax amounts to S20m, a total of S41.9ni. Since 1945 the capital investment has been S39.4m. Its gross profits have totalled $71. 2m; its net profits have totalled S48m. Its assets have grown from S3m to S248m. It financed from its own resources and from loans S205m, which is not a bad performance.
– Are there any problems about opting out of IATA?.
– I will take up that matter a little later, if the honourable senator does not mind. I think there are 58 points to which I need to reply. I am steadily climbing up the ladder, hoping that I will not fail to mention any. I have 2 tables to present. One illustrates the personnel and productivity of the Qantas team. The other illustrates their contribution to the balance of payments and the appropriate ranking. Rather than detail them I ask for leave to have them incorporated in Hansard, because I know that people will study the report of this debate.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - ls leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The tables read as follows) -
– Reference was made to the proposition that Qantas should have purchased aircraft to pick up the accelerated charter programme and should not have used somebody else’s aircraft. In the light of the way in which the programme tends to fluctuate, at the point of time when it had rather a greater number of migrants to carry than it had previously I thought it was commercially wise to do a bit of hiring of surplus equipment from somebody else. I think the passage of time has proved that to be correct. The carriage of migrants is a very important matter to Qantas. There is no doubt about that. The Australian Government watches this. But we have to be prepared to give access to that traffic to other countries which have airlines operating here and whose people come here to settle.
There has been reference also to the lack of initiative by Qantas to reduce fares. Traditionally people keep saying that Qantas is the party that is holding these fares up high in the sky. I sought some information on this, which I think will help to clear up the matter. It should be mentioned again that international air fares have hardly moved upwards at all in the last 10 years, as against the cost of living. They have remained remarkably stable. Today the cost of international air travel bears a most wonderful comparison with other costs that one could mention.
– The costs are too high to start with.
– The honourable senator may think so. Under wise and senible management we are looking to a future in which the cost of international air travel could be reduced. This is not a promise. Do not say to me later: ‘You promised me that my daughter could travel to London at half the present price’. I do not promise that. I am saying that I hope that, as things are developing, it will be possible. Qantas has taken certain initiatives to keep air fares down. 1 say this in order to defend it against what I believe are unjustified accusations that it is monpolistic in this regard. The group travel fares introduced in 1963 provide a 30 per cent discount for affinity groups of at least 15 passengers. In 1971, the discount was increased to 44 per cent. Between Australia and New Zealand group fares were introduced in 1965 for parties of at least 10 passengers with a common interest. Tour fares were introduced between Australia and Europe and Asia at a 30 per cent discount. Tour fares were introduced between Australia and North America in 1967 at a 30 per cent discount. The discount is now 39 per cent. The rebates for travel between Australia and southern Africa in 1969 were increased to 30 per cent. A group inclusive tour fare from Europe to Australia was introduced in 1969 offering parties of 20 passengers a 40 per cent discount. That discount was increased to 45 per cent in 1971. In addition, a circle Pacific inclusive tour fare providing approximately a 30 per cent discount was introduced this year. A circle excusion fare to New Zealand, Fiji and New Caledonia at a 25 per cent rebate was introduced in 1965, and a winter excursion fare to New Zealand at a 40 per cent discount was introduced in 1967. Qantas has supported the introduction of excursion fares to Fiji, North America and the Indian sub-continent. A family visiting New Zealand is offered a 50 per cent rebate on the fares of dependants. That was introduced in 1963. A 25 per cent concession for Australian students travelling to overseas schools and universities, and foreign students coming to Australia was introduced in the early 1950s. Youth concession fares with a 37 per cent discount were introduced in 1966 for Australians under 26 years of age travelling to Europe. It can be seen that Qantas has not been idle in attempting to do its part in keeping costs down.
When we talk about the problems of retrenchment and of industrial conditions and wages, it has to be borne in mind that there is a proper device - the Flight Crew Officers Tribunal - for arbitrating in regard to conditions, rates of pay, leave and those types of things. I believe it has operated effectively and sensibly. I would not intervene in industrial matters. However, I have listened to complaints from both sides and have tried to ensure that the situation is put on the regular path of progress towards solution. Senator Bishop kindly observed that other departments would immediately step in and overcome these industrial problems. This has not been my experience, although it is a happy day to be thought about in the dream-day future.
– Never set yourself up as a super-structure or arbitration system.
– I agree.
– That is my advice to you.
– I am obliged to you for your comment, Senator Gair, arising out of the experience you have had in running a State in your time.
– 1 never said that. What I said was that it was comparatively easy to get answers to questions.
– The honourable senator is dealing with a different set of circumstances. I will come back to where I began. The job of running Qantas is the job of the board and the -management. When industrial troubles arise, the Government’s affairs are taken over by the Department of Labour and National Service. They are not dealt with by the Department of Civil Aviation. 1 use my good offices, but when I have run out of them, I stop.
I think we should perhaps now turn our attention to the question that was asked by Senator Devitt about the International Air Transport Association. Qantas traditionally, as have most of the major carriers, has been a supporter of IATA. But it has questioned the IATA situation from time to time. It has attended international IATA conferences with requests for lower fares, and continues to work in this direction as a scheduled carrier. It is the role of IATA to look after the scheduled carriers’ structures and rates. Qantas has seen fit to support that role. That has been a commerical judgment on the part of Qantas and I would not want to supersede that judgment by my own. I think that covers most of the points that Senator Bishop has raised with the exception of that dealing with charters. I refer to that now. Between April 1970 and May 1971 Qantas chartered 163 affinity or migrant flights from Caledonian Airways. Only 6 such flights were released ex Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. I think that covers that aspect. The point that Qantas has been reluctant to take part in international charters is not really borne out by the facts. It has been extremely active in this area. It has conducted 650 charter flights carrying close to 100,000 passengers. The revenue derived from these operations amounted to $26.8m. Qantas share of the 112,000 passengers was about 58 per cent, so it has been active. These figures can be given to the honourable senator later if he would like. They show the steady growth in
Qantas charter involvement through the years in which it has been involved in this field. The growth rate is remarkable and has risen substantially.
Senator Little made a number of references. 1 was obliged to him for some of them. He made the point that long haulage flights need the latest equipment. That was a very true observation which shows considerable appreciation of the business. This is one of the matters that we had to walch in the Qantas situation. Tough and all as it is; big and all as the money is, a company like Qantas cannot be left behind in obtaining the latest equipment. Therefore, this proposal to obtain loan moneys for Qantas to acquire another Boeing 747 aircraft has to be faced if we want the business to be successful. I think the honourable senator was right when he said that to hold up this legislation would be to damage the image of Qantas and certainly delay its equipment programme. That could well put Qantas in the path of some rather serious problems, particularly in the charter field where, with the Department, it is involved in the most delicate negotiations which could well have to be suspended. I do not think there is any justifiable reason, other than perhaps some attempt to score political points, to legitimately criticise the commercial wisdom and skill of the Qantas board and management. I cannot sustain that kind of proposition. It is easy to criticise but Qantas is a big corporation and it takes a lot of running. Anybody who has had a look at even some of the small corporations would know that they are not all that easy to run.
Senator Little raised the point that the position is not easy for Qantas, compared with some other carriers, because of the necessity to carry a big spare parts inventory. That is true. The airline is not right alongside the factory and, therefore, it cannot walk in the factory door the following morning and get the spare parts required. Qantas has to carry them here in this country. The honourable senator said that many overseas airlines run at a huge loss to serve some particular national position. I agree that that has been known to happen. It does not happen in this country, and I do not think it would be a good day for us to accept the proposition that it should happen. The earning rate study of Qantas has been referred to earlier. I think it stands up remarkably well. One point might be observed in regard to the problem of retrenched aircrew. I have the greatest sympathy with them and, without wishing to dilate on the matter any further, 1 think my work in this field, according to those who know what I have done, will stand up. 1 do not grandstand in relation to these matters, but if one is to give help in industrial troubles, very often the best thing to do is to help and shut up. The airline has problems and has had problems in the past. But let us bear one thing in mind - crews receive very high rates of pay, and traditionally in the world at large, job security does not tend to go with very high rates of pay.
Senator Little referred to the interest of Qantas in the South Pacific. This is perfectly true. Qantas has been very good in the South Pacific. It has helped the regional carriers very substantially. This Government has helped in the development of regional carriers and of airport infrastructures. We have taken a positive, active and solid interest. It is worth noting for the record that at one time Australia owned all the shares in Fiji Airways, but we sold off our shares to the Fiji people and to our partners in New Zealand. We have allowed other operators, such as Air Nauru, and other governments, such as that in Western Samoa, to come in. At the recent conference of Air Pacific in Melbourne, which I chaired, it was said that if any emerging country in the South Pacific wished to buy extra shares or shares in that regional carrier, Air Pacific, which is located in Fiji, the Australian Government will lend its support to increasing the capital for that purpose or, alternatively, will even sell some of its shares. We have said that we are anxious to be in this area as a partner. We want everybody to be involved. Qantas and the Government have much to be proud of in the way they have sponsored regional carriers in the Pacific.
Senator Little spoke about the defence potential of Qantas and its contribution. History was made by Qantas during the last war when it pioneered the only possible route to India that was left by coming out of Perth and going across the Indian Ocean. That was done in Catalina flying boats. The airline opened an outlet for us that otherwise would have been denied to us at the time of the maximum part of the Japanese invasion. Captain Ritchie, the General Manager of Qantas today, is one of the pilots who pioneered that route. It was a remarkable performance. No-one has ever forgotten that or that the Indian Ocean is important to us. The ability to fly across it successfully is a matter of immense importance not only from a commercial point of view, but also from the defence .point of view. This is most significant and well worth observing. The situation could be stated in another way. In the end the air arm of a country is indivisible. Qantas aircraft, workshops and trained personnel have been available before in times of difficulty. Without wishing to elaborate any further, I say that they will be available again. It has been carefully thought out.
New technical developments anywhere in the world produce technical staff changes. The whole thing is moving from one field to another. There are areas where skilled people become redundant and [ regret this very much. I have seen it happen and it is necessary to institute retraining and to look ahead. In one part of my flying life navigators were extremely important people. Today navigators are tending to be much less important because of inertial navigation systems and radio systems. As a skill air navigation as such is disappearing, to my sorrow. This is a feature of advancing technology at this time. I agree with Senator Little’s comments. I point out to him that the Boeing 747B is so equipped that in the event of particular circumstances it is capable of overflying certain areas where problems might he considered likely to arise. The observation that Senator Little made about Cocos Island from a civil point of view as a landing, refuelling stopover point for fast charter flights from Europe to Australia is not lost on me, and neither is his comment on the defence implication. I shall take that matter up later. I think the honourable senator will find that it is not lost on others; it is a good point. Senator Little also said that he gathers that there is little co-ordination between the commercial aspects of Qantas and the defence aspects of Australia. T hope he will take comfort from my earlier comment that this is not the case. He will understand that there are certain matters about which one does not have a great deal to say. I would like him to understand that this is very carefully considered. As he probably knows I have a great interest in trying to get airfields operating in a conjunctional sense as much as possible. The view I have expressed publicly that an air arm ought to be indivisible means exactly what it says. As far as possible there should be a dual purpose capacity. I think that covers the points made by Senator Little.
Senator Laucke referred to some commercial aspects, some of which I have stressed again because T thought that they were important. I have a few extra notes on aircraft defence production which may serve in illumination for both Senator Bishop and Senator Little, who referred to this aspect. I had these notes prepared during the lunch hour. The Australian industry has produced 4,500 aircraft, 3,600 engines, 1,400 guided weapons and 390 target jet aircraft. The total manufacture since 1945 is approximately 950 aircraft. The Services have produced a substantial quantity of requirements in Australia. As to Qantas defence work and potential, it performed quite a number of military charters both to Vietnam and Malaysia, and some HS 125 charters for the Navy. It has done quite a volume of engineering work on Allison engines for the Royal Australian Air Force, airframe overhauls for Hercules aircraft, aircraft engine repairs for Skyhawks, instrument repairs and overhauls for Orion and Hercules aircraft, and gyro maintenance for Phantoms.
The Qantas fleet is 21 Boeing 707s and we will have 4 747s by the end of the year. All these aircraft are of long range capacity and have reinforced floors. Qantas also has a reservoir of technical skills which would be available in times of emergency. I think that covers the points raised in the debate.
I had prepared a statement covering about 14 pages on the United States and Australian air negotiations. It seemed to me to be a matter that could be introduced into this debate. However, I have cut it down to about one page and I shall read it before I resume my place. Because we had. it seemed to me, an area of great misunderstanding, and - one might say fairly - of much Press speculation a great part of which was singularly ill-informed, and the Senate having asked me to deal fairly exhaustively with the affairs of Qantas, I think I am entitled to say something about this matter: The agreement reached with the United States represents a reasonable and realistic solution. We were working within the terms of an agreement negotiated by the Government in 1946. In ils terms it did not permit prior agreement between the governments oh frequencies before an extra service was introduced; nor did it enable us to argue that a second United States carrier could not be allowed on the South Pacific route to Australia.
For many years Qantas operated more frequencies than the single United States carrier. This position has altered only in the last 3 years, during which time a second United States carrier was introduced. However, through taking a strong attitude we have limited the number of extra frequencies that United States carriers could introduce. This position was maintained in talks with United States authorities in 1970 and again in 1971 in the Washington discussions. The United States carriers with the support of the United States authorities sought originally an increase of 150 per cent in seat capacity from the beginning of 1970. We have limited the increasing frequencies to less than half the amount they sought and we have spread that increase over 3 years, rather than granting it when they asked for it.
This has been a period of great adjustment in the South Pacific with the large Boeing 747s coming into service as well as the commencement of operations by a second United States carrier. We recognised that there would be difficulties at the time and that excess capacity would be involved. Our approach has been to persuade the United States to accept the need for governmental intervention and scrutiny in relation to these extra flights that their carriers proposed. The recent discussions in Washington have produced a clearer understanding of this matter. There are now procedures agreed upon between us, government to government, which provide for government scrutiny and exchange of views whenever there is doubt on one side or the other about the justification for an increase in capacity. That is an entirely new situation.
The way is now clear for Qantas to introduce its 747s into service in the South Pacific. The airline will be authorised to operate as soon as it wishes after 1st December. Qantas will introduce 3 747s on the Pacific route in January and a fourth in March. It now has access to a negotiating situation for charter flying in the South Pacific. I close by saying that what was expressed in totally ill-informed Press speculation, namely, that Australia had given in in some way and had suffered some kind of a reverse in negotiations, was totally false. We achieved what we had fought for for years - a position of government to government control. That for us was a singular and very great victory.
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Bishop’s amendment) be added.
The Senate divided. (The Chairman - Senator E. W. Prowse)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 9 November (vide page 1743), on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Mr Deputy President, there are 2 Bills relating to this matter to be considered, the Sulphuric Acid Bounty Bill 1971 and the Pyrites Bounty Bill 1971. With the permission of the Senate I will address myself to both Bills at the one time, but I presume that they will be dealt with separately in Committee.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Is it the wish of the Senate that the 2 Bills be discussed together? There being no objection, it is so ordered.
– The decision to discontinue the bounty is based on a report of the Tariff Board presented to the Parliament in May this year. It is interesting to note that the reference as to whether a bounty to both these industries should or should not be paid was given to the Tariff Board in 1968, the evidence was taken in 1969 and the Board’s report was given to the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony) in the middle of 1970. It was made available to the Parliament in May 1971. about 12 months after the Board presented it. Action on the report in the Parliament is only now being taken. The debate on the report was initiated in the other place on 4th November and the Bill is now before us for debate, 3 years after the reference was given to the Tariff Board and 18 months after the Board presented its report to the Minister. Obviously the Tariff Board report is now so out of date that it is hardly worth looking at.
There has been a change of circumstance in the industry during that period which the Board was not able to take into consideration when preparing its report. Later I will be moving amendments to both Bills in an effort to have the bounty to be paid to the 2 industries extended until 1974. The price of the landed commodity in Australia at present is about $26 a ton. The Tariff Board said in its 1967 report that the industry should receive assistance if and when the landed cost of imports fell below$28 a ton. The price of the landed imports of this commodity has been $26 a ton for at least 12 months. These are not industries which are commenced overnight nor are they industries which should be closed down overnight. Whenever private enterprise or, for that matter, government enterprise goes into an Industry it sets up plant for the purpose of operating for a particular period of time. That is borne out by the allowances in the taxation Acts for the depreciation over a period of time of capital equipment. These industries were given fairly firm guarantees by the Government and by the Tariff Board that they would receive assistance from the Government until 1974 - 20 years from the time when the bounty started in 1954. The Tariff Board repeated this in its 1967 report. There is no doubt that the Tariff Board is entitled to change ils mind, but should it change its mind in such a very short period of time? Although it did in its 1967 report give the industries some security it has now recommended in its latest report that the industries be closed down. I realise that it was not altogether a sudden slap in the face because the recommendation of the Tariff Board was that the Government could most appropriately fulfil its obligation - the Board admitted that there was an obligation and that that obligation continued until 1974 - to the enterprises referred to in the reference by the payment of compensation. It also said that assistance should not be accorded to the production in Australia of the goods under reference.
All I am saying is that lt is quite clear that the Board has admitted, as it did in its 1967 report, that there is an obligation on the part of the Government. The Government has found the back door way out of its obligation by discontinuing the bounty and paying compensation to the industries on the basis of the loss of the value of plant after depreciation and everything else is taken into account. Compensation has not been offered on the basis of what these industries may have been able to earn in the period between May of next year, which is when it is proposed to discontinue the bounty, and 31st December 1974. In my opinion projected earnings should have been taken into account in any assessment of compensaton and not just the loss of the value of the plant Installed. Sulphuric acid is, of course, a very important ingredient of superphosphate, which is essential to the primary industries in Australia, particularly the agricultural and pastoral industries. However, modern technology has now allowed the production of sulphuric acid to be displaced. I am not always sure whether it is a good or a bad thing because 1 look to these industries as being Australian industries which are employing Australian labour and providing to our primary industries an essential commodity; I admit it is being provided under bounty, but at least it is being provided at a reasonably stable price, which means some stability of cost to the primary industries.
Another factor which must be taken into account is the displacement of the work force associated with these industries, particularly wilh the production of pyrites. 1 am acutely aware of what happened in 1964 to the mine at Northam when the bounty was discontinued. It went out of production. It seems to me that apart from the iron ore and nickel industries, which are in substance overseas owned the Government has a set against mining industries because it is directing itself to closing down the mines in Tasmania and it is directing itself to closing down a mine in South Australia. All the workers associated with these industries in the outer areas of the 2 States I have mentioned are at present housed and supplied with most of the community services which small towns are able to offer. If these industries go out of production the workers employed in them will have to move away from these small towns because, in the main, there are no other industries in those towns to which they can go foi employment. They will in the main migrate to the cities. In doing so they will bring further pressure to bear upon the community services provided in the cities. The overall result is a tendency towards centralisation rather than decentralisation. I do not know how many workers are employed in the 2 mines and the treatment plant in Tasmania, but I do know that Tasmania already has the highest unemployment figures of any State in the Commonwealth. The workers who lose their employment as a result of the closing down of these industries probably will not be able to find alternative employment in
Tasmania and will have to migrate to the mainland to obtain employment. A State which has been battling to keep its head above water will get another shot in the back because of the closing down of some of its industries.
I do not want to say much more at this stage on this legislation. 1 will be proposing an amendment at the Committee stage. I will them elaborate a little more on my proposition. The proposed amendment to both Bills will have as its purpose the continuance of the bounty until 1974. I realise that this House of the Parliament cannot propose such an amendment because of the constitutional position, but it can make a request to the other House to amend the Bills accordingly.
– The legislation which the Senate is discussing seeks to extend the operation of the sulphuric acid bounty and the pyrites bounty until the end of May next year. The Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton), in introducing this legislation in the Senate, referred to a report of the Tariff Board which is very much the subject of discussion in relation to this legislation and in which the recommendation was made thai the Government’s obligation to the sulphur and sulphuric acid industries could be most appropriately fulfilled by the payment of lump sum compensation. In addition, the purpose of the Bill is to extend the period of time to enable the adjustments to be made to the new circumstances. In general terms the Bill responds to the report to the Tariff Board which the Government has accepted. In a Press release issued at the time of the release of the report earlier this year the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony) made the observation that the Government had accepted the Tariff Board recommendation so that the Government could most appropriately discharge its obligations to producers of pyrites and manufacturers who produce sulphuric acid from indigenous sulphur bearing materials. The Government also decided - I think this is the important point - to continue the previous level of bounty for a further 12 months. The Minister added that the Government had accepted the Board’s proposal for basing compensation on the written down and realisable value of the assets.
I think most honourable senators are familiar with the fact that this report is part of a series of events going back to the 1950s when the Government actively encouraged the use of indigenous sulphur bearing materials. In 1959 the Government discontinued the policy but it also recognised that it had an obligation to those producers who had co-operated with its past policy. In the early 1950s there was a world shortage of elemental sulphur or brimstone which is. as all honourable senators know, an important raw material. The Government of the day decided actively to encourage manufacturers to produce sulphuric acid from indigenous sulphur bearing materials. By 1954 the situation in relation to brimstone supplies at world level had eased but prices had declined. The Tariff Board reached the conclusion that a bounty should be paid to manufacturers of acid produced from pyrites. The Government accepted this recommendation. Later, in 1958, the Board recommended a continuation of the bounty payments. But by now the indications were that the overseas supply of brimstone had improved. The Government decided that it should not pursue locally a policy of encouraging the production of acid from indigenous materials.
I think it is important to repeat that the Government recognised that it had an obligation to those producers and manufacturers who had co-operated with it in its past policy. In recognition of this fact it is important to note that the Government continued to pay the bounty but, at the same time, it asked the Tariff Board to report on the industry. There are many other details in the history of thi., item. While the Government continued to fulfil its obligation by bounty it tended to withdraw a policy of encouragement. For a moment I shall refer to an extract from the Tariff Board Report relating to this matter. The report states:
Since the Government withdrew its policy of encouragement most acid producers have changed their sources of sulphur from pyrites to brimstone. This change caused Norseman Gold Mines No Liability and Mount Morgan to lose their markets for pyrites and the Government referred to the Board the question of the appropriate method of fulfilling or discharging its obligations. In its report of 31st August 1967 the Board recommended that the Government fulfil or discharge its obligations to these two enterprises, which had lost their markets through circumstances beyond their control. . . .
The report lists possible methods of compensation. Later the Tariff Board in examining the industry also examined the world situation as far as likely supply and demand were concerned, ft noted that the world brimstone supplies currently exceeded the demand and that they were likely to do so for some years. Taking all these facts and developments together the Board said that it did not consider that world sulphur prices were likely to be such that assistance was warranted in terms of its normal criteria for the most efficient producers of sulphur or sulphuric acid from indigenous materials. The situation has been reached where there is a discontinuance of the bounty but, at the same lime, there is an allowance for a further time to enable the industry to make the necessary arrangements to take these new circumstances into account and also to enter into negotiations regarding compensation.
The report has pointed out that throughout the world supplies now exceed demands. The Board in its examination of the industry also saw the long term future of the industry more as a by-product of smelting operations in places such as Mount Isa and Kalgoorlie. It also pointed to some problems which occurred locally when it referred to new transport techniques such as bulk shipping or special purposes large capacity railways and pipelines, coupled with rapid development of mining in some remote areas which may increase the opportunities for indigenous sources.
It seems to me that the Government has taken the decision with the greatest consideration for the industry on one hand and the taxpayer on the other. However, there are effects which flow from this decision. As a South Australian I am concerned at a situation which exists in the community of Brukunga. True it is that a considerable proportion of the people have obtained employment at nearby Kanmantoo or in the engineering and water supply department enterprises. But of course more is involved than that. The community is involved. Where a community is involved there is always a problem when an industry ceases and there is a transfer of personnel. Matters of compensation, negotiations and formula are being determined. This will be undertaken during the period in which the bounty is extended.
The Government, in looking at the Tariff Board report, has agreed with the Tariff Board findings that Australia’s long term sulphur requirements might be most economically provided by one or a few of the producers which use indigenous byproducts and operate on a scale which is large enough fully to exploit the economies of some of the items to which I have referred, such as bulk transport. It is pointed out that such a development could be at the expense of some of the existing fertiliser plants if competition develops between the suppliers. However, it is important lo note that there has been no representation from the industry as such. I am advised that since the report has been put down there have not been references from the industry to the Government in relation to this matter. The report also takes into account the possible requirements for the future. I think that honourable senators who have read the report will remember that as far as Australia is concerned the forecast reaches into the 1990s and the future demand for such an item as superphosphate - which provides the main market for sulphuric acid which is produced locally. The forecast shows that demand will grow to an extent of only 2.2 per cent a year compared with 7.6 per cent between 1962 and 1968. The Tariff Board examination and report has been placed before the Government in relation to this measure. The Government has accepted the recommendations laid down. The legislation gives effect to what the Board has decided. Perhaps the Bill has its disappointments and its frustrations but in the light of the report, the needs of Australia, the overseas situation, the position of supply, world prices and our future requirements, the Government has accepted the report. By this measure the Government seeks to implement the decisions of the Tariff Board.
– in reply - Senator Cant observed that while these 2 Bills are separated they are interrelated. They are associated one with the other. As the honourable senator suggested, we should have a cognate debate on these 2 measures. I take it that his wish would be to have separate decisions taken by separate votes, because he has 2 separate amendments.
– I do not think I need take up a great deal of the Senate’s time. The matter has been put in detail by Senator Cant and Senator Davidson has further explained it. Therefore the comments that I shall make will be necessarily quite brief. The Bill flows out of a Tariff Board report. In the inquiry into the industry the Tariff Board was asked to report on 2 questions; firstly, the way in which the Government should discharge its obligations to the companies in the industry and, secondly, whether irrespective of the obligation issue the industry should bc assisted in future years. The Governments’ obligation arose out of the encouragement it gave at an earlier day to the manufacture of sulphuric acid from pyrites and indigenous sulphur bearing materials. The manufacturers who co-operated in this regard acquired cost burdens because the cost of acid production from pyrites, etc., is higher than the cost of production from sulphur. After the world sulphur supply improved those manufacturers found themselves at a disadvantage vis-a-vis those who were producing from imported sulphur. Since 1954 the Government has paid bounties to offset the disadvantages of companies which had incurred obligations in this sense.
In its most recent report the Tariff Board proposed immediate discharge of the obligation by lump sum compensation. The Government adopted a modified course and proposed continuation of the bounty for an additional period of more than 12 months to allow the company a transition period to meet the new circumstances. The amendments propose an extension of that extra period. Under those circumstances the Government would not be able to accept the amendments foreshadowed by Senator Cant for the Australian Labor Party. In relation to the second matter upon which the Tariff Board was asked to report - whether the industry should be assisted in future years, irrespective of the obligation issue - the Board found no real need for assistance. However, this is an issue which could again be examined by the Board if the circumstances were to change. I do not think I can add a great deal to the knowledge of the Senate in this matter. We will proceed to the Committee stage and perhaps at that stage if further questions are directed to me I can seek assistance and endeavour to help.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Section 4 of the Principal Act is amended -
– I move:
The purpose of the amendment, as I stated briefly when I was speaking earlier, is to continue the bounty payment to 1974, which is the real obligation of the Government to the industry’- I shall not use the words that were used in another place, but I do believe that the Tariff Board was used on this occasion lo get the Government off the hook of having to pay the bounty until 1.974, which is the year to which the industry thought it would have protection and be able to operate. We submit that if the Government is prepared to accept the amendment it will discharge it obligations. Until this report came out the industry was entitled to assume that it would receive protection until 1974. Even though the Government now proposes to pay compensation amounting. I understand, to approximately $2m, despite what Senator Cotton says about extending the bounty for 18 months, for the purposes of this Parliament the bounty is being extended from now until May 1972. We believe that every effort should be made to save the industries, not only for the sake of those people employed in them, not only for the purpose of continuing the industries, but also because of the amount of foreign exchange that will be saved by the continuance of these industries. 1 understand that this works out at about $5m a year.
Yesterday we had a great debate on foreign investment in this country. It was an interesting debate. I was a little sorry that it was not a full debate because one was not able to say sufficient in 15 minutes on such an important subject. But here we have an Australian industry established in 2 States of Australia supplying a product which is of national importance to our agricultural and pastoral industries, and we are closing it down. Senator Davidson said that we could get some sulphuric acid from the treatment plants at Mount lsa and Kalgoorlie. I remind the honourable senator that within 2 years Kalgoorlie will be closed down unless this Government alters its attitude towards making available a subsidy to the gold mining industry. Mount Isa. I hope, will continue to operate. But the Government has said, through the Tariff Board, that the available supplies of brimstone throughout the world are sufficient for the foreseeable future. It is necessary to know whether we can purchase the brimstone and the sulphuric acid which is imported into this country. Even though there may be a world surplus, do we have guaranteed supplies? What negotiations has the Government carried out to make sure that this vital commodity to the Australian agricultural and pastoral industries will be available for the foreseable future?
– The Tariff Board report indicates that there are ample world supplies.
– Ample world supplies are not sufficient unless you have some lien on them. Will you be able to get them? The second proposition I put to the Minister is this: Will the Government be able to get the supplies at economic prices? Once we close down our own industries and put ourselves into the hands of the overseas producers and the importers we have no further control over the price that we have to pay for the commodity. The Government is already subsidising the superphosphate industry, and it has done a very good job. I am not complaining about that at all. lt has given some stability to the price to the consumer of that commodity. But, once we move out of our own industry and out of control of our own production and put ourselves in the hands of the world, we may be in quite a different position. So, the first question I ask is: What negotiations have been carried out and what firm or projected contracts has the Government been able to enter into to assure a continuous supply of the raw product? The second question is: What negotiations have been carried out and what contracts have been made on a government to government level or a government to industry level to assure us that we will be able to purchase the commodity that we require at economic prices?
Unless the Governnent can give some assurances on those questions now, I am inclined to the view that the industry should not be closed down until such time as those assurances can be given. The commodity that is being produced is too important to the whole of Australia for us to be putting ourselves in the hands of overseas people. I put it to the Minister that these are questions that must be looked at. If the amendments that are proposed by the Australian Labor Party to both these Bills are accepted, that will give the Government time to manoeuvre and time to negotiate for the supplies that I say we are entitled to have. We are entitled to know what we can obtain on the world markets. We are entitled to know where we can get this commodity at economic prices. The amendments would allow the Government the period until 1974 in which to negotiate firm contracts for supply and firm contract prices.
Senator Davidson, in talking about the South Australian industry, said that alternative employment had been obtained. He mentioned water supply projects and one other source of employment which I forget just at the moment. He failed to advise the Senate that the employment on water supply projects is more or less casual employment; it is not permanent employment.
– The other one Senator Davidson mentioned will be permanent. It was mining.
– The Kanmantoo copper mine.
– 1 will accept that; but the first one is in the nature of casual employment. The point I make is that it is admitted even by Ministers, although they will not accept the forecasts made by the Australian Labor Party, that we are running into a difficult period in regard to unemployment, with school leavers and other people seeking employment. So we should not now be taking actions that will add to that unemployment. We should not now be taking actions that will add to unemployment in the cities. We should not now be taking actions that will deplete the populations of existing country towns. We should not now be taking actions that will bring greater pressures upon the community services in the cities. 1 do not want to string this debate out. I say that the Government should give serious thought to whether it should proceed to dispose of this industry before such lime as the matters I have mentioned are negotiated properly and this Parliament can be advised that the commodity will be available at economic prices.
– I rise to indicate my Party’s attitude to this Bill. As we see the position, the Government had 2 alternatives. One was to continue the bounty until 1974, as Senator Cant has suggested on behalf of the Australian Labor Party. The other was to do as the Government has done, namely, to opt for the payment of compensation in a lump sum. I note that the current Tariff Board report refers to the fact that in 1965 it was of the opinion that the bounty legislation ought not to be continued. As I see the position, the Board was asked by the Government to make recommendations on how the Government could fulfil its obligations. The report states:
The Board therefore considers that the Government could fulfil its . outstanding obligations by continuing the present bounty arrangement until 1974.
The alternative, which the Board has recommended, is for the Government to discharge its obligations by making a lump sum payment of compensation. Senator Cant says that the industry expected to receive protection until 1974. If that was so, we would have expected some representations to have been made on this matter by the industry. As they have not been made, it seems to me that the industry is quite happy with what the Government proposes. I indicate that the members of the Democratic Labor Party will vote for the Bill as it stands.
– Senator Cant has moved an amendment to clause 3 of the Bill. Substantially, it seeks to alter seventy-two’ to ‘seventy-four’ in subclauses (a) and (b). What he proposes is really an extension of the period presently proposed by 2 years. Let me reiterate a couple of comments. The Tariff Board recommended compensation as the most satisfactory method of meeting the Government’s obligation. The Government’s decision allows a period of grace. So, I believe that it is a fair one. The basis of compensation at the concluson of the bounty is the depreciated value of assets less their realisable value. Assets acquired after 20th May 1971 are not eligible - for inclusion. Companies will be permitted to continue production in the same field after compensation. The cost of the compensation will be in the order of $2m.
Senator Cant said that the industry had every reason to expect that the bounty would continue until 1974 and that we have put ourselves in the hands of overseas suppliers on price. The Tariff Board’s inquiry was detailed. The reference was made in October 1968 and the report was not completed until June 1970. As Senator Kane has said, there was ample opportunity for all viewpoints to be presented at an impartial judicial inquiry. Witnesses canvassed various ways of discharging the obligation and gave evidence on sulphur prices. There was a weight of evidence that sulphur prices were falling. In fact, sulphur prices have fallen by $12 since the matter was referred to the Board. Every indication is that there is a situation of very considerable surplus.
asked: What arrangements has the Government made to ensure continuity of supply at a fair price? This function is carried out by the British Phosphate
Commissioners on behalf of the industry, and the Commissioners are in general liaison with the Government. Therefore, that matter can be assumed to be taken care of and looked at adequately. I do not think an argument has been advanced that really will make the Government’s position other than what it is. ThereforeI must say to Senator Cant that we are not able to accept his amendment.
That the House of Representatives be requested to leave out the words proposed to be left out (Senator Cant’s amendment).
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator Prowse)
Majority . , 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cotton) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 9 November (vide page 1743), on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– A debate on this Bill has already taken place during the second reading debate on the Sulphuric Acid Bounty Bill. The Opposition does not oppose the Bill, but I shall move an amendment in the Committee stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I refer to clause 3 which reads in part:
Section 3 of the Pyrites Bounty Act 1960- 1970 is amended:
The remarks that I would have made in relation to this amendment have already been made with respect to an amendment which I moved to the Sulphuric Acid Bounty Bill. I shall say no more, but the Opposition will take this matter to a division.
– I thank the honourable senator for his help in this regard and say that the powerful speeches which have been made by him, by Senator Kane and by me will be conveyed to the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp).
That the House of Representatives be requested to leave out the words proposed to be left out (Senator Cant’s amendment).
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator Prowse)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cotton) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 28 October (vide page 1562), on motion by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson:
That the Bill he now read a second time.
– The Australian Labor Party will not oppose the Bill which provides for the extension of the south-west region water supplies scheme to provide water for the drier wheat and sheep areas in Western Australia both northeast and south of the metropolitan area. It has to be remembered that the main sources of water in Western Australia are around the metropolitan area. The water for this scheme will be drawn from 2 main dams - Mundaring Weir, within 20 miles of the metropolitan area, and Wellington Dam, about 120 miles south of the metropolitan area. The scheme was started by the Chifley Government which entered into an arrangement with the Western Australian Government to pipe water into the drier agricultural and pastoral areas of the State, excluding the northern pastoral areas, in order to provide water for stock and the small country towns which the farming communities supported. One could ask whether, as the downturn in the rural industries continues,the water supplies should continue to be extended into these areas. My answer would be that, although there is a downturn in the wool industry, there is not necessarily a downturn in the wheat industry.
Wheat is not grown in irrigated areas. The wheat farmers derive benefit from this scheme by having available water for domestic purposes and in the towns which are the centres of their operations. Pastoralists use the water to water stock. While there may be a downturn in the wool industry today, the extension of the scheme will allow the wool growers to diversify their operations. They will be able to go into the production of meat. It has to be remembered that our exports of meat to the American market fell short by 40 million lb last financial year. So there is an opportunity and a market for a greater production of meat. These farms could be diversified into the production of meat. The scheme is still of verygreat importance to the drier areas of Western Australia.
Because of the time taken to complete the scheme the cost of construction has increased. The present stage of the scheme will cost an extra $3m. Therefore the agreement is for the Commonwealth to make available to Western Australia a further$1. 5m to complete this stage of the scheme. In the greater part of Australia water conservation and distribution are very important, because Australia is the driest continent. It could be said that there is not a decent river running through Australia. In the northern part of Australia some very large rivers run intermittently in the wet season. The main sources of water in the south are the Murray River and the
Murrumbidgee River. So we are bound to conserve as much water as we can. Even though we hear some academic criticism of water conservation projects, I do not believe that the critics have thought through the subject that they criticise as far as they should in view of their education. They are making only educated guesses. I do not know of any part of Australia where water that has been conserved has not been used.
The conservation projects associated with this comprehensive water scheme have been completed. That is the distribution aspect which is just as important as the conservation because it is of no use conserving water unless we are able to distribute it. It is distributed over many miles. Quite a good job is done. Nevertheless, there are still people in Western Australia who are carting water to water stock for distances of up to 70 miles. One farmer I was talking to a few days ago has been carting water for stock that distance for the past 2 years because of drought conditions in his area. So it is important that the scheme be extended as soon as possible to areas that require it. Therefore, the Opposition welcomes the Commonwealth Government’s contribution to this scheme and will support the Bill.
– in reply - Senator Cant has said that this Bill proposes the augmentation of a scheme for farm water supply in the south west of Western Australia. The scheme is designed to supply water for stock and domestic purposes in an area of about 4 million acres. The decision to undertake this scheme was taken a long time ago and, of course, the cost has increased. Under this piece of legislation the Commonwealth is proposing to continue its share of the cost on a Si for $1 basis as was the original intention. As Senator Cant so rightly said, this is a good measure which should be supported. 1 am very grateful that it is being supported by the Party to which he belongs.
I had the opportunity recently to travel from Perth through to Katanning. I must say that it is a beautiful span of country. 1 was very impressed in the KatanningKojonup area because I saw the farm water supply scheme operating in practice.
The only comment 1 would make as a citizen of New South Wales is that I thought the farmers in Western Australia were singularly fortunate to have running alongside their boundaries a pipeline for a farm water supply scheme for stock and domestic purposes. I would not mind having it myself.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 14 October (vide page 1382), on motion by Senator Greenwood:
That the Bill be now read a second lime.
– The purpose of this Bill is to validate certain decrees which have been granted under the Matrimonial Causes Act in South Australia and New South Wales and certain other orders made by registrars and other court officials which have been placed in jeopardy by recent decisions of the High Court. This Bill is designed merely to rectify the situation and to ensure that those persons who would otherwise be adversely affected by the lack of validity of the proceedings shall be protected. The Australian Labor Party is not opposing the Bill. Indeed, the Party does not have a position on the matter at all. The question of matrimonial causes is regarded within this Party as being a question of conscience. In any event, I doubt whether any member would feel that his conscience constrained him to vote against the validating of decrees which have been made already -under the existing Act.
I certainly do not intend to prolong these proceedings as the Senate has a great deal of other business to attend to. In any eve:t. it would seem that this matter would be uncontroversial. All I wish to say is that the first Commonwealth Matrimonial Causes Act was passed in 1959. Since then, there has been only one major amendment - I believe it is the only amendment - in 1966. I take the opportunity while speaking on this Bill to submit to the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) that perhaps it may be time shortly for the Commonwealth Government to engage in a further review of the Matrimonial Causes Act. Various criticisms have been made of it, particularly with regard to procedures and certain matters relating to costs. It should be apparent that it is not a perfect Act and there would be some amendments, which I think would be fairly obvious to most legal practitioners, which perhaps could be made. Indeed, some further consideration may be given to the grounds under which divorces at present may be granted. There was a review when the 1966 amendments were brought before the Parliament. Having said that, I have nothing further to add. I merely indicate that the Opposition certainly does not intend to oppose this Bill.
– As Senator Wheeldon has said, the Matrimonial Causes Bill 1971 amends the 1959 Act. Two High Court decisions have held invalid certain purported divorce decrees. This Bill is designed to ensure that where an order of the Supreme Court has purported to be made under the Matrimonial Causes Act by an officer of the court, or by a commissioner appointed under the Supreme Court Act of South Australia, the status, rights and obligations of any person affected by the purported order will, by force of this legislation, be the same as they would have been if the order had been made by the Court itself. I believe this is an Act in which those concerned in law practice may take considerable interest, and undoubtedly they will adjudge the wisdom of this legislation. To me, the Act appears to be reasonable. Tn fact, clause 5 is the whole body of the Bill as the other clauses are purely descriptive.
I was anxious to speak on this matter because it is not one that comes before the Senate very regularly. As is noted, the main body of law was made in 1959 and, to the best of my knowledge, it has not been amended since that time.
– It was substantially amended in 1966.
– That is right, there was a substantial amendment in 1966. I thank the honourable senator. I suppose all of us have come into contact with a variety of problems associated with matrimonial causes and I thought I would raise one or two points. 1 agree with Senator Wheeldon, who preceded me in this debate, that the Commonwealth needs to amend the law even further. Our society is dedicated to the rule of law, and rightly so. It is useless to complain of changes in social behaviour which have brought about the situation that divorce, which was once impossible, has become quite common. The change that has followed technical and scientific advances has brought about an enormous difference in human relationships. At some point of time in this world change is inevitable. Every technical advance or departure from a preconceived or established view of society will eventually bring an adjustment to new conditions.
As the pace of our society has accelerated adjustments have tended to lag further and further behind the established law. Most of us seem to resist change and the lag is probably more evident in the field of divorce than in most other fields of domestic relationships. I wish to quote a report of the Law Commission of England entitled ‘Reforms of the Grounds of Divorce’, f think it is a fair statement that the objective of good divorce law should include the support of marriages which have a chance of survival and the decent burial with the minimum embarrassment, humiliation and bitterness of those which are indubitably dead, as is stated in the report. Have we law of that quality at present?
Whether it is the fault of the law or its administration, I doubt very much whether we have law which would lead to an affirmative answer to that question. Victoria’s first divorce legislation was introduced in 1861, which indicates the short time for which it has existed. It appears that since then changes have been particularly slow, both in the States and federally. Only 40 years ago in Victoria a wife who wished to convince a divorce court that she had suffered sufficient cruelty to justify divorce, even coupled with drunkenness or failure to support her, was required to prove conduct which was practically diabolical. That illustrates how recently attitudes to divorce have changed.
I believe that the courts are constrained in their progress by the law. I believe that judges are not notably in the forefront of those who wish to change the law. I say that advisedly. Liberalisation of the divorce law has come as a result of irresistible pressure due to the changing social conditions of our time. At the formation of the Commonwealth the Constitution gave power to the Commonwealth Parliament to legislate on marriage and divorce. It is interesting that for 60 years the Commonwealth, whilst clothed with the power to act, left the matter of matrimonial causes to the States. During that period 6 different and varying divorce codes were built up. Whilst the Commonwealth had the power in that period, it acted first in 1959 in the field of divorce legislation and it was a long time before it took a grip of this very important matter. lt is said that the passing of the 1959 Commonwealth Matrimonial Causes Act, which came into force in February 1960, was by far the greatest landmark and advance in divorce legislation since the 1860s. I opened my remarks by saying that it appeared to me that a change in the divorce law is necessary. I imagine that honourable senators would support the objective I quoted from the report of the English Law Commission and also agree that it has been reached in these days. Divorce cases in the courts are most protracted and situations occur in relation to both parties and their children which should not be countenanced in our society.
Our present system appears to call for blame to be laid on somebody. We seem to disregard completely the traumatic experiences in a court for the parties involved while the problems giving rise to the suit are gone over again. There is a recounting of experiences which were endured probably for many years and long after they have passed they are repeated in the courts. I believe that the establishment of guilt as we have it at present is quite degrading for individuals. In our present society a social stigma attaches to divorce, irrespective of whether that should be so. In our society there is a great demand for a better preparation of young people for marriage, or perhaps of people of any age. The accepted propostion is that marriage is entered into for better or for worse, but I feel quite confident that the average marriage would be entered into without serious consideration of the implications which may follow from the union.
The Commonwealth has recently entered the field of education. Surely preparation for marriage should be taught in the more senior classes of our schools. The choosing of a partner in marriage is most important and the issues which arise out of the marriage union should be discussed in our society. But they are not. No public body has been set up to give information to prospective marriage partners. Human relationships form a very deep subject and we know little of that subject at present. Advice could be given on the economics of marriage. These are matters which need to be discussed at some point within our educational system. Resources should be available within the community to be used for education on marriage and to cope with the crises which promote the circumstances later aired in the courts.
The society which we have built calls for more freedom than it ever called for before. Freedom is demanded by our society. We are responsible for the building of an urban society over recent years which increasingly is promoting the problems of living and undoubtedly is putting pressure on all sides of a marriage, thus leading to some breakdown in the union. I believe it is our wish to retain the family bond as an extremely important facet of our society. However I think it is fair to say that there is very little education in this respect in our schools. There is very little pre-marriage counselling although over the past years we have established marriage guidance councils. Of course, marriage guidance councils mainly enter the field after the problem has arisen. I say to the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood), and to you, Mr Acting Deputy President, that something is needed in our society so that young people may be better prepared to enter into this very important relationship.
I have done some reading on this matter. I refer the Senate to a page in a publication entitled ‘Divorce, Society and the Law’. Basically this publication is a report on a symposium arranged by the Faculty of Law at the Monash University. The matter was discussed there in 1967. At that time the English Divorce Reform Bill was being promoted. The Attorney-General may care to comment on whether that Bill has been passed. Undoubtedly it has progressed further than my comments at this time indicate. Proposals relating to the law were put forward at that time, and that is the matter we are dealing with now. This publication says:
In England the latest development is the presentation in the House of Commons of a private members Bill - the Divorce Reform Bill - which was ordered to be printed on 29 November 1967. Section 1 of the Bill reads as follows: ‘After the comencement of this Act the sole ground on which a petition for divorce may be presented to the court by either party to a marriage shall be that the marriage has broken down irretrievably’.
The document goes on to state:
So far the Bill appears to be giving legislative force to the Archbishop’s Group’s proposal.
The author goes on to quote further sections:
The court hearing a petition for divorce shall not hold the marriage to have broken down irretrievably unless the petitioner satisfies the court of one or more of the following facts, that is to say:
A variety of suggestions are contained in that Bill which I believe should find great merit in the eyes of the Australian community in the light of present circumstances.
Mr Justice Barber, a judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria, has commented on the needs for radical revision of the present law. In one comment I note that he said:
What is now needed is a new code of family law created by a combined effort of the States and Commonwealth so that within the constitutional powers of the latter, a new divorce and marriage code may be created, drafted in the context of the new provisions on the subjects within the State sphere, which could be enacted as uniform legislation by the several States. Among the matters which would be considered would be:
A new divorce law, probably incorporating as one ground irretrievable breakdown of marriage.
The present law relating to maintenance of wives and children, and property rights between spouses, is complex, confused and inadequate and not infrequently results in injustice. A new code governing these matters as well as Testator’s Family Maintenance and kindred subjects, is required which will cover all the proprietorial and financial questions between married and divorced people.
The most necessary and important reform of all is, however, the establishment of a new tribunal for matrimonial causes to determine the merits of the parties, their rights to dissolution, the custody and general welfare of children, and the rights of the parties to property as well as questions of maintenance.
The Attorney-General may care to say whether at present we have a law which is complex, confused and inadequate and that not infrequently it results in injustice. Surely this indicates that we must be alive to these problems and be anxious to act. The reasons which prompt me to speak on this matter will be quite evident to you, Mr Acting Deputy President. Whilst speaking on this Bill I appeal to the Government, through the Attorney-General, who I consider probably will be known in the future as one of the most outstanding Attorneys-General this Commonwealth has had, to alert its thoughts and its administrative direction to this most urgent need legislatively, socially and publicly.
– I was intrigued with that part of the second reading speech of the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) on this Bill in which he adverted to the ancillary rights which were affected. He did not put the accent on what I thought was the more important aspect of the trespass of the person, that is, on the status of the person. In his second reading speech, more particularly where he canvassed the provisions of the Bill, he did advert to this point. After all, a judgment of status is a judgment in rem. That is most important.
This has been a sensitive field in the operation of Commonwealth constitutional law in the conferring of power on other judicial bodies and it is one which has come under constant judicial scrutiny. There have been many distrubances where tribunals have purported to be vested with judicial power and it has been found to be extra legem the Constitution. This is another illustration. This is a very sensitive field of law. After all, where the status of persons and a person’s judgment in rem is determined, and where rights of matrimonial proceedings are affected, it is of extraordinary significance and of tremendous importance to the parties concerned. Therefore it is of vital importance that as far as possible any doubts resulting from the High Court’s decision invalidating certain procedures should be determined forthwith. Therefore the Australian Democratic Labor Party welcomes the passage of this Bill and will support it.
– 1 want to speak only briefly in this debate on the Matrimonial Causes Bill. I want to say firstly, it is the sort of measure which I view with some distaste because its purpose is to validate orders made by officers of 2 State Supreme Courts exercising Federal jurisdiction under the Matrimonial Causes Act. The effect of this legislation will be, of course, to reverse decisions which have been already made. I am not saying that it is not perfectly justified in the circumstances. I am merely saying that I dislike legislation which changes rights or duties which have been established by courts and undoubtedly this type of legislation will affect judicial decisions that established such rights and duties.
It has been clearly pointed out that this problem arose from two decisions of the High Court of Australia in which it held that the orders of officers of 2 State courts had been invalidly made. The effect of those decisions of the High Court has been to make invalid a great many of a vast number of orders which have been made over the last 10 years under the Matrimonial Causes Act because jurisdiction was wrongly exercised by certain officers of State courts. As I said, I support the Bill, but I support it because it seems to me that the decisions of the High Court have not only thrown into doubt but also would render completely null and void - if they ever came up in any court of review - a large number of orders on which people have relied, as the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) said in his second reading speech, in respect of a large number of questions which arise in the administration of the Matrimonial Causes Act. The Attorney-General referred to such vitally important decisions as orders for maintenance, custody, access, settlement and so on. Obviously the fact that a large number of people have been affected as a result of the decisions of the High Court makes it imperative for this Parliament to validate the orders which have been made over a period of 10 years.
It would be impossible to estimate exactly how many of the orders which have been made have been overturned as a result of the decisions of the High Court in the cases of Kotsis v. Kotsis and Knight v. Knight referred to by the AttorneyGeneral.
– lt is probable that there would have been remarriages in some of those cases.
– The decisions of the High Court would not affect them. They would only affect the ancillary orders.
– In some cases they affect the status.
– I do not think any decrees have been made by other than judges.
– The Attorney-General said that some have.
– If that is the case the position is even more serious.
– Order! I think that is something which ought to be argued out in the Committee stage.
– Although on principle I dislike legislation which reverses the decisions of courts which have established rights or duties, I appreciate that on this occasion the Parliament must intervene for the greater good of large numbers of people in the community who have been seriously disadvantaged by decisions which, as I have said, took many people by surprise.
The Matrimonial Causes Act came into operation throughout the nation in 1961. It has been in operation for 10 years. From the very beginning of that Act is was appreciated in legal circles that the registrars, masters or officials of State courts - call them what you will, but they are generally known as masters or registrars - probably and almost certainly did not have the jurisdiction to grant the sorts of orders which were granted by the respective officials of the New South Wales Supreme Court and the South Australian Supreme Court. Under section 77 (iii.) of the Constitution this Parliament has power to invest any court of a State with federal jurisdiction. But this Parliament could not confer directly on an official of the court of a State, unless he was part of the court, any of that jurisdiction. I suppose that explains the rather curious drafting of this Bill which provides for the validation of decrees as if they had been made by a judge. I think that is to observe the constitutional requirement.
Apparently it was assumed by certain Supreme Courts of the States that the registrar, master or official was actually part and parcel of the court and that a conferring of jurisdiction on the court by this Parliament in the Matrimonial Causes Act conferred jurisdiction on the registrar, master or official. Of course, the High Court decided in the cases to which the Attorney-General referred that the registrar, master or official was not actually a part of the court itself. But, as I have pointed out, this was perfectly well known in legal circles from the very commencement of this Act. Indeed, it is a matter which was adverted to in the discussions which took place for some years prior to the passage of the Matrimonial Causes Act through this Parliament. I believe that it is something which should have been given proper consideration by the State courts on which federal jurisdiction was conferred. They should not have been allowed to continue to operate in the way in which they operated.
One of the cornerstones of the Matrimonial Causes Act and one of the most important policies laid down in it - as was referred to by Senator Webster - is the desirability for all questions to be decided in the one court at the one time and not just the question of dissolution. It is one of the fundamental principles of the Act that the maintenance of the wife and children, custody, access, settlement of property and so on should, as far as practicable, be dealt with at the same time by the one judge. That is a very important feature of this legislation. I was very glad to hear Senator Webster discuss this matter purely from the layman’s point of view and state that this is the proper way in which jurisdiction should be exercised in this field. That is another most unfortunate feature of the practice which has grown up in South Australia. I was surprised to find this procedure going on in New South Wales when I read of the case Kotsis v. Kotsis. I knew that this procedure was going on in South Australia but I did not know that it was as prevalent in New South Wales. In South Australia a decision was made on the question of dissolution by the judge and then the ancillary questions of maintenance, custody and so on were referred to a court official. As I said, that is completely contrary to the policy and clear provision of section 68 of the Matrimonial Causes Act. I hope that the AttorneyGeneral will deal with this matter when he closes this debate.
I am particularly anxious to know whether the Supreme Courts of South Australia and New South Wales have got the message and have, in fact, rectified what I have always considered has been a wrong approach in the administration of this most important legislation. These courts, by these wrong procedures, have put us in the position where we have to pass legislation of this kind which I am against in principle and which I am sure other honourable senators with a legal background are against in principle. We have to do this because of the fix in which the administration of the Act in these courts has placed us. I certainly hope that we are not going to have to do this again. I hope the AttorneyGeneral will be able to assure us that the procedures of these courts have been put on a proper basis as is required by the Act and that in future they will exercise the jurisdiction which this Parliament gives them in the way intended.
– in reply - I thank Senator Wheeldon and Senator Byrne for the statements which they have made on behalf of their Parties that they will not oppose the passage of the Matrimonial Causes Bill. I also acknowledge the contributions which have been made by Senator Webster and Senator Durack. They have given some life to what might have been a somewhat unattractive and not very well covered debate. This measure is necessitated by the decisions of the High Court which have created problems in 2 States. As this is a rectifying measure it does not involve very much debate as to the merits of the situation. I think that the points made by Senator Webster and Senator Durack as to the problems which have been encountered in terms of the development of the matrimonial causes jurisdiction in Australia will lead to the need at some stage in the future to have that consideration which Senator Wheeldon appealed for. I think the Senate is well aware of the fact that at the present time a number of substantial areas of Commonwealth legislation or proposed legislation is undergoing review. Of course the sheer difficulty in obtaining the time and the personnel to undertake reviews is a problem with every major area of legislation. In due course this may well require some further consideration.
I was interested in what Senator Webster said about the role of the schools and the role of formal educative processes to equip young people for the responsibility of marriage. I think the honourable senator could develop that argument in a variety of ways to suggest that our educational process could well take account of a much broader range of application in terms of citizenship - certainly, in my experience, to a greater extent than is carried out at the present time. Of course there is the carryover of an earlier idea that the responsibilities of citizenship were best acquired by experience and that the problems of how to live with one another in a domestic relationship were best culled from the family example. But I think we have to recognise that the range of divorce is increasing. There is a general community acceptance of the fact that marriages which have broken down should be dissolved. This has weakened the example which may be derived from family experience. It is an area in which a number of people have shown concern. They have endeavoured lo meet the problems which they have seen arising by identifying themselves with groups such as marriage guidance bureaux and other family welfare groups designed to help in a variety of ways.
I note also that Senator Webster was attracted - I think ‘attracted’ is the correct word - to the possibility of the English provision which I believe is now operative that the ground of divorce should be the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. I feel that this has much to commend it and is part of the area to which, at some stage in the future, some consideration should be given as to whether this law should apply likewise in Australia. But I feel that whatever be the grounds of divorce - whether they be extended or comprehended in one or two grounds - the real problem which we have to recognise is that adequate provision must be made for the children of the marriage. I do not believe that the emphasis upon either limiting or comprehending in a narrow field the grounds of marriage should be regarded as the important feature of matrimonial causes legislation. I believe that the important consideration in all these areas is that this Act which we are amending to some extent has acknowledged - but I think this has to be acknowledged a great deal more by the community at large in the future - that the way in which the children of broken marriages or divorced parents are provided for by those who have in a sense yielded up the responsibility-
– That is rather a departure from the present principles of the matrimonial causes legislation which speaks of pre-divorce conciliation attempts and things like that where the marriage is considered important.
– I think that that is not so much a departure as a recognition of the fact that for all the efforts and expense involved in marriage conciliation procedures there has been a generally increasing divorce rate in the community. Problems have multiplied as the divorce rate has increased. This matter is simply mentioned by me following what Senator Webster said. This is one of the areas upon which we must concentrate our attention. Senator Durack referred to the character of this legislation and what it intends to achieve. I stress further that this legislation does not purport to validate decrees which the High Court has questioned or declared invalid. In Kotsis v. Kotsis the decree which the court declared invalid was subsequently the subject of proceedings before the Supreme Court of New South Wales. In due course the parties to the litigation were the subject of a decree made in proper form by a judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales.
– Are there no cases where a decree was granted improperly, as it turned out, by a registrar or master?
– I am quite confident that no divorce decree was made by a master or registrar of the court. I think it is inevitable that divorce decrees were made by the commissioners who exercised this jurisdiction in South Australia. The role of the registrars and the masters is essentially in the area of ancillary relief. It is orders which are made pursuant to decrees in the exercise of that ancillary jurisdiction which are designed to be affected by this legislation.
– Were decrees made by commissioners?
– I cannot say positively that decrees were made in the sense that I could point to one but the role of the commissioners was such that there must have been decrees.
– The Bill purports to deal with status so obviously there must be cases.
– Yes, I think the point which Senator Byrne makes leads on to the point I was making by way of reply to Senator Durack. The Bill does not seek to validate purported decrees, lt seeks by legislative declaration or by the force of the legislation itself to declare or to establish rights which people would have had if the decrees which had been made had been validly made. It may be a lawyer’s distinction, but it is not in strict form a matter of the validation of the purported decrees. It is the assertion of a status which derives from the purported decrees and it asserts that that status is the existing status on an assumption, legislatively declared, that the decrees were validly made.
– Clause 5 (3.) relates to the rights, liabilities, obligations and status of all persons. Obviously status is a separate factor and not something arising from rights.
– I would think that in the context to which Senator Byrne refers status refers to whether or not the person was in fact divorced. In the case of a commissioner’s decree in South Australia there is a need to assert what the status of a person is. I do not wish to go into the reasons why the State of South Australia and the State of New South Wales presume to allow their masters and registrars to make ancillary orders because that pattern is now past. I would have thought it is not so much a matter of assuring the Senate that those States now adopt a procedure which is satisfactory. It is unquestioned, in my judgment, that the orders and the ancillary relief which is made in those States are in accordance with the judgment of the High Court.
– Does not clause 5 (3.) (a) validate the purported decrees? Can you explain clause 5 (3.) (a)? If it does not provide for validation of purported decrees, what does it mean?
– I wonder whether that question might be raised in the course of the Committee stage so that I may have some opportunity of considering precisely the point which the honourable senator makes. I think the basic point in reply to Senator Durack is that the parties to the litigation which occurs before the courts now know as a result of the decision of the High Court that if they seek to have ancillary relief recorded by a registrar or a master that relief will not be worth the expenditure of money which is required in obtaining it, because the High Court has indicated that there is no power in the registrars and the masters to accord that relief. Naturally it flows from that that the relevant decrees are now made in accordance with the decision of the High Court and in accordance with the Matrimonial Causes Act by the judges who, as the High Court said comprise the court. I repeat that I am grateful to honourable senators for the speed and dispatch with which they have addressed themselves to this measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I think Senator Byrne and I are interested in the same point. It is of interest to the Committee to find out exactly what we are doing. The AttorneyGeneral (Senator Greenwood) has said that it is not the purpose of this Bill, or it is not the effect of this Bill, to validate purported decrees. Yet in the last paragraph of his second reading speech on this Bill the Minister states:
In the result, the present Bill will in no way deprive any litigant of the fruits of his litigation. However, in the many cases to which the Bill will apply, it will provide for the rights of persons to be as it was intended that they should be when the purported orders were made and will place the persons affected in the same position as they believe themselves to be in before the High Court decisions which I have mentioned.
Surely this must mean that if persons thought that they had been divorced by a decree of whichever Supreme Court it was, what the Attorney-General is saying is that the purpose of the Bill is to place them in the position that they thought they were in, and that is that they did have a valid decree. In fact, clause 5 (3.) (a) does this quite clearly. It provides for the rights, liabilities, obligations and status of all persons. As Senator Byrne has pointed out, it is not the subject of an ancillary order; the status is the subject of the judgment of the court itself in the major cause of action. The clause reads:
The . . . status of all persons are, by, force of this Act, declared to be, and always to have been, the same as if -
in the case of a purported decree mads by an officer of the Supreme Court of a State other than a purported decree to which the next succeeding paragraph applies - the purported decree had been made by the Supreme Court of that State constituted by a single Judge.
I merely raise the question which is bothering both Senator Byrne and me: If this does not mean that purported decrees are validated, what in fact does it mean?
– When I was addressing myself to the points made by Senator Durack at the second reading stage, I think I did say that this was really a lawyer’s point. I am afraid that the point has really attracted the attention of the lawyers. Clause 5 (3.) places persons affected by this purported decree in the same position as they would have been in had that purported decree been valid. I say that that is not the same as validating a purported decree and saying that the decree is validly made. Paragraph (a) of that sub-clause deals with purported decrees made by officers of the Supreme Court, and paragraph (c) deals with purported decrees made by the commissioners of the Supreme Court of South Australia. The rights, liabilities, obligations and status of all persons are to be the same as if the purported decree had been made by the Supreme Court constituted by a single judge.
This formula for establishing the effect of purported decrees was adopted because it has been assumed that the Commonwealth Parliament does not have the power to validate purported decrees. To try to do that would be in effect to leave the decision open to the challenge that it was an exercise of a judicial or a quasi judicial power by a parliament which did not possess the judicial power. However, the Parliament can establish, by the marriage and divorce and matrimonial causes powers, by force of legislation, by a legislative declaration, the rights, liabilities, obligations and status that the parties would have had if the purported decrees had been valid. Clause 5 (3.) (b) deals with the case where a purported decree by a court officer was varied on appeal by a single judge of the Supreme Court, before any doubt was cast on the validity of that purported decree. That paragraph is designed to meet any possible argument that the purported decree, since it is to be regarded as having been made by the Supreme Court, could not properly be the subject of an appeal to a single judge of the court. The paragraph provides that the purported order, as varied, shall be deemed to be an order actually made by the judge. It may be that the paragraph is unnecessary, as the Bill does not deem these purported orders to have been made by the Supreme Court or even to be regarded as having been made by the Supreme Court. It merely states, as I said, that these rights, liabilities, obligations and status shall be the same as if the purported orders had been made by the Supreme Court. I trust that that clarifies the position.
– All the lawyers having got into this act, another problem has occurred to me with which I would like the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Greenwood) to deal. It may be a very simple matter. It arises from the fact that I had not read the Bill as carefully as Senator Byrne had. I was looking at the Minister’s second reading speech, and my main concern in the comments that I made was with the ancillary orders, with which we are most concerned from a practical point of view. During the course of my speech Senator Byrne raised the question of decrees, and asserted that the Bill deals with decrees. I appreciate now that I have overlooked the fact that the Bill seeks to validate - I hesitate to say validate’ but this reduces it to lay terms - decrees that have been made in petitions for dissolution or nullity of marriage, or whatever it is, by a commissioner of the Supreme Court of South Australia. In that respect the Bill undoubtedly deals with applications for principal relief, as it is referred to. The main object of the Bill is to deal with the various orders for ancillary relief which have been made by officers of the various courts. But the Bill speaks only of decrees. I wonder whether, in order to make it perfectly clear that it is dealing with not only decrees but also ancillary orders - not having a copy of the Matrimonial Causes Act beside me, I am not sure whether under the Act ‘decree’ includes orders-
– It does.
– Thank you.
– In answer to Senator Durack’s question, let me simply refer to section 5(1.) of the Matrimonial Causes Act, which provides: decree’ means decree, judgment or order, and includes a decree nisi and an order dismissing a petition or application or refusing to make a decree or order.
When one looks at clause 5 (1.) of the Bill one finds that the types of decree which are covered are defined expansively. That provision makes quite clear what is intended to be covered. It should also be noted that it is decrees of the character of those which were made by officers of the court or by a commissioner of the Supreme Court of South Australia - those types of decree in accordance with the definition in the Act - which are covered.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Greenwood) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 28 October (vide page 1564), on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of this Bill is to give legislative validation to an agreement, between the Commonwealth and the State of Tasmania concerning a proposal to establish approximately 23 miles of railway line north of the city of Launceston to the port of Bell Bay on the River Tamar in Tasmania. It should be noted that in order to consummate this proposal the Parliament of the State of Tasmania is required to pass complementary legislation and that that is in progress at the present time. I will deal with some of the facts concerning this proposition. The total sum involved in this Bill is $4.25m which is to be provided by the Commonwealth, as to $2.5m by way of loan repayable over a period of 30 years at the long term bond rate which currently, I understand, is 7 per cent, and as to a final sum of $ 1.75m by way of non-repayable grant. I understand that the provisions of this Bill are similar to those of a measure that was passed a short time ago for similar purposes in Western Australia.
By way of condemnation of the general terms of this proposition let me say, firstly, that the application of an interest rate of 7 per cent to the $2.5m loan will return in the period of 30 years, by way of interest, a sum of $6m. That figure has been quoted. It is a substantial sum of money in all the circumstances, some of which I will touch upon in the course of my remarks on this measure. The proposal to establish this rail link arose out of a need to provide means for the transport of substantial quantities of material for the wood chip industry to and from 2 plants which. I understand, are to be built in the Bell Bay area and to come into operation in 1972. Since chips are to be exported to Japan it is necessary that there be a railhead in proximity to the shipping port. This is at Bell Bay. This proposal arose initially in 1963 when the Labor Party indicated in the course of the preparation of its policy for the 1964 Federal election that this proposition would be supported financially.
I believe that it is proper for me to say at this stage that there is a great deal of conjecture as to the ultimate cost of this project. I have the benefit of some information that was printed in the Tasmanian Mercury’ of Wednesday, 10th November. Predictions as to the ultimate cost have been made. The sum of $15m has been suggested as that necessary to cover the whole cost of this very important project. It has been suggested recently that the cost of the provision of the railway line itself, together with the stations, shunting yards, loops and things of that kind which have to go with it, will be in the vicinity of $5m. In fact, the latest figure being mentioned by the Commissioner of Transport in Tasmania is $7m, I understand, compared with an estimate of $3.5m made in 1970.
In a State such as Tasmania, which is a dependent State, one naturally looks to the Commonwealth for a substantial subvention towards the cost of a project of this nature. I am disappointed to find that the Premier of the State, in his comments in the State Parliament a day or so ago, lamented the fact that the Commonwealth has driven a pretty hard bargain and that the sums I have mentioned are the maximum sums, by way of grant and loan, that the Commonwealth is prepared to provide for Tasmania. This will mean that the State will have to find from its own resources a substantial sum of money to enable the project to be completed. It is on record now that, as far as the purchase and provision of rolling stock is concerned, the 2 major entrepreneurs in the wood chip venture have reached or are in the process of reaching final agreement with the State Government on the financing of the rolling stock. So, here we are concerned with the provision of the line itself. 1 am always conscious of the fact that although Tasmania is a very small place when measured against other States of the Commonwealth, it has 3.5 per cent of the population. However, I am disappointed to find from an examination of Commonwealth grants to that State that it has received in the vicintiy of 1.3 per cent only of the total Commonwealth grants to States for ventures of this kind. In this respect Tasmania is considerably behind the other States. A State like Tasmania is very vulnerable in that it does not have the industrial base which is available to other States. It is relatively small in total area and also it has its problems with the primary industries. Recently in this place we have discussed the problems of fruit exports and the assistance which it has been necessary for the Commonwealth to provide in relation to the export of the apple and pear crop. There are other problems of this kind.
As Tasmania is one of the sovereign States of the Commonwealth I should have expected that in all the circumstances we would have been given at least enough consideration to put us on a basis relative to our population comparable to the total Commonwealth assistance to other States. I understand that initially the Commonwealth was to provide 85 per cent of the total estimated cost of the venture, but as the present estimated final cost of the project the sum to be provided by the Commonwealth will not reach that proportion.
My attention has been drawn to comments attributed to Mr Bethune, the Premier of Tasmania, a few days ago when he alluded to this question in the course of a debate on a complementary measure which was then passing through the State House of Assembly. Mr Bethune is reported as having said that the agreement with the Commonwealth was not the most satisfactory. In my view this is to be lamented, particularly in the light of the present economic conditions which obtain in Tasmania. However, Mr Bethune added that he believed that it was the only grant for a railway which had been made to any State during the financial year. What that has to do with it I would not know. The fact that it was the only grant to a State for this purpose I suppose gives it some sort of statistical significance, but beyond that I do not think it has any relevance or significance.
– Did the honourable senator understand what were the unsatisfactory points?
– I may come to some of those points in a moment, but I prefer to develop my own theme. The Premier was alleged to have said also that the Commonwealth had made it perfectly clear that the figure with which we have been dealing in this Bill was the highest that it was prepared to pay. Grants for railway systems over the past 20 years amount to about S248m overall and Tasmania has received only about 1.7 per cent of that sum. We have had and are still going through a very difficult period in Tasmania. One would imagine that because Tasmania is the only State which has available to it virtually only one system of transport - shipping - some special consideration would have been given to it.
On a number of occasions over the past several months I have raised aspects of financing which I believe might be examined sympathetically by the Commonwealth so that the disability to which I have referred may, at least in some measure, be overcome. I know that the provisions of section 51 of the Commonwealth Constitution provide, inter alia, that there shall be an equality of treatment of the individual States, but my own view is that the founding fathers in framing the Constitution would not have anticipated all the very great difficulties that have since arisen in applying the provisions of the Constitution, provisions which may adversely affect Tasmania’s situation as time goes on. From my own observations over the last few years or so I have noted that the disability about which I am now speaking seems to have become accentuated with the rapid development of systems within our society. I hope that the Senate will have some sympathy with this view.
It seems to me that whilst the Commonwealth has been going ahead with development and progress in very many areas, the disability which was inherent in the initial situation of the Commonwealth vis-a-vis the States seems to have been developing in a direction which places Tasmania at a greater disadvantage as time goes on. I know that this is a point that can be debated, but in my view this is the situation. It is a situation which is becoming worse. My purpose in raising it so frequently is to attempt to alert those people who have a responsibility to investigate the situation, judge it and take corrective action, so that they will be aware of the disparity before it becomes such that the disabilities of the State place it in an even worse situation than it is at present. I do not want to paint a dismal picture. Tas- mania is a beautiful State with a tremendous potential in very many ways. It is a magnificent State from a tourist point of view, as I think everyone will accept, but in this area also we have the tremendous disability of a scarcity of funds. I accept that this is a common problem right throughout Australia. One becomes aware of this from Premiers Conferences and meetings of that kind. Because of Tasmania’s relative vulnerability, if I may express it in those terms, we are more susceptible and likely to be hurt by changes in the economic circumstances of the nation.
– Does the honourable senator not think that some of these disabilities that he has described are overcome by the quality of the members of Parliament that his State has produced?
– I am too modest to answer that question, but there could .be a modicum of truth in what the honourable senator says and I would not argue with him on that point. At the same time it seems to me that the quality of these excellent representatives from the State of Tasmania and their performance has not been sufficient to induce the Commonwealth to respond with assistance to overcome the disabilities. I am sorry to have to say this to the honourable senator, but I am speaking as one who has not left the State. I am still a resident of Tasmania. The honourable senator used to live in Tasmania but he left. As I am still a resident of Tasmania I have to put up with the problems of that State as they arise. As I have said, in Tasmania we are in a very difficult position. As an example of this I remind honourable senators that in Tasmania it is necessary only for an economic recession in a particular area of local industrial endeavour to create a very serious economic situation, with all the undesirable social consequences which occur in those circumstances.
In the northwest part of Tasmania in which I presently reside, because of difficulties which arose in relation to the paper pulp industry in that area substantial pockets of unemployment occurred and very great hardship resulted. It is very difficult in this present day and age when people’s wages are committed to the extent that t’hey are for hire purchase and for expenses of that kind to sustain a society in a proper sense of balance, especially where the vulnerability from which we suffer is so evident so often. In these circumstances it is necessary for us to do all that we possibly can to stabilise our industries and, at every conceivable opportunity, endeavour to extend the potential of industries which may be established in our State. It is for this reason that such a great deal of attention has been given to the need to establish the wood chip plant at Bell Bay on the Tamar River near Launceston. Because about 3 million tons of raw material per annum will need to be transported to feed the chipping plant, there has to be a system of transport adequate to cater for that type of activity. Tasmania believes - I accept this as the correct belief - that the rail link should be established.
I know the difficulties which occur when one attempts to institute a fairly substantial undertaking of this kind. Guesses are made as to the ultimate cost. Very often, when the scheme comes to fruition or when the plant, industry or whatever it may be is half installed, one finds that the estimate was substantially understated and that a considerable additional amount has to be found. I do not know what will happen in Tasmania. Over 30 years it will have to repay to the Commonwealth $6m for a loan of $2. 5m. That seems to me to be a crazy way of financing State undertakings or national undertakings, if one likes to call them that because all these undertakings, although they are State undertakings, have a national implication so far as the trade and commerce of the nation at large are concerned. I sincerely hope that there will be a rethinking of the level of assistance to be provided to Tasmania because, although the State is currently financially in quite considerable difficulties in attempting to finance its work and various undertakings, I am quite sure that it will be required to find a considerable additional sum merely to provide the rail link and ancillary features, excluding the rolling stock and other things that will be required.
On 17th September the Premier of Tasmania, in the course of addressing a meeting, stated that it was his opinion that the Federal Government had a policy which was against the interests of development in the smaller areas of smaller States. The Premier said that this was common talk among Treasury advisers who had something to do with the matter. He said that the Commonwealth believed that the best economics could be achieved by the Commonwealth financing projects in the more populous areas. I received quite a lot of correspondence about this matter. A great deal of alarm was expressed by the Devonport Chamber of Commerce and by other commercial interests in that area that such a statement could be made and that the Premier of the State could allege that it was Treasury or Commonwealth policy not to assist, as it should, the smaller and weaker areas in the financing of projects of this kind. Yesterday in the other place a question about this matter was asked. It stemmed initially from my endeavours. The Treasurer (Mr Snedden) was asked whether the Commonwealth had this attitude. He gave a categorical denial, as I would have expected, because it has never been my understanding or my experience that such a policy existed. If it did it would be completely wrong and completely at variance with the spirit of the Commonwealth Constitution. It is now over to the Premier of Tasmania to justify and to spell out the basis of his belief.
Initially I said that I believed that the long term bond rate, which is currently 7 per cent, is far too high for the financing of works of this kind. I believe that it is high time that the Commonwealth took another look at the financing of works of the nature of that with which we are dealing now, and particularly at the interest rates. Recently the Senate Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade discussed the shipping freight rates charged by the Australian National Line. I believe that the matter was raised in the Senate in the last day or so. The Committee’s report recommended special grants for railways. I hope that somewhere within the workings of the Treasury some effect could be given to the recommendation. In relation to the project about which we are talking, the provision of the rail link from Launceston to Bell Bay, the recommendation could be picked up and the views of the Committee weighed and evaluated. A great deal of evidence was presented to it. Perhaps the recommendation could be taken up and assistance provided for the financing of this rail link. In projects of this kind the Commonwealth is probably the greatest banker in the land. Surely its tendings are guaranteed because they are lendings to the States which have a solemn obligation to repay within the terms of the various agreements made.
There are 23 miles of track to be laid and 6 or 7 miles of track to be relaid and brought up to the proper standard. I am pleased to note that the thinking of the Tasmanian Government at present is that employees of the Railway Department will do this work. I am very glad to see that, particularly because of the current problems which I certainly anticipate will clear up in the course of time but which are presently causing a great deal of concern in Tasmania. Having the work done in this way will at least tend to soften the difficulty which might otherwise arise in the area.
One sees in parts of the country very great despondency about the current economic trend. I certainly would hope that the views expressed by people in authority will come to be. I have read some of these views in the past few days. The views are that these things are transitory and that very shortly there will be a return to vigorous activity in the national economy. The economy certainly needs a boost. No State needs it more than does Tasmania. Its isolation and its dependence to a large extent upon shipping services for transport puts it in a special category. I believe that this project gives the Commonwealth a chance to recognise that fact. If the State cannot be assisted by way of special taxation concessions and matters of that kind, projects such as this present an opportunity to make up the disparity between what is available from Commonwealth funds and what is spent in the other States. I say again that 3.5 per cent of population of Australia resides in Tasmania and only about 1.3 per cent of Commonwealth assistance is spent in Tasmania. I believe that the project is a ready made way for the Commonwealth to make up that disparity and to increase substantially the grant to Tasmania for this purpose.
I do not want to say much more about the Bill. I am very unhappy to think that the Commonwealth has reached a judg- ment as to how much money it will provide. Apparently, according to the Premier of Tasmania, it will not budge from that position. I hope that the Commonwealth will have another look at the matter, otherwise the Tasmanian Treasury will be very hard hit. It is absolutely essential that the line be operating some time in 1972 when the wood chip plant goes into operation. The work must not be delayed. I think that some indication has to be given that there will be no problem of finding the finance necessary to have this work carried out because the alternative is to lose a very essential industry. Tasmania, because of its vulnerability and because it has not the industries available to it, as there are in the other States, to take up the slack when there are problems in one industry cannot afford to lose the wood chip industry. Generally speaking, when there are problems in one industry in the other States, these are cushioned by the opportunities available in other forms of industry. This is not so in Tasmania, and I would earnestly hope that the Commonwealth Government would take this into consideration when looking at the amount of finance which is to be made available to Tasmania. Having said that, I indicate that although the Opposition is not happy with the amount of money that is being provided to assist the State in this most essential project, it nevertheless does not oppose the measure.
– We have just listened to an interesting speech from Senator Devitt, but I would like to go back a little further to cover some of the matters which, to an extent, were glossed over by him because to me, and 1 hope to other members of this chamber all of whom I have no doubt, are listening with great interest, the history of this project which comes to fruition with this legislation goes back for a very considerable period. The project was first mooted in the early 1900s. It culminated in 1912 with the first real investigation of the project for the Bell Bay rail link being undertaken by a then world authority on transport, Mr Hunter, who had come from the United Kingdom for that purpose. He reported favourably and suggested that it was essential for the collection of cargo and for the success of the new deep water port that the port should be directly connected with the Tasmanian Government Railways. But, alas, his words of wisdom were not heeded.
Many years passed during which time some of those who had faith in the project continued to urge that it should be studied again by the Government. This continued until eventually in 1950 with the introduction of Comalco - the Australian Aluminium Production Commission as it was then known - at Bell Bay the project was put forward again and a select committee of the Parliament of Tasmania was set up to investigate it. But, alas, once again the fate that sometimes befalls reports of select committees of the Parliament befell the report of that particular select committee. lt, like Mr Hunter, was in favour of this project. It, too, set out all the reasons why it was a good and viable project, but it, too, was not listened to by the government of the day. During the 1950s we saw various spasmodic revivals of the idea by some of the faithful. Then, as Senator Devitt said, a very small number of the faithful were able to get the idea written into the Australian Labor Party Federal policy - not State policy - for the 1964 election campaign. The Australian Labor Party did not win that election so nothing was done about that.
However, in 1966 something more important happened. At the Australian Labor Party conference that year to decide policy for the State Government, Labor then being in office in Tasmania, it was decided to recommend that the State Government approach the Federal Government for capital assistance to give effect to the recommendations of the parliamentary committee which inquired into the Bell Bay rail proposal in 1950. Unfortunately, apparently the enthusiasm of one or two of the dedicated members who had that resolution passed was not shared by the Premier of Tasmania, then Mr Reece, or his Government and nothing whatever was done about the project until the time Labor lost office in 1969. It is interesting to note that one of the promises on which the State Liberal Party, in coalition with the Centre Party, came into government in 1969 after a very long time in the wilderness was a promise-
– They have not come out of the wilderness.
– I do not know whether Senator Poke is in a position to make any comment about that. If they are in the wilderness, he is even further out. Let us check the promise that was made in 1969 by the Tasmanian State Liberal Party. It said before the election that one of the first things it would do if elected to government would be to conduct a proper investigation into the feasibility and desirability of the Bell Bay rail link. This was done. The net result of that investigation eventually comes before the Parliament in the form- of this Bill, supported as it is now by all parties. It is very satisfying to those of us who have taken a particularly close interest in this matter for a long time to see this Bill before the Parliament. I well recall that on 15th October 1968 in a speech I made in the chamber in relation to the report of the Senate Select Committee on the Container Method of Handling Cargoes I said that there was a number of proposals which needed consideration.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I had outlined a brief history of the matters leading to the introduction of this Bill. I had reached the stage of referring to the debate in the Senate on the report of the Senate Select Committee on the Container Method of Handling Cargoes. I believe that that report is well known to you, Mr President. It was an important report in many ways, not the least of which was the consideration of the effect of the introduction of the container cargo system on shipping to and from Tasmania. 1 had referred to a speech I had made on 15th October 1968 which is reported at page 1267 of the Senate Hansard of that date. In that speech I said: 1 therefore urge that consideration be given to retaining this well developed port as an integral part of the feeder service for containerisation and that as a necessary adjunct consideration be given to the construction of a rail link from Launceston to Bell Bay.
The rail link from Launceston to Bell Bay is the subject matter of the Bill before us. One of the features which led to this legislation was the team work of a community of people who were prepared to dedicate themselves to the achievement of an objective which had eluded them for more than half a century. I mentioned earlier that the project had been mooted shortly after the turn of the century. At various times people had put forward the idea with varying degrees of enthusiasm or cynicism. Those who were not cynical but were dedicated to the idea included representatives of the Australian Railways Union. I pay a tribute to the work of the Australian Railways Union towards the achievement of this objective. For a long time the ARU worked very hard to prepare tor various Tasmanian governments a full and detailed proposal as to the viability of the project. It passed through various secretaries and committees but at all times the ARU and a union with fewer members but of considerable importance supported the project.
– Mr Ralph Taylor played a prominent role.
– That is so. 1 had many discussions with Mr Ralph Taylor about this project over a considerable number of years. He is no longer in Tasmania as he holds a position in the office of the ARU in Sydney. No doubt he will have satisfaction similar to mine in seeing that this project is coming to fruition. Mr Taylor was one of a number of people within the railways service in Tasmania who worked very hard to achieve this objective. Mr R. C. Robertson, a railways employee and railways union official in Tasmania, is another person who worked hard for the same objective, although he had a slightly different interest from a union point of view. Perhaps more than any other individual Mr Taylor and Mr Robertson were prepared to stir and continually to keep alive the project which will come to fruition after the passing of this Bill.
A large number of community organisations were involved including the Marine Board, the Northern Tasmanian Development League, the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce, the Launceston City Council and a number of others which put forward the idea with varying enthusiasm and support at different times, but who never lost sight of the objective through the long fight towards success. I think the Senate could spend a few minutes thinking about the history of this achievement through a combined community effect. It is the realisation of a dream of a community for almost three-quarters of a century. I believe that the history will show to honour able senators from other States that we are dealing with something more than just another grant. It is the achievement of a dream which some of us have had for a long time.
The Bill provides for part grant and part loan of moneys to Tasmania to enable a railway line to be constructed from just out of the port of Launceston to Bell Bay. Senator Devitt has cast some doubts as to the cost and viability of the project. I remind him that it has been investigated by almost every conceivable type of committee, each of which has agreed that it is a viable project. But there is always somebody who will be a knocker and will be prepared to say: ‘Oh no, it will not work. The cost is going up. Or something else will go up.’ Yet every time an expert committee - a parliamentary committee or any other type of committee - has looked at the idea it has said that it is viable, it is essential, and it should be done.
I deplore the introduction into this debate of the suggestion that the idea should be reconsidered or that it will not work, for some reason, which is really a furphy, put forward by those who do not have the same interest as the people who have always had faith in the idea and have worked for it. A related point, and Senator Devitt adverted to it, is the general question of Tasmania’s internal transport system. Many years of neglect have left the railway system in Tasmania in a condition which was described to the Senate Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade, when inquiring into Tasmanian shipping freights, by Mr Webb, the Commissioner of the Tasmanian Transport Commission. Mr Webb said:
The railways are in a poor condition. I have explained this to the Government. I have explained it to the Commonwealth Grants Commission and it has been explained in the submission which the State has made to the Commonwealth for financial assistance for the Bell Bay railway which sets out the position of the State railways system and this submission for assistance includes upgrading 100 miles of railway as well as the construction of the short section to Bell Bay. There is no question that the railways are in a very poor condition. They need considerable expenditure on track, first of all, to put the track right; on modern equipment and on heavier and more powerful locomotives. I have looked at this matter very closely since I took up the position of Commissioner and it was put to me, not by the Government but by business quarters, that the railways in Tasmania should be closed. My advice to the Government is that despite the expenditure which is necessary and the condition of the railways it is essential for the long term development of the State and to maintain freight rates at the lowest possible level that the main line railways be maintained and upgraded. This task will have to be attempted.
That is an important aspect of what I wish to say here tonight. Not only is it the view of all those who have considered the Bell Bay rail link that it should be built; it is also the view of all those who have considered the railways in Tasmania that those railways, firstly, are in need of upgrading because of the neglect of many years, and secondly, that they are an integral part and an economic part of the transport system of Tasmania which is basic to the development of that State.
The Senate Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade, which heard the evidence from Mr Webb, made recommendations. Its recommendations included the following, which I quote from page 62 of its report:
We recommend that in the light of any approach made by the Tasmanian Government the Commonwealth Government give consideration lo the granting of some capital assistance under section 96 of the Constitution for the upgrading of the Tasmanian mainline railways.
Recently a report was produced by P. G. Pak-Poy and Associates following a study on the transport of goods for Tasmania. The following is stated at page 43 of the principal report, which is report No. 1:
Bell Bay has the natural resources to accommodate the facilities required. The bulk movement through Bell Bay shows a higher growth rate than the other ports and it would appear that under natural growth circumstances Bell Bay would tend to become the principal port for Tasmania. A policy decision to centralise at Bell Bay would reinforce this process, and would increase the difference between the present value of the transport costs by reducing the computed land transport cost component for the central port system.
There are many other parts of the report to which reference could be made by anyone concerned to see in what way the Bill with which we are dealing tonight plays an integral part in the development of Tasmania’s transport system which is so essential to it.
Senator Wilkinson, who was a member of the Senate Standing Committee which dealt with shipping freights to Tasmania, will well remember that a lot of evidence was devoted to this particular question. It is interesting to note that every committee involved, every investigation into transport in Tasmania, has come out with the same answers. The answers included, firstly, the statement that the rail link is essential and, secondly, that the retention of and the upgrading of the rail transport system in Tasmania is essential, particularly bearing in mind the fact that Tasmania, as an island, is dependent upon shipping and that shipping in these days can best be organised upon a basis whereby in effect you have a shuttle service across the water division between what I like to refer as the north island of the Commonwealth of Australia and the south island of the Commonwealth of Australia. That shipping Service, conducted with the greatest possible frequency ‘ and leading to the railheads in northern Tasmania, can provide what in other places is provided by a road system or a bridge. It is essential to the continued viability of the economy of Tasmania.
In my view and in the view of everybody who has investigated this matter, the Bill with which we are dealing will play an integral part in the development of Tasmania’s transport system. But it cannot be left there. This is the point I wanted to make because I do not want to be taken as an Oliver Twist. I do not think anybody has ever suggested thai Tasmania has made its one and only request for Commonwealth assistance in relation to its transport system. As Senator Devitt pointed out, Tasmania, even with the passing of this Bill, has received for its railway system but a small percentage of the assistance that the States of Australia have already received. I do not think it would be unreasonable in any way for Tasmania to expect the sympathetic attention of the Commonwealth Government to a further request, in due course, for assistance in the essential upgrading of that internal railway system. That system is already in existence but it was described in somewhat horrific terms by Mr Webb to the Senate Standing Committee which looked into Tasmanian freight rates.
I am delighted to be able to speak on the occasion of what I trust is the passing of this legislation. I trust that in passing this Bill neither the Government nor the Parliament will sit back and say. ‘We have done all that is necessary to pacify the island State’. It is not a matter of pacifying the island State of Tasmania; it is a matter of retaining viability in the economy of all the integral parts of Australia. One of the essential aspects of retaining viability in the economy of Tasmania is that it have a transport system which overcomes its natural disability created by that stretch of water known as Bass Strait. To obtain that viability it will be necessary, as has been said by Mr Webb and others, to upgrade the internal system and to promote the shipping services in a way which will provide the utmost advantage and overcome to the greatest possible extent the disability which Tasmania faces.
The Senate Standing Committee which looked into Tasmania’s freight rates made a number of recommendations. Among them was the suggestion that the Bureau of Transport Economics should investigate certain aspects of Tasmania’s transport problems. In a reservation to the Committee’s report I recommended that the question related to the introduction of some scheme of subsidy or freight cost equalisation be referred to the Bureau of Transport Economics for consideration at the same time that it carries out the recommended quantitative assessment of Tasmania’s transport disabilities relative to the other States. That was the Committee’s second recommendation. I understand from an announcement made recently by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon) that that is being done. It would appear to me that there would be no conceivable disadvantage but every advantage to Tasmania if the question of a subsidy were investigated by the Bureau at the same time. I made the further recommendation, in my reservation to the Standing Committee’s report, that the Bureau’s report upon both matters be published for the consideration of all interested persons so that they could then determine what action should be taken on a government level.
I am not suggesting that Tasmania is entitled to the shipping subsidy but I am suggesting that it is entitled to the services of the Bureau of Transport Economics to determine the real facts relating to this disability and what are the real facts relating to the effects which a subsidy provided in relation to that disability - I think all persons accept that a disability exists - would have. Would it be advantageous or would it be disadvantageous, as suggested by some of the people who gave evidence to the Standing Committee?
These are matters which could properly be investigated by experts. I trust that the Minister for Shipping and Transport will give favourable consideration to this matter at the earliest possible date so that no time is lost in coinciding the 2 aspects of the inquiry in order that the Parliament eventually may decide, upon the advice of experts, whether a subsidy should be reintroduced.
I remind honourable senators that a subsidy on freights to and from Tasmania existed for many years. It was cut out with the introduction of the Australian National Line. It may be that its re-introduction is justified; it may be that it is not justified. I do not know. Unfortunately the Standing Committee did not get enough evidence to justify it, in my view, making a decision one way or another. It simply said that it was not satisfied that it was justified. I expressed my extreme disappointment that in my opinion we did not receive enough evidence to enable us to reach a decision.
– We considered we had then.
– 1 had some reservations, Senator Wilkinson. I was disappointed that a considered case had not been put forward in the detail that I had hoped for. It may very well be that the investigation by the Bureau will show that there is not really a case for a subsidy and that on the balance it would be better not to reintroduce a subsidy. But I do not think any harm could be done by giving consideration to this matter. In supporting the passage of this legislation, I once again pay tribute to those people who for nearly three-quarters of a century have set their sights on this objective and who now see it achieved. I look forward to further attention being given to overcoming some of the other problems in Tasmania’s transport system.
– I believe that everybody associated with Tasmania will be pleased to know that this legislation has come before the Senate for ratification. First of all, I would like to congratulate Senator Devitt on the very high standard which he set in this discussion. 1 am very sorry to have to say that Senator Rae, the Government speaker who followed Senator Devitt did not maintain that standard or show a spirit of cooperation. Unfortunately Senator Rae, in his own little way, became political. He criticised previous Labor governments in Tasmania. One thing for which I will give him a little bit of credit is his correct summary of some of the history - but only some of it.
– The trouble is that you just could not understand it.
– I realise that I did interject while Senator Rae was speaking. Let me say that whilst interjections from him would probably assist me greatly in making my contribution to this debate, I intend to ignore them. I am not going to swallow the bait as Senator Rae did when he replied to my interjections. Senator Rae has on this occasion, as on numerous other occasions, adopted double standards. At the conclusion of his speech he adopted double standards when he spoke about shipping subsidies to Tasmania. Senator Wilkinson, who is a member of the Senate Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade which inquired into freight rates on Australian National Line shipping services to and from Tasmania, endeavoured by way of interjection to assist Senator Rae, but Senator Rae would not accept the advice offered by Senator Wilkinson.
Senator Rae included Senator Devitt among the knockers of the rail link project between Bell Bay and Launceston. He even accused Senator Devitt of raising a furphy. I would like to refer in this regard to a Press report of 23rd September 1971 of a statement by Mr Bethune, who I think is - I am not quite sure - a member of the same Party as Senator Rae but who could be controlled by somebody who is what one could perhaps refer to as a barnacle on the boat of the Liberal Party in Tasmania.
– He is sick at the moment.
– I know he is sick. I think he got sick only when the Liberal Party would not play the game as he wanted it to be played. I think Mr Bethune and Mr Beattie told this man to go and jump in the lake. He may have taken that advice and developed a cold. I do not know what happened. But all at once he has become sick. However, I think I should revert to what I was saying. I wish to refer to a statement by Mr Bethune on the cost of the rail link. Mr Bethune was very reticent about disclosing the cost of the proposed link between Launceston and Bell Bay. An article in the Launceston ‘Examiner’ of 23rd September 1971, headed Rail link cost may double’, states:
The Bell Bay rail link may cost double the original estimated amount.
The member for Huon in the Legislative Council (Mr Michael Hodgman) said last night he had been told by a reliable businessman that tenders for the link could be about 100 per cent more than originally estimated.
The Premier (Mr Bethune) would not deny this when asked, but he did agree that tenders were substantially more than the estimates, Mr Hodgman said.
Mr Bethune had refused to say what the lowest tender was. 1 leave it to honourable senators to judge whether Senator Devitt was being a knocker or whether Senator Rae was correct in accusing Senator Devitt of having raised a furphy. One other area of agreement in which I find myself with Senator Rae is on the tribute that he paid to the members and office bearers of the Australian Railways Union. But I would go a little bit further and pay a tribute to the whole of the staff of Launceston workshops. The workers in those workshops know perfectly well that a lot of their jobs, particularly under the present Tasmanian Government, are in jeopardy. They know that if this rail link is not built a lot of them will lose their jobs and the employment situation in Tasmania will be a darned sight worse.
– It was a Labor government which put their jobs in jeopardy.
– Little Sir Echo. Senator Rae referred to Mr Taylor and Mr Robertson of the ARU. It was very noticeable that he did not refer to a person who was Secretary of the Australian Railways Union in Tasmania, namely, Mr Stanistreet. Perhaps Senator Rae did not refer to Mr Stanistreet because he felt he might become contaminated if he used his name.
– 1 know Jack Stanistreet and I know he is a Communist.
– Mr Stanistreet was a Communist. He was also a man who was prepared to stand up and say that he did carry a ticket. But, irrespective of whether Mr Stanistreet was a Communist, he was a very good fighter for the Bell Bay railway link and no-one can gainsay that. I can go back to a time before Mr Stanistreet was Secretary of the Tasmanian branch of the A.R.U. I can go back to the day when a gentleman who was Secretary of the Tasmanian branch of the ARU had the honour to represent Tasmania in this very chamber. 1 refer to ex-Senator Bill ;Morrow. He, along with a lot of other people, did everything he possibly could do to have the Bell Bay rail link constructed. Senator Rae made some reference to the Comalco project.
– ls it not a fact that Senator Lillico campaigned with Mr Stanistreet?
– lt is possible that he did.
– About railways and railway lines.
– I remind honourable senators that this Bill deals with a proposed railways project. Therefore I should be grateful if honourable senators would direct themselves to this subject.
– I go along with those people who have for a period of years sugested that a railway link should be constructed between Launceston and Bell Bay.
– Tell us what Eric Reece did about it.
– 1 shall come to that if the honourable senator will have a little patience. We can do something about that. As 1 said, this Bill will mean the upgrading of the 23 miles of railway between Launceston and Bell Bay. The construction of this railway will give an outlet for the northern part of Tasmania to a major shipping port. Whether we like it or not at the present time the northern part of Tasmania does not have a major shipping port-
– 1 ask the honourable senator to wait until 1 have finished. The northern part of Tasmania does not have a major port linked to a railhead. Senator Rae quoted from the Pak Poy report which deals with the Bell Bay rail connection to the Bell Bay port. The honourable senator did not carry on reading from the report. He quoted just so much of the Pak Poy report as suited his purpose and that was to further the ends of Launceston and the northern part of the island. He even talked about the northern island and the southern island. Unfortunately a feeling is growing in the northern part of Tasmania that if one does not belong to that part of Tasmania one is not a Tasmanian. This is very unfortunate. Apparently Senator Rae is bitten with that bug as are some other people in northern Tasmania. They do not see outside the hills of the Tamar Valley. The construction of this railway will no doubt lift the sights of some people in Launceston, lt will get them outside the hills which surround the Tamar Valley. The construction of the Bell Bay rail link was brought about to a big extent by the efforts of the Australian Labor Party Government in Tasmania. Senator Rae invited me to comment on this matter. He made a comment that the Tasmanian Labor Party had never adopted this rail link as policy.
– I did not say that.
– The honourable senator made some reference.
– I said that the Tasmanian Government did not implement the policy and that is a fact.
– As I indicated, il appreciate these interjections by Senator Rae. He reminds me of his namesake - not Senator Rae but Johnny Ray who sings rock and roll music so loudly that one is almost deafened. 1 think he is doing a pretty good job. I remind those who deprecate the efforts of the Labor Party in this respect of some comments which have been made by newspapers in Launceston. Senator Rae commended (he present Liberal Party Government for its activities in relation to the Bell Bay rail link. Apparently this is an occasion when Senator Rae did not keep a record of some of the comments made in a newspaper which has a circulation in the area where he lives. On 29th October 1971 an editorial appeared in the ‘Examiner’ which stated:
The Deputy Leader of the Federal Opposition (Mr Barnard) has asked why the Commonwealth discriminates against Tasmania in furnishing funds for railway development. Mr Barnard should pursue this inquiry and other Tasmanian members should stand behind him in demanding answers.
Tasmania is grateful to the Commonwealth to the extent that without Commonwealth assistance it would not be able to finance the Bell Bay rail link. But the help which the McMahon Government is providing is not nearly as generous as the help which the Gorton Government indicated that it would give. This is penny-pinching assistance to the State which previously had got nothing from the Commonwealth for railways development. Against the $4.25m made available for the Bell Bay link, the Federal Government provided more than $244m to other States for railway modernisation and construction. As Mr Barnard points out, Tasmania has hadonly 1.7 per cent of the total funds provided for railway projects - and it got the money on incomparably poorer terms. About 60 per cent is by loan repayable over 30 years at 7 per cent. In the standardisation programme, the Commonwealth provided finance for mainland states on the basis of 70 per cent grant and 30 per cent loan repayable over50 years at 5 per cent.
There is a considerable difference in those figures. I think it would pay honourable senators to have regard to the terms of this loan as compared with the loans and grants which have been made available for other rail services throughout the other States. The editorial continues:
The last Gorton assistance - in 1970 for the Port Augusta to Whyalla link - was wholly by grant.
Thus as Mr Barnard points out, Tasmania has had little more than one-third of its entitlement of help on a population basis - and the assistance given has been on the harshest terms. Tasmanian taxpayers have contributed to the costly standardisation of gauge from which they get no benefit. Mr Barnard should persist in trying to get justice.
I think that clearly demonstrates that Tasmania has not come out of this financial assistance as well as some of the other States.I suggest that that refutes the claim which was made by Senator Rae in relation to some of the points which Senator Devitt made quite clearly in his contribution to this debate. Senator Devitt did not get any political capital out of the debate. I deprecate the fact that this debate has descended to the level to which it has descented. We were all in agreement. We were one happy family in relation to this grant and this loan which is to go to Tasmania for the construction of a rail link until Senator Rae introduced party politics. Senator Rae is not the only one who has endeavoured to capitalise on this issue and who has introduced party politics. I refer to the Centre Party which tried to get into the picture. A report from the ‘Examiner’ of 2nd November 1970 - admittedly it is 12 months old - indicates that each political Party has tried to obtain some capital out of the matter. I make no apology to the Senate tonight for the attitude which I have adopted because Senator Rae introduced the issue into this debate. The report states:
Link Scheme ‘inadequate’.
The proposal for a Bell Bay rail link now before the Federal Government is inadequate and should be withdrawn, according to a report presented at the conference.
This is a conference of the Centre Party. The report continues:
The Centre Party State president (Mr P. R. Murray) said a fresh submission should be made which incorporated a 4 foot 8 inch (standard gauge) railway system for Tasmania.
– The Centre Party has only one member.
– I thank Senator Lillico for pointing out that the Centre Party has only one member. But, my word, it exercises a lot more authority than it should on the present Tasmanian Government in comparison to the number of votes it receives. The Centre Party polled some 6,000 votes in Tasmania and the man who holds the balance of power is the only representative that the Centre Party has in the Tasmanian Parliament. He virtually tells the Liberal Party what it has to do and if it does not do this he will walk out and not support it as a government. That is a bad situation. However, it has nothing to do with the Bill.
– It was not a bad point, though.
– No, it was quite a good point. I thank Senator Devitt for that remark. As I said earlier, we do appreciate this loan and grant to Tasmania because of its employment position. Unfortunately the employment position in Tasmania does need some relief. Only quite recentlya suggestion was made by a number of the State Premiers that a Premiers Confernece should be held with the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) to get some relief of unemployment. The Tasmanian Premier, to his credit, has agreed that something should be done for our State to relieve, unemployment. If Mr McMahon will be good enough to make a grant available to Tasmania we might not have the position which exists at the present time. I am sure that with the construction of the Bell Bay rail link the employment position will be greatly improved. This unemployment seems to be a periodic problem. I do not profess to have the answer to it. Perhaps nobody has the full answer to it but at least a number of things can be done to relieve the situation.
A decade ago a very similar situation existed, when we in Tasmania had a considerable number of unemployed. I think at that time unemployment in Tasmania was greater than it is at the moment. But we will have to add the number of students who will leave school at the end of the year. The unemployment situation, not only in Tasmania but right throughout the Commonwealth will then be considerably worse than it was a decade ago. I sincerely hope that Mr Bethune and the other Premiers will be successful in relieving unemployment. Unfortunately there are some people in Tasmania today who have had to pawn their belongings - even pawn their beds - to get money to pay rent and to buy food for their wives and families. I refer anybody who is inclined to query me on that point to a Press report of only a few weeks ago. lt emanated from one of the unions in Burnie; I think it was the Printing and Kindred Industries Union, but I do not wish to be held to that because I may be wrong. The report was verified by other people and it was also given Press publicity. When average earnings throughout Austalia are in excess of $80 a week and we find that people in the community have to pawn their beds, their television sets and their radios in an effort to obtain food for their wives and families, we are in a pretty sorry state.
I was attracted into this debate by what Senator Rae had to say. It was not my intention to participate at all. The debate on this side of the House was to be led by Senator Wriedt. Unfortunately he had to go to hospital today; he is at present in hospital and we all sympathise with him. Senator Devitt was then given the responsi- bility of leading for the Australian Labor Party in this debate. I think we all agree that Senator Devitt did a good job. I entered the debate merely to support his remarks and to refute some of the things that Senator Rae had said. I think I have been successful. In conclusion, I support the Bill. I wish it had gone through on a much happier note. It is only because of Senator Rae that it has not.
– I am reminded a little of the song ‘I’ve been working on the railways’. I think that is what I am doing. I thought for one fond moment before dinner that this Bill would pass on a most amicable, bipartisan note, but it was not to be. I certainly assure Senator Poke that I will try not to be political on this issue. What I shall seek to do is to answer briefly some of the comments that were made. Senator Devitt spoke about the cost of the project. The original estimate of the cost was S3.5m for the new line and approximately $2m for upgrading in the vicinity of Launceston. It was agreed that the Commonwealth would provide S4.25m to get the project off the ground. There may have been some cost overrun but the Commonwealth has not received any revised estimate of total cost or any approach from the State concerning a cost overrun. Certainly there has been no consideration that would bear out the figure of $15m which has been mentioned in the Press and referred to by honourable senators. This was an estimate, as far as one can take it, of the overall project including phase 2, which involved major upgrading south of Launceston. The Commonwealth has indicated, without commitment, that it will look at proposals dealing with phase 2, but the proposals have not yet been received.
– The Premier does not know that.
– I cannot look into the mind of the Premier. What I shall do, if the honourable senator will let me, is to provide the answers which he sought, and I think he would probably like to have them. The provision of rolling stock is separate from this agreement. An agreement has been reached between the State and Australian Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd on the provision of rolling stock. This is the practice of some railway systems where one company is the major user. The terms of the agreement are in fact generous. The project is financially viable and will be profitable - I am told very profitable - to the Tasmanian railways. It is a development project which is quite different from a rail standardisation agreement. Under rail standardisation agreements there is a high grant element - generally 70 per cent - because the benefits of standardisation accrue to the nation as a whole. This is an intrastate development with a benefit accruing to the State alone. Therefore it is financially attractive to that State in the main. I shall refer briefly to the general problems of transport in Tasmania. The State Government, as has been mentioned by Senator Rae, employed P. G. Pak Poy and Associates as consultants to study the Tasmanian transport needs.
– He did all this with a computer. That study was done with a computer.
– 1 am distressed to hear that but I cannot look into the mind of Mr Pak Poy.
– It has probably got the wrong date on it from the computer.
– This is a problem which, 1 imagine, will have to be sorted out by the Premier, Mr Pak Poy and Tasmania. I understand that the report is being studied by the Tasmanian Government. A copy has ben sent to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon) for his information but no proposal flowing out of the Pak Poy report has been received. Honourable senators from Tasmania will appreciate that what I am endeavouring to do is to give them the factual information, without prejudice, as it is available to me. The report of the Senate Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade has been referred to. This report made recommendations concerning assistance for upgrading railways. In addition to assisting with this project the Commonwealth has indicated that it is prepared to look at further proposals.
Senator Poke, who followed Senator Rae in this debate, covered quite a lot of ground. He referred amongst other things to the Port Augusta to Whyalla railway. This is a Commonwealth Railways project, not a State project, and no money is available from that project to the state. The honourable senator referred also to a problem in the Burnie area of people in great distress having to pawn their possessions. I was distressed to hear that, but it seemed to me that if assistance wa> need;d it was a matter for the Department of Social Services. If anybody has any problem in contacting that Department, ha can count upon me to help him. Equally, I was sorry to hear about Senator Wriedt who represents Tasmania. I ask Senator Rae to pass on my kind regards and those of other Government senators to Senator Wriedt.
The matter of the Bureau of Transport Economics investigating the problems of Tasmania was referred to. That work has begun. For the information of honourable senators who represent Tasmania and who are interested in this matter, I point out that it is in train. Senator Rae indicated his interest in and support for this project over many years. I gather that that is true of many Tasmanians and that it has become rather an article of faith with them. I say to Senator Rae that we are fully aware of the recommendations of the Senate Standing Committee. This project is a step in the Commonwealth assistance for the upgrading of Tasmanian railways. The Commonwealth has indicated that it will look at further proposals. This will allow this development and the further proposed developments, when they are looked at and if they are to become realities, to involve a total programme of upgrading south to Conara Junction and west to Fingal. I think that covers the main points in issue. When listening to Senator Rae talking about this being a realisation of a great dream that he has had for many years, 1 was drawn to turning up for my own edification a quotation from ‘Seven Pillars of Wisdom’, which I thought I might read to the Senate in a lighter moment. 1 do so now:
All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find thai it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
– I seek the leave of the Senate to table a report.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I present the following paper:
Taxation - Fiftieth Report of the Commissioner of Taxation, dated 1st November 1971.
– 1 present the twelfth report of the Publications Committee.
Report - by leave - adopted.
Debate resumed from 2 November (vide page 1588), on motion by Senator Greenwood;
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Mr President, perhaps this Bill and the Northern Territory Supreme Court Bill could be dealt with at the same time.
– That is a matter for the Attorney-General.
– I concur in the course proposed by Senator Murphy.
– There being no objection, I will allow the 2 Bills to be debated together, but they will be voted upon separately.
– The Bills we are dealing with contain certain provisions in regard to the tenure of office of judges of the courts of the Territories; that is, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. The provisions are necessary because of the decision of the High Court of Australia in a recent case. The High Court has said that the constitutional provisions that relate to what I might call Federal courts do not relate to the courts of the Territories - the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. The general provision in regard to the judges who exercise the judicial power of the Commonwealth is that they have life tenure. The High Court has decided that the judges of the courts of the Territories do not come within the concept of ‘judges who exercise the judicial power of the Commonwealth’, but rather that they are judges of the Territories.
It would be idle for us to dwell upon the curious reasoning that has led to this result. But it is proper that the Government has seen fit to follow it and to provide some tenure for the judges of the courts concerned. The Government has decided, probably wisely in view of the prevailing views in the community, that the tenure should be fixed at 70 years of age. We have no objection to that. Indeed, I might say that in our Party we have had the feeling that perhaps the Constitution should be amended to provide that the Parliament ought to be able to make a retiring age for judges who are in the category of exercising the judicial power of the Commonwealth.
It seems strange that, in these years when, with the advance in medicine and the advance in many other respects, persons of advanced age are able to enjoy health and to exercise their mental and physical vigour more than those in other years were, we are seeking to impose limits that we did not impose before. Nevertheless, that is what we are doing. Perhaps it is because the advancement of medical science has demonstrated that those of advanced years do not have quite the mental vigour that we have imagined hitherto. However that may be, we see no objection to fixing the retiring age at 70 years for those who have been said to be of some perhaps lesser status than those who are specially protected against a retiring age under the section of the Constitution I have mentioned. That, as I understand it, is the main purpose of the provision that is included in these 2 enactments.
In regard lo the Australian Capital Territory there is also the problem of the number of the judiciary. There is provision for the appointment of a second judge in section 7(1.) of the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Act. As I understand it, the provisions in this Bill will make 3 judges in all in this Territory. The need arises out of the Government’s decision to establish a Law Reform Commission for the Australian Capital Territory. A draft of an ordinance to establish the Commission has been prepared and I understand that regulations under it have been prepared. Notwithstanding suggestions that the first regulation was invalid, the Law Reform Commission seems to be proceeding. One of the judges of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory is to spend most of his time in the work of the Law Reform Commission. We on this side of the chamber would hope that the judge would spend not only most of his time but all of his time with the Commission on the urgent task of law reform.
There have been complaints over the years that the law in the Australian Capital Territory is in a very bad state. I have some personal experience of it and I know that the workers compensation laws here are in a dreadful state and that there are other laws which are in a shocking state. There have been complaints by judges, and by the legal profession, members of which have pointed out that the laws are hopelessly out of date. There are laws which are unjust; there are laws which are anomalous. The legal situation in the Territory is in a real mess. That seems to be the general viewpoint. That is not the fault of the learned Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood). He is newly in the position. He shows enthusiasm to alter the law and to reform it, but not always in the way we would like. Sometimes he shows a disposition to be a little reactionary in some respects but, on the whole, we respect the obvious energy and enthusiasm which he has for reforming the law.
The law in the Territory is urgently in need of reform. In its present state it is scandalous. May I suggest that the judge ought to be engaged full time on the task of law reform? The population of the Australian Capital Territory is increasing not only because of the movement of people here but also because of the movement of departments to Canberra. There will be an increase in that movement and more and more legal situations will occur in the Territory. Obviously the judiciary needs to be reinforced. There will need to be more judges here. There should be an appeal body inside the Australian Capital Territory. There have been difficulties, which have been adverted to by Mr Enderby in the House of Representatives, which have resulted from the absence of proper appellate provisions. In a recent case there were great difficulties in the face of a party which wanted to appeal to the High Court, and there are still grave difficulties. These are technical matters and I do not want to become bogged down in the technicalities of the situation, but there are serious problems with the legal situation in the Territory which should be dealt with. These are a matter of housekeeping, but they should call for attention by the Government. Those who are responsible should attend to it; otherwise we will criticise them. As much as 1 commend the Attorney-General for his energy and enthusiasm, if something is not done to clean up the situation in the Australian Capital Territory he no doubt will be subjected to a great deal of justified criticism.
It is not the intention of the Opposition to oppose the appointment of additional judges, nor does it intend to oppose the appointment of the additional persons who will need to be appointed to the Law Reform Commission, whether in major positions or as ancillary staff, because obviously the appointment of more judges will necessitate the appointment of more staff. Not only do we urge the AttorneyGeneral to do that but we will criticise him if he does not take the steps which are necessary to clean up the scandal which has continued for far too long in this Territory. We will not oppose the measures. We think that both Bills should be passed. Without getting into the minor provisions of the Bill I inform the Senate that we want to see an effective judicial framework in the Australian Capital Territory and we want to see that same effective framework in the Northern Territory.
We have noted with great concern some of the criticisms which have been made not only of the laws but also of the operation of the courts in the Australian Capital Territory. Some of those criticisms have been adverted to by my colleague in another place. I say only that those criticisms have been voiced outside the Territory and are widely accepted throughout the legal profession. I hope that something will be done to ensure that whatever has given rise to that criticism does not continue. For these reasons we believe that the
Bills should be supported. We encourage the Government to take not only the steps which have already been taken but also to take further steps to increase the strength of the judiciary in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory and also to bring the law of the Territories into a reasonable state.
Perhaps I should say before leaving the area of the law in the Australian Capital Territory that I was not very happy about the answer which the Attorney-General gave yesterday about the appointment of a joint select committee to study the criminal code in the Austalian Capital Territory. I have looked at the criminal code and a number of others have looked at it and we feel that the code has some very serious deficiencies. These have nothing to do with the differences on a party basis between honourable senators, but I am sure that those who are conversant with the system of law as we have known it also would share some apprehension about that code. 1 regret that the Attorney-General so quickly dismissed the offer that was made of assistance by a joint select committee of the House of Representatives and the Senale. I hope that the provisions of that code will not be accepted as a proper basis for the criminal law in the Australian Capital Territory as it contains many provisions which are retrograde. It is quite extraordinary to think that this would be regarded as an acceptable basis.
– Would an example be the legalising of homosexual acts between consenting adults?
– If the honourable senator were to look at the provisions of the code perhaps he would be more concerned about the provisions which have nothing to do with that. If he were to look at the provisions dealing even with conduct between man and wife he would find that the code appears to invade that sphere. Leaving aside the honourable senator’s remarks I would say that there are many respects in which, if he were to apply his mind to the provisions, he would consider that the criminal code would be found wanting.
– We will have an opportunity shortly for doing that.
– It was suggested that honourable senators would be given an opportunity before the legislation was introduced, but the code was already there. If the honourable senator were to apply his mind to the subject he might be rather astonished that in 1971 this code would be suggested as being a proper model for an Australian criminal code.
– When was the code presented?
– It was presented in 1969. I think the Law Council was primarily responsible for it. It was presented to the Parliament, but it has not been debated by either House. It seems to me to have certain serious deficiencies which have nothing to do with Party political differences. I regard it as a very unsatisfactory basis for a model criminal code. I suggest, with great respect and deference to the Attorney-General, that if we are to produce for the Territory a criminal code of which we would want to be proud, not only for Australia but also for the world, we would perhaps need to look a little more deeply at the code. I am sure that the Attorney-General would want to bring in a code of which he and every Australian would be proud and which would be a step forward in this sphere. At this stage I suggest to him that if he is not prepared to agree to the establishment of a joint select committee to assist in this regard he might look critically at the matter and perhaps accept some suggestions outside those which he has entertained so far. Subject to those remarks, we think that the Bills are sensible and we will support them.
– The Australian Democratic Labor Party supports these Bills. There are one or two comments which I would like to make and one or two questions which I would like to direct to the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Greenwood). The position (pf judges has come under question due to a decision of the High Court in which their status as officers of a Federal court came under challenge. That august body determined that they did not occupy the position which would give them life tenure. Therefore statutory creation of their tenure of office becomes necessary. That is being done by these Bills. What confuses me is the following passage in the AttorneyGeneral’s second reading speech on the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Bill:
The tenure to be provided for the additional judges must take account of the fact that the primary judicial appointments of such judges will generally be to Federal courts and accordingly governed by the Constitution. The Bill provides, therefore, that an additional judge is to hold office as such while he continues as a judge of another court created by the Parliament.
Am I to conclude from that that the door to additional judicial appointments to the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory is barred to other than those already holding other judicial appointments in a Federal court? That would appear to be the meaning to be read into that statement by the Attorney-General.
The Bill provides that an additional judge is to hold office as such while he continues as a judge of another court, yet the Attorney-General said that the primary judicial appointment of such judges will generally be to Federal courts. In other words, he contemplates a position in which that may not be the case. The only provision made is for a man who is already a judicial office holder in a Federal court. That would appear to close the door for any further appointments to the Supreme Court of the Territory other than of judges already appointed to another Federal court. That would appear to be the meaning that I am to read into that statement by the Attorney-General. If so, 1 would strongly query the wisdom of it because it may well be, as happens, that a person from the Canberra Bar may be entitled and may be completely suited to judicial appointment but he would be precluded. Being an additional judge and not being the holder of another Federal judicial office, he would not be eligible, in terms of what I read there, for appointment to the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory. Without fulminating, I ask the Attorney-General whether I am correct. That would appear to me to be the position, if I have interpreted his statement correctly.
One fact that emerges ls that some of these procedural provisions bring the practices of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory into line with practices operating in State courts - for example, the control of legal practitioners, 3 judges having the right to determine the eligibility of practitioners for admission, and the provision for reference to a bench of 3 judges cases which previously would have been referred to a single judge. I presume that this development is a result of the periodic meetings of Commonwealth and State Attorneys-General as a consequence of which a very desirable uniformity in judicial and legal practices has emerged. I think that process should be encouraged instead of having the multiplicity of practices which has characterised our judicial and legal operations to date.
I would like the Attorney-General to respond to the matter which Senator Murphy raised. I know that he will respond to it. I am somewhat confused about the criminal code which is projected for the Australian Capital Territory. Is that the same code which was drafted, perhaps at the instance of the Law Council, substantially by practitioners of the Queensland Bar? I know that a tremendous amount of work went into that over many years. The chairman of that committee was a most distinguished lawyer and medical practitioner. I have not studied the code or looked at it for a long while.
– Who was the Chairman?
– Professor Morris from the University of Queensland. The committee went into the new psychological concepts - automatism, intent and things of that nature, the psychological aspects of which as related to modern life are now receiving more attention in the criminal law. Senator Murphy found occasion to criticise the code and I have no reason to doubt that his criticism was firmly based. I do know that a tremendous amount of work went into it. It is a document which, by its nature and by the exploratory nature of its drafting and the concepts embodied in it, is likely to attract criticism. My impression would be that it was a far reaching document quite in advance of the concepts which were embodied in previous codifications of the criminal law and that it embraced many of the developments in the research of modern medicine, particularly modern psychological medicine. Nevertheless, that does not render it immune from the scrutiny which a document of this character should receive if we are to emerge with a criminal code which if adopted in the Federal Territories will possibly, in the process to which I have referred, become the model on which the criminal law of the States might well develop. Therefore it is of prime importance that, when one is handed down in the Federal Territories, the best code that human intellect, legal drafting, legal skill and legal experience and knowledge can devise is presented. With those thoughts and having raised those minor queries with the Attorney-General, the Democratic Labor Party supports the Bills.
– in reply - I thank the Senate for the way in which it has received these Bills and I thank Senator Murphy and Senator Byrne for the remarks which they made. As Senator Murphy said, it is true that the primary purpose of these Bills is to overcome the uncertainty created by the decision of the High Court in the case of Capital TV and Appliances Ltd v. Falconer in which it was indicated that courts of the Territories are not Federal courts. The consequence of that decision was that judges who had previously expected that they had a life tenure found that because they were judges of the Territory courts they did not have a life tenure. The purpose of the Bills is to provide that judges appointed to Territory courts will henceforth have a retiring age of 70 years. But it must be acknowledged, because of the justice of the situation, that those judges who were previously appointed on an anticipation that like Federal judges they would have life tenure, will have that life tenure preserved for them.
– I think that is reasonable and proper.
– I agree with Senator Murphy that to leave the position unchanged would create unnecessary problems, particularly having regard to the fact that the judges were appointed on that assumption. Indeed, they are young judges at the present time. There was another primary purpose of this Bill, namely, to ensure that in the case of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory provision was available for the appointment of a third judge. As I indicated in my second reading speech, the situation has now developed that a period of at least 8 to 10 months elapses between the setting down of a case for hearing and the actual hearing of the case. That can be overcome to some degree by the appointment of an additional judge, and it is anticipated that on the passage of this measure steps will be taken to have an additional judge of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory appointed at an early stage. Apart from those objectives, the Bill does facilitate the amendment of the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Act to give effect to other worthwhile objectives. I do not go through them because I think it was indicated in the remarks which both Senator Murphy and Senator Byrne made that they are acceptable objectives. However I mention them in passing.
The Registrar will have the jurisdiction to deal with some interlocutory matters which previously had to be dealt with by the judge, and necessarily limited the amount of time he had available for the actual trial and hearing of major actions. It is provided that the disciplinary powers which the court traditionally exercises over members of the legal profession shall be standardised, so that a court of not less than 3 judges will henceforth deal with disciplinary matters. The Bill takes account of the fact that there is now more than one judge in the Australian Capital Territory and, accordingly, the rule-making power which is traditionally vested in judges of the court will be vested in all the judges of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory. The Bill also provides that the judges may make rules for the admission of practitioners to the Australian Capital Territory. That is consistent with the emergence of a profession within the Territory which seeks an independence and an autonomy as do the professions in the other States. It is a concomitant of that development that there should be admission rules within the Territory. The Bill provides that rules may be made by the judges prescribing the qualifications for admission. There is also provision for rules to be made by the judges enabling the execution of process of the court outside the Territory. An additional fact which undoubtedly has some relevance for the Senate is that the rules, if and when they might be disallowed by the Senate, will have the consequence of restoring the preexisting rules.
– That is a very satisfactory provision.
– J sensed that Senator Murphy, if not other honourable senators, would appreciate the importance of such a rule because, although it is the practice with regard to the Acts Interpretation Act relating to ordinances and regulations which are disallowed by a House of the Parliament, it had not been the position with regard to the rules of the court and it is desired to overcome that situation.
The Bill also provides that in civil proceedings there is a facility whereby evidence may be placed before the court by affidavit. That is a practice which has found acceptance in other jurisdictions, and it is appropriate that the facilities also should be accorded in the Australian Capital Territory. Senator Byrne raised the question whether the Bill had the consequence of limiting future appointments to persons who were at the present time judges of a Federal court. I think I should categorically assure Senator Byrne that that is not the purport nor the expression of this Bill. Under the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court legislation there is an ability for appointment of 2 judges of a different character to take place. One provision enables the appointment of persons who are qualified to be judges. Under that provision for appointment, Mr Justice Fox, Mr Justice Blackburn and the judge to be appointed following the passage of this Bill will be appointed. Of course, it is required that those judges be qualified. The Bill provides an opportunity for members of the Bar to meet those qualifications and to be eligible for appointment. However, in addition to appointments of that character there has been over a long period provision for the appointment to the Bench of judges of another Federal court. These judges are described in the Bill as ‘additional judges’. I think it is the reference to additional judges in my second reading speech to which Senator Byrne referred.
– ‘Additional judges’ is a broad term. It is not just a general, semantic expression.
– Without subscribing wholly to the way Senator Byrne expresses it, if he notes section 7 (2.) and (3.) of the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Act he will see a reference to additional judges of the Supreme Court. These additional judges are judges who hold an office in an existing Federal court.
– In your speech ‘additional judges’ perhaps should have been in inverted commas. That may have cleared that up.
– I do not want to take issue on whether expressions should be in inverted commas. I possibly overcautiously make that qualification because it is not a term of art to refer to these judges as ‘additional judges’. It is simply that there is a facility to enable judges of a Federal court, and in particular the Commonwealth Industrial Court, to be appointed judges of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory. When they are so appointed, they are regarded as additional judges.
– To which provision ot that principal Act are you referring?
– I think from memory that the provision is section 7 and the expression ‘additional judges’ is to be found in section 7 (2.) and (3.).
– lt would not be section 8AA?
– 1 think it is section 7 to which 1 am referring. I mention these matters because Senator Byrne raised the question whether in future appointments would have to come from persons who are currently judges of Federal courts. I can assure him that that is not the case.
The other matter to which both Senator Murphy and Senator Byrne referred related to the proposed criminal code for the Australian Capital Territory. Senator Murphy asked me a question during question time yesterday in which he sought an opinion from me on whether I would consider referring the proposed criminal code to a joint committee of the Parliament for examination before its introduction. In the course of my answer, I indicated the fact that this had been a criminal code long in the course of preparation and I concluded by suggesting that it was not a prudent step to refer this code to a joint committee for further consideration. I hold to that view, not out of any sense that benefit would not flow from the inquiry or examination which a further body would give to the proposed legislation, but because a considerable amount of attention has been given already to the provisions of this code. If one reflects on the fact that it was in early 1963 - I was personally associated with these steps - that the initial moves were made for the establishment of Law Council of Australia Committees in each of the States of the Commonwealth !o prepare a criminal code on a basis that what was prepared might conceivably be a body of general Commonwealth criminal law, one appreciates the length of time that has elapsed since that work was started. 1 know that the members of the legal profession throughout Australia centred, as Senator Byrne reminded the Senate, upon a co-ordinating committee comprised of legal practitioners in Queensland. Five years exhaustive deliberation has been given to the preparation of the code. It was not an easy task for members of the legal profession, voluntarily and without payment, to give the many weeks and months of their time which its preparation involved.
The code was presented to the Parliament in April 1969 by the then AttorneyGeneral. No-one can fairly say that because the code has been prepared by lawyers in their spare time it is a code of excellence, but it is a code to which a great deal of attention and reflection was given after an examination of the codes and practices in each State of the Commonwealth. After the code was tabled in the Parliament an intensive examination was conducted within the Attorney-General’s Department. A report on that examination was presented at the end of 1969 to the then AttorneyGeneral. Subsequently further work was done on the acquisition of the advice of Mr Justice Nimmo who accepted a secondment to look at the code and to present opinions on the basis of a judicial examination of it.
Mr Justice Nimmo was overseas in the early part of this year and took the opportunity to examine provisions comparable to those in the code which operate in other parts of the world. He has presented a voluminous report which is currently on my table awaiting my attention. I anticipate that as a result of the consideration of all the work which has been done there will be an opportunity in the new year for the Government to present to the Parliament a Bill for an Act which will provide a criminal code for the Australian Capital Territory. This has been indicated in many statements which have been made. I have no doubt that it will fit within the timetable which has been outlined.
In the light of that sort of study I feel that one may reasonably hope that what is presented to the Parliament will be accepted as the product of many years of deliberations and that within the Parliament itself there will be an opportunity for an examination of its provisions and for the proposal of such amendments as experience and the deliberation of those who have not participated in the work of preparing the code will be able to bring to bear in the debate that takes place. I assure Senator Murphy and Senator Byrne that if they have suggestions about particular aspects of the code which they would like to be considered at this stage, I would welcome an indication of those matters which require reconsideration. There is no intention that the code must conform to an original pattern. There is no intention that any person’s suggestions will not be considered and given due weight in the preparation of what we all hope will be a worth while document, and one which will command acceptance. I suggest to those honourable senators who are interested that I will most willingly receive any suggestions that they care to transmit to me.
Mr President, as I said earlier, the debate on this Bill has ranged over a fairly wide area because it contains a number of provisions. It is appropriate that I should respond to the suggestions and comments made by Senator Murphy and Senator Byrne. This debate is being conducted cognate with the Bill for the amendment of the Northern Territory Supreme Court Act. The amendments to be made to that Bill are not as extensive as the amendments being made to the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court legislation. Provision is made for the same retiring age for judges of the Northern Territory Supreme Court. No exception is provided in that legislation because the most recent appointment to the Northern Territories Supreme Court was made after the decision of the High Court in Capital TV and Appliances Ltd v Falconer. The appointee expressly accepted his appointment in contemplation that legislation would be introduced providing for a retiring age of 70 years.
The Bill in respect of the Northern Territory Supreme Court provides for the exercise of certain jurisdiction by the Master of the court and, the use of affidavits in civil proceedings, while the Bill in respect of the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court contains provision for the execution of process of the court outside the jurisdiction of the court. One amendment peculiar to the Northern Territory legislation is to be found in clause 7 (c). The purpose is to bring the Northern Territory provisions regarding disallowance of rules of the court into line with those in the Australian Capital Territory as amended by recently introduced legislation. That will ensure that the rules of the Northern Territory Supreme Court are subject to disallowance by a House of the Parliament and not, as I recall, subject to disallowance merely by the AttorneyGeneral. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– One of the points I wish to raise concerns the internal appellate procedures of the Australian Capital Territory. I do not think the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) adverted to this in his reply at the second reading stage. This is a matter of considerable concern. Could he tell us what the position is? I think I understand what ought to be done about it and what is contemplated by the Government. There should be an internal appellate procedure in the Australian Capital Territory.
– This measure seems to allow only for a case stated by a judge.
– Yes. There ought to be the equivalent of the Full Courts in the States. That leads me to the next point, which may range a little beyond this Bill. I refer to the situation of the High Court.
There is no doubt that a lot of work is going to the High Court which should not go there at all. This is a simple matter to determine. No-one will convince me that it is difficult to remove some of the work from the High Court. I know that it is said that everything is practically impossible to deal with, but some matters can be dealt with, one of which is the removal of some of the insubstantial work from the High Court. The reality is that an appeal can be brought from the judges of the Supreme Courts straight to the High Court, past even the intermediate courts of appeal. Any road accident case involving damages of more than $3,000 can be brought to the High Court and the High Court judges are forced to hear the case and to decide who is right or wrong on the appeal.
– Yet a criminal jurisdiction appeal lies on special leave. It is quite wrong.
– I adopt what Senator Byrne is saying. We have discussed this matter before. His feeling, as well as mine, is that it is probable that the High Court does not have enough appeal jurisdiction in the criminal sphere. I remember from the time of my studies of the criminal law the wise words of the old writer who wrote: ‘As civilisation advances the criminal law becomes more and more important’. Yet in this system the criminal law is put into a retrograde position. In the civil sphere we have appeals on virtual trifles, such as matters of property which are just above this low limit. The High Court has to entertain them because they are appeals as of right. Surely the High Court should be relieved of some of this jurisdiction which is regarded, in almost anyone’s view, as being insubstantial. It is not proper that these matters should be cluttering up the work of the High Court.
A simple amendment to the provisions could deal with this. It would not be difficult. It would not mean recasting the entire legislation. I am not blaming the Attorney-General because he is new to his present position in the sense that he is not responsible for the situation which has continued. Judges, lawyers, litigants, all understand the position. Surely some corrective legislation ought to be introduced. Who would oppose it if the Government introduced legislation to get these things out of the jurisdiction of the High Court and provided that they would have to go to some intermediate appellate court? Surely this could be done within a relatively short time, even in a matter of days. It could be got through this session. It would relieve the High Court. Right now the High Court is cluttered up with all sorts of matters which it should not be hearing at all.
– I am tempted by your promise of no opposition but I do not know about my colleague Senator Byrne.
– 1 remind the Attorney-General that we are dealing with the third arm of government. We are the legislative arm and the Government is the Executive arm. The third arm is the judicial arm. The top branch of the judicial arm of government in this country is cluttered up with rubbish that it should not be hearing. As well as the terribly important cases that the High Court has to deal with, it also has to deal with cases which everybody knows should not be put before it. Yet under the law it has to take them. It is within our power to pass a simple amendment. The Attorney-General could bring in the necessary Bill tomorrow and there would be no opposition to some of the amendments because they are so obvious. It could pass through this place and we could relieve the High Court of a lot of this work. Everybody would be in agreement. This is ordinary housekeeping. Why should it not be done?
– What happened to the proposal for the intermediate Federal court?
– I have my views on that matter. I think there is a lot of sense in having an intermediate Federal court. I read what was said by the former AttorneyGeneral. I understand that those people who are in favour of it have gone cold on the idea. My Party is in favour of it. However I do not want to get caught up in that matter at the moment. I earnestly ask the Attorney-General to look at this simple proposition. I do not want to get into the fine points of taking away special jurisdiction, but at least let him do something to relieve the Court of those matters which almost everybody would agree ought to be taken from it. There is no doubt that the High Court would welcome this as well. There is no question that it should not be hearing matters at this level. It would be easy to do this. I suggest that if the Attorney-General did this he would gain a great deal of credit from all of us here in the Parliament and from all in the legal profession. We do not want to bring the High Court into the arena of politics but I think it would be very pleased. The public interest would be very much advantaged by a simple amendment in that jurisdiction. I have been wandering away a little from the main part of this Bill although what I said is relevant to it because I am suggesting that there should be an appellate division within the Australian Capital Territory. I ask that something be done about that matter. I want now to move to the position of judges because this is a Bill dealing with judges of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory. I have noted in respect of some courts - I have no doubt that it applies here in the Australian Capital Territory - that the independence of the judiciary is not as well respected as it might be. There is a tendency for the courts to be cramped, for them to be denied facilities, and to be cluttered up with a lot of red tape apart from their own. If judges want decent library facilities, if they want other facilities or simple things done in their offices-
– A lot of them need wheel chairs.
– Well, we all grow old. I will leave that aside. I do not think the relationship between the judiciary in this community and the other arms of government is as good as it ought to be. We find a tendency for the bureaucracy to intervene, ft is much the same as in other spheres. We find some clerk in the Department of the Treasury determining what facilities should be made available to the judges of the courts. I do not think this is right. They are entitled to the facilities which they should have. Leaving aside the Australian Capital Territory, there is no doubt that in other courts there is a serious problem which ought to be looked at from the level of Attorney-General in order lo ensure that there are proper processes of communication. When the courts consider that they need improvements in their facilities, their requests ought to be looked at from the proper level of comity and ought not to be left to the decision, effectively even if not nominally, of some junior officers of the Government. Other than those remarks, I see no objection to the provisions of this Bill which have been explained by the Attorney-General.
– I rise only to respond to the mailers raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy). I regret that 1 did not respond to his suggestions relating to an appellate tribunal in my speech in reply to the second reading debate. I think I should say shortly that an appellate tribunal for the Australian Capital Territory is not to be regarded as something which will not occur. This is a matter which has to be assessed in the light of current proposals, which have not been resolved, relating to whether or not there is a persuasive case which ought to prevail for the appointment of a form of superior court within the Commonwealth sphere. Honourable senators will remember that in 1968 a Bill was introduced in the other place for the establishment of a superior court. The jurisdiction of that superior court was never clearly outlined. The determination of what that jurisdiction should be was a most time consuming task and it was not completed when the Parliament was prorogued for the election which took place in 1969. A decision has not been made as to whether the proposal for a superior court should be revived.
I confess to the Senate that I am still in two minds as to what is the appropriate course to follow. I hope that with the coming recess from parliamentary duties proper attention can be given to that question. I believe that if there is to be a superior court then an appellate jurisdiction from the Australian Capital Territory could go to it. If there is not to be a superior court then consideration has to be given as to whether or not there should be an appellate division in the Australian Capital Territory. I think they stand out as obvious alternatives which must be faced.
Senator Murphy enlarged upon his theme and questioned whether some provision should be made, possibly on the lines of the alternatives I have canvassed, to alleviate some of the work of the High Court of Australia. I do not agree with his proposition that a simple amendment would solve all these matters. The work before the High Court of Australia appears to have been the subject of a cyclical pattern in recent years. On some occasions it has a heavy work load and on other occasions the work load is not so heavy. Indeed, it is also a geographical work load. Several decades ago the bulk of the work of the Full Court of the High Court was to be found in New South Wales and Victoria. The bulk of that work is now to be found in New South Wales and Queensland. I say that without the benefit of any close examination of the figures but in the knowledge that the work of the High Court in Victoria has been invariably limited in the last 5 or 6 years and in the belief, as has been conveyed to me, that the work in Queensland has been developing over the years.
– The reason might be that the Victorian practitioners are not approaching the High Court.
– I think Senator Byrne is unquestionably right. The practitioners in Victoria have tremendous respect for and satisfaction with the Supreme Court of Victoria and that has limited the amount of appellate work which has gone to the High Court. I think I have in times past expressed in this chamber the view that the quality of the Supreme Courts throughout Australia has varied over a period.
– That does not say much for the courts in Queensland and perhaps in my own State of New South Wales.
– It may be that the practitioners in those States have a different approach to the law from the approach which is adopted by practitioners is Victoria. That would be another factor to be taken into account in endeavouring to find an explanation for these things. I mention them only because they are part and parcel of the pattern. I know that one problem is the original jurisdiction work of the High Court. I think it also has to be taken into account in any consideration of whether there is a field of jurisdiction adequate to maintain, reasonably occupied, a judiciary in a superior court. The other aspect which Senator Murphy mentioned was the independence of judges.
– Before the AttorneyGeneral deals with that aspect I would like to know why some of that work could not be transferred to the Supreme Courts.
– I must say that the proposal to transfer some of the original jurisdiction work to the Supreme Courts of the States stands out as an alternative if, firstly, there is to be a relieving of the High Court of this work, and secondly, there is to be no intermediate court established to which this work could go. I should have thought that the further alternative of investing the Supreme Courts of the States with this type of federal jurisdiction would be a proposal which should be considered. I raise these matters not because there is any commitment to any one of these courses - frankly there is no commitment - but because they are the areas of study at the moment. AsI indicated earlier, I hope the opportunity will present itself in the near future for the consideration which the whole problem requires to be given to it without the pressures of parliamentary duties imposing other obligations.
The point which I wish to make with regard to the independence of judges is that the Government has always accepted that the judiciary is independent and that requests by the judiciary will, in general, always be respected. One cannot unqualifiedly say, for reasons which I think would win ready acceptance, that any request by a judge for facilities should be accepted; but it is important to the independence of judges that they should feel and be secure in their tenure and enjoyment of office and in the availability of those facilities which enable them to discharge their duties properly.
– I am not suggesting that. I am suggesting that the channels of communication are not what they ought to be. Decisions are made in respect of the courts by officials other than those officials who should be making the decisions and often by quite junior officials, which is not satisfactory.
– I take the point that Senator Murphy has made. I am not personally aware of the problems which
I accept are the basis of the comments he has made. All I can say is that I accept the broad proposition he has put forward and, as far asI am able I will ensure that approaches from judges of Territory and Federal courts are approaches which go directly, and should go directly, to the Attorney-General. That I accept as a proposition. I must say in relation to my short tenure or office in this position that I feel I have cordial relations with the judges of the Territory courts with which I am most intimately concerned and I welcome the fact that there has been, apart from a desirable and necessary courtesy call, no occasion for consultation with the judges of the High Court. But I accept the general points which Senator Murphy has made and I thank him for making them.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Greenwood) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 2 November (vide page 1589), on motion by Senator Greenwood:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill returned from House of Representatives without amendment.
Debate resumed from 2 November (vide page 1586), on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The proposal in the Stevedoring Industry Bill is to insert a new definition of ‘union’ in section 7 of the Stevedoring Industry Act 1956-1966 in place of the existing provision which, amongst other references, specifies that the North Australian Workers’ Union is the union for the purposes of this Act for the port of Darwin, lt is a straightforward proposal acceptable to all parties concerned. It results from changes in trade union registration and coverage following the action of the North Australian Workers’ Union in affiliating with the Federated Miscellaneous Workers’ Union of Australia. Proceedings Under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act have been completed. The Waterside Workers’ Federation of Australia will take over the waterfront section from the North Australian Workers’ Union which section includes all registered waterside workers in the port of Darwin, numbering some 200. These organisational changes necessitate the deletion of the existing definition of union and the inclusion of the definition as set out in the Bill. The Opposition supports the proposal and wishes the legislation a speedy passage.
– I want to supplement briefly the remarks made by Senator Bishop. Tonight 1 think it is significant that I have my colleague Senator Georges sitting with me because 3 years ago we were electioneering and we had an association with the Waterside Workers’ Federation of Australia. I know that in addressing a meeting on the waterfront we were struck by some of the problems which confront people working at heavy manual work in a climate which has many tropical features. While Senator Bishop confined his remarks to the simple transfer of union membership from the North Australian Workers’ Union to the Waterside Workers’ Federation, after conversations with Mr Paddy Carroll and other union officials, I hope that the apparatus of the Department of Labour and National Service - the industrial hygiene section and other sections - will be adjusted to some of the problems which confront men in heavy manual work on the waterfront in Darwin. I say that because while we are talking in terms of the fork lift superseding the trolly and other kindred things the fact is that today if men are handling lubricants and other chemical substances the effect on the hands in a tropical climate can result in dermatitis and other things.
I welcome this transfer of union membership. I hope that the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia led by its extremely efficient and able federal secretary, Charlie Fitzgibbon, will see that perhaps modern technology and chemical research will be directed - it is not always - to industrial ailments. I suggest as an example the longshoremen of the United States. I think that the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Greenwood) is a reader of ‘Newsweek’ and ‘Time’. He will know that even in this day and age that there are frequent occurrences where waterside workers and transport workers handle certain consignments, some unexpected incident occurs and they develop some ailment. I leave that thought with Senator Bishop at this time. I think it is significant that often - I do not necessarily indict the Minister - there is a tendency in the trade union movement which can prevent a satisfactory transfer of trade union membership. I think that in this case the transfer proves that in many instances the trade union movement is able to handle its own domestic affairs.
I do not think it is sufficient to say: Well, that is another problem which we have overcome’. I know some of the top men in the Department of Labour and National Service who are pretty well dedicated to many of these matters about which I am talking. I like to feel that there is an art of industrial anticipation. If we are aware of something that is happening on the Pacific or Atlantic coasts of the United States affecting longshoremen we can anticipate that a similar happening here will result in an industrial complaint. I say that because in the Northern Territory under the overall control of the Minister for the Interior (Mr Hunt) there have been a number of occasions when employers have disregarded safety regulations. There has been an idea of glossing over their excesses. I visualise a situation, which I hope does not happen, when, because there has to be a quick turn about of ships, some bright stevedoring foreman who is not worried about the number of hernias that occur on the job decides on some quick turnabout technique. Then there is industrial trouble. I do not want to belabour the point. Senator Davidson would know and Senator Byrne, having been a member of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution, knows that it was nice for us to take evidence in reasonable surroundings. But when one gets away from the air-conditioned atmosphere and gets down to heavy manual work there is a pretty sharp reaction. If one is manhandling good - I know this for myself - there is a rather sharp reaction because of a person’s temper.
This is how some industrial disputes start. I like to feel that it is inculcated into foreman stevedores and personnel from the Department of Labour and National Service that when they come up with some of these new techniques they should not apply a boardroom technique and look at graphs and say: ‘Well, the tonnage is going to go up dramatically’. Do not think that because something can be done in Melbourne or Sydney that it will automatically apply in north Queensland ports or the Northern Territory. I leave those observations with the Minister. If he has not had a chance to listen to me tonight he can read my remarks in the Hansard report in the morning.
– I rise merely to indicate that the Australian Democratic Labor Party supports this Bill which is the consequence of a change in the union position. Part of the union previously concerned becomes embraced within another union and another part becomes embraced with the Waterside Workers’ Federation of Australia. It is important that unions have their proper function within the community and that they be given their proper status and recognition. As stated by the Attorney;General (Senator Greenwood) in the absence of a Bill of this character and the redefinition of the word ‘union’ there would have been a void in this area and a body of trade unions would have found no trade union home with the right to audience which goes with an embracing of union membership. For these unions the legislation is timely. It is necessary and it is appropriate. The Democratic Labor Party supports the Bill.
– I thank the Senate for its ready concurrence in this measure. In other circumstances, I would be tempted to say that this is one more example of the ability of this Government to introduce legislation relating to industrial matters which has the wholehearted concurrence of this Senate. But I do not say that tonight because this is not a matter which has raised controversy. I accept, as the Opposition and the Australian Democratic Labor Party accepts, that this is an amendment which is necessitated by the change in the membership and the amalgamation of unions in the Northern Territory. This amendment must be made because reference had been made in earlier legislation to the North Australian Workers’ Union. Now that the union is part of the Waterside Workers’ Federation it is incumbent upon the Parliament to give effect to the change. As I indicated, the Government welcomes the acknowledgement which is conveyed in the concurrence of all parties in this Chamber to its proposals.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 4 November (vide page 1694), on motion by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I regret that I have to disrupt the procedure that we have been following this evening, by which the Australian Labor Party has consented to a series of Bills, and to announce to the Government that the Opposition will oppose the second reading of the Loan (Defence) Bill. The Opposition is very much concerned at the fact that our defence depends upon our ability to borrow money from overseas. We believe that defence should be paid for as we go and we should not rely on overseas investment and overseas borrowings and thus be placed in the position of paying additional interest on the money that we borrow. It would appear from the history of the Bill that there is no hurry to have it approved. It was introduced into the other place in October and it came to this chamber on 4th November. It seeks to borrow from the Export-Import Bank of the United States a sum of S90m. The Bill does not indicate whether this amount is in US dollars, sterling, or anything else. The Joan carries a 6± per cent rate of interest which the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) in the second reading speech said was the current rate of interest at the time of negotiating the loan on 1st July 1971. The Government is committed to pay one-half per cent interest on amounts undrawn at 8th August 1971. As this amount of S90m cannot be drawn upon until such time as the Parliament approves it, the country is already committed to some interest payment on this loan. The $90m can be drawn upon for a 4-year period up to December 1975.
If we looked at the matter from a point of view other than that it would appear to be wrong for defence to rely upon loan money, we would question the necessity for the loan and whether the Department of Defence and the Australian Government really know what their loan requirements are from the Bank from time to time. It appears that since 1966 we have periodically made arrangements to have loans credited from the Export-Import Bank. The hardware is purchased in America and the money does not leave America, but we pay interest on the loan. It would appear from the Auditor-General’s report for 1970-71 that this Parliament, under an Act passed in 1966, agreed to the borrowing at an interest rate of 4 per cent per annum of $US450m from the ExportImport Bank, of which SUS443,731,315 was spent over a period of 5 years. The report indicates that a further $US 1,704,372 was spent in 1970-71 from the 1966 allocation.
There was a further agreement with the Export-Import Bank to borrow $US35,051,734 which was repayable in 14 half-yearly instalments at 4J per cent interest per annum. The Loan (Defence) Bill 1968 sought agreement, and we got approval, to borrow $US75m repayable over 7 years at 6 per cent interest per annum. There were 2 Loan (Defence) Bills introduced in 1970 which sought approval to borrow from the same bank $US89m repayable at 7 per cent and 8 per cent interest per annum. However, we borrowed only SUS34.635.211. The Loan (Defence) Act (No. 2) 1970 authorised the borrowing of $US123m. An agreement was made for the United States Defence Department to be credited with $US123m for supplies we would receive between 1st July 1970 and 3 1 st December 1974. In relation to this loan the Minister said in his second reading speech:
Under the Loan (Defence) Act (No. 2) 1970, the Commonwealth arranged borrowings of $US123m to finance orders for general defence equipment to be placed with United States suppliers during 1970-71. However, $US74.2m of this loan was subsequently cancelled by the Commonwealth. This cancellation was due in large part to a re-valuation by the Service departments of equipment needs during that year. Negotiations have recently been completed for a credit to cover orders placed during 1971-72.
Therefore we find that we are entering into these agreements even when there is no requirement to do so. Nowhere can I find that we have used the loans that we have borrowed. But now we have a request from the Government to borrow another $US90m at 6i per cent interest and one half per cent interest is payable on the money which we do not use. There is nothing set out in the Minister’s second reading speech to show the purpose for which we are borrowing this money for the defence of Australia. From the Auditor-General’s report for 1970-71 we find that the interest payable on the loan with maturity dates 1967 to 1974 is 4 per cent. It shows also that our total borrowings are $478,734,103. We have repaid $180,109,330 of the principal borrowed, and the principal outstanding on those loans amounts to 8298,624,773. We now seek to add to that figure a further $US90m with interest which will accumulate over a period.
I now come to the question: For what is it needed? In 1966 after a re-valuation of stores in the Service departments, we found that we did not need the loan. The AuditorGeneral’s report sets out the payments that were made on the loan. These were for hardware in the United States, including the F1 1 1 aircraft.
– Only progressive payments.
– Yes. Not only do we have to pay for a useless aircraft, but we have to pay interest on money for the purpose of having the privilege to pay for an aircraft that will not fly. At page 356 of the Auditor-General’s Report for 1970-71, under the heading ‘Department of Air’, he states, in relation to the F111C aircraft project:
Net expenditure on the project in 1970-71 after allowing for credit adjustments totalling $84,681, amounted to $4,644,183 of which $3,145,083 was charged to Division 702 and $1,499,100 was charged to the Loan Fund. The amount of $4,644,183 mainly related to billings rendered by the United States Government under the current financial arrangements and included accounts totalling $116,498 processed in Australia in respect of supplies and services associated with the project. In addition, a commitment fee of $355,146 was paid in respect of the undisbursed balance of credit made available by the ExportImport Bank of the United States to assist in financing the project.
Therewe see that in 1970-71 the Department of Air alone paid $355,146 for money that it did not use and did not ever have. In the Auditor-General’s Report for 1969-70 there is a similar reference. Under the heading ‘Loan Fund - Credit Arrangements with the United States of America’, the Auditor-General stated:
There were no amounts advanced under the Agreement during 1969-70. A commitment fee of $A50,316 was paid during the year and charged to the Special Appropriation provided under the Act.
So, we are paying heavily for the privilege of obtaining credits in the United States for the purchase of hardware from the United States Government and other suppliers. We are paying interest to United States lenders for giving United States suppliers the privilege of supplying our defence needs.
The Labor Party says that it is entirely wrong to use this method of defending the country. The Government is relying on loans, which is too costly a method for Australia underthe conditions of repayment. Loans should be on a ‘pay as you go’ basis. We have no knowledge of what the money is for or of what is intended in the next year or the next 4 years when the money will be available. The longer we delay using the money, the more it is costing us under this disbursement fund arrangement. We have no knowledge of the need for the money, but we know that previously authorised loans have not been utilised. We say that the Senate should not pass this legislation or agree to this loan.
An amount of $90m is very small compared with the Budget estimate for defence alone of $1,252.4m, which is $117m or 10.3 per cent more than last year’s. For some timeI have been saying in this chamber that it stirs the emotions of members of the Parliament when we talk of defence and the need for defence. The expenditure on defence is useless if it is never needed. We hope that it will not be needed. Everyone agrees that there is a need to be prepared because Australia is playing too inactive a part in world councils for peace at the present time. This year we will spend$1, 252.4m among the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and the Department of Defence - all to create power to kill and all to create warlike activities. Although we state that that power will never be used as an act of aggression, that is the power.
It is a necessary expenditure if we have not sufficient confidence in those who may invade us to realise that the possibility that they will invade us does not exist. We are not in a position today to point to any possible enemy. The former Prime Minister has referred to a period of 10 years before he can see the possibility of aggression against Australia or any attack upon Australia. We are not in the position that the need to defend Australia is imminent. It is reasonable to ask whether the additional expenditure involved in this $90m loan is necessary at the present time when it is for the purpose of creating further methods of destruction and creating further fears on the part of a would-be enemy of Australia, thus necessitating further expenditure by other countries to meet the additional expenditure we are making. We are spending more than$1, 000m a year on defence. We have a Minister for Air, a Minister for the Navy, a Minister for the Army and a Minister for Defence.
– And a Minister for Supply.
– And a Minister for Supply. I believe that other Ministers are somewhat implicated, too. We have at least 4 Ministers solely engaged in this warlike activity. We have no concept of having a Minister for Peace in Australia. We have 4 Ministers in the defence field, but we have no Minister who is propagating peace throughout the world. Our contribution to the United Nations is insignificant. It is not recognised by other nations as a great contribution.
A newsletter has been circulated to members of the Parliament, setting out the text of the speech made by Mrs Bandaranaike, the Prime Minister of Ceylon, on 12th October this year at the first meeting of the United Nations General Assembly she has attended. She points out that the position of her country is one of non-alignment. She believes that on that basis she can listen to appeals made to her in respect of any conflicts that may occur, because Ceylon has not been committed to any country. At the General Assembly she made an earnest and passionate plea for the declaration of a zone of peace. She suggested the Indian Ocean. Her proposal was that all those who participated in Indian Ocean activities would have to be n unaligned countries and that no armaments at all would be able to traverse the Indian Ocean.
– What do the Russians think about this?
– On the question of how much this is a pipe dream and how far the Russians would go along with it. in fairness to the Russians 1 would say that in the matter of atomic testing they have played the game just as much as the United States or any other country. I have been referring to the remarks of a woman who, at her first appearance before the United Nations, made an appeal for peace. We will not be revealing ourselves as a peaceful nation if people overseas are aware that we have a mighty army and navy ready for conflict. In the United Nations Mrs Bandaranaike has uttered this word of peace in the hope that someone will follow. Do honourable senators not think that an expression of support from this Government or some action by it as an indication of peace would help on this occasion? Do they not think that some of the SI. 000m that we spend on defence would serve just as well as a defence potential if we were to spend it on spreading peace throughout the world.
If we continue to equip ourselves with arms for the purpose of destruction the time must come when we will need those arms, and at that time we will have to hope to God that we are more powerful than our enemy. If a situation should arise in which atomic power is used there would be no defence against it so our expenditure would have been wasted. We must meet at the conference table and give up this concept of Australia having mighty defence forces so that Australia may become an advocate of peace throughout the world. That should be our future role, especially in our geographical situation in relation to the countries surrounding us at present.
I shall not waste the time of the Senate, but I remind honourable senators of the matters that I have raised. We do not know why this money has to be spent. We are concerned at the- amount that it is proposed to spend. We do not know whether the proposed purchases are necessary, nor can the Government tell us whether they are necessary. The Government has given us no assurance about the terms of repayment nor about the future parity of Australian currency. We do not know whether the Australian dollar is to go down with the American dollar or whether it is to rise with the Japanese yen. Consequently we do not know what the situation will be when it comes to a repayment of the amount which it is sought to borrow! Therefore, the Opposition will oppose the motion for the second reading of the Bill.
– When I heard Senator Cavanagh making his remarks I thought that what he said would be valid if we were living in a world of make believe, but unfortunately we are not. I am not sure whether Senator Cavanagh was speaking for the Australian Labor Party because, as I understand it, one faction of the Labor Party has declared that it would not reduce the defence vote. It has stated that it believes in the defence of Australia. But as 1 understood Senator Cavanagh, he does not think that we need defence forces. Perhaps the Labor Party should make up its mind on this and decide whether Senator Cavanagh was expressing the official view of the Party or his own view.
If we were living in a world in which everybody believed in peace we could afford the luxury of not having a defence force, but unfortunately we do not live in such a world. Other countries, including the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the People’s Republic of China, are spending mammoth amounts of money to provide defence forces, lt would be an act of utter stupidity if Australia, which is in an unstable part of. the world in which there is a constant threat of one sort or another, did not try to provide for itself credible defence forces at least.
This Bill seeks the consent of Parliament to borrow $90m from the Export-Import Bank of the United States to enable us to purchase defence equipment. One of the great problems facing Australia today is that we are lagging behind in the provision of modern equipment for our defence forces. The cost of this equipment is growing and, sooner or later, a decision will have to be made to re-equip our defence forces with much of the modern armoury which is required for the Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal Australian Navy. It is all very well for Senator Cavanagh to cite remarks made by Mrs Bandaranaike who has a pipe dream about the Indian Ocean being a zone of peace. This is a wonderful ideal but, as I said earlier, we do not live in an ideal world. The Soviet Union does not support this proposition. It is sending naval forces into the Indian Ocean. It does not accept the dream that it should be a zone of peace. Perhaps it would be better if Senator Cavanagh addressed his remarks to the leaders of the Soviet Union. I do not believe that it is possible to think of the Indian Ocean as a zone of peace. For it to be such would depend not upon nations but upon a global settlement.
– But you do nothing at all to attempt to establish it.
– Senator Cavanagh is living in a world of make believe. What can Australia do? It can express pious hopes and pious feelings, but does any honourable senator think that if we express these feelings the leaders of the Soviet Union will say: ‘You are good fellows; we will withdraw our naval ships from the Indian Ocean’? It is just not on. I noted also that Senator Cavanagh made the comment that the Soviet Union was playing the game as much as the United States was with regard to atomic testing. I found this to be an interesting comment. The United States is an open society and it announces to the world weeks - sometimes months - beforehand that it is going to conduct a nuclear test, but the Soviet Union never announces it to the world. The only indication that the world has it through modern instru ments which monitor testing in the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union is a closed society - not an open society. I suggest that those remarks answer the arguments which were put forward by Senator Cavanagh.
The main purpose of the Bill is to assist with finance to equip the defence forces. Because of a continuing need, unfortunate as it may be, we must provide for Australia a credible defence force. It is rather useless to talk of whether we are likely to face a threat in 5 or 10 years time. What are we to do? Should we wait until the threat develops and then start to train and equip our forces? I believe that Australia’s defence depends on constant preparedness. Our defence forces cannot be built up in a day. They need years of training and they need also modern equipment. This Bill will help us to provide that equipment. For those reasons I support the Bill.
– The Democratic Labor Party supports the Bill. There is no alternative. If we reject the Bill we deal a serious blow to defence proposals which most members of Parliament believe are necessary. As it is desired to complete consideration of the Bill this evening, it is not possible at this stage to debate the whole question of defence, but other opportunities will arise before the Parliament ends its operations for this year. I am amazed at the number of people who, while saying that they believe in the defence of Australia, insist that there is no danger to Australia. They quote the ex-Prime Minister, Mr Gorton, as having said that there will be no danger for 10 years. But they do not quote his subsequent remarks made prior to the last election in which he gave an entirely different impression. In the kind of world in which we live we need defence. I believe that any political party which goes before the electors and suggests that we do not require adequate defence is manufacturing the circumstances of its defeat. My Party stands for strong defence. We think it is more necessary than ever. We support the Bill.
– in reply - The Bill is a straightforward one. It has been referred to in the second reading speech of the Minister for Health (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson). It relates to the financing of defence procurement and not to the defence situation, although this has very properly been referred to. Tonight we are not dealing with whether we should defend Australia. That decision has been made. We are dealing with how we acquire the finance to buy the equipment. That is what this Bill is about. It seeks the approval of the Parliament, in the first instance, for the borrowing of $US90m from the ExportImport Bank of the United States of America to assist in the purchasing of general defence equipment. The second reading speech mentions that under the Loan (Defence) Act 1970 the Commonwealth arranged borrowings of $US89m to finance orders for general defence equipment. That credit has been fully committed. It mentions that under the Loan (Defence) Act (No. 2) the Commonwealth arranged the borrowings of $US123m, but they were reduced by some cancellations of equipment orders.
The second reading speech mentions that negotiations for a credit to cover orders placed in 1971-72 have been entered into. Tt mentions that the loan agreement with the Export-Import Bank, which is set out in the schedule to the Bill, follows the usual form of such agreements. There is nothing new about it. The interest rate is a favourable rate under current conditions. It mentions the drawing rights of the loan and the repayment conditions of the loan. There is nothing unusual in those. It is a straightforward type of Bil) which accords with similar Bills that we have passed previously and which dealt with the general proposition that we should defend this country. I am afraid that anybody who does not think that we should defend this country is not likely to find much sympathy in my eyes. In order to defend this country we have to get equipment. We have to find money for the equipment. We find it desirable and wise to borrow that money and to pay it off.
Various matters have been referred to. Clause 4 of the Bill refers to moneys in the currency of the United States of America not exceeding $90m. The Government considers it prudent to finance the expenditure on defence equipment by borrowing from the Export-Import Bank in this way. By borrowing, the Government can spread over 7 years the burden of the cost of these mainly capital purchases which otherwise would have to be met out of current revenue. The Export-Import Bank specialises in providing finance for purchases of this kind. The terms of the loan, including the interest rate of 6i per cent, are very reasonable. The equipment to be procured under this loan relates mainly to equipment of a type already in service and currently not manufactured in Australia. The intention of the purchase is to increase the capability of the defence Services. The equipment that we desire for our purposes is available only from the United States of America.
The kind of equipment envisaged is for the 3 arms of the Service. For the Department of the Navy, it covers armament stores including MK46 torpedoes, rockets, armaments for Skyhawks, etc., naval stores including equipment for fittings in new ships, minesweeping equipment, sonar and radar equipment, aircraft spares and additional equipment for Skyhawk and Tracer aircraft. For the Department of the Army it includes armoured personnel carriers, spares and tracks, cryptographic equipment, radio and telegraphic equipment and special types of ammunition. For the Department of Air it includes 25 VHIH helicopters, one Phantom F4E replacement, modifications to existing aircraft, SAR beacons, air surveillance repairs, air frames, air engines and spares and communications and electronic equipment.
I give now the reason for the payment of a commitment fee. This is a usual practice with this type of transaction, lt is a normal commercial procedure. The rate of interest is one-half of one per cent a year. The Export-Import Bank is simply following the normal pattern of its procedures in this type of transaction. Since 1966-67 the rate of interest on these credits has been reflecting high rates of interest of government borrowings and commercial borrowings on the United States capital market, but the rate of interest of 6i per cent in the current credit, which is lower than in the previous 2 credits, is still about 2 per cent or 3 per cent lower than would be available to the Government for other purchases overseas. That is the essential matter with which we are dealing. We are dealing with the financing of a defence programme to which we, as a government, have agreed to defend this country and its people during a certain period. It has the support of the Government and I suggest that it might now be put to the test in the Senate.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I wish to raise a question in relation to clause 4 of the Bill. Clause 4 states:
The execution on behalf of the Commonwealth of the Loan Agreement, and the borrowing by the Commonwealth in accordance with that agreement of moneys in the currency of the United States of America not exceeding Ninety million dollars, are approved.
In August 1970 I asked a question of Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson who represents the Treasurer relating to the previous loans that had been raised to assist in the financing of the 24 F111C aircraft. I asked for the aggregate amount of the loans, the interest rate on each loan, the amount that had been drawn upon from each loan, and the terms and conditions of each loan. In answer to that question, the Treasurer stated that the 2 loans of$US80m and $US75m respectively had been approved to assist in financing the purchase of the 24 F111C aircraft, spares and associated equipment, the source of each loan being the Export-Import Bank of the United States. Theloans were arranged - I want the years to be noted - in 1966 and 1968. The aggregate amount of the loans was $US155m. The interest rate on the loan of $US80m was 4 percent and on the loan of$US75m was 6 per cent. Drawings of $US77.2m had been made on the$US50m loan but it was stated there had not been any drawings on the$US75m loan. The pointI am making here is that between 1966 and 1968 the Government, by means of a Bill similar to that now before us, sought approval to raise$US155m from the Export-Import Bank of the United States. Yet by August 1970 we had. in fact, used only$US77.2m, which meant that there was in the vicinity of $US77.8m still outstanding. I presume that we would have been committed to a commitment fee of½ per cent for the undrawn balance since that time.
The objection I take to clause 4 is that we are being asked to approve a Bill to raise an amount of$US90m from the same source not knowing, as my colleague Senator Cavanagh said in the course of his remarks, whether it would be required to be spent in the purchase of hardward from the United States. At the same time approximately $US77m could still be outstanding from the previous loans and available to be drawn on. If that is the case, I believe that the Opposition has been thoroughly justified in expressing opposition to this proposal. I would like the Minister, if he can, to tell the Senate whether the outstanding amount of loan available to the Commonwealth Government because of previous Bills of this kind has been used. If it has been used, for what purposes has it been used?
– Clause 4 of the Bill relates to the approval of agreement and borrowing. This clause provides authority for the Commonwealth to borrow up to$US90m, and for the execution of the loan agreement for this borrowing on behalf of the Commonwealth. Borrowings for defence purposes are excluded from the provisions of the financial agreement and, accordingly, they are not subject to the approval of the Australian Loan Council. Senator Brown referred to the 4 loans. The figures he has referred to for the F111 are as follows: $US12m at 4 per cent interest; $US35m at 4 per cent interest; $US43.7m at 4 per cent interest; and$US75m at 6 per cent interest. I gather from my advisers that they are not able to provide me with more information at the present time, so I think that honourable senators are left with a simple choice: They either get me to provide the information for them by separate letter from the Treasurer, or we adjourn the Senate and continue this matter when w e return to our work.
– I think this is a matter of importance becauseI understand from the figures given by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) that separate loans have been made for the expenditure incurred in connection with the purchase of the F111 aircraft as against the normal loan from the Export-import Bank of the United States. The figures for 1962-63 to 1967-68 are recorded in the AuditorGeneral’s report this year. The figures do not coincide with the figures provided by the Minister to Senator Brown.Is the expenditure on the F111 part of the expenditure referred to in the Auditor-General’s report, or has there been an additional loan other than the general loan from the ExportImport Bank?
– There is obviously difficulty in obtaining for the Senate the precise information it requires. In Treasury mattersI am a purist and whatI require is precise information. I am not prepared to proceed on the basis of supplying information which at the present time it seems to me cannot be stated clearly for honourable senators, soI suggest that we report progress.
– I have to inform the
Senate that I have received a letter from the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party notifying the appointment of Senator McManus to the Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts in the place of Senator Byrne.
– On 13th October 1971 Senator Kane asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science, the following question:
I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science whether he is aware of the pornogr aphic content of the New South Wales University student journal’ Tharunka’, particularly the Family Issue’ dated 28th July 1971?Is thetaxpayers’ money being used in the production of Tharunka’ and associated publications such as the notorious ‘Sex Manual’?
In my replyI said that the journal had not been perused by me and undertook to inform the honourable senator whether university moneys helped to pay for its publication. My colleague the Minister for Education and Science has informed me that there is no direct Commonwealth subsidy which supports the production of such publications as those to which the honourable senator referred. Publications produced by students are in part supported by funds from the Students’ Unions and, to the extent that there are compulsory fees attached to membership of the Students’ Unions, those fees are paid by the Commonwealth for holders of Commonwealth scholarships; that is the only way in which there could be said to be any Commonwealth support or Commonwealth link in support of the publications. It needs to be emphasised that those who are principally responsible in all matters affecting universities are the universities themselves, and, if there is a matter that goes beyond university responsibility or if there is something beyond the control of universities then, in the case of the State university, it is the State laws which basically apply. The Minister wishes me to point out that students are subject to the same laws as are all other citizens and that he would strongly support any action that might be taken by those responsible for the administration of laws relating to obscene publications, if those laws had been infringed. However, the action would not be action to be taken by the Commonwealth but action to be taken by the States. I might add that, in the course of his reply to a similar question without notice in another place on the 27th October 1971, the Minister said that he would, at an appropriate time, discuss with his State colleagues the matter of publications of the type to which the honourable senator referred.
(Question No. 1306)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
It obviously makes no impression on the vast majority of young men, almost 700,000, who have registered as required. All cases of apparent default are thoroughly investigated and prosecution action taken wherever this is warranted.
(Question No. 1344)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
How many persons have been in gaol at the time they were required to register for National Service, and what is the usual procedure adopted in such circumstances.
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
From the time when national service was introduced it had been recognised that some men would find themselves in circumstances which would make it difficult for them to register for national service when required to do so. This applies for example to men detained in gaol or other penal institutions, those who may be hospitalised because of illness or injury or who are inmates of institutions. Steps are accordingly taken to ensure that all necessary information about the national service scheme and the means to effect registration are available to the responsible authorities and that the requirement to register is brought to the attention of the men affected.
No complete record is available as to the number of men who were in gaol at the time when they were required to register for national service. However, the experience is that the arrangements outlined here work satisfactorily.
(Question No. 1403)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
Will the Minister provide a breakdown of the 49 per cent of youths rejected for National Service showing the percentage who had physical infirmities, and the most prevalent ailments.
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
No official statistics have been compiled, up to the present, as to the reasons for rejection of men for national service who are found not to meet the medical standards required for Army service.
There have, however, been sample studies by independent researchers of the causes of rejection. These have suggested that the most prevalent reasons are acne, allergies, deafness, defective vision, hypertension, psychiatric disorders, respirator conditions such as asthma and sinusitis and skeletomuscular defects of traumatic origin. Though these sample studies may not be completely representative of all men liable for national service, they are an indication of the main medical reasons.
I would emphasise that a man who suffers from one or other of these conditions would not necessarily be affected in his normal everyday life but if he were called up for Army service any disability which impaired his efficiency could have serious consequences for him and the men he served with.
Senate adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 11 November 1971, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1971/19711111_senate_27_s50/>.