27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Mon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 3 p.m.. and read prayers.
– I wish to inform the Senate that an Israeli parliamentary delegation, at the invitation of the Speaker of the House of Representatives and myself, arrived in Australia on Thursday last. After paying brief visits to Sydney and Adelaide, the delegation was due to visit Canberra this week. It is with deep regret that l inform the Senate that a member of the delegation, Mr Yosef Sapir, died in Sydney at the weekend and, as a consequence, the delegation decided to defer the remainder of the visit and to return home to Israel. On behalf of the Senate, I have personally conveyed condolences to Mr Reuben Barkatt, the Speaker of the Knesset, who was the leader of the delegation. The delegation returned to Israel yesterday. ] attended its formal departure at Tullamarine Airport.
– 1 refer the Leader of the Government in the Senate to the visit of President Nixon to the People’s Republic of China by which the United Slates of America recognised China in the most formal manner possible. Will the Leader of the Government tell the Senate how long we must go on with this nonsense of Australia continuing to recognise still the regime on Taiwan as being the representative of all China, including Mainland China? How long will it be before our diplomatic representatives are withdrawn from that island which, in the eyes of the world, does not represent the whole of China?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONlt is true that the President of the United States of America, as the honourable senator states, did make a visit to the People’s Republic of China. It is equally true that our own Prime Minister issued a Press release on the subject of the visit to China of the United States President. If the honourable senator has not received a copy of that statement, I will arrange that he does so. As to the remainder of the question. Senator Murphy as the Leader of the Opposition would know - perhaps he has forgotten - that he is asking me to reflect on a whole series of matters relating to Government policy. This is inconsistent with the Standing Orders. In any event, having regard to the question, I would suggest that that part of it should go on notice and I will have it directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy. Has the Minister received reports of a suspected peaked shoal in South Australian waters near Port Stanvac? As there could be a risk of oil pollution if this suspected marine hazard is present, due to the volume of oil tankers operating in the area to service the nearby oil refinery, will the Minister say when a survey will be carried out to determine the type and location of this hazard and to have it recorded accurately, if it is a hazard to shipping?
– I understand that late in December the tug Tusker’ reported that there was a possible shoal in the vicinity of Port Stanvac. I understand also that the Department of the Navy sent out a general Australian navigation warning signal. This has since been repromulgated by the Australian Notice to Mariners. So shippers should be aware of the situation. At present the survey vessel HMAS ‘Moresby’ is in South Austraiian waters, and I understand that it has been asked to carry out a full investigation into the matter during the survey period. This will be done. The only other information that I can give the honourable senator is that the port superintendent at Stanvac has been informed of the situation and is well aware of it.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Are persons sentenced to imprisonment for non-compliance with the National Service Act medically examined before commencement of their term of imprisonment to ensure that a person unfit by military standards is not imprisoned? If such persons are medically examined, is the examination carried om by a panel of doctors responsible to the Department of the Army? If not, why not?
– The honourable senator asked for detail as to procedures in relation to particular personnel. It is well within his knowledge that a medical examination is carried out before any man is required to undertake national service. The particulars as to the examinations that must precede imprisonment and whether the examinations are undertaken by a panel of doctors responsible to the Department of the Army are details which 1 would take the opportunity to check. I shall do that and at the earliest opportunity I shall give the honourable senator particular information in that regard.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral seen a Press statement attributed to the Leader of the Opposition in another place in which he is reported to have said that draft dodging is not a crime? Can the Minister inform me whether this statement is based on legal fact?
– I have seen in a number of newspapers the incredible statement attributed to the Leader of the Opposition. I understand that the report is a version of what he said at various places last night. I cannot understand how the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Whitlam, could have made such a statement. Draft dodging is the refusal of a person to undertake his obligations under the National Service Act. If a person examines section 51 of that Act, which states the obligation of a person to obey a call up notice, it will be seen that a person who does not answer his call up notice is guilty of an offence. I appreciate, from the babble of interjection in the background, that there is some feeling on the part of Opposition members that their leader has let them down by being guilty of a glaring inaccuracy. That explains the noise.
– I take a point of order. The Minister was asked a question which, I suppose, amounted to the asking of a legal opinion. Nevertheless, that was the question that he was asked. In replying, he is not entitled to say something which is not responsive to the question or to indulge an offensive attack upon the leader, presuming he means the Leader of the Opposition in the other House. Mr President, I ask you to instruct him to confine himself to giving the legal opinion which was sought, if that is in order, or otherwise to cease answering the question.
– It has been the practice of Attorneys-General not to give legal opinions when answering questions without notice in the Parliament. The Attorney-General is therefore quite entitled to refuse to do so. He is also entitled to make comments as long as they arc not offensive. There is no substance in the point of order. I call Senator Primmer.
– Mr President, I understood that the response I was giving to the honourable senators question was interrupted by the point of order which was raised. I wish to continue my answer.
– I call the AttorneyGeneral.
-! can only say, in further answer to the honourable senator’s question, that my last remark was due to the incessant noise which was coming, and is still coming, from members of the Opposition as I was endeavouring to answer the question. The simple fact is that a person who is obliged to answer a call-up notice and who declines to do so is guilty of an offence and, in ordinary language, I should think that a person who is guilty of an offence is guilty of a crime. Accordingly there would be no basis for saying that draft dodging is not a crime. I would also point out that the statement that draft dodging is not a crime was made by Mr Whitlam, the Leader of the Opposition, and that it was made only in connection with a situation in which Mr Johnston was involved. It would therefore appear that there is in Mr Whitlam’s mind an element of crime involved in what Mr Johnston has done. It is not a matter of what I have said, Mr President; it is simply that Mr Johnston has refused to appear in court to answer a charge.
– There is a constant reference by honourable senators to the Leader of the Opposition when what is meant is the Leader of the Opposition in the other place. Those honourable senators who wish to make reference to the Leader of the Opposition in another place should refer to him as such.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Has an agreement been reached between the Government, the wool buyers and the graziers’ association for the third price averaging plan pool to be wound up, for interlotting to be reintroduced, or bulk classed wools to be acquired and for there to be no acquisition scheme for the remainder of the Australian clip?
-BROCKM AN - I would say no at this stage, but I am not aware of the facts outlined by the honourable senator. 1 will find out. Discussions are going on continually between the brokers, the wool industry and the Government on WOOl handling matters. I shall certainly make inquiries and provide the honourable senator with an answer to his question.
– I wish to ask a question of the Attorney-General. The Attorney-General may recall that on Thursday last I asked him a question regarding the independence of magistrates in the Australian Capital Territory. In actual fact 1 asked the Attorney-General whether his attention had been drawn to a Press statement issued by the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory in which that honourable member stated that magistrates should never be in a position where they have to turn for advice or assistance to a person who is their superior officer in the Public Service. I ask: Has the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory offered to produce to the Attorney-General evidence in support of his allegation? Will the AttorneyGeneral inform the Senate whether there is any justification for the allegation that officers of his Department tell magistrates how to decide cases?
– In response to the last part of the honourable senator’s question, I can assure him and I can assure the Senate that there is absolutely no basis whatsoever for any suggestion, imputation or remark that officers of the Attorney-General’s Department tell magistrates how to handle cases. No evidence to this effect has been produced and 1 am satisfied from my inquiries that no evidence to this effect could be produced. I have seen the report which appeared last Thursday in one of the local newspapers of a statement made by the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory. I have also seen a transcript of what he said on television last Friday and what he said on television the preceding week which gave rise to the Press report which prompted Senator Withers’ original question last week.
Anyone reading or hearing the statement made by the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory originally could readily have gained the impression that officers of my Department had intruded into the exercise by magistrates of their judicial functions and that they in fact told magistrates how to decide cases. That impression would seem to have been gained by the reporter of the article, because he had said that there were cases where magistrates have been advised how to handle cases that they were hearing. So construed, the attack was on the probity of the magistrates and the offices of my Department. I am able to inform the Senate that the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory in his television broadcast last Friday clearly indicated he was not suggesting that any directions of that sort were being given. In those circumstances I have taken the view that he does not reflect upon the administration of justice in this Territory or upon the officers of my Department. After hearing what I have said today, as he undoubtedly will, the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory will undoubtedly supply me with further information if I am incorrect.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Is it a fact that the recent Teheran Conference of the International Labour Organisation very clearly affirmed the right of unions to organise and the right of freedom of association? Would attempts by reactionary groups within the Parliament to interfere in the internal affairs of the trade union movement, particularly in regard to amalgamation of unions, give the impression overseas that we in Australia are opposed to ILO conventions?
– Order! The honourable senator is not asking a question he is making a speech.
– Is it a fact that these ILO conventions seek to guarantee democratic control of trade unions by trade unions without Government interference?
– 1 think it would be well known that the resolution of the International Labour Organisation to which reference has been made affirms the right of free association of trade unions and organisations set up for other purposes in regard to social, political or industrial life. .1 would not think that those abroad, seeing any political discussion in Australia on current matters, would be so thin skulled as to misinterpret the understanding of these principles by the general body of Australians.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for National Development inform the Senate of the present stage in the planning of the proposed nuclear power station at Jervis Bay? In any present planning are continuing steps being taken to ensure the preservation of the environment and to prevent pollution from spreading to one of the few areas of the New South Wales coastline which remains substantially free from pollution at the. moment?
– I will have to find out for the honourable senator the exact position of the planning of the Jervis Bay proposal at the present time. I do know that from the very beginning of its planning very careful steps have been taken to preserve the environment and to fry to protect the area as much as possible.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation: Since the announcement of new low fares between Australia and London and other overseas capitals, what progress, if any, has been made in providing related and reduced fares for long distance travel within Australia?
– I am not sure whether it was the honourable senator who first spoke to me about this matter, but a question was addressed to me in the Senate about this matter of concessional domestic fares within Australia. I said to the Senate then that I had a great interest in this matter and that I was pursuing it with the 2 domestic airlines principally concerned. It is still being pursued with them. My present understanding is that these 2 airlines are working out proposals that would allow them to utilise unused capacity in the sense to which the honourable senator refers. The general view was that if it is good enough to try to negotiate lower fares to bring people into Australia and to take them out of Australia, to the extent that there was any unused capacity or low points of seat utilisation at any lime, it ought to be possible for the domestic airlines to take some advantage of that situation and be equally encouraging towards people who want to travel within Australia.
– Will the Minister for Civil Aviation say whether any investigation has been made into the possibility of having aircraft depart from the northerly runway at Launceston airport to avoid direct over-flying of Launceston city, particularly early in the morning and in the evening?
– I know that the Department takes a great interest in trying to avoid as much as possible, in flight paths in and out of airports, the problem of Hying over a city and causing some nuisance problem to the residents of that city. I cannot speak specifically of Launceston at present, but I shall have inquiries made for the honourable senator to see whether it is possible to improve the situation at that airport. There are times when, in the interests of air safety, flight paths must follow a certain course, but we always try. so far as we possibly can, consistent with air safely, to have flight paths which will avoid this problem.
– I am not sure to which Minister my question should be addressed, but 1 have chosen the Attorney-General because of the interest which he has recently shown in the internal affairs of the Australian Labor Party. Has the Minister seen reports in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ of yesterday and today that his own Party has been infiltrated by the extremist anti-Semitic League of Rights and that the director of that organisation, the notorious Mr Eric Butler, has claimed that substantial numbers of branch presidents, secretaries and rank and file members of both the Liberal and Country Parties are members or supporters of the League of Rights? Does the Minister know whether Mr Butler’s claim is true and, if it is, may we on this side of the chamber rest assured that the Minister is acting with his customary energy to help to restore his Party to ils pristine purity?
– J have seen reports, although i have not read them closely, about the alleged activities of the League of Rights, an organisation which is entitled to exist in this country. 1 have no doubt that some members of that organisation are also members of the Liberal Party and thai some are members of the Country Parly. In democratic organisations such as the Liberal Party and the Country Party they may have their views heard and they may seek to influence others if they are able. The striking difference between the Liberal Party and Country Party on the one hand and the Labour Party on the other i» that right throughout the Liberal Party and Country Party is a democratic , control which is not to be seen in the Labor Party. The Labor Party is controlled by all sorts of influences which are beyond the control of its nominal leaders.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport aware that grave concern has been expressed as to the number of incidents involving failures of synthetic motor tyre tubes and the numerous accidents, deaths and injuries which appear to have resulted from such failures? Will the Minister indicate whether the recently announced safety standards to be imposed in relation to motor tyres will apply also to motor tyre tubes and whether the setting of standards will include a full investigation as to the continued use of such tunes as at present constructed?
– Standards are in the form of 2 design rules. The first, Australian Design Rule 23, stipulates the tests which tyres must pass. They include endurance and high speed tests. The standard applies to both tubeless and conventional tyres. The latter, of course, would be tested with tubes although there are no specific tests for the tubes. The second rule. Australian Design Rule 24, requires that tyres fitted to vehicles should match their performance capabilities. I have been given a lot of other materia! which is part of a general brief on this matter in the same way as one is given information on a variety of matters with which to provide answers to questions asked by honourable senators. I will see that the honourable senator gets this information in detail in the form of a letter.
– 1 ask the Minister for Civil Aviation: ls it a fact that Aerial Services Tasmania Pty Ltd had its licence suspended yesterday? Was the reason stated by the Department of Civil Aviation to the effect that, the airline does not have an approved Chief Pilot? Is it not a fact that the Chief Pilot, who has 15,000 hours flying experience and holds a first class air line transport licence, has held that position for 3 years with the approval of DCA? ls it true also that certain mainland operators are endeavouring to obtain a controlling interest in the company and that DCA is under pressure to accede to their intentions? Will the Minister investigate the matter immediately and ensure that the licence is reinstated so that the Tasmanian travelling public is not inconvenienced by the withdrawal of the service?
– As is sometimes the case, the honourable senator was good enough to ask me earlier what I knew about this matter. I have asked some questions about it and I have obtained some information. It does not bear upon some of the comments he made because I do not think they were included in the original question to me but I shall fmd out the extra information for him. On 1 7th January J 972, Mr Callard, the then Chief Pilot for Aerial Services Tasmania, informed the Victorian and Tasmanian regional office of the Department of Civil Aviation that he was resigning from the company and had given one month’s notice, his resignation to lake effect from 11th February 1972. On 21st January J 972 the Department issued an exemption for the continuation of the Aerial Services Tasmania commuter service and at the same time reminded the company of the then need for an early appointment of a person to replace Mr Callard as Chief Pilot.
On 10th February the company advised that it had not yet employed a replacement and nought approval to operate for a period of 2 weeks pending a decision on the appointment of a replacement Chief Pilot. Approval to continue for 7 days was granted on 11th February. On 16th February the approval was extended to 14 days ending on 25th February. At that time the company was informed that the Department would not be able to grant a further concession and it would be necessary to suspend its operating licence if it was unable to appoint a replacement Chief Pilot. On 25th February 1972, in the absence of a nomination of a replacement Chief Pilot, the company was formally notified of the suspension of the air service licence. As I said earlier, I shall endeavour to find out for the honourable senator information to satisfy the balance of his query and comment.
– My question, addressed to the Minister for Health, relates to an article in a ‘Technical Information Bulletin’ of the Department of Health relating to cerebral atrophy in young cannabis smokers. Is it a fact that controlled experiments in the Department of Neurology, Bristol Royal United Hospitals, revealed evidence of cerebral atrophy in 10 patients with a history of cannabis smoking over a period of from 3 to 11 years? Is the condition of cerebral atrophy indicative of irreversible brain damage? Will the Minister ensure the widest possible publicity on this matter?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI have the document which deals with cerebral atrophy. I do not want to quote it, but 1 will paraphrase the point in answer to the question. I shall be happy to table this document or to make it available to any honourable senator who wishes to see it.
– What is the name of the document?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONIt is a ‘Technical Information Bulletin’ issued by the Department of Health and is dated February 1972. It refers to a report in ‘The Lancet’ of 4th December 1971 concerning a study of marihuana users in England. As the honourable senator’s question suggested, the study involved a comparison between 10 habitual marihuana smokers and 13 non-smokers of marihuana who were taken as control subjects.
– It is statistically unsound.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe honourable senator may ask a subsequent question if he wishes. Please let me answer the question.
– Order! 1 think this is a matter of general interest to all honourable senators.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI repeat that the study involved a group of people, 10 habitual marihuana smokers and 13 non-smokers of marihuana, lt was undertaken by a research group based in the Department of Neurology of the Bristol Royal United Hospitals and the researchers are regarded as being of high professional standing. The study revealed evidence of cerebral atrophy in the marihuana smokers. Cerebral atrophy is essentially a decrease in the size of the brain. Similar neurological changes have been reported in association with a high level of alcohol use, certain types of epilepsy and in cases of cerebral anoxia, that is, a lower than normal supply of oxygen to the brain. The scientific merit and sociological importance of the report on this study of marihuana smokers have received favourable comment by a number of recognised authorities in this field, but it is felt that further research is necessary before drawing any firm conclusions on an association between marihuana smoking and cerebral atrophy. With the concurrence of honourable senators I table the document.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration amplify the details of the reduction in Australia’s 1972 immigration intake with particular reference to the categories and nationalities of prospective migrants, and the staggering of applications from the various countries where Australia operates immigration offices? What steps are being taken to speed up the 3 surveys or analyses which have been undertaken by Professor Borrie. by Mr Wilson and by the Department of Immigration of the overall intake of migrants and the economic effects of immigration on the economy?
– With regard to the last part of the honourable senator’s question, I think I should say that the Government was well aware, whenit initiated these inquiries, that they would take time. It appreciates the importance of them and appreciates also that if the information to be gained from them is to be worth while they must take the time which was allowed for them. To attempt to speed them up at this stage would be to narrow the terms of reference and reduce the utility of what eventually is produced.
As to the first part of the honourable senator’s question, it is expected that the assisted migrant intake in the current year 1971-72 will be approximately 16.500 fewer than it would have been if the original target of 100,000 assisted migrants for the financial year 1971-72 had been maintained. Of those 16,500 assisted migrants, about 7,500 would have been workers and about 9,000 would have been dependants The reductions have been applied in all assisted migration programmes.In the general movements which have been deferred there are those of workers who, if they had come to Australia, would have found themselves in employment difficulties. The personally nominated migrants, except where the breadwinner has not been assured of employment or where it is anticipated that he will have employment difficulties, will proceed without interruption. Family reunion and other humanitarian claims are given priority.
– Has the Attorney-
General’s attention been directed to the interest which has been shown by the
Opposition in the affairs of Mr Barry Johnston, a person who, according to the Leader of the Opposition in another place, is a draft dodger? Is the Minister aware that the Labor Party’s official platform provides that the Labor Party: . . declares its support for all those young men who have refused to be conscripted for the undeclared war in Vietnam.
Does the Minister understand what it is that Barry Johnston is now dodging? Does the Minister consider that the wording of the Labor Party’s policy is sufficiently strict to ensure that a person who attempts to dodge his national service obligation when no undeclared war exists in Vietnam, will receive absolutely no support from the Opposition?
– It is a matter of record, if one examines the Australian Labor Party’s platform, that in 1971, I think it was, the Federal Executive approved a resolution which gave all support to Mr Barry Johnston and another person whom the police are seeking pursuant to an arrest warrant which has been issued. The position at the present time - as I think is fairly to be inferred from the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition in the other place, Mr Whitlam yesterday - is that he would regard what is involved with Mr Johnston as a matter of draft dodging. All 1 can say is that, as a matter of record at the present time. Mr Johnston was required to appear in court on 7th February, pursuant to a summons to answer a charge that he had not obeyed a call-up notice. He has not appeared in court and accordingly he is dodging what would appear to be an obligation of every citizen - the obligation to answer a summons. In that, as I have said repeatedly, he is being encouraged, supported and protected by members of the Victorian Branch of the Australian Labor Party, in respect of which Mr Whitlam is not prepared to take a stand one way or the other.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to a report that as from 1st May 1972 shipping freight rates to Japan will rise by 15 per cent, despite rises of 12.5 per cent in Maylast year and 7.5 per cent in April 1970 - in other words, 35 per cent in 2 years? With what authority, if any, concerned with our economic welfare and the position of Australia’s trade with Japan was the proposed rise discussed with a view to determining its justification and extent? Will the Government undertake to examine this proposal closely and to exert the strongest possible pressure to avoid this further serious threat to Australia’s trade with our strongest customer, at least until justification for the increase is established with the relevant government authority?
– Yes, the Government will undertake - indeed it has begun to do so - to investigate this proposed increase in freight rates, lt always does this and in this case it is doing so. From that the honourable senator may be quite sure that the Minister is aware of the proposed increase. The honourable se:’ator also would know that some of these matters are not within the capacity of governments to control. This Government does everything it possibly can to keep these matters under control and will continue to do so.
– Has the Minister for Civil Aviation seen a questionnaire which is being handed to passengers on a major domestic airline? As this questionnaire asks for a comparison of that airline’s service with that of another airline, will the Minister arrange to have a synopsis of the answers published, even though some of them may be unfavourable to that airline? It is believed that many of the answers could be very helpful to the Department of Civil Aviation in providing a better service to air travellers and pointing out some of the shortcomings of the present service.
– It is not unusual for people engaged in activities involving the public to seek to establish the public reaction to their services by asking members of the public for their views. 1 think all honourable senators will have had that experience. I understand that this is being done by one of the operators. As the honourable senator did not mention the operator by name, I shall not do so. But he may be assured that I will be seeking to see the range of public answers and reactions in order to establish, quite properly as he said, what is the public view of the services being provided by both operators.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry aware that British produced wool is being used to manufacture carpet to cover the floors of the Sydney Opera House? Will he endeavour to obtain from F & T Industries Ltd, the firm which has won the contract for the supply of the carpet, and make available to the Senate the reason why that firm considers that Australian wool is of the wrong texture for the job? Does the Minister agree that the choice of British produced wool is not in the best interest of the Australian wool industry, particularly because of the economic problems associated with the wool industry in Australia?
– The reputation of the Australian wool industry is based on fine wools. I think the honourable senator realises this. Wools used in carpets are generally the stronger type wools, mostly down in the counts of 40 or 46. This wool is generally found in Britain and New Zealand. This is the reason why, in the main, wools from overseas are used in the manufacture of carpets.
– Will the Minister for Air make available to the Senate details of the use of any VIP aircraft which arrived in Brisbane on Wednesday, 2nd February 1972? In supplying such details will .he make known the time and place of departure, the time of arrival and the names of the passengers?
– 1 shall have a look at the question and see what information is available. I shall give it to the honourable senator if I can do so.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Air. In view of the fact that the Minister for Defence, the Honourable D. Fairbairn, and the Minister for the Army have publicly repudiated the assessment made by the Minister for Air of the needs of the Department of the Army in relation to the aircraft known as ‘Project N’, is the Minister still of the opinion that the Royal Australian Air Force and the Army have no requirement for this aircraft?
– In my answer to the honourable senator last Thursday I said that the Royal Australian Air Force had no immediate need of this aircraft in the transport role. I specifically indicated that the military need for this aircraft was still under consideration by the Department of Defence. Since that time the statements made by the Minister for Defence and the Minister for the Army in commenting on my reply have confirmed that the purely Army needs of this aircraft are still to be determined. Until the investigation is completed by the Department of Defence 1 do not think the Government is in a position to decide what the requirements will be. I point out to the honourable senator that the Government will take a decision on this aircraft when all appropriate tests have been completed and when the military need has been determined. As the Minister for Defence has said, an evaluation will be completed some time in April.
– Has the Minister for Health been advised that ‘Woroni’, a magazine published in the Australian Capital Territory, carries an advertisement for contraceptives? Is this a breach of the Acts, ordinances or by-laws of the Australian Capital Territory which come under the administrative control of the Minister’s portfolio? ls it the intention of the Minister to initiate legal action against any person or persons, including the publishers of Woroni’?
– 1 understand that, on behalf of the Students Association of the Australian National University, the director of Reorientation 1972, a Mr Reid, wrote seeking the authority of the DirectorGeneral of Health for the publication of the article on the subject of contraceptives in the students’ paper ‘Woroni’. The application was delivered by hand to the Health Services of the Australian Capital Territory on Thursday last. In today’s ‘Canberra Times’ and in other morning newspapers, it is stated that ‘Woroni’ would be publishing the article in question without waiting for the reply of the Director-General. 1 am advised that this has been done. The
Director-General has written to Mr Reid seeking information as to whether the publication of ‘Woroni’ was authorised by him or by the Association. In relation to the question asked by the honourable senator, the implications of section 46 of the Pharmacy Ordinance of the Territory in relation to this matter are being examined.
Sena or TOWNLEY - I am not quite sure to whom I should direct this question. Either the Minister representing the Treasurer or the Minister representing the Minister for National Development may be involved- lt is this: Will the Minister give an urgent answer as to whether the Federal Government has had any discussion with the Tasmanian Government about the possibility of saving Lake Pedder in southern Tasmania? In view of the present doubt about the future of the Pieman hydro-electricity scheme, would the Federal Government object if some of the money allocated for the Pieman scheme was used to build a diversion channel around Lake Pedder and to save the lake as a tourist revenue earner?
I will respond to this question. I think that there is a general issue involved in it. While I will get the information as to what representations have been made, it is my understanding that normally these representations would be made at the Premier and Prime Minister level. I will get the facts about that matter for the honourable senator. But I would have some reservations as to whether certain grants which were made for a specific purpose could be used for some other purpose in the event of not all of the grant being used for the specific purpose and an overlap occurring. Frankly, in my understanding, that is not the way the system works at all.
I am quite sure that, on reflection, the honourable senator will realise that, in the generality, it could never work that way. If it did, the sheer costing and managing of taxation revenue would be at some risk. I think that the normal procedure is that a project stands on its own right and is represented in ils own right except where a grant is made in the totality of a conference between Premiers and the Prime Minister where certain sums are allocated to cover a total situation. Where grants are made for a speeific purpose, I would be amazed if an arrangement could be made to cut off a part of the allocation, to trim another section of it and to use those funds for another purpose. 1 do not think that the system works in that way.
– My question, which I direct to the Minister for Health, is further to the question asked by Senator Keeffe about the Pharmacy Ordinance of the Australian Capital Territory. When considering the application or the possible amendment of the Territory’s Pharmacy Ordinance, will the Minister bear in mind that the United Nations Conference on Human Rights at Teheran in J 968 passed a resolution which stated that the: . , conference considers that couples have a basic human right to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children and a right to adequate education and information in this: respect . . . and that that resolution was passed, I think, by the affirmative votes of some 80 nations, with no nations dissenting and only one nation, Brazil I think, abstaining, and that Australia voted in favour of the resolution?
– I would not think that the question asked previously about the Australian National University publication was related strictly to the question that the Leader of the Opposition asked. I think it would be fair to separate the 2 because they are in somewhat different categories. As I understand the situation, it is true, as the Leader of the Opposition said, that the World Health Organisation-
– It was the United Nations.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe World Health Organisation is an integral part of the United Nations. In May 1968 the World Health Organisation recognised the importance of family planning to some member nations and in the wider context of general health, lt carried a resolution on the subject, as the honourable senator has pointed out. It is also true that the National Health and Medical Research Council, the Australian body, at its 72nd session in May J971 re-affirmed its recommendation of the 68lh session that family planning facilities should be made readily available. In Australia, with the exception of South Australia, because of State law it is not possible to advertise the sale of contraceptives. In the Australian Capital Territory an ordinance prohibits the advertising for sale of contraceptives. That is the background as I understand it. I would like to finish on this note: I do not think that Senator Murphy’s question should be joined with Senator Keeffe’s question for the purpose of consideration because Senator Keeffe’s question was on a different level altogether. It may well be that I would like to develop and to get certain information on the background of Senator Murphy’s question. If I find that course to be appropriate T will confer with him and perhaps I will give that information to the Senate.
– My question, which is directed to the Attorney-General, concerns the camping of people on public places in the vicinity of Parliament House. I preface it by saying that whilst 1 sympathise completely with the people who are there now and whilst I support many of their views, I do not support their continued presence opposite Parliament House. I do not think it adds to the dignity of Canberra or the Parliament. The question is: Is there a law to prevent this? If not, why not?
– 1 think I should inform the honourable senator that the responsibility politically as to whether action is taken to remove these people or for the existence or otherwise of legislation which would prohibit the activity about which the honourable senator has complained is that of the Minister for the Interior, not the Attorney-General. However, I am able to assure the honourable senator that there is a law which prohibits loitering. Whether that is enforced is a matter for the police force.
– My question is directed to you, Mr President. I refer to a question that I. asked of the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts about Aboriginal land rights. You directed that the question be placed on notice. 1 ask you: What is my position relating to questions without notice? What was your reason for not directing the question to the relevant Minister? Which standing order prevented my directing the question to a Minister?
– 1 will give consideration to that question during the balance of question time or later in the day.
– Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate seen a copy of the latest gallup poll report? Does it indicate that the percentage in favour of the Australian Labor Party is 9 greater than the percentage in favour of the combined Liberal and Country parties? Has the Leader seen a copy of the McKinsley report, commissioned by the Victorian Liberal Party, which indicates that if an election were held now the coalition would lose heavily? Does this indicate that if an election were held now a Labor government would be returned to office?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe answer to the last part of the question is no. I make the comment that 1 have made in the past: Gallup polls or whatever polls they may be blow hot or cold according to the season. There was a famous poll in the United States of America which showed that the only person who thought Mr Truman would win the Presidency was Mr Truman himself. If honourable senators opposite are getting excited about the prospect of being in office, I suggest that they relax because they are a long way from it. They will not be there in my time or in the time of many other people who sit here.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Is it a fact that, in the process of the amalgamation of the metal trades group of unions, ballots in accordance with the current Conciliation and Arbitration Act were substantially carried by those unions with a majority of well over 3 to 1? Is it also a fact that the Federal and State industrial registrars have accepted the validity of the ballots?
– I presume that the honourable senator is referring to the proposed amalgamation of the Amalgamated Engineering Union, the Sheet Metal Workers Union and the Boilermakers and Blacksmiths Union. It is a fact that ballots were conducted by each of those unions. The ballot by the Amalgamated Engineering Union was carried out voluntarily and the other 2 in accordance with the requirements of and the regulations under ‘he Conciliation and Arbitration Act. 1 do not have in front of me the figures as to the results of the ballots, but it is true to say that the percentage of the ballot papers returned represented only a proportion of the total membership and ;hat the majority of the members who voted were in favour of the unions’ request for the cancellation of their registrations, which is the subject upon which the regulations require the ballots to take place. I. have in my office the actual figures, but I cannot give them off hand. However, there was a ballot majority of something like, from memory, twothirds of those voting doing so in favour of the cancellation of the unions.
– I direct a question to the Attorney-General. Will he give an assurance that he will have a deep probe made into allegations by the President of the Australian Automobile Association that some Australian car manufacturers are guilty of governing their new vehicle warranties by imposing extremely harsh condiions?
– I cannot give the absolute, unqualified assurance that the honourable senator would seek because the area of responsibility is not a Commonwealth matter. That is a ma’ter essentially for the State Ministers who have a responsibility in the area of contracts and the obligations of parties who enter into contracts. I understand that it is a matter which has been discussed by the Standing Committee of Commonwealth and State Attorneys-General. I shall endeavour to ensure that, if it is not otherwise raised, it is discussed at the next meeting.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether his attention has been drawn to a statement by the Leader of the Opposition in another place, Mr Whitlam, relating to the endorsed Australian Labor Party candidate for the seat of Hotham, Mr Johnston, who was described by Mr Whitlam as a draft dodger, in the following general terms:
Senator Greenwood has been making public statement’s apparently asking me to find him -
Johnston. Why doesn’t he write to me or see rae about it?
I ask: Firstly, has the Attorney-General made any such public statement? Secondly, regardless of whether he has made any such public statement, will he take up Mr Whitlam’* apparent offer to assist in apprehending a man for whom there is a current warrant of arrest for failure to appear in court to answer a charge?
– 1 have made public statements in which I have called upon the Leader of the Opposition in another place, Mr Whitlam, to indicate where he stands on this issue and I have also implied that he should assist the police in disclosing this man’s whereabouts. I did so on the basis that, as the Leader of the Australian Labor Party, he would know where one of his candidates was. It was some time before Mr Whitlam made any comment al all. In view of what Mr Whitlam has said, I think it is only proper that I should take him up on his offer. I shall write to him asking him whether he will assist the Commonwealth Police to locale this man for whom the police are searching.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation: Has the General Manager of Qantas Airways Ltd recently advised staff members that despite the fact that the company’s staff strength of 12,209 at the end of 1971 was 887 below the budgeted figure ‘it has simply not been good enough’? Did he say also:
This will necessitate some further staff reductions over the next 2 months.
Can the Minister say how many more Qantas employees it is proposed to sack before the present round of retrenchments is completed?
– The letter addressed by the General Manager of Qantas Airways Ltd, Captain Ritchie, to the members of the Qantas staff is quite a long document and I am quite happy to make it available to the honourable senator. I might make one or two general observations before 1 sit down. As I have said before - 1 think all honourable senators understand this - the Minister is not charged with the responsibility of running Qantas Airways Ltd. That is the function of the Board and management. In regard to the matter referred to by the honourable senator, it is my intention to have a talk to the Chairman and the management of the company early next week or late this week. In general what they have been seeking to do in a very difficult time in international aviation is to keep their costs within the bounds of their revenue. It has not been easy for them and I think they have done a particularly good job in the process. I do my best to watch the position carefully, and I will continue to do so. 1 do my best to give help where I can, but I do nol seek to interfere with the daily running of the company.
– ls the AttorneyGeneral aware of the constitutional importance of a decision handed down this day in the High Court of Australia while sitting in Melbourne? 1 refer to the case known as Mead v. Mobray. As this decision may be considered to be one of the most important decisions taken in this decade - it relates to section 92 of the Australian Constitution - will the Minister give consideration to my request that he have a competent statement prepared and made to the Senate on the importance of matters thereby decided?
– J am aware that the decision in this case was given this morning. It was not a case in which the Commonwealth was a party but T shall endeavour to ascertain the full ramifications of that decision and give consider,ation to whether it warrants a statement being made.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Air. In reply to a question which I asked him last week, the Minister, in his capacity as the representative of the Minister for Supply, indicated that one of the reasons why there was no requirement by the Royal Australian Air Force or the Army for the aircraft known as Project N was that the RAAF still had 20 DC3 aircraft in use which the Minister staled by inference were capable of doing the work* which would be carried out by the Project N aircraft if purchased. How old are these DC3 aircraft? Have these aircraft been written off in terms of their depreciation value? ls the Minister completely satisfied that Project N aircraft could not perform better than the aged DC3s now on strength?
– The honourable senator has quoted only part of my answer because 1 referred to Caribou aircraft and to helicopters and said that these aircraft were used in a transport role. ] added that we also had 20 DC3 aircraft at various bases throughout Australia. I am quite sure - I have said this publicly before - that Project N could perform a very vital role in the transport sector, both militarily and commercially, but at the present time the Royal Australian Air Force has not a requirement for this aircraft. This afternoon I have gone on and said that both the Minister for Defence and the Minister for the Army have said that the Department of Defence was investigating the matter to see whether there is a military need as far as the Army is concerned. The latter part of the honourable senator’s question refers to the age of the DC3 aircraft. I cannot say when they were brought into the inventory of the RAAF but I will make inquiries on that aspect.
– My question which is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation follows the question asked by Senator Willesee about the statement of Captain Ritchie on the possible further reduction of the staff of Qantas Airways Ltd. Will the Minister investigate the extent to which redundant Qantas staff might be employed in the domestic airlines or related Commonwealth services in order to retain these skilled personnel in the airlines industry?
– I would be doing that anyway, but I certainly assure the honourable senator that I will be doing all I can to attend to that matter.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer, although it could be addressed to him in his capacity as Minister representing the Prime Minister, ls the Minister aware of a document prepared by a Mr Marc Acheson, who was a top executive with a merchant bank, which discloses that the asse s of various overseas banks represented in Australia total more than S500,000m, which he says is 80 times the size of the total assets of the local banking system and about 5 times the cumulative Australian gross national expenditure in the last 4 years? Will the Minister, as a matter of urgency, take steps to ascertain the accuracy of Mr Acheson s report and inform the Parliament of his findings?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONIf the honourable senator will put the question on notice I shall refer it to the Prime Minister’s Department. The honourable senator mentioned assets. I would not know what implications assets would have in the scheme of things. If the question is put on no ice 1 shall get an answer for the honourable senator.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry expedite a reply to question 1764 which has been standing in my name on the no ice paper since 7th December? This question seeks information on the importation of electrical goods from Italy. Senator COTTON- Yes, I will.
– I address a question to the Minister represen ing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. In view of the apparent participation of William Burchett in lead up work for the visit to China of President Nixon, docs the Minister have any knowledge of United States suggestions to the Australian Government that it should review Burchett’s lapsed Australian passport?
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is no.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Air. Is it a fact that there is a demarcation dispute between the Department of the Army and the Department of Air in relation not only to the purchase of aircraft for use by the Army but also as to who would fly the aircraft? If so, can this demarcation dispute be resolved by the election of a Labor Government which would amalgamate all 3 branches of the defence forces into one efficient department?
– The answer, right across the board, is no.
– Earlier this after noon Senator O’Byrne asked me my reasons for putting on notice a question which he had directed to the AttorneyGeneral. 1 reply to him that it has been the practice of the President - a practice which always has been implemented - to determine whether a question asked without notice should go on notice to the relevant Minister. That matter is within the discretion of the President. Since I was elected as President of the Senate I have made it a practice that direct questions requiring considerable statistical evidence and questions on policy matters addressed to a Minister who is only representing a Minister who sits in another place should go on notice.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is it a fact that the Concorde in flight will spread a sonic boom up to 6 miles wide on the ground along the whole of its flight path? Is it a fact also that such sonic booms can cause an abortion in women who are pregnant?
– This sounds like some of the typical folklore that is being generated about the Concorde. I might mention one thing that bears on this subject. These matters were discussed when I was overseas last year in connection with the International Civil Aviation Organisation. The French are taking part in the manufacturing programme of the Concorde. When we asked the French people for their views on some of these problems they said: ‘Look, the Concorde has been flown backwards and forwards over Paris on trial flights on quite a number of occasions’. There is no evidence of sonic boom, or of ladies having trouble with their pregnancies or anything of that character. I will put the question on notice if the honourable senator does not mind and will make further inquiries, but I doubt very much whether there is any validity in the comment.
(Question No. 1348)
asked the Minister for
Health, upon notice:
Have plans for the formation of a national health insurance commission been abandoned, in view of a statement by the Minister on 8th September 1971 in which he intimated that the Government was reconsidering its promise to establish the commission.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The Government does not intend to implement the recommendation of the Nimmo Committee that a national health insurance commission be established.
(Question No. 1652)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1783)
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
– On 22nd February Senator Wriedt asked me a question relating to allegations of mistreatment of a Launceston Royal Australian Air Force trainee. I now have the following reply to Senator Wriedt’s question:
Allegations were made last month of improper treatment of aRAAF apprentice, James Peter Jacob, at RAAF ‘Laverton’, during his period of service in the RAAF from 4th January 1972 to 10th January 1972. As a result of these allegations
I directed that a RAAF court of inquiry be set up and this was convened on 12th January 1972 to investigate and report on the allegations. In particular the court was required to investigate allegations that Apprentice Jacob was subject to improper treatment in the apprentice living-in quarters at Royal Australian Air Force Base Laverton’ on Sunday, 9th January 1972, and to inquire whether Air Force procedures in relation to Apprentice Jacob were inadequately or improperly followed and whether any circumstances indicated that he was not treated in accordance with Air Force Orders and acceptable Air Force procedures.
I should perhaps at the outset emphasise that the RAAF docs not and will not tolerate any physically violent, degrading or bullying behaviour towards any of its members, especially its junior members, and there are strict instructions forbidding personnel to lake part in initiation ceremonies. The court of inquiry has taken evidence on oath from officers, NCO’s and airmen at the RAAF School of Radio, from ex-apprentice Jacob and his father, and from officers at RAAF Laverton’ and Headquarters Support Command, and the court’s reports and findings are now to hand, including a covering report and comments by the Air Offices Commanding, RAAF Support Command.
In relation to its inquiry, the court has established that Apprentice Jacob was subjected to the following:
The court ascertained that the majority of first year apprentices were required to participate in these events or incidents, and that whilst some apprentices did indicate mild resentment at their participation in the above events, the larger majority considered them to be horseplay or good fun. I should inform the Senate that Apprentice Jacob first reported for duty to the RAAF at Laverton’ on 4th January 1972 to commence his training as a member of No. 26 Radio Apprentice Course. The day after he arrived he informed RAAF Radio School authorities that he had made a mistake in joining the RAAF and wished to be discharged. Whilst arrangements were under way to effect his discharge from the RAAF, which took place on the 10th January 1972, the events whichI have referred to earlier took place on the 9th January 1972.
During the course of the inquiry the court became aware of reports of improper incidents and procedures concerning other apprentices at RAAF School of Radio. As a result the terms of reference of the court were extended to investigate these reports. As a result of these further inquiries the Air Officer Commanding Support Command has advised me that certain initiation practices were imposed on first year apprentices by second year apprentices at RAAF School of Radio despite specific orders to the contrary and that disciplinary action is to be taken against a number of leading apprentices.
The Air Board has expressed its concern to me on the position and has assured me that existing orders and instructions which prohibit initiation ceremonies or happenings of this nature will be repromulgated and that it will be re-emphasised in the strongest terms to all concerned that these practices will not be tolerated. The Board has also assured me that apart from these incidents at the RAAF School of Radio, there is nothing to suggest that such practices are in operation at other RAAF training units.
I have accepted these assurances of the Air Board and whilst one cannot be sure that isolated instances will not arise in the future, I can assure the Senate that the matter will be closely watched and that firm disciplinary action will be taken should it be necessary in the future.
On 23rd February 1972 Senator Poke asked me a question concerning the waiting periods for subsidised health benefits plan eligibility. I now provide the following reply:
In relation to health insurance generally, the principle of serving waiting periods before benefits are payable is applied to contributors when they first join a medical or hospital fund. These waiting periods are designed to ensure that persons retain continuity of membership and are so protected against medical and hospital expenses on a continuing basis. The normal waiting period is 2 months, but this is qualified to the extent that:
A waiting period of 9 months is usually applied to the payment of benefits for obstetrics; and,
No waiting period is applied for claims arising from accidents.
These general rules have been modified in some respects, insofar as the subsidised health benefits plan is concerned. The modifications are as follows:
A reduced waiting period of only 2 weeks is applied lo previously uninsured unemployed, sickness and special beneficiaries - other than for accident claims, where no waiting period applies - and,
No waiting period is applied to low income families who are eligible for subsidised health insurance by virtue of the fact that their gro«s weekly income is J46.50 or less.
(Question No. 1554)
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
(Question No. 1626)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
For example, the Australian Council for the Arts assists the arts at a local level, including festivals, theatre, music and special projects, which are sometimes associated in their production with local galleries and community cultural centres.
Assistance is also available through income tax deductions which are allowable in respect of gifts of $2 and upwards (of money or of property which was purchased by the taxpayer within 12 months immediately preceding the making of the gift) to a public art gallery. Exemption from sales tax is available for all works of art produced in Australia or produced abroad by Australian artists, for certain works of art of New Zealand origin and for other works of art imported from abroad if for exhibition in a public museum or art gallery and for continuous public exhibition elsewhere free of charge. Gifts and bequests to public art galleries are exempt from gift and estate duties.
(Question No. 1661)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
Was an advisory committee on the teaching of Asian languages and cultures established by the Government in 1969 to survey the teaching of
Asian languages and other aspects of Asian institutions, including consideration of the factors that have tended to restrict the study of those subjects; if so,
who are the members of the Committee,
on how many occasions has the Committee met. and
has the survey, been completed; if so what were its findings; if not, when is the report expected to be completed?
– The Minister for Education and Science has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
The Advisory Committee on the Teaching of Asian Language and Cultures was established by the Commonwealth Government with the agreement of the Stale Ministers for Education, in March 1969, for the purpose outlined by the honourable senator.
The members of the Advisory Committee were:
Professor J. J. Auchmuty, ViceChancellor and Principal, University of Newcastle (Chairman); Mr A. P. Anderson, Assistant Secretary, Commonwealth Department of Education and Science; Mr E. ft. Horwood, Honorary Organising Secretary, Australian Federation of Modern Language Teachers” Associations; Professor A. H. Johns, Professor of Indonesian Languages and Literatures, Australian National University; Mr W. N. Oats, Headmaster, The Friends’ School, Hobart: Mr A. W. Jones, DirectorGeneral of Education of South Australia: Mr T. W. Payne, Deputy Director of Secondary Education, New South Wales Department of Education: Mr G. Semple, President, Queensland Teachers Union; and Mr F. R. G. Strickland, Managing Director, H. Halford Ply Ltd, Melbourne.
The Committee as a whole met 7 times,
Yes: the Committee’s findings were contained in its Report which was tabled in Parliament by, my predecessor on 31st March 1971.
(Question No. 1732)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment. Aborigines and the Arts, upon notice:
Will the Minister urgently consider the implementation ofthe recommendation in the Joint Committee on Publications First Special Report relating to the need to replace inadequate printing machinery at the Government Printing Office in order to cope with the demands of producing Hansard, etc.
– The Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Committee’s recommendation is being examined. I hope that examination will be completed in the near future.
(Question No. 1737)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: (1), (2) and (3) As the Minister for Defence stated in the House of Representatives on 7th December 1971 it is expected that it will be possible to bring forward a White Paper on defence this session and this would discuss, amongst other things, requirements of the Royal Australian Navy. In this regard also 1 would refer the honourable senator to the statement made by the Prime Minister on 27th January 1972 about the Government’s consideration of the replacement of Royal Australian Navy destroyers.
(Question No. 174)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
– The Minister for Immigration has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
There is no evidence to suggest that the impression was being created by the sales promotion that the purchase of land in Australia will assist Asians to obtain residence visas. The firm is fully aware of the true position and assured the Australian Ambassador, Bangkok, that at no time had it suggested to any potential land purchaser that land ownership in Australia would confer right of entry to Australia. The firm said that it had no Asians on its books and that its clientele consisted mainly of Americans and Europeans.
(Question No. 1745)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
Will the Treasurer ensure that in drafting legislation to control the operation of insurance companies, provisions are inserted to deal with those firms which attracted unfavourable comment in the Commonwealth Insurance Commissioners’ latest report, that is, unregistered firms currently selling contracts resembling life insurance policies in Sydney and Perth.
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
This matter is being given consideration in the preparation of the proposed legislation to control the activities of general (non-life) insurance companies.
In addition all persons arriving from overseas must declare to the customs officer whether they have resided on or visited a farm or been in contact with farm animals or visited any abattoir or meat packing establishment.If contacts have been made in this way in a foot and mouth disease country any soiled footwear or soiled working clothes are suitably treated. All persons entering Australia are checked out in this way. Thereare no exemptions.
– I ask for leave to make a brief statement concerning notice of motion No. 1 standing in my name under Business of the Senate for 9th March 1972.
– Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– When this notice was given on 10th December 1971 1 informed the Senate that the Regulations and Ordinances Committee was concerned about certain aspects of this Ordinance and required time to pursue its inquiries. Following discussions between the Committee and departmental officers, the Minister for the Interior in another place (Mr Hunt) gave an assurance to the Committee that the Ordinance would be amended in such a way as to overcome the Committee’s objection to it. Accordingly I withdraw notice of motion No. 1 standing in my name under Business of the Senate for 9th March 1972.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969. I present the reports relating to the following proposed works:
– I ask for leave to make a statement in connection with the Public Works Committee’s report on the central hospital services complex.
– Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– When the Committee’s report is perused it will be noted that I disagreed with the report on the grounds that 1 was not of the opinion that the economics of a central sterilising complex - J am referring in no way to the laundry aspect of the matter - had been made out by the Committee. I invite the notice of the Senate to the evidence at page 268 where it is stated that if the central sterilising complex is withdrawn from the central services complex there will be a saving of $1m.
– When you refer to its being withdrawn, do you mean that it will be abandoned as a proposition?
– It is a central services complex which includes laundry and all other matters which require sterilisation in addition to instrument sterilisation.
– What do you mean by withdrawn’? Do you mean that it will be abandoned?
– Not proceeded with. The cost of the central services complex would be reduced by $lm but. to put into each hospital facilities for sterilising instruments only would cost approximately $120,000. The project at present envisages 4 hospitals, namely, the Canberra Hospital, the first stage of the Woden Hospital, the Belconnen Hospital and Calvary Hospital. The evidence with respect to that will be found on page 269. The proposal means that there would be an additional expenditure of $120,000 at each hospital. At present it is proposed to spend $40,000 for a small sterilising facility when instruments may have to be sterilised in an emergency for example, if one were dropped in the operating theatre - so the total for sterilising at each of the hospitals would be $160,000. 1 remind the Senate that, according to the evidence, we are committed to an expenditure of $lm if we establish the sterilising complex at the central point in Crace. The evidence with regard to the additional expenditure of $40,000 is on page 271. In addition to this, according to the evidence on page 272 the size of the central sterilising complex will have to be. increased when the Belconnen Hospital is built but there is no estimate of what the additional expenditure involved in the extensions may be.
The report of the evidence reveals that a question was asked relating to the cost of operating the central sterilising complex, and the amounts shown on page 273 are very vague. It is revealed that, plus or minus 20 per cent, it would cost $50,000 per annum to operate each decentralised sterilising department. If the middle amount of $50,000 is accepted, this means that it would cost $200,000 a year for the 4 hospitals, but you have to take into consideration the lower cost ofthe installation of the sterilising facility at each hospital, the additional cost when the Belconnen Hospital is built and so on.
– That means, does it, that the capital cost will be $640,000 for the 4 hospitals plus an annual operating cost of $40,000 for each?
– There are still annual operating costs at the central sterilising complex. On the cost of additional instruments - this is a very important aspect - if the central sterilising complex is set up as at present envisaged and if there is one distribution of instruments per day, as is envisaged, it means that there will have to be an abnormal duplication of instruments. lt is estimated, as recorded at page 285 of the transcript of evidence, that the cost of additional instruments required for each hospital if a central sterilising complex is proceeded with will be $200,000 for each hospital. That is for duplication of instruments, not wear and tear, maintenance, instrument breakages or anything of that nature.
– That is $800,000, plus $640,000, plus-
– 1 have a million dollars up my sleeve on capital expenditure. If the Woden Hospital had its own instrument sterilising service the base figure for instruments would be roughly $63,000. That is recorded at page 290 of the transcript of evidence. In order to be fair to those who supported the recommendation put before the Committee, I will refer to evidence given by Dr Wells as recorded at page 292 of the transcript of evidence. He said:
However thai does not take account of the operating expenditures and 1 was told by Mr Tozer today that there are 33 staff employed in the Canberra sterile supply department at the present moment, which works out al about one for every 22 beds. But the figures projected for Crace would be 50 serving a full t,500 beds which works om at one to 30. We would be gelting the savings in a scale that Mr Parker mentioned.
But already we have gone down the drain to the tunc of almost $2m of the saving on capital expenditure at the central complex at Crace because of the duplication of instruments at 4 hospitals. lt has not yet been shown that the economies of scale would be one in 30 as compared with one in 22 at the present time.
I invite the attention of the Senate to the fact that, according to evidence given to the Committee, there are only 2 central hospital services complexes in the world today, and they are both in Scotland. We are aware that the British Government is in dire straits wilh the expenses of its health scheme, as is the United States Administration. I would have expected that, if central hospital services complexes were of very great economy, they certainly would have been adopted in England, where health costs are so acute and where they would have been able to be put under very close study in comparison with the 2 central services complexes operating !n Scotland. This is the reason why 1 disagreed with the other members of the Committee
– What is the report on their operation in Scotland? Are they efficient and economical?
– No evidence was given as to whether the 2 central complexes that are operating at the present time are operating economically. I am not one to belittle public servants, and I would have thought that if those complexes had not been operating economically the officers of the Department of Health in Canberra would not have given the Committee evidence in favour of them. But I invite the attention of the Senate to the fact that, despite the high cost of health services in England and the operation of 2 central services complexes in Scotland, which is right alongside England and also part of the United Kingdom, the United Kingdom Government has not adopted them in England. I am not criical of improvements and progress - I believe that we should be all for them - but I suggest that before this proposal is proceeded with in a small place such as Canberra there should be a closer examination of the economics of a central sterilising complex. I emphasise that it is the central sterilising complex about which I am complaining.
PLACING Of BUSINESS
(4.32) - J wish, by way of explanation, to detail what is proposed. I formally move:
That intervening business be postponed until after the consideration of Government Business, Orders of the Day Nos 2 and 4.
Order of the Day No. I has been postponed because the Opposition is not ready to go on with it. The Opposition has not had an opportunity to refer it to its Caucus. That is a fair enough reason for postponing if. Order of the Day No. 3 is one with which we dealt last week and on which, I believe, we have had a fair amount of debate. So, I suggest that we rearrange the order of business accordingly. After we have disposed of Orders of the Day Nos 2 and 4, we will automatically go down the notices of motion. The first no’.ice of motion is in the name of Senator Willesee.
– These are the notices of motion under Business of the Senate, are they?
Yes. We will deal with the notices of motion under Business of the Senate in the order in which they are on the notice paper. 1 do not expect Orders of the Day Nos 2 and 4 to take a great amount of time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave - I make the following statement on behalf of the Treasurer (Mr Snedden), who made it in the other place last Thursday. Where a first person pronoun is used, it refers to him.
I take this opportunity, following the resumption of the Parliament, to inform honourable members at first hand about the current and prospective state of the economy, and about the policy actions taken by the Government since we last met here in December. In this statement I shall spell out what the Government’s economic policy objectives are and have been; what they will continue to be in the future: the measures which the Government has taken in pursuit of them; and the flexibility and adequacy of those measures in the light of those objectives. In doing so I hope to provide, in particular, evidence of the strength of the economy and its potential for continued growth.
By way of introduction to these themes, it may however be useful if I first say something about the present position and prospects of the economy as we see them. Al the Premiers Conference last week the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) outlined our latest assessment of the economic situation and the prospects over the months ahead. This assessment was the result of a very detailed and thorough examination of the economy which we had been undertaking since about mid-January. But I want to stress that, although this was a particularly detailed examination, it was nol an isolated one. On the contrary, as at the time of the Budget we undertook to do, we have maintained a virtually continuing review of the economy m recent months. The policy actions which have been taken from November onwards have been the measured outcome of this continuing review.
There is no doubt that the strains which were affecting the economy a year or so ago have been dispelled. Their removal does not mean, however, that the underlying strength or growth potential of the economy has been impaired. On the contrary, its potential for strong and balanced growth has been enhanced. Some however have claimed - I would not say argued - that this otherwise desirable development has been achieved at the expense of bringing on a recession. A good many gloomy statements have been heard to thai effect. lt is important to be clear, therefore, that our review showed that the economy is far from being in a recessionary state. There are indeed some flat spots in the economy, of which the most notable and important is in the area of consumer spending. But demand and output overall have continued to grow at a moderate rate during recent months. Even in the absence of the policy actions which we have taken this month, they were expected to grow further. Such a situation is not, of course, what is wanted by those who enjoyed the over-buoyant conditions of a year or so ago but it is steady growth. On the basis of estimates made at the lime of our review, gross national product in real terms was expected to increase by about 4 per cent in 1971-72 - that is. in the absence of any further action on our part.
Undoubtedly, the predominant moderating influence on the growth of total demand has been the trend in consumer spending which, despite the strong growth in personal disposable incomes, has remained subdued. Our experience in this field during 1971 has. indeed, been rather remarkable. Although personal disposable incomes have been growing very fast in money terms throughout the period, there has as yet been little sign of any pick-up in the rate of growth of real consumer spending. As consumer prices have accelerated markedly over the period, the rate of growth of personal consumption expenditure in real terms has slowed. Perhaps one corollary of that could be that if wo could enjoy a greater measure of success in arresting the rate of rise of costs and hence prices, the rate of growth of real consumption might increase somewhat faster than it has of late. But whether that be so or not, it is clear that there was room here for some judicious addition, directly or indirectly, to demand and that is, of course, what we have done.
In the field of private investment, however, dwelling construction turned upwards in the first half of 1971-72 and recent trends both in commencements and approvals, and particularly the recent record level of finance approvals, indicate a maintenance of this upward trend. Nondwelling investment has shown signs of levelling out - on the basis of preliminary and seasonally adjusted figures there was some decline in this area in the December quarter - and we are of course aware in that connection of the deferment of some major construction plans in the area of minerals development. It is however important to remember that this change is occurring from the basis of the extremely high growth rates of recent years. Given those growth rates - particularly in private non-residential building and construction and in the mining sector - this was only to bc expected.
The external sector of the economy remains very strong. In the 6 months to December 1971 exports exceeded imports by $272m, compared with an excess of $!67m in the corresponding period of 1970. There should be a substantial increase in the net addition to overall demand in the economy during 1971-72 from the excess of exports over imports. Public authority spending, of which I shall have more to say later, has been strong. Monetary conditions are currently very easy. The volume of money, including bank deposits, has been growing fast and bank and private sector liquidity generally is currently at a high level. Trading bank lending has increased strongly over recent months. This suggests that our expansive policy on bank lending, first initiated last October and then carried further in December, is becoming effective. In the 3 months to mid-January new overdraft approvals averaged a weekly rate of about $43m compared with $35m in the preceding 3 months. Actual advances outstanding have also been rising strongly. The costs of finance have also been reduced in the economy. The Government has shown that it firmly intends that financial conditions will not be a restraining influence on the economy over coming months. On the side of production, a strong performance is continuing in most areas of manufacturing. In the December quarter, 24 of the 33 items for which figures are available recorded increases in output compared with the corresponding period of 1970. Of these increases 11, including all the consumer durable items, were of more than 10 per cent. There was also strong growth in the production of gas, plastics and synthetic resins, electricity, bricks and cement, confectionery and beer. The chief area of weakness has been in iron and steel, where production has been affected by a sharp run-down in orders as users adjusted their stock positions. According to the most recent information, this decline in orders has now largely ceased.
I want here to make special mention of the prospects for rural industries. These are now more encouraging than they have been for a long time. In broad terms, 1971-72 is expected to see an increase of between 4 per cent and 5 per cent in the volume of rural production over the 1970- 71 level. The gross value of rural production is estimated to increase by some 6 per cent with a probable rise of 5 per cent in total farm costs. Farm income is estimated by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics at approximately $ 1,000m, an increase of II per cent over 1970-71. Within this total picture of the rural sector, a particularly welcome recent development is the improvement in the wool market. While markets by their nature are uncertain, it does appear that there may have been a genuine reversal of the downward trend which has afflicted the wool market for some time. More generally, however, there are encouraging signs across the broad spectrum of rural industries. Meat production, for example, has expanded rapidly and there has been a concurrent expansion in exports. Of particular significance here is the prospect of larger quotas for beef and mutton in the United States. Sugar production is at record levels and favourable world free market prices seem in prospect at least until the current international sugar agreement expires in 1973. Wheat, although it cannot be expected to maintain the record sales levels of 1970- 71, is expected to have another good year.
Production, and hence deliveries, was below the quota set for 1971-72, largely because of adverse weather conditions, but carryover stocks for 1973 are likely to be at their lowest level for a number of years. The international dairy products marketing situation has continued on a very firm note with record export prices prevailing. The Government is, naturally, extremely pleased about these improved prospects for many of our rural industries. I must however emphasise that we remain as determined as ever to meet the underlying longterm needs for structural change in this sector of the economy.
Our recent review of the economy included a review of the situation in the labour market, about which so much has been said recently. Unemployment has concerned me personally and the Government very much. This concern was of course, reflected in the decisions we reached and which were announced by the Prime. Minister at the Premiers Conference. Nevertheless in this context I should put it factually. After a marked rise in August and September, the seasonally adjusted level of unemployment at the end of January had risen only 0.08 per cent above the end-September level. That is to say, during the past 4 months the level has inched upwards by only 0.02 per cent per month on average. The fact is that the present unemployment position is little different from the longer-term pattern. Unemployment, whether measured over a 10-year or a 15-year period, has averaged about 1.4 per cent of the work-force, which compares with the present seasonally adjusted level of 1.61 per cent. In passing, 1 note that it is proper to compare any seasonally adjusted monthly figure with an average over a year of a number of years, since such averaging by definition resolves the question of seasonality. If allowance is made for the fact that an important part of the unemployment situation today is the result of the difficult situation which has confronted some of our rural industries, the difference from the long term norm is even smaller.
The fullness of these facts has not been picked up by some observers. But the facts are as I have stated them; and those facts make nonsense of some irresponsible predictions I have seen reported. For example, one earlier this month was to the effect that another 50,000 people could be out of work within 2 or 3 months. We are not going to have 170,000 registered unemployed by April. In saying this, I must put aside the possibility of some temporary aberration wrought by some major industrial stoppage such as wc have seen recently in Victoria. On the contrary, possibilities of that kind apart, I expect in February a considerable reduction in the absolute number of registered unemployed. [ also expect the downward trend in numbers to continue in the months that follow. Whatever may be said about the unemployment situation, however, one thing clearly stand out. Whereas the unemployment situation is, as I have said, broadly in line wilh the long term norm, by contrast the rate of increase in prices now is very much further away from what has been the long term experience. This is undoubtedly the most difficult problem currently facing the Australian economy. Over the space of 12 years or so we have moved from a position in which prices were increasing at about their average long term rate - around 21 per cent - to one in which the underlying trend seems to be about 13 times as steep. Whereas our rate of price inflation was, 2 years ago, quite favourable compared with most other developed economies, we are now doing worse than average. Mr Deputy President, ask for leave of the Senate for the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman) to continue the presentation of this ministerial statement.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- ls leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted.
– This is a development warranting the most serious concern. I have already spelled out publicly on a number of occasions - and do not repeat here - the economic and social consequences, both in the short term and in the long term, which a continuation of the present trend in prices would bring in its train. 1 do repeat, however, that while there are other factors also operating, it is incontrovertible that the mainspring of our present inflationary problem is the continuing excessive rise in wage and salary costs.
From what I have said, it will be apparent that the detailed review of the economy indicated that the economy was likely to continue growing steadily in the months ahead. Nonetheless, after careful consideration the Government recognised (hut there was now scope for some moderate improvement in that performance. In particular, wc took the view that, while the trend in unemployment had pretty well flattened out over recent months, scope existed for some further stimulus to the level of activity designed to make doubly sure of our objective of maintaining a high level of employment. It was with these considerations in mind that the Government took the significant policy actions announced this month - actions which complemented the other measures taken in the months preceding.
It is not, of course, sufficient merely to state objectives. The test must bc in terms of action taken. The actions which we have taken to ensure that our objectives are achieved are there for all to see. Those actions have provided the clearest possible evidence of the Government’s flexibility in responding to emerging economic trends. In taking them we have provided a measured response to changing circumstances in a dynamic, flexible, continually moving economy and one which, during the period in question, has been more than usually subject to uncertainty. Lest there be any doubt upon that aspect, let me recall the measures which the Government has taken over recent months. These measures have been carefully weighed and pondered. They will, we arc convinced, guard against any possibility that growth in the economy might slacken over the coming months, with consequent adverse effects on the demand for labour. But they are, at the same time, measures which will not so propel the economy that we would jeopardise such hard-won success as we have so far had in reducing the inflationary pressures. As the Prime Minister has recently said, in this respect we have a norrow path to tread, but we must tread it.
Overall, the decisions announced by the Prime Minister at the Premiers Conference, together with other fiscal action taken since the Budget, is estimated to add about $l22m to Commonwealth Budget outlays in the current financial year. These measures have been on various fronts. They have been directed not only at the general objective of maintaining the momentum of growth but also at certain particular problems within the total framework of the economy. Grants to ameliorate rural unemployment are an important example of this latter kind of measure. Again, the Government proposes that unemployment and associated benefits will be increased substantially. These rates had not been adjusted since 1969 and, for that and other reasons, there is no doubt that the increases now proposed are both desirable and justified. 1 refer next to our decision to restore the special investment allowance on manufacturing plant and equipment. Although the major determinant of investment expenditure is the expected growth of demand relative to existing capacity, we have had it put to us strongly from many quarters that the restoration of the allowance would be most effective in boosting confidence and stimulating activity. We have accepted that view. Certainly, the decision to restore the allowance has elicited widespread expressions of support.
In December the Government, as I mentioned earlier, introduced a scheme of grants to the States for employment-creating activities in non-metropolitan areas, lt was an important step, designed to attack directly the severe and largely structural unemployment problem in these areas arising in major part out of the longer-term difficulties facing some of our rural industries. While the scheme has already made an important contribution towards alleviating this structural problem of rural unemployment, the evidence already available indicates that more could be done in this field. In particular, several of the State Premiers pointed out to us that they could quickly and effectively allocate larger amounts under this scheme to urgent and useful works. We therefore agreed with the Premiers that the monthly rate of these grants be increased from $2. 25m to $4. 5m as from the beginning of February. In terms of annual rates this means that, pending the review of the scheme which was in any case scheduled for June, expenditure on the scheme will for the coming months bc at the rale of $54m per annum. One particularly serious effect of the rapid rise in State governmental wage costs which occurred in 1970-71 was that State loan funds had to bc used for current budgetary purposes and, for that reason as well as because of the rising costs themselves, a number of important State works had to be deferred. In 1971-72 also, total public authority capital expenditure is growing more slowly in constant price terms than public expenditure overall.
With these facts in mind the Government proposed to the Premiers last week some increase in the State works and housing programmes and the semi-government borrowing programmes. After detailed discussion, it was agreed to increase the works and housing programmes by S32m, including an increase of $9.3m in the interest-free capital grant component, and to increase the semi-government borrowing programmes by SI Om. The Premiers have given us their assurance that these additional funds will, as far as possible, be utilised quickly to provide increased employment on worthwhile public works projects, of which, of course, there is no lack, particularly in the urban areas.
In addition to these various measures, which should have a relatively quick and direct impact on economic activity and employment, it was also agreed that additional revenue grants of $15m will be provided to the States in 1971-72, and that a special advance of $ 17.5m will be made to New South Wales on 30 June this year in recognition of its particular Budget difficulties. Although the budgetary positions of the States vary from case to case, these amounts will assist them all, either in undertaking additional expenditure or, in the case of those experiencing budgetary difficulties, in allowing them to carry on without the need for additional restrictive measures.
Economic policy actions have not been limited to the fiscal front. Let me recall the important monetary policy measures which have been taken over the last few months. The casing of monetary policy started in fact as long ago as last October. In that month the Reserve Bank, after due consultation with the Prime Minister and myself, informed the trading banks that there would be no objection to some increase in their lending. This was the first step towards the removal of the relatively firm restraints which had been placed on bank lending - both by Reserve Bank requests and by liquidity constraints - for quite a significant period.
Although in the following months bank liquidity was increasing strongly, we recognised that some banks, for a number of reasons, regarded their liquidity prospects as uncertain. We thought it necessary, therefore, to allay any concern that banks might have in this regard. A large release - involving about $132m - from major trading banks’ statutory reserve deposits was effected in December. This reduction in the statutory reserve deposits ratio, from 8.9 per cent to 7.1 per cent, was accompanied by advice to the banks that it would now be appropriate for all existing restraints on bank lending to be removed, lt allowed not only the replenishment of banks’ term loan funds and farm development loan funds, but also provided additional funds for an increase in general lending.
In taking this step we also had in mind another important objective, namely our desire to allow the banks to play their full part in financing the private sector. This objective was also relevant to the precise application of the decisions taken earlier this month to reduce the level of trading bank interest rates. The reduction of onehalf per cent in most bank lending rates and the commensurate reductions in bank deposit rates were, of course, effected principally with our broader short term monetary policy objectives in mind. The opportunity was taken, however to modify somewhat the existing bank interest rate arrangements with the longer term objective of providing banks with a greater degree of competitive flexibility in their operations. The easing of monetary policy has not been restricted to the banking sector. It has also been reflected in the Government securities market and particularly in the very significant reductions which have been effected in yields on Government securities since last September. Since the September loan, bond yields at the shorter end have been reduced by about 1.2 per cent and the long term bond rate by 1 per cent. In the February loan which has just closed, the long term bond rate was brought down by 0.7 per cent compared with the comparable rate offered last November.
The position is that interest rates on short and medium term Government securities are now significantly lower than the rates which prevailed prior to the sharp increases in rates in the April-May period of 1970. The long term rate has returned to the level operating at that time. The commensurate reductions in yields on treasury notes mean that these yields are now at their lowest level since May 1969. There is. in other words, no more sign of rigidity in the Government’s policy in this field than in others. The reductions in yields on Government securities were intended to have - and they are having - effects on private interest rates, and thereby upon the costs of finance to the private sector. Over and above that, also, we have had in mind the effects the bond yield reductions would have in ensuring that financial conditions were not a restraining factor on the economy in the ‘later months of the financial year, the period when there is normally a seasonal contraction of liquidity.
The effects of these measures are already being reflected in financial markets. Monetary conditions are currently very easy. The private sector and the banks are in a very liquid position. Private interest ra:es have a,Iso fallen with the reductions in official interest rates, and they can be expected to fall further in coming months. In short, financial conditions are very conducive to increased activity in the economy, both on the consumer side and the investment side. This has been our aim. The monetary policy measures which have been taken over recent months add up in themselves to a significant package which is having, and will continue to have important direct and indirect effects on the economy.
Having thus recalled all these measures in some detail, F believe f can go on to say that public reaction to them has been very favourable. At last week’s Premiers Conference, all Premiers joined in congratulating the Government for its realistic and decisive action. This very pleasing unanimity, which is now a matter of record, reflected 1 believe the feeling of all present that the time had come to put an end to the air of pessimism with which, over previous weeks, we had become all too familiar. Industrial and business leaders have also warmly welcomed the Government’s measures. Indeed, I believe there has been general agreement In the community that these measures will strengthen business confidence and provide a stimulus to economic activity generally. Judging by its performance today, even the Opposition has found it hard to be critical - at any rate in any constructive fashion.
Most of what I have said so far has been in relation to our growth and employment objectives. It must also be made plain, however, that the Government cannot, and will not, down tools in the pursuit of its other major objective, which is the checking of inflation. The Government has, of course, implemented a wide range of policies to that end. It must be clearly recognised that these policies have nol as yet met with more than limited success. We cannot close our eyes to that unpleasant fact, for fact it is. This does not mean, however, that we should give up the battle. On the contrary, we realise fully that once the inflationary enemy has become entrenched, the battle is bound to be long-drawn out. I think it is important, therefore, to outline what the Government’s policies have been in regard to inflation. 1 referred earlier to the steps aimed at rectifying the strained conditions of the economy of 12 and 18 months ago. Action was necessary to ensure that pressures, including those arising from the ultra-tight conditions in the labour market which prevailed throughout 1970 and into 1971, were eased. This needs to be done, because it is common ground to all those who approach these questions thoughtfully that while conditions of that kind exist, efforts to control inflation will not succeed. There is nothing surprising about that. For such conditions are conducive to the exercise of unbridled industrial strength by powerful union groups; to the rapid passing on of cost increases - and sometimes more - in higher prices; to bottlenecks and delivery delays and all the other signs which, each in its small way, points to a falling away of overall standards of efficiency and real productivity.
The Commonwealth’s direct powers in the control of wages are, of course, limited. But we are doing what we can, as a government, to oppose excessive wage claims wherever the opportunity arises. In recent months the Commonwealth has intervened in major cases before the Arbitration Commission for the purpose of ensuring that the public interest is given full weight in the decisions the Commission hands down. We shall be doing so again in the national wage case which has got under way again this week. I will say no more about that case while the hearing proceeds.
I emphasise that these actions are being taken within the framework of our arbitral machinery. That machinery, of course, must be subject to overhaul from time to time, and I. therefore mention in that connection the review of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act which has been in hand now for some time. This has. as one of its aims, a more efficient and relevant system of wage determination in the context of the modern Australian economy.
But, of course, wage restraint is not the whole answer. The Government has never stated that it was. We have also been seeking, as a matter of some urgency, to find ways of strengthening competition within the economy, to ensure that pricing decisions are made in a more competitive atmosphere. One major step towards this objective is the broad review of the tariff which is under way. Tn regard to internal competitive forces we introduced some time ago legislation prohibiting the practice of resale price maintenance. In the light of subsequent experience with that legislation we expect to bring forward in the current parliamentary session more effective legislation in the area of restrictive trade practices.
These, and other measures such as those directed at increasing productivity in the economy, are longer term in character. But they are essential elements in any policy aimed at inflation which is to have any hope of lasting success. What they also demonstrate is that the Government has taken a broad approach in its policies against inflation. But broad though I believe our approach has been, it cannot be gainsaid that we have placed particular emphasis upon resisting, to the extent of our powers to do so, excessive rises in wage and salary rates. We have done so for a good reason. For, however unpalatable the point may be in the eyes of some, it is perfectly clear that excessively rising wage and salary rates are the major, though certainly not the sole, influence behind the over-rapid rate of increase in prices. From that it follows that, from any practical viewpoints, attention has had to be focused on rising wages if there is to be any real prospect of dealing with inflation.
Against that background, the Commonwealth believes that, in present circumstances, it has a particular obligation to ensure that wage and salary increases within the area of its own direct responsibility do not lead the way or contribute to the spreading of any new round of increases within the economy. As the Prime Minister put it in his opening statement to the Premiers Conference:
We recognise, however, that we cannot hope to exercise a significant influence (in urging private employers to resist extravagant claims for increased wages and improved conditions) if there is any widespread feeling among businessmen that we are not, in fact, exercising restraint within the areas open to our direct influence - the Public Service and the various Commonwealth statutory bodies.
It is with this in mind that the Government has announced its opposition to flow-on within the Commonwealth Public Service or Commonwealth instrumentalities of the 9 per cent increase granted to administrative and clerical staff within the Victorian Public Service and the State Government instrumentalities. Our opposition will, of course, take place within the provisions of the Public Service Arbitration Act, and within that Act we will put our case relating to this matter at appropriate stages of the arbitral process. I emphasise that this new step, which we recognise to be a serious one, is directed only at ensuring that, as far as possible, the new round of increases which began in Victoria should be quarantined to that State. The damage already done there must not, in other words, spread further.
I emphasise that the processes of arbitration are regarded by the Government as an essential element of the wage fixing procedures in this country. They have a long history of serving Australia well in the past. The Government believes that they must be preserved and strengthened to continue to serve us well in the future. Those processes, when functioning as they should do, are even-handed toward all and ensure fair treatment for the weak. In times of inflation, when it is the weak who go 10 the wall, that is a very important consideration. The Government does not attempt, therefore, to interfere in the free and independent exercise of their functions by the arbitral authorities. What it does do - and it has not only a right but also, in the public interest, a duty in this connection - is to point out to the arbitral authorities the facts of the economic situation, and the consequences of their decisions for the economy and the community. The final decisions in the particular matters which are before them, however, must be, and of course are, taken by the arbitral authorities, who carry the responsibility for them.
I have outlined in this statement the essential results of a recent detailed assessment of the economy and its prospects. That assessment has provided evidence of the current underlying strength of the economy and its potential for growth. 1 have tried to place the employment situation and prospect clearly in perspective. At the same time, I have referred to certain problem spots, the most serious being the inflationary problem that we currently face. Iri stating once again the Government’s main economic policy objectives, 1. have reiterated our firm commitment to achieving a steady rate of economic growth while at the same time maintaining a high level of employment. Equally firm, however, is our commitment to tackle the problem of inflation.
The Government’s actions which 1 have outlined have been evidence, and have been recognised as such, of its firm intentions to achieve these objectives. The Government believes that those actions measure up to the criteria of flexibility, consistency and adequacy by which economic management should be judged. I am not saying that such policies, even though sound, will achieve all the nation’s objectives. They are an essential requirement in this regard, but they may not be a sufficient one. The achievement of our objectives will also require the co-operation and determination of the community to provide full support to these policies.
From the viewpoint of the community, 2 important things stand out from what I have said. Firstly, there is no reason for a lack of confidence in the economy. This, 1 think, is now being recognised, and it means among other things that members of the business community can make their decisions with full confidence in the continued steady growth of the economy. Secondly, it is clear that inflation is today our major problem. It is a problem which cannot be ignored or be expected to go away. The tackling of inflation is the responsibility of every person in the community and it is in everyone’s long term interests. Bearing this responsibility will not be easy; but doing so will mean we will achieve our objectives more quickly and the cost to everyone will be less.
– I move;
Thai the Senate take note of the paper.
I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted: debate adjourned.
COCKBURN SOUND Ministerial Statement
Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN (Western Australia - Minister for Air) - by leave - I wish to make a statement on behalf of the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) regarding the proposed construction of a naval facilities at Cockburn Sound. Honourable senators will appreciate that when the personal pronoun T is used it refers to the Minister for Works.
On 27th November 1971, I visited Garden Island on Cockburn Sound, Western Australia, to examine the proposed works for the Department of the Navy in the construction of the naval facility there. I was impressed with the beauty of the island and the unusual flora and fauna. Considerable work has been done on how best to preserve those features. I had intended making a statement on work there by the Department of Works and, in view of the present concern expressed by many in Western Australia, I propose to do so now rather than to wait until the Public Works Committee hearing is over.
The vegetation of Garden Island consists mainly of areas of Rottnest Island pine, acacia and melaleuca - paper bark. Many of the areas consist only of acacia growing in thickets interspread with patches of grass. As such the island does not have the more normal vegetation structure of grasses, shrubs and trees growing together and it needs special consideration for the preservation of its vegetation. We have enlisted the aid of the West Australian Conservator of Forests to provide expert advice on flora control and fire prevention and we are following his recommendations.
Clearing on the island is mainly in the form of 10 feet strips, which are essential for surveying, fire breaks and access, and is being regulated to allow regeneration of the main species of vegetation in the area. Some regulated burning will be done in accordance with the recommendation of the Conservator of Forests to ensure continuity of some of the main species of vegetation. Without such burning the probability is that some species will die out. Areas to be cleared for construction purposes will be extensively landscaped with tress and plants suited to the island conditions and supplies of Rottnest Island p ne are already available at any early stage of growth for use in landscaping. In addition, supplies of grass seed, hessian and rooted grasses are being arranged to cover any minor areas of erosion which may occur due to inadvertent disturbance to areas outside the construction zone. In choosing trees and grasses, advice has been and will be sought from those qualified and knowledgable of the island’s conditions.
The main animals on the island are the Tammar and a range of birds. We have consulted Dr A. R. Main, Professor of Zoology at the University of Western Australia, as to the measures necessary for their preservation and protection. The clearing and burning necessary to protect and develop the vegetation of the island will be conducted in a way which will preserve the needs of bird and animal life for feed and cover in accordance with the advice of Dr Main.
The clearing which has been done and which will be done in the future on Garden Island is a small proportion of the total area. On the basis of present planning it is expected that a total of approximately 550 acres will be cleared for all purposes associated with the construction of the naval support facility. All disturbed areas will be suitably landscaped to provide first class restoration.
There will be a hearing by the Public Works Committee of the Commonwealth Parliament in Western Australia on all these matters during April and those concerned with environmental and other matters associated wilh the island will, of course, be entitled to present evidence and give their views. This has been communicated to various persons who have already expressed interest. I will be moving this week for a reference of this matter to the Public Works Committee in accordance with normal practices Honourable senators will be aware of the research programme on Cockburn Sound being undertaken by the Department of WOrKS in conjunction with the Fremantle Port Authority on the use of biological monitors for detecting and predicting water pollution. By this means, Cockburn Sound’s ecological health is being watched carefully.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator DrakeBrock nian) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill bc now read a second lime. The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Dairy Produce Export Control Act 1924- 1966 to clarify the existing investment provisions to ensure that the Australian Dairy Produce Board is provided with investment powers related to its present day needs and circumstances. The amendment relates to the initiative taken by the Board in the early 1960s with the approval of the Government, in establishing milk recombining plants in the South East Asian area. The Board entered into this activity as a commercial venture in association with local capital with the aim of diversifying export markets for Australian dairy products when Britain was making its first bid for membership of the European Economic Community. The Board’s efforts in this direction have proved lo be far sighted and are particularly significant in the light of recent developments in Europe which could result in the loss of the United Kingdom market for our dairy products in the nol far distant future.
The Board has established milk plants in conjunction with local interests in Singapore, Manila, Bangkok, Djakarta and Phnom Penh. While the Board has disposed of its capital equity in the Singapore plant it is continuing to supply raw materials to the plant. Since 1963 the Board has shipped butteroil and skim milk powder to the plants valued at $36m. The Board estimates that in 1971-72 about 10,000 tons of butter in the form of butteroil and 30,000 tons of skim milk powder worth some $15m will be shipped. Apart from providing a significant outlet for Australian dairy products the Board’s plants are playing an important role in the development of food technology in the South East Asian region and in providing nutritious dairy products for the people of the area. The joint plant ventures have also done much to foster goodwill between Australia and the countries concerned.
The finance for the Board’s participation in these ventures has mainly been drawn from the Dairy Industry Stabilization Fund which consists of industry funds that were built up under the post war contracts with the United Kingdom. The Fund is dealt with by the Dairying Industry Act which provides that monies in the Fund may be applied by the Board in such manner as it thinks fit for any purpose approved by the Minister. To date the Board has invested a total of $5,918,000 in the plants- $2,400,000 in the form of share capital and $3,518,000 as loans for equipment, working capital and raw materials. These investments have included profits from the plant operations which have been used progressively to develop the existing plants and to establish new plants. However the point has been reached where the Board may not be able to depend on the Dairy Industry Stabilization Fund to finance fully its plant activities.
The Dairy Produce Export Control Act under which the Australian Dairy Produce Board is constituted provides that the Board may, with the approval of the Minister, take action to expand existing markets or to secure new markets for dairy products. The Act also provides in general terms that the Board may use monies in its accounts for this purpose. The purpose of the amendment is to clarify these general provisions to provide the Board with the specific power to participate in commercial ventures as a means of expanding existing markets or securing new markets. For this purpose the Board will be enabled to use monies in its accounts other than monies borrowed from the Reserve Bank to acquire equity capital and make loans, lt is important that there be no barrier in the way of the Board developing Asian outlets for dairy produce in the light of the EEC developments. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 28” October (vide page 1561), on motion by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson:
That the Bill be now read a second lime.
– The Opposition welcomes this Bill as far as it goes. The object of the Bill is to limit any one shareholder, either a person or a corporation, to less than 10 per cent of the total nominal value of the voting shares of a bank incorporated in Australia, but there are certain exceptions which allow a person to have a greater interest when approved by the Governor-in-Council. The Minister for Health (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) said in his second reading speech that this Bill continues the Government’s policy of preventing local or overseas interest from acquiring large shareholdings in banks incorporated in Australia. Of course, this is a policy with which we do not quarrel.
Our criticism of the Government’s banking legislation is that it does not go far enough. Its control, as is set out in clause 6 of this Bill, extends only to banks within the narrow definition of bodies corporate in respect of which there is in force an authority referred to in section 9 of the Banking Act 1959-67. I would draw the attention of honourable senators to a recent comment of Dr Harold Bell, economic adviser of the Australian Mutual Provident Society. He said: . . there is a case for looking again at the definition of banking business and the exercise of sonic closer oversight of those banking type institutions not at present covered by the banking legislation.
Neither the legislation which we are considering nor any other Commonwealth banking legislation faces up to the question of the overriding control of the money supply of Australia, and accordingly there are large gaps in control over the national economy. Over recent years there has been a gradual metamorphosis of the financial structure of our economy, and credit and quasi-banking institutions have taken on new forms and ever-increasing sophistication. There has been a steady proliferation of finance companies and merchant banks, all of which are engaged in the business of borrowing and lending money, which is the traditional activity of banks - that is, they borrow as cheaply as they can and lend at interest rates which are as high as is permitted. But these institutions are not defined in Commonwealth legislation as banks properly so called. It is not hard to envisage a time in the near future when hire purchase advances will exceed trading bank deposits. As was pointed out recently by Dr Coombs, a former Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, there has been a progressive decontrol of the aggregate of the money of Australia by the banking system. Between 1953 and today the total money flow of Australia controlled by the banking system in the narrow sense dropped from 70 per cent to less than 50 per cent.
One of the ironical effects of our banking legislation is to forbid a foreign bank authority to carry on banking business, properly so called, in Australia, and so to operate at the normal rate of interest, but to allow it to buy up a hire purchase company and so to charge effective interest rates of over 20 per cent. Thus our banking legislation does nothing to protect the average man and woman who pays excessive interest rates to finance companies for the vast variety of goods, especially consumer durables such as motor cars and refrigerators, which are usually quoted as illustrations of our national affluence. The last alibi for this governmental indifference to the exploitation of the ordinary citizen disappeared when the High Court of Australia gave its recent famous decision in the concrete pipes case. This decision opens up for the Commonwealth Parliament new vistas of control of these fringe banking institutions, and a future Labor government will not hesitate to use to the full all the constitutional powers at its disposal to bring these fringe banking institutions under the supervision which is necessary in the interests of Australia.
– The Government proposed an amendment to this Bill but 1 do not know whether the Opposition is in possession of it.
– I take it from the remarks of the honourable senator that the Opposition is content with that amendment being accepted.
– Has the amendment been circulated?
– It has been circulated, but not moved.
– I just mention that it has been made available to me and that I inherited this Bill as a last minute exercise. There is to be an amendment and I would be quite happy to move that before continuing with my remarks.
– The amendment may not be moved until we reach the Committee stage.
– As nobody else had risen I presumed that I could reply to the debate on the second reading.
– Is the Minister now replying to the debate on the second reading?
– That was my intention, but 1 am prepared to give way to the honourable senator if he wishes to speak.
– I shall speak for a few minutes only. I am indebted to the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) for giving mc this opportunity. This is an important Bill dealing with a matter which has been raised by my Party and by me in the Senate in more recent times. It deals with the infusion of foreign money, particularly in the field of hire purchase companies, and reports of sums of money coming from Hong Kong and other places, in respect of which questions have been asked and general concern expressed. 1 agree with Senator James McClelland that in Australia we are building up a financial empire parallel to that of the associated banks but which, unlike the banks, is not subject to any substantial central legislative control. Hire purchase companies have an immunity because of the operation of the Constitution. Whether they operate interstate or intrastate they generally have an immunity now with no substantial discipline or control of their operations.
In such a system where the hire purchase companies are assuming more and more significant and important functions, the absence of a discipline over them in this field or of their operations through the merchant banks, which are not controlled by the Banking Act, means that the whole of the economic discipline may well be side stepped and avoided. Therefore, it is highly important (hat some consideration be given to trying to bring bodies such as these within the ambit of the appropriate economic disciplines that our modern society must be able and prepared to exercise. It could well be that where there has been a vacuum of constitutional power in the past, such vacuum might now be filled by the decision in the concrete pipes case where the High Court suggested that perhaps the Commonwealth’s corporations power under the Constitution has never been fully explored, much less exploited. It could be that in the operation of that power authority might be discovered through which a discipline could be exercised over this other financial empire which is operating now and which is aggregating such enormous amounts of committed moneys in our community.
The general question of the ownership and control of some of our major resources will come under the early scrutiny of the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control of Australian resources. It could well be that the extent to which foreign ownership or participation has moved into this most sensitive and important area of our national life, the area of money and credit operation and control, will come within the ambit of the investigation of the Committee. Of all the areas in which Australian ownership and control is significant, this is possibly the most important. As this legislation indicates the importance which we attach to the substantial Australian ownership, control and management of the financial and credit resources as they are operated through the banks, it is equally important that the same sort of authority should be discovered in the other area of national finance and credit. As I have said, I am sure that this subject will come under the scrutiny of the Senate Committee. [ am a member of that Committee and I do not want to anticipate its investigations, but as part of its deliberations there could well be an examination of the possibility of legislative power and the exercise of that power within the constitutional power given under the head of corporations. If it is found by the Committee that this matter has reached dangerous proportions, or may reach proportions which will give us immediate or future cause for concern, this power may enable the Committee to suggest methods by which there could be some control in this area. 1 know that it has been suggested that it is very difficult to take action in this area, but a few years ago the Democratic Labor Party in Queensland al a State conference put forward the suggestion that there should be a gradation in scales of company tax so that as a public company had more or less Australian participating equity, so the rate of company tax should vary. In other words, if a public company had 50 per cent of Australian equity the company tax would be X per cent. On the other hand, if the Australian equity fell to 35 per cent the company tax would go up to X plus 4 per cent, and correspondingly it would become lower as the Australian equity increased. That, in itself, would be an inducement to Australian equity and Australian investors to participate. Also it would act as a warning sign to overseas investors that if they invested in Australia they would be subject to this type of disability, and if they attempted to gain control of an Australian company they would do so at their own cost and at that price. For the reasons I have mentioned the Democratic Labor Party supports the Bill. We think it is appropriate, that it is condign and that it is most opportune. If an investigation by the Parliament of the wider area of control of resources generally, and particularly the control of national credit and banking, reveals that it is necessary for disciplines to be found which can be exercised in this area which is of fundamental importance in modern Australia, we hope that with the appropriate goodwill of the government of the day that course will be followed. The Democratic Labor Party supports the Bill.
– in reply - I note the support for the Bill from the Democratic Labor Party and the Opposition and I note also the comments that have been made by honourable senators opposite. I mentioned earlier when 1 rose that an amendment to clause 10 of the Bill would be introduced at the Committee stage. I was quite correct in assuming that the proposed amendment would have been circulated and that with it was an explanatory memorandum. I do not think anyone will find any problems with that, but. I was anxious to pay the Senate the full courtesy of the occasion. Comment has been made on the need to expand and extend the Banking Act to cover all other institutions in the monetary field in Australia. Senator Byrne has mentioned that this matter might well be canvassed by the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control when in due course it conducts its examination. Senator James McClelland mentioned that the concrete pipes case was a notable landmark in the constitutional situation. He said ‘perhaps this might’ be an occasion for seeing whether there was power in the Commonwealth’s hands to extend its authority.
I do not want to canvass the legal arguments here, except to say that whether or not the concrete pipes case does make it possible to do what he says has yet to be tested. What he says is something that has been said by many other eminent gentlemen. No doubt in due course the matter will be examined, but I am assured by my advisers from the Treasury that it is by no means clear to what extent the recent judgment of the High Court in the concrete pipes case has clarified Commonwealth constitutional powers to control financial corporations. Without prejudicing the issue whether non-bank financial institutions ought to be under direct Commonwealth control, this aspect of the High
Court’s judgment is, as honourable senators will understand, quite properly under examination by the Government’s legal advisers. The various suggestions by the Opposition for an extension of the Government’s banking legislation, although proper in their way, go quite far beyond the scope of this Bill. As Senator Byrne has said, this matter will probably come up for examination by the Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control. I content myself with those remarks until we come to a discussion of the clauses of the Bill at the Committee stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I refer to clause 10, which reads in part: (4.) The Treasurer may, on application by a person, by instrument in writing published in the Gazette, fix, for the purposes of this section in its application to that person, a percentage not less than ten. (5.) The Treasurer may, from time to time, of his own motion or on application by the person concerned, by instrument in writing published in the Gazette, vary an instrument referred to in the last preceding sub-section but so that the percentage fixed by the instrument as varied shall not be less than ten. (6.) An application under either of the last two preceding sub-sections shall be in writing and shall give particulars of the interest of the applicant in voting shares of the bank concerned. (7.) The Treasurer may, by instrument in writing published in the Gazette, revoke an instrument under sub-section (4.) or (5.) of this section as from a date specified in the instrument, not being a date earlier than three months after the date on which the first-mentioned instrument is published in the Gazette.
In sub-clause (4.), leave out - “(4.) The Treasurer may, on application by a person,”, insert - “(4.) The Governor-General may, after application made to the Treasurer by a person,”.
In sub-clause (5.), leave out - “(5.) The Treasurer may, from time to time, of his own motion or on application by the person concerned,”, insert - “(5.) The Governor-General may, from time to time, of his own motion or after application made to the Treasurer by the person concerned,”.
In sub-clause (7.), leave out “Treasurer”, insert “Governor-General”.
– - I want to draw the attention of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) to something in clauses 10 and 11 which I think needs review. 1 am not opposing or speaking to the amendments. Possibly they will provide a better safeguard. Mention is made in clause JO of the number of shares held by a person. It is proposed to delete the word ‘Treasurer’ and to insert in its place the word ‘GovernorGeneral’. Power is to be given, upon adoption of the amendment, to the GovernorGeneral to make a declaration in writing upon the written application of a person. But sub-clause 9 states:
A parson shall not furnish to the Treasurer, in connection wilh an application referred to in this section, information that is false or misleading in a material particular.
Then a penalty of $1,000 is set. It occurs to me that someone has to supply information to the Treasurer upon which he can act and it is desirable that that information bc supplied, but as the Bill is now worded that person has to be certain that the information is not false or misleading. Too much of this kind of phraseology is creeping into our legislation. 1 think the offence should be created if someone knowingly supplies false or misleading information in a material particular.
– It would not be an offence unless it were done knowingly - unless it was criminal negligence. It would not be an offence unless it was with knowledge.
– Whether knowingly or not, the information may be false and this may not be within the knowledge of the person supplying the information.
– Though it is wrong he may give it in good faith.
– I am inclined to think, upon the advice of Senator James McClelland, that if it is not an offence this should be stated in the Bill. I do not see any objection to inserting the word ‘knowingly’. I think it should be spelt out to the layman at least who may have to supply information. He would want to know definitely. A layman may say: ‘I think this is true and I am going to tell the Treasurer about it’. The same thing occurs in clause 11 (8.). The wording is the same and does not make provision for such words as knowingly supplying false information’. As the Bill is now worded the literal interpretation is tha! it is an offence whether a person knowingly or unknowingly provides false information.
– I am directing myself to the amendments moved to clause 10. I understand from Senator Cavanagh’s comments that he has no objection to the amendments and will support them. He submitted that the word knowingly’ should be inserted in clause 10(9.) and clause 11(8.). I would not be in a position to agree to that suggestion. 1 accept the comments he has made and will direct them to the Treasurer (Mr Snedden). I cannot be fairer than that at the present time. I took note of what Senator Cavanagh said and I gather that he does not quite agree with the course being adopted. Without more detailed information about the reasons, I would not want to canvass an argument which I cannot go into thoroughly at the moment. If the matter is of great concern to the honourable senator I will have no objection to discussing it with the Treasurer during the suspension of the sitting for dinner.
– I would appreciate that.
– I wish to raise another matter, lt is not related to the point raised by Senator Cavanagh; it relates to the provisions as to disclosure of shareholding. In raising this matter I do not wish to do anything to prevent the passage of the Bill and I do not propose even to suggest an amendment at this stage. 1 regard the passage of this Bill as being of the utmost importance. It should be passed by this Parliament with the greatest expedition. There are very good reasons why it should be carried at the first possible opportunity. However 1 think it is appropriate to mention that there are some points to which further consideration could be given with a view to a possible amendment at a later stage. The matter I raise specifically at the moment is the requirements as to disclosure and whether provisions as to disclosure similar to those in the Broadcasting and Television Act could be incorporated in this legislation so that the disclosure may be more effective or more certain in its effect than it may be at the moment. I offer that as a suggestion but I do not wish in any way to impede the passage of the Bill, which I regard as most urgent.
– Briefly, 1 agree with the comments made by Senator Rae about the importance and urgency of getting this Bill through quickly in order to have control on the gate. One would not quarrel with the proposition that it might be wise later on to amend this Bill further in order to produce further controls in the light of greater examination and more detail which may well come out of an examination by the Senate of foreign ownership and control. It is important that this Bill be disposed of as it is now, if possible, and that it be passed this evening. However, in view of the circumstances at this time I think it would be only courteous to say that I will have some inquiries made about the points raised by Senator Cavanagh and Senator Rae and I will provide that information at 8 p.m.
Amendments agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 5.43 to 8 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended we were discussing briefly the suggestion made by Senator Cavanagh to insert in clauses 10 (9.) and 11 (8.) the word ‘knowingly’ before the word “furnish’. During the suspension we discussed the suggestion and it seemed to us that there was some merit in it in that it could perhaps improve things. However, we do not think that the insertion of the word ‘knowingly’ will achieve the desired purpose which, as we understand it, is to ensure that a person can be convicted of the offence concerned only if he knows that the information furnished by him is false or misleading. We believe this purpose could be better achieved by inserting after the words ‘information that’ the words ‘to the knowledge of the person’. In that way the requirements of knowledge are clearly linked to the false or misleading nature of the information furnished.
Clause 10(9.) reads: (9.) A person shall not furnish to the Treasurer, in connexion with an application referred to in this section, information that is false or misleading in a material particular.
Penalty: One thousand dollars.
Clause 1 1 (8.) is in these terms: (8.) A person shall not furnish to the Treas urer, for the purposes of sub-section (3.) of this section or in connexion with an application referred to in this section, information that is false or misleading in a material particular.
Penalty: One thousand dollars.
In clause 10(9.), after ‘that’ insert ‘, to the knowledge of the person,’.
In clause 11 (8.), after ‘that’ insert ‘, to the knowledge of the person,’.
– If Senator Cotton gives me that assurance I accept it willingly. However, I point out that when it was discussed with the Treasurer and 2 legal men on the Opposition side they could not agree whether 1 was right in my contention. As a layman the Minister’s proposal meets my requirements. I accept it as an improvement on the present Bill.
Amendments agreed to.
– I direct attention to the matter of controlling shares by instrument in writing. I realise that the Minister is given the power to create an instrument in writing for the purpose of taking speedy action to keep shareholdings down to a certain level. I do not know why Australian banks should be protected from any intrusion by other people because they certainly intrude into other people’s business. The point I am making is that the instrument in writing is made by the Minister. There is no control by the Parliament over such instrument in writing. Regulations and ordinances are tabled in the Senate and the Regulations and Ordinances Committee considers them. Instruments in writing made by the Minister are not tabled and they do not come before the Committee.
I have taken the opportunity to speak in the debate on this Bill because these are important aspects and because I believe that some consideration should be given to the matter of instruments in writing being tabled in the Senate and being subject to supervision and scrutiny by the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. We in this place are all well aware of the fact that over the years the Committee has been very vigilant. Unquestionably there have been attempts to evade the Committee’s scrutiny by bringing in instruments in writing instead of regulations and ordinances. I am not saying that that will happen in this case because the necessity may arise for speedy action to be taken, but I am convinced that it has been done in relation to various pieces of legislation in the past. I think it is time that we considered whether we should not make it compulsory for all instruments in writing to be tabled in the Senate and to be subject to disallowance.
– In his comments before the suspension of the sitting Senator Rae mentioned, very properly, the urgency of passing this Bill. He went on to say that later some suggestions for change or improvement in the legislation may flow out of the work of the Senate. Senator Byrne adverted to the work which will be done by the new Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control. 1 think that we should pass this Bill and at a later date give consideration to anything that flows from the Committee’s deliberations which may further strengthen the legislation. That is the spirit in which we regard Senator Wood’s suggestion.
– I suggest for the consideration of honourable senators, and of the Minister, that perhaps this might be an appropriate matter for consideration by the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. There is a number of matters in regard to this legislation which 1 believe should be considered. Some of them are relatively easy points; some rather difficult points. As I indicated earlier, 1 do not wish to see the legislation delayed, but if legislation of this kind is to work effectively then very deep consideration has to be given to it and I believe that my suggestion would be the appropriate way for this chamber to make a contribution towards the real working of an idea which obviously is supported by all parties here. I make the request that it be considered in due course as a matter suitable for reference to that Standing Committee.
– - I do not want the most respected Chairman of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee to think that his is a lone voice when there are other members of the Committee under his guidance presently in the chamber. On other occasions Senator Wright has expressed concern at the use of the words ‘an instrument In writing’ which could mean a slip of paper passed over the table. I do not think this is an occasion on which there will be misuse of the power given to the Minister and which should cause any concern to the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. As I understand the position, the Parliament is deciding on a restriction of 10 per cent of the voles necessary to control a bank, and that in exceptional circumstances that percentage could be increased by the power of the Minister. I do not know whether the Parliament would want to scrutinise and seek justification for any proposal to extend the limit. I can think of no other words that could be used to cover such an occasion. In this instance I do not think that the use of the proposed words is contrary to the agitation which has been going on for a long time in the Senate in regard to the use of the words ‘an instrument in writing’.
– I shall be very brief because we already have debated this matter thoroughly and well. 1 remind Senator Cavanagh that the clause has been amended to provide for the substitution of ‘Governor-General’ for ‘Treasurer’. But I still would want to refer to comments made by both him and the Chairman of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee on the question of instruments in writing in general, as they have emerged in this discussion, to the Minister I am representing.
– I raise a matter to which Senator Rae drew my attention. 1 pay a compliment to him. Clause 1 0 sub-clause (4.) now reads:
The Governor-General may, after application made to the Treasurer by a person . . .
Does that mean that it is done by way of regulation?
– In response to Senator Wood’s query, 1 am informed that it means that it will be done by the Governor-General acting on an instrument in writing.
– How does he notify what he has done?
– It is notified in the Gazette*.
– And that does not come within the powers of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, does it?
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cotton) read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) proposed:
That the report be adopted.
– 1 wish to say a few words on this matter before it is finalised. I have no objection to the first 2 paragraphs of the report or to portion of the third paragraph. I will read out the third paragraph so that honourable senators will know to what I am objecting. It reads:
The Committee believes that rules relating to dress in the Chamber should not be necessary and that the choice of appropriate clothing should be left to Senators’ discretion.
I am fully in accord with that portion of the paragraph. However, I am not in full accord with the remainder, which states:
The Committee is of the opinion, however, that the wearing of shorts is not appropriate in places where formal business is being transacted and that it does not accord with the dignity of the Senate Chamber.
I am at a loss to understand why the Committee should bring in a report which states that the wearing of shorts in the Senate detracts from the dignity of the Senate. In the South Australian Parliament, which I believe conducts its business in a proper manner, the ruling is that members of the House of Assembly may take part in the business of the chamber attired in shorts and open-necked shirts with short sleeves. That was not my intention when I asked the question of you, Mr President, in this chamber late last year.
I am perturbed to think that people may have thought the reason for my question was that 1 was trying to make some political propaganda out of the matter. I was a little disturbed to read an editorial in the local newspaper of the town in which I live - the ‘Murray Valley Standard’. Its issue of 11th November featured an editorial on the question of the wearing of shorts in the Senate. For the information of honourable senators I will read portion of that editorial. It was headed ‘Showing a leg’ and read:
Fashions hit the headlines last week - Sonia McMahon wowed Washington with her seethrough and Murray Bridge’s Geoff McLaren surprised the Senate with his shorts suggestion.
Were they politically motivated actions, oi innocent expressions of ideas on modern dress?
Let me say here and now that they were not politically motivated actions on my part, anyway; they were innocent expressions of ideas on modern dress.
Senate Byrne - So far as your shorts were concerned.
– Yes, so far as my shorts were concerned.
– You are not speaking for Sonia.
– I am not speaking for Sonia. I am quite sure that she can speak for herself; or, if she cannot, the Prime Minister can speak for her. I am speaking from my own point of view. I see no reason why a person who has been democratically elected to this chamber cannot appear in the chamber in suitable, neat attire. This matter has been the cause of quite a lot of speculation. In the Adelaide News’ of Saturday, 4th December, there was a very illustrative cartoon. The heading was: ‘Senate Rules Against Shorts in the House’. It showed a very decrepit looking senator, I suppose he was, talking to a very neatly attired senator in shorts. The decrepit looking man used the expression: Get them off; I have never seen such disgusting, undignified attire’.
I do not agree with that. I believe that the attire in which Senator Keeffe, Senator Poyser and I appeared in this chamber was dignified. We were neatly attired. We were clean. I do not think that we disgraced the chamber in any shape or form. As a matter of fact I do not think that any of the persons in the electorate outside thought so either. I have had quite a few comments, letters and telephone calls congratulating me on my stand in trying to modernise the dress in this chamber. In fact, it has been accepted by all and sundry out in the electorate. As I have stated, it is accepted by the South Australian Parliament, which is democratically elected, just as this chamber is.
On 8th December, Mr President, I had reason to draw your attention to a happening in the Port Hedland court in Western Australia. I think it would be appropriate at this time to refresh the memory of honourable senators as to what took place on that day. I have here a copy of a Press story that I received from the Australian Broadcasting Commission per medium of Telex on that day. lt reads:
In the District Court al Port Hedland in Western Australia yesterday a judge took the unusual step of removing his wig and wearing shorts because of the heat in the courtroom. The temperature reached 93 degrees in Port Hedland yesterday. Judge Heenan, his associate, the court usher and 2 counsel entered the court in the morning in full legal attire but the judge suggested that the decorum of the court would bc maintained if they returned after lunch in more suitable attire. The judge, his associate an.d the usher returned in shorts, long socks, shirts and ties and the 2 counsel wore trousers but no coats.
I agree with Judge Heenan that the decorum of the court was not belittled by his appearing in shorts and shirt to deliver judgment.
– Did he hand down a short sentence?
– I am not aware of what he did. When I drew your attention to that happening in the Western Australian court, Mr President, you replied that if you were in Port Hedland you would appear in the court in your bathing suit. I am not quite sure whether in saying that you implied that if you appeared in the Port Hedland court in your bathing suit you would not detract from the decorum of the court and you would deliver an honest and democratic judgment. I believe that that should happen in the Senate, too. I do not want to delay the Senate unduly, except to say that many people out in the electorate and I are of the belief that senators should be allowed to appear in this chamber in shorts and shirt if they so desire. If honourable senators come in decrepit looking then I think it is up to honourable senators present to ask for their removal until they are neatly and cleanly attired. But I maintain that my appearance, along with Senator Poyser and Senator Keeffe on the day on which we appeared in shorts was neat and we did not disgrace the Senate. It is perfectly obvious now that there is nothing in the
Standing Orders of this Senate which prevents us from taking our place in the Senate suitably attired in snorts. I ask the Senate to leave it to the discretion of honourable senators as to whether they take their place in this chamber attired in shorts and shirt. With those few remarks I leave the matter at that.
– I feel inclined to enter this debate because 1 believe that this is one of those questions where party loyalty does not apply and where every member is entitled to vote according to his own belief.
– 1 think that is fair enough, too.
– 1 think that is the understood position. Looking at the composition of the Committee I can visualise 2 members of my Party voting one way - if they support the Committee’s recommendations - and Senator McLaren and possibly Senator Georges and Senator Keeffe voting another way. I was always under the impression that there was to be a free vote on this matter. As far as my Party is concerned I have a free vote because it has made no decision on the matter. However, I think that when one casts a vote according to one’s belief it is desirable that one gives the reason for so casting the vote. I am not notorious as one who wants to run around in shorts or a bathing costume, depending upon the weather. But as I understand the position now, the contentious clause is recommendation 3 which, in effect, says that shorts are not suitable attire for the dignity of this chamber. A motion has been moved for the adoption of the House Committee report. If that motion is carried shorts will not be permitted to be worn in this chamber. If I correctly interpreted Senator McLaren’s speech, he is opposing the motion. If, when the vote is taken. Senator McLaren has the numbers then despite a ruling which may have been given before, shorts will be permitted attire for this chamber.
– I think that is the honourable senator’s interpretation. It is not mine. But I shall respond.
– That is an interpretation. This matter was referred to the Committee and it has made a report. It has been moved that the report be adopted. If the Committee’s recommendation 3 is defeated how can it mean anything else but that shorts are appropriate attire for this chamber? In voting for or against this motion we must decide whether we support those who want to wear shorts in the chamber or whether we support the Committee’s recommendation that shorts should not be worn in the chamber. In reaching a conclusion I think we want to look at the fashion of dress throughout the ages from the very time of primitive man when he emerged from the stage where he wrapped himself in animal skins for the purpose or protecting himself from the cold. There came a trend in the development of fashion which was not for the purpose of protection against cold. A distinction in dress between one individual and another come to be highly developed in English speaking countries, particularly al the time of the Industrial Revolution. One adopted a style of dress if one could alford it for the sole purpose of showing that one was some exception to the ordinary man and that, in effect, one was not a worker.
– There was the rolled umbrella and the bowler hat.
– We had the rolled umbrella, the bowler hat and white gloves. No-one. could ever work in white gloves. One distinguished oneself as the lord of the manor by the white gloves. Women followed from one fashion to another until someone invented the lace-up stays. It was impossible to bend down and do anything in lace-up stays. The wearing of these identified people as not being working people.. The alteration in dress has been for the symbolic purpose of identification. Now we have emerged from those days and it is no longer considered in any way degrading to be a worker. But there is a desire to make a distinction. Today that distinction seems to involve a display of youth. It is thought more youthful that we wear shorts and open-necked shirts, and have long hair and so on. We adopt this principle. I am not against it, but we justify it by giving other reasons. The Premier of South Australia, of whom I am proud, Jed the fashion as AttorneyGeneral when he appeared in shorts. This is now an accepted custom of the South Australian Parliament. It is justified on the grounds of the hot climate and that it is cooler to wear shorts. Of course, twothirds of the male population in the world wear skirts. Only one-third wear trousers.
– Is the honourable senator including the Scots?
– Yes, including the Scots. In hot countries it is recognised that the cool garment is a type of cloak which allows a breath of air to .flow between the garment and the body. The cloak protects the body from the rays of the sun. In some countries one could not exist in shorts. But we have tight clinging clothes sticking to our bodies on hot days because we do not like to admit that we desire to appear what we are not - youthful. We justify the wearing of shorts on the score of temperature and that it is cooler. Therefore agitation has come for the wearing of shorts. I am not opposed to the wearing of shorts in the Senate chamber or in any other chamber, but let us face facts. We have temperatures here which do not justify the wearing of shorts even if they were cool. If one were considering the convenience of the individual one would wear skirts and not trousers. The reason we wear shorts is that it is the accepted custom and because of a desire to appear youthful in Australia today. Who would stand in the way of those who desire to wear shorts in order to show to the appreciative female audience which may gather that they have not reached the stage where they should appropriately retire from the Senate but that they are active and virile politicians? If that is the desire of my colleagues I am prepared to give them that right. I do not know that the Senate, although it represents people of the Commonwealth, has the right to rule that a certain style of dress is dignified and therefore to be worn, and that another style of dress although it affords certain honourable senators pleasure is unacceptable. In voting on this matter I come down on the side of Senator McLaren. I am opposed to the adoption of the Committee’s recommendations although I do not agree with the reasons advanced by Senator McLaren.
– As one of the guilty 3 who walked into this chamber wearing what I believed to be an example of dress reform, I wish to make a brief contribution to this debate. I recall that, three or four years ago, a most conservative member on the Government side of the Senate - I will not name him because he has retired now - suggested that a senator ought not to wear summer clothes into the dignified atmosphere of the Senate but that one ought to wear either very dark businesslike greys or very dark suits to conform with the long standing customs of dress in this chamber.
I do not wish to over-emphasise the tact that dress reform is a most important matter in today’s society. If the male members of the Senate achieved acceptance of the proposition that it was appropriate dress to enter the Senate in shorts, shirt and tie, our 2 lady senators, on the other side of the chamber, would probably seek to follow the Germaine Greer style and wear hot pants into the chamber. Probably they would add to the attractiveness of the chamber.
I think that Australians have a great sense of conservatism in their attitudes to a number of subjects. For instance, at Christmas time we still adhere to the old cold country idea of eating heavy plum pudding and roast turkey and duck when we probably would be much better off if we indulged in vegetable and fruit salads and custards and ice cream. But I do believe that in discussing this matter we could take it out of its context.
J will not walk away from this issue. But other problems confront this country today. I hope that the debate on this topic will not be lengthy. In this country there are 130,000 people who do not even have a job. They are not able to buy shorts. They are unable to buy the necessities of life. I do not think that we ought to take this subject out of context. It should be considered in its proper place in comparison with the problems that face society today. In the other place this afternoon, a want of confidence motion was moved against the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon). It is tragic when a motion of this type must be proposed. The want of confidence was based on the lack of credibility of the Prime Minister. A great many people who have returned from the Vietnam war are not receiving the justice to which they are entitled under the laws of this country. So, whilst the subject of dress reform in the Senate is an important matter for consideration, I and, I am sure, my colleagues who advocate dress reform in this chamber, will be prepared to put this aspect of the matter aside until the social injustices that face this country today have been remedied.
I do not wish to engage in a lengthy debate. I may need to call upon your charity, Mr President, and you may tell me that social injustice has nothing to do with dress reform. Perhaps, by stretching the imagination a little, J may suggest that it has. In 1972 we cannot adopt the attitudes that were safely adopted in 1872. Dress reform has become a matter that must be considered at all levels in the community. If it is right for members of the South Australian Parliament to dress in accordance with the dictates of the climate in that Slate, surely to heaven it is equallycorrect to adopt dress reform in Canberra. I doubt whether under the present Administration in Queensland such a proposal would ever hit the deck. Yet Queensland is the most tropical of all Australian States. Nevertheless, this is an aspect of life that must be considered. We cannot live in the past.
My hope is that at some more opportune time there will be an occasion when we may adopt dress reform and be able to enter this chamber dressed in clothes that suit the climate. I hope also that the clothes will not offend the dignity of the Senate. I realise, Mr President, that on the day when 3 of us took this great first step on the ladder towards dress reform, you were most decent to us. Probably you could have asked the Usher of the Black Rod to remove us forcibly from the chamber. At least we were given the opportunity to retire gracefully if we wished to do so. We elected to do this because we knew that an existing Committee of the Senate had the right to look at this aspect.
Looking at the membership of the House Committee of the Senate, I feel that the majority of those honourable senators would favour the attitude that we adopted. Perhaps I am being ultra charitable but at least I think that the majority of them would have been in favour of our dress reform. The fact that a report of this nature has come from that Committee probably indicates that, in their minds, we have not reached the stage at which this breakthrough can be achieved. Perhaps in February of next year the same Committee will reach the unanimous decision that the time is opportune to introduce dress reform. However, I feel that the other matters that I have mentioned are problems of a greater magnitude at the present time. I wish to see this country returned to political and economic stability before I am prepared to go ahead with a debate on a matter that is comparatively minor, that is, the subject of the attitude of a number of members of this Senate to dress reform.
(8.36) - in reply - I wish to close the debate with a quick contribution. I did not speak on this matter when I moved the relevant motion. 1 do not agree with the interpretation that Senator Cavanagh puts on paragraph 3 of the report of the Senate House Committee relating to senators’ dress in the Senate chamber. That paragraph states in part:
The Committee is of the opinion, however, that the wearing of shorts is not appropriate in places where formal business is being transacted and that it does not accord with the dignity of the Senate Chamber.
If this report is adopted, I do not- think that that passage will mean arbitrarily that no honourable senator, if he so desires, can enter the Senate chamber dressed in shorts. What it says is that he will do so in the face of the opinion of the Senate. The Senate Committee has said that it does not think that the wearing of shorts is in accordance with the dignity of the Senate. That is my understanding of the report.
– What would be the altitude of the Chair, in view of the way it ruled on the last occasion?
The Chair is above the controversies that occur on the floor of the Senate. That is a matter upon which 1 would not presume to reflect. But my clear understanding of the recommendation of the Committee is that this is a judgment that the individual senator concerned would need to make in good faith. If he did wear shorts, he would be doing so in the teeth of an opinion - that is the word to cover what the report states - that has been expressed. This is the judgment that he would need to make.
I refer now to a couple of other things that have been said. I assure Senator McLaren that there was never any suggestion that the decision that he or the other senators took constituted an improper action in relation to the Senate. They did what they did in good faith. I do not think that that was ever challenged. The question that arises is the opinion as to the dignity of the Senate. That was the only question. No reflection was cast on those senators personally. I think that we all agree that when those senators did enter the chamber in shorts their rig was an example of the best type of shorts that they could have worn in the circumstances. Let us not have any idea that this expression of opinion is directed at them.
Finally, reference was made by Senator Cavanagh to the fact that it was traditional for ladies to wear stays and for gentlemen to wear bowler hats and to carry furled umbrellas as part of the dress of their office, and those days have gone. Let me say that this reminds me of the expression: The wider the brim the fewer the acres’ as applied to people in country areas. It does not signify anything. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In relation to the point that Senator Cavanagh makes, do not ever forget that there is an inverted snobbery side to it. I do not need to develop the inverted snobbery angle. I believe that this all-Party Committee is merely expressing the view, on the balance if honourable senators like, that it feels that the wearing of shorts in the Senate is not in accord with the dignity of the high office that we hold. The report says no more than that.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
In referring to the Commonwealth Public Service, we are dealing with a tremendously large and important body. The figures that I am about to quote are from the 1971 Public Service Board report. The number of people employed in the Public Service in 1971 was 237,174. That figure does not include 85,000 people in the permanent armed forces. That figure represents 4.4 per cent of the estimated work force of 5.4 million people in Australia. Without doubt there is under one control the largest number of employees in Australia.
– Does that figure include those people employed by the Post Office?
– Yes, that figure includes those people. The number of people employed by the Post Office represents roughly 50 per cent of those employed in the Public Service. The payment to these people by way of normal emoluments, salaries, allowances and overtime was nearly $ 1,050m. The Opposition is not asking for anything outrageous when it seeks to have referred to the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations the structure, recruitment and management of the Commonwealth Public Service. The Public Service is involved not only in the administration of government policy; it is involved also in the formulation of government policy and, in some cases, the implementing of it. We are seeking to deal with the Public Service not only from a governmental point of view but also from a tremendously important financial and industrial point of view. I think honourable senators know enough to know the general structure of the First Division, Second Division, Third Division and Fourth Division. First Division officers are very rare people. Fourth Division officers are those people who carry out the normal work involved in running the Public Service. They are mainly men in the Post Office - postmen, linemen, labourers, mail sorters and persons in that category. The general work force is in the Fourth Division. Senator Byrne mentioned the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. I have the figure for the Postmaster-General’s Department. The number of employees is 110,000 of the total of 237,000. By far the largest number of employees in one Department is to be found in the Postmaster-General’s Department. The 110,00 employees of the PMG received $460m of the emoluments that I mentioned.
The last inquiry into the Public Service was held in 1919. That was the Royal Commission on Public Service Administration.
I think it was the Piddington inquiry, I did not make a note of that name. I remember it; when I was in the Public Service it was referred to often. I am sure that the slight differences of the forms of inquiry and the different nuances that have been placed upon the Public Service will be mentioned. The Commission was appointed to look at the various Acts relating to the administration of the Public Service, particularly in relation to the effect of such Acts upon the management and working of the departments and the steps necessary to adjust the position that had arisen by reason of the various authorities in existence for the regulation and working of the Public Service. I think honourable senators will readily concede that if in 1919 there was an inquiry into the various Acts and regulations that had a bearing on the Public Service administrators of those days the Acts, regulations and general orders that have grown over the years would be much more important than those in 1919 and that there would be many more of them. That was the last full scale inquiry.
I have noticed that the Government, in answers to questions, is inclined to deal more with side issues and to refer to other inquiries which I will mention. I repeat that the royal commission was the last full scale inquiry. That was well over 50 years ago. People may get confused about the other committees of inquiry. In 1943-44 there was the Committee of Inquiry into systems of Promotion and Temporary Transfers. That was known as the Bailey Committee. It was chaired by Mr Bailey, later Sir Kenneth Bailey. This Committee achieved a lot. I remember its report very well. One of its recommendations concerned the very controversial area of promotions and promotion appeals. The only grounds on which a public servant can appeal are seniority or superior efficiency. Seniority, of course, is in the book; one does not have to argue that.
Until the time of the Bailey report superior efficiency was never defined. Both the appellant and the respondent were put in the peculiar position of having to appear before the Public Service Board or, if the appeal was to be heard in a State, the Public Service Commissioner and say: ‘I am of greater efficiency than that fellow, but 1 do not know why because I do not know what you are looking for’. The appeals were based on a matter of opinion or on a matter of ego. The decision was always dodged by the departments and by the Public Service Board. It took the Bailey Committee to write the criteria tor superior efficiency. That is one act alone. He did a lot of other things. He set up commissions. In the other place there has been or is to be introduced a Bill to amend the principle slightly further. But the principle is still based on the Bailey report of 1943-44. By that act alone Sir Kenneth Bailey did something for the administration, for all the people who were involved in appeals and for all the people who had to decide those appeals. That was a remarkable and courageous report in those days because until 1943 the matter had been dodged by the Public Service.
In 1957-58 there was the Committee of Inquiry into Public Service Recruitment. 1 remember that quite well. I was a senator at that time. Since then my Party has made independent calls for various inquiries, all dealing with the Public Service. Some dealt with the Post Office. The Post Office is vitally affected in this. The figures that I have given already show that, lt is by far the largest single entity. The Post Office is by far the biggest employer of labour in Australia, either within or without the Public Service. When its figures are taken in conjunction with the figures for the rest of the Public Service its position becomes more important. As recently as 1970 the honourable member for Hindmarsh, Mr Clyde Cameron, made an appeal for an independent inquiry. Senator Gair, on behalf of his Party, adverted to this in his speech on the 1967 Budget. He criticised the condition and operation of the Public Service. The Democratic Labor Party’s view, if not his view, which he stated explicitly, is that it desires a change in the 45 per cent of the Public Service which is employed by the Postmaster-General’s Department. The honourable senator moved an urgency motion to debate the establishment of a statutory corporation or authority to control the operations of what is now known as the Postmaster-General’s Department.
In the Parliament there has been quite a clamour for various sections of the Public Service to be scrutinised by different types of outside inquiries. I think one could almost guarantee that every few months in the newspapers there is a feature article dealing with the Public Service. Often it deals with the Postmaster-General’s Department. The debate is whether that Department should be made a statutory body, as Senator Gair has suggested. Outside the Parliament, Mr Blyton, the President of the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Australia, issued a special statement on the subject. He said:
What is really needed is an independent inquiry into the Commonwealth Public Service. It is incredible that with the technological advances made in the past 50 years and the growth of Government in this period that there has been no thorough inquiry into the Commonwealth Public Service as a whole.
Other countries have derived important benefits from inquiries of this kind and it is timely that Australia should examine the overall efficiency of its own Federal Public Service.
His reference to other countries acknowledges the fact that since the end of World War II nearly every advanced Wes’.ern nation has had at least one full scale inquiry into its Public Service. There were the Hoover Commission in the United States of America and the Royal Commission to Inquire into and Report Upon State Services in New Zealand. The latter Commission examined the organisation, staffing and methods of control and operation of departments of State and agencies In 1968 a Committee on the Civil Service, chaired by Lord Fulton, reported upon the structure, recruitment and management, including training, of the United Kingdom Home Civil Service. I have quoted in some detail the terms of reference of those committees so that honourable senators may see how fully those committees have inquired into those organisations.
The Opposition is asking for nothing more than is laid down in the motion. It may be said that it is all right for other countries to conduct inquiries but what benefit would we derive if one were to be conducted in Australia. Let us examine the advances which have been made in the technological field alone. There are at present 83 computers in the Commonwealth Public Service, of which 20 were installed in 1970-71. All of those computers have been installed in the last 10 years. Twenty of them - one-quarter of them - have been installed in the last 12 months. I atn talking of the position as at June 1971, which is when the report to which I am referring was prepared. The advent of the computer should be sufficient reason to warrant an investigation. The use of computers is going to revolutionise such places as accounts branches.
I should think that if the inquiry I am advocating were conducted it would help the Public Service Board and the Commonwealth departments immeasurably because, it would enable them to give consideration to improving the structure of their accounting sections. Let us examine the situation in one accounts section. Let us take as an example the telephone accounts section of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. I should imagine that that section would handle thousands of accounts. No doubt the handling of those accounts involves a lot of tedious and monotonous work. I should not imagine that very many senior people would be employed in such a section, which would mean that there would be a few senior positions and then a very long tail. The morale in such a section would be very low because young people employed there who had a flair for accountancy and had already passed their clerical examinations or matriculated would have a long corridor in front of them to negotiate before they reached a senior level. These young people would naturally tend to transfer to some other department which would enable them to move up the seniority ladder so much quicker. I should imagine that an inquiry of the type I have advocated would be able to determine whether that tedious and monotonous work could be computerised. If it were computerised the senior positions could be retained and maybe even increased but the monotonous work would be reduced. I suggest that the work which is at present being undertaken by computers is sufficient ground, if no other reason existed, for the type of inquiry I have proposed.
There has been a technological revolution in recent years. It is very difficult to grasp the fact that in the next few years we will advance more technologically than we have since as far back as one would like to go. In the next 30 years enormous advances will be made in the field of technology. It is not an evolution but a complete revolution which is occurring in the technological field. Although the Public Service is absorbing some of the technological advances which are occurring, it is moving along at an evolutionary pace in this revolutionary era. That is natural for a public service. A public service is not a very revolutionary type of body. I regard the technological advances which are being made as certainly a very important item to be considered in the inquiry I have proposed.
The Public Service Board and the permanent heads of the Commonwealth departments have very much wider responsibilities than one would think at first. They have not only to administer and carry out the Acts of this Parliament but also to worry about the standard of recruitment and the training of recruits in managerial techniques, technological advances and the other specialised fields in which training is necessary. They have a fairly broad set of heads of responsibility under which they have to work. I have referred to this matter because from time to time there is suspicion in the public’s mind - maybe it is unjustified - about the rapid growth in the size of the Public Service in Australia, particularly since the end of the war. There is a fear that the Service is not operating as efficiently as it ought to be. It is also argued from time to time that too much conservatism has been built into the Public Service and that it is not meeting the demands of modern times. If these suspicions are well founded it is the job of this Parliament to correct the situation. If they are not well founded then nobody has anything to hide. It could well be that this sort of criticism could be allayed and that the public would be very pleased with the findings of such an inquiry. I repeat that 53 years ago it was considered necessary to have a look at the way in which the Public Service operated. Surely any of the reasons put forward in those days for having an inquiry have multiplied.
I think that there is a special case for an examination of the Australian Post Office because of its terrific size and multifarious duties. There is a greater spread of the divisions within the Post Office. There is also a great clamour for it to be made a statutory corporation. Indeed, the Australian Labor Party has on its platform a proposal to turn the Post Office into a statutory corporation.
– But you rejected that proposition when I put it forward.
– No, we did not reject it.
– Yes you did.
– W h a t we said on tha; occasion was that we wanted an inquiry to be conducted into this matter. Regardless of whether it is in one’s platform, I do not think one would want to destroy the largest Public Service department in Australia simply to change it into another form. A lot of research into such a proposition is necessary. The inquiry I have advocated would be an admirable occasion on which to conduct that research. The Postmaster-General’s Department because of its size, because of its multifarious duties and because of all the complexities involved in its administration, is one Commonwealth department which could go through a technological revolution in this the age of satellites. It could probably go through a greater technological revolution than any other department or industry in Australia. It should be remembered when talking about the age of computers that a satellite’s operations need not necessarily be confined to one land mass. A satellite could be used over such places as Papua New Guinea and over Indonesia where a very modern telephone system is being put in under the auspices of the Australian Post Office. The type of inquiry I have proposed should cover the whole gamut of Post Office operations. The final decision as to whether the Australian Post Office should be set up as a statutory corporation and, if so, its actual form would best be determined after considering the facts revealed by and the conclusions of such an inquiry. If we were considering the setting up of a statutory body we would be certainly moving on very much firmer ground if we had the benefit of an inquiry of this nature. Tremendous problems could arise, but there is no doubt that not only the Post Office but also the whole of the Public Service, the Parliament and future administrators of Commonwealth departments would benefit from such an inquiry. Public anxiety also would be allayed.
Other things which keep cropping up from time to time and which are never quite satisfactorily resolved could be examined. For example, there has been a lot of criticism about the secrecy within the Public Service. Because of the not very clearly defined restrictions upon them public servants are forbidden to comment in public on things within their purview. Obviously nobody would want public servants to be giving out state secrets, but they should be allowed to offer comments in certain circumstances. Secrecy is something which has grown up like Topsy over the years, lt is something which ought to be clarified. We have been chipping away at the whole question of Public Service rights. For example, up until 1947 one was not allowed to take leave in order to stand for Parliament. Up until the Evatt amendment of 1947 one had to resign from the Public Service in order to stand for Parliament and pray that one either did not lose or, if one lost, got back into the Public Service after the election.
The Administrative and Clerical Officers Association has complained from time to time that its officers have been doing nothing else but writing political speeches for Ministers. The inquiry 1 have proposed could examine whether political speeches ought to be written for Ministers by public servants. There have been complaints from the unions about this matter but it has never been satisfactorily cleared up. Honourable senators will recall the arguments which we had a couple of years ago as to whether it was the time and Jervis Bay was the place for the installation of a nuclear reactor and whether the one that was contemplated was the right type. We were groping all over Australia to obtain scientific evidence on this matter but the officers of the Jervis Bay project were forbidden under the law of the land to give information to the public on their views on the Jervis Bay nuclear reactor.
Under some Ministers, foreign affairs officers have been criticised because they have given advice which is not in accord with policy. I can see the point of view. They are told: ‘Look, you are here working for this Government and you should give us advice on our policy.’ Again this is something with which some of us would not agree and think ought to be examined. It should not be forgotten that we can become remote from the true position and see these people as a team of servants who are merely carrying out what the Government dictates. But there is no shadow of doubt that the senior bureaucrats, the senior civil servants in Australia today are not only the carriers out of policy; they are the makers of policy. Therefore they are extremely important people in the legislative machinery today.
Criticism also has been levelled at the Public Service Board on the whole question of its wages policy, that when it makes a wage determination it has a bearing on the whole of the wage structure of Australia. But if one goes into the way the whole system works one finds that the Public Service Board does not have complete control of such questions as reclassification and all that type of thing. However, the picture is not as clear as some of the critics make out. Of course, the Public Service Board also receives criticism from the other end, that it is not keeping up with outside wage rates. In this respect the Public Service Board gets caught between the fire from either side. I have here a document from the Library which refers to the question of why civil servants ought to be released from some of the secrecy to which they are bound. The document reads:
Th: British Masterman Committee’s report suggests that the main argument for liberalisation is based upon the fact that the Public Service now contains a larger proportion of the population than ever before and a highly educated section of the community. The Report suggest that unnecessary restriction on such people may, have an effect upon the quality of public debate.
They are the findings of a committee in England which expressed a view that some honourable senators may reject. I am suggesting that we could not do less than other countries of the world have done. I think I have said sufficient and advanced sound reasons show why our Committee should be allowed at least to look at this matter. It may well find that this is an enormous task. It may well give a partial report in which it may suggest that further action be taken. There has been public talk of royal commissions, of parliamentary inquiries and this type of thing. If this proposed inquiry were conducted as other inquiries have been by our present committee system, which is now starting to function fairly efficiently, at least we would get something done. We could at least have a look at this matter and bring down recommendations on at least some of these aspects. The ‘Australian Financial Review’ of Friday, 10th July 1970, put this matter on a very much more urgent and very much more alarming level than I have deliberately refrained from doing tonight. The last two paragraphs of the article read:
What may appear to newspapers or academics as bureaucratic timidy and unwillingness to allow critical examination may in fact sometimes be merely a lively awareness of the battery of arcane laws that a repressive Government can, and does, invoke.
Secrecy and civil liberties are inextricably related, and simultaneous solution to both problems is to open up our Public Sen-ice along the lines that have already been adopted in the United States, the United Kingdom. Sweden and a number of other nations whose Governments are still standing and whose Public Servants aTe not yet anarchic.
I commend this motion to the Senate. I suggest that we have nothing very much to lose but a tremendous amount to gain, however our committee might handle the matter. For those reasons, and after 53 years I suggest that it is almost time that the Australian public was allowed to have the fresh breezes blow through the corridors of power in the Public Service of Australia.
(9.5) - The Government will oppose this motion which is in the name of Senator Willesee. The motion is in these terms:
That there be referred to the Standing Committee of Finance and Government Operations the following matter - The structure, recruitment and management of the Commonwealth Public Service.
First of all I wish to say something about standing committees in general. I want to repeat that a fundamental situation has emerged in this Senate in relation to the creation of standing committees as a result of our own decisions, for which of course the Government has to accept a degree of responsibility. I think in fact 7 new committees have been created, but if we look at the notice paper we find that we have something like 14 Senate committees. True it is that some of them do not meet very often. I think one of them has not met at all in the 18£ years that I have been in the Senate. Nevertheless, there are 14 of them.
– One has been there since 1906.
That is right. 1 wish to refer honourable senators to page 21 of the document entitled ‘Committees of the Australian Senate’. Paragraph 10 of appendix D reads:
A Standing Committee shall not meet while the Senate is actually sitting, unless by special order of the Senate.
Although in general we have put our hearts against such a request, certain committees have put very strong cases and circumstances which have required us to agree to it. Paragraph 1 1 reads:
Unless it be otherwise specially provided by the Standing Orders, the reference of a matter to a Standing Committee shall be on Motion after Notice. Such Notice of Motion may be given -
in the usual manner when Notices are given at the beginning of the business of the day; or
at any other time by a Senator -
stating its terms to the Senate, when other business is not before the Chair; or
delivering a copy to the Clerk . . . Any such Notice of Motion shall be placed on the Notice Paper for the next sitting day as ‘Business of the Senate’ and, as such, shall take precedence of Government and General Business set down for that day.
The operative words to which I wish to draw attention are ‘shall take precedence of Government . . . Business’. If we look at our business paper for today we find under the heading ‘Notices of Motion’ that there are no less than 4 references to standing committees. We in this Senate have reached the situation where it has become almost a physical impossibility to service the programmes of standing committees as they are put down. Except on the days when we are scheduled to rise at 10.30 or 11 o’clock but do not adjourn, any honourable senator can give notice on any working day of the Senate that he will move on the next day of sitting that a matter be referred to a standing committee, and on the next day of sitting that notice of motion takes precedence. In a Senate where we have under proportional representation 2 major parties which will always be very close to one another in numbers, together with independents and a third political party here, and because of the procedure in relation to referring matters to standing committees, inevitably the Government must lose control of the management of this Parliament.
We are getting to a situation and may well reach a situation where, if we do not have the high degree of co-operation which 1 as Leader of the Government feel bound to say we do have and have had - this is to our own credit all round and is an ingredient which is not written into any constitution - the management of the Senate during the life of this Parliament or future Parliaments could be completely stalemated. Any honourable senator could wake up any morning and think: ‘What shall I do today? I shall move for a Standing Committee on something?’ I do not suggest that this is the case with the reference proposed by Senator Willesee. I shall come to the substance of that a little later in my remarks. However, I should like to have this view recorded in Hansard because I suggest that all honourable senators will have to bite the bullet on the question of references to committees before we go very much further. If we continue to refer matters to committees we will arrive at a situation where the working of the Senate will become unmanageable because of the functions being performed by standing committees. We must come to some realisation of the situation to avoid the situation becoming unmanageable in terms of the Government controlling the business of the Senate.
If we continue to refer matters to committees the work of the Senate will become unmanageable through the sheer exhaustion of honourable senators trying to do more than they are physically able to do. All honourable senators know as they look me in the eye that that is true. We now have honourable senators from both sides of the chamber attending committees and spending time on that work out of all proportion to the time that they can reasonably afford to give, having in mind their responsibilities to their constituencies. Honourable senators in this place come from the highways and byways throughout the whole of the Commonwealth of Australia, a country which embraces one of the world’s largest earth masses.
When considering the demands that committee work makes upon all senators we must bear in mind that some of the old and bold among us obviously are not able to give as much as others to committee work. When it comes to the manning of committees, if we leave out from our con- sideration the 5 Ministers, the Presiding Officer and Chairman of Committees, and when we take into account also the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) and Leader of the Democratic Labor Party (Senator Gair), as well as the Whips who have other duties to perform, we are putting upon the remaining senators a load which is out of all proportion to what can reasonably be expected of them. We must bear in mind also that some honourable senators will become sick or tired, or perhaps have to retire from committee work. If we face the situation squarely we must arrive at the conclusion that, contrary to what people generally think about the work of parliamentarians, and particularly senators, what is being required of them is out of all proportion to what can be expected of them as a contribution to the nation. One honourable senator on this side of the chamber has been serving on 7 committees, and I understand that some honourable senators from the other side of the chamber are members of 5 or 6 committees. This situation arises simply because we have not enough bodies to man the committees.
The Committee to which the honourable senator proposes to refer a matter is the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations, a Committee which already is in existence and which already has a reference. Already the Committee has referred to it a reference to consider:
The effects of Estate and like duties on the public revenues and the economic circumstances of individuals and communities, and the social consequence of such duties.
I invite honourable senators to consider the personnel who compose that committee. If honourable senators do their homework they will discover on how many other committees these honourable senators serve and they would be appalled at the demands placed on them. I suggest that, considering only the reference to which I have just referred, the work of the Committee will take a considerable time. For how long was the Senate Select Committee on Off-Shore Petroleum Resources engaged in its task? Was it 3 years?
– It was 4 years.
– Four years. I am not being facetious when I say that a consideration of the reference already before the Committee and the one proposed by Senator Willesee would make that 4 years seem like chicken feed. It would take the Committee 10 years to complete a consideration of those matters. I do not base this estimate on what I say but on what was said by Senator Willesee who has moved for this reference. Honourable senators will read in Hansard tomorrow what is contemplated by the honourable senator. I suggest that it is not real to expect a Senate committee to be required to undertake a consideration of a reference such as has been proposed by Senator Willesee. I felt that it was necessary to put these remarks on record. I might not be here 100 years from now, but I suggest that when I am thought of at some time in the future someone will say: ‘Anderson said that, but it took us a long time to wake up. He proved to be right’. The truth is that we must rationalise our role as senators if we are to do the things that we need to do. This is a second chamber of the Parliament which has a responsibility to deal with legislation. It is true that the committee system has grown and that our Senate committees are able to carry out research and do certain things better than can be done in the other place, but it is true also that we will destroy ourselves if we become too ambitious and try to develop the committee system too much.
I come now to the matter of substance contained in the motion. Senator Willesee said that at the last head count, for which he had to go back some time, there was of the order of 237,000 Commonwealth public servants and about 85,000 members of the permanent forces. Of the 237,000 public servants about 110,000 were employed by the Postmaster-General’s Department. The honourable senator did not include in the figures he cited people employed by statutory bodies and other fringe organisations who in many ways could be regarded as public servants because they perform a public service under special Acts of the Parliament. If all those were added to the numbers mentioned by the honourable senator we would have a tremendous number. I am sure that the honourable senator would agree with that.
– I am referring to those under the umbrella of the Public Service Board.
– Yes, the honourable senator was narrowing his comment to those who came under the
Public Service Board, which includes persons employed under the Commonwealth Public Service Act, the Superannuation Act, the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act and various supply and development Acts. All employees under these Acts come under the aegis of the Commonwealth Public Service Board. We must include also those who are employed by the statutory authorities. Although they may not come under the Public Service Board in a direct sense, they are related in the sense of the argument which was presented by Senator Willesee. The honourable senator has suggested that the structure, recruitment and management of the Commonwealth Public Service be referred to the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations.
I should like to make the point that people tend to fall into the error of referring to scribblers in the Public Service in the same tone as they use when referring to mothers-in-law. In the same way as they tell a story about a mother-in-law they refer to the terrible public servants - the terrible bureaucrats. Public servants are criticised out of all proportion to the work that they do. The Public Service in Australia is made up of a wonderful body of people. I do not suggest that Senator Willesee was criticising them in any way, but there is a tendency to refer to public servants as though they were a bunch of no-hopers, as though they were incompetent, lazy, and indifferent, and as though they do not know what they are doing. Yet it is a fact of life that people leave our Public Service for employment with private enterprise and they are much sought after because of the tremendous skills and capabilities that they possess in terms of management, judgement and know-how.
I do not want it ever to be thought that there is a high degree of incompetence among Commonwealth public servants. These people do not live in the cloisters, as could be inferred from Senator Willesee’s remarks. There would not be a department under the control of the Public Service Board which does not have officers constantly going about the world to make themselves aware of what is happening in other places. There seems to be a suggestion that our public servants are living in the horse and buggy days while others live in the day of modern aircraft. The public servant today is competent, well informed and aware of what is going on in other parts of the world because the bigger Commonwealth departments are constantly sending people all round the world. 1 know this to be so because I have administered 3 departments. There is a constant flow of officers about the world to compare what is being done in management in other places with what is being done in Australia. While talking about the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, may I say that we have a mail handling centre in Redfern which is regarded as one of the most efficient mail handling centres in the world.
– Now, now!
– This is true. The honourable senator may criticise it but that does not weaken the fact that it is one of the most efficient mail handling centres that the Free World has seen.
– And it costs $4m to maintain.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI am not talking about the cost; I am talking about its efficiency. If the honourable senator cannot relate cost to efficiency, I cannot do anything about that. I am making the point that the Public Service is not incompetent. It is not. We are not living in splendid isolation. We are sending people all over the world all the time in order to keep abreast with what is being done. Simply to say that we are falling down on the job because we have only 80 computers-
– I did not say that.
– That was the clear inference.
– No, it is not a clear inference. You read my remarks tomorrow.
– I will do that. That beggars what a computer does. A computer can have a tremendous implication. I suggest that the honourable senator look at the Department of Supply and the Postmaster-General’s Department.
– Read what I said. I did not criticise the lack of computers. My point was that they all were installed only very recently and this was a revolution.
– I think there was a reference to the number of them - 80 of them.
– I was trying to say that they arc stacking up very rapidly. That is the opposite to what you are saying.
If I have misinterpreted what Senator Willesee said I will be the first to acknowledge it. 1 am making the point that we are not going to allow the Public Service to be taken apart for incompetence in that sense. 1 want to refer to some other angles, and I now come to the gravamen of the proposition. Some reference was made to secrecy in the Public Service. The suggestion is thai we should not have to have secrecy in the Public Service. I concede that this is a grey area but management in any field requires a high degree of loyalty and secrecy. If it is being suggested - Senator Willesee touched very briefly on this point - that secrecy is going to impinge upon the employment of public servants, I think that that would be the greatest injustice of all to them. You cannot have it that way. Every officer who joins the Public Service takes an oath of some form or other and must live within it. For instance, in the Post Office, we could not have a situation where the Government was considering a policy matter and then be able to read about it in the newspapers on the next day.
Reference has been made to what happens in other parts of the world. My goodness, I read a case involving a parliamentarian in London. If I dug hard enough into my brain I think I could mention the man’s name. This parliamentarian collaborated with somebody in the Public Service and released some information that he should not have announced and he was dealt with very critically. I would be the first to concede that the matter of secrecy is a very difficult one but I think the reservation of the strength of the Public Service requires a high degree of loyalty to the job and secrecy. Inevitably the higher you go in the Public Service, where public servants are dealing with matters of high policy, there can be nothing but secrecy. Imagine what would happen in the field of foreign affairs if everybody could swing high and low. A person could sit on the phone and listen to grave matters of international secrecy being handled between nations and we could read about it in the Press the next day. It is just not on.
– That is not the suggestion.
This is a grey area in which you have to make a decision as to where you go.
– I put it to you that the Government is locking up tremendous ability and knowledge in its public service. It is not making the information known to such places as universities and other branches of the Public Service. That is the criticism.
– We must have loyalty and secrecy, lt has to be. Let us look at the question of locking up knowledge. I suppose that the honourable senator means that knowledge is being locked up in the area of promotion.
– Let us take the case of the scientists who worked on the Jervis Bay proposition. I think that the public would have been much better informed if those people had been allowed to talk and to lecture.
The honourable senator’s response is the very point 1 am making. A judgment has to be made particularly in the higher echelons, as to what can be released. The honourable senator is getting into a difficult area. The other thing I want to refer to quickly before leaving this matter is the reference by Senator Willesee to the Post Office. Senator Gair, or somebody else in the Democratic Labor Party, moved for the creation of a statutory body. I suggest that the mover of that motion did not put that suggestion forward in terms of the background of the motion now before us. The suggestion was made in a different set of circumstances altogether. That motion was not dealt with on the basis of the structure, recruitment and management of the Commonwealth Public Service. It was moved in the context of separation in a world-wide situation. We have a certain set-up in the Public Service in Australia and I think the argument at that time was that certain parts of the Post Office could be separated in much the same way as the
Overseas Telecommunications Commission is a separate body. As I remember it, the argument revolved around the structure.
– That was an aside. It was the secondary point.
– That was one of the suggestions. I am relying on my memory. Before letting this matter be I want to say that we on the Government side resist this motion. We resist it firstly because the very wide canvas of the motion would place a burdensome task on the Standing Committee. The Committee already has a reference before it which could take another 12 or 18 months to complete. Secondly - I do not want to be thought to be offensive to any honourable senator, on either the Government side or the Opposition side - I do not think that a Senate standing committee is the body to do the sorts of things that Senator Willesee has suggested should be done. I do not believe that the Standing Committee would have time to make this examination. Speaking bluntly, I do not think it has the competence. By nature we are not efficiency experts in that sense. The Public Service calls in all sorts of advisers with expertise in specialised fields. I do not believe that we have that expertise. I think the Standing Committee would be laborious in the way it went about calling evidence on the know-how, knowledge and expertise involved. For those reasons, with the greatest goodwill in the world, the Government believes that this work is beyond the competence of the Standing Committee, brilliant and enthusiastic though Its members may be. I do not believe that as a team it would have the necessary ingredients to do the things suggested. Certainly its members would not have the physical capacity to do it. For those reasons T have to indicate that the Government cannot support the proposition.
– As this matter comes up for debate 1 am reminded that over the years it has been a constant subject of concern to Senator Willesee. In the many years that I have known him, Senator Willesee has always exhibited a keen interest in the Public Service, in its development and in its operation, and more particularly in the Post Office. The motion that he has brought forward is part of the exhibition of his concern that the Public Service, in the interests both of those who comprise it and of the role it plays in the community, should be at all times appropriately and efficiently structured, and that it should always bear the most modern image it is possible to attach to it.
Senator Willesee has suggested that it is time the Public Service was looked at by somebody, and he has mentioned one of the more recently established standing committees of the Senate. The reference which he has suggested should go to such a committee is extraordinarily wide. I could not imagine a reference that was wider in its terms than the one he has proposed. It relates to the structure, recruitment and management of the Public Service. An investigation into the structure of the Public Service would be, in itself, a tremendous exercise because it would involve an analysis of the whole of the Public Service organisation. It would require an examination of comparative structures of public services in other countries. It no doubt would involve an examination, with expert advice, of the commercial structures of great corporations so that any worthwhile ideas might be incorporated into the Public Service. That alone would be an exercise of immense proportions.
An investigation into the management of the Public Service would go to the whole system and would involve the structure of the Public Service in the sense that there might be a suggestion that the present method of departmentalisation might be abandoned, that some other alternative method might be adopted, that the management of the Public Service might move from a board to a single commission or that it should be operated in some other way. The question would arise whether Public Service personnel should have a representative on the board. All of these are matters of very great moment.
I think it is time that the Public Service was looked at. It would be a very good idea for the Public Service to come under periodic and regular scrutiny by some appropriate body because it is undoubted that practices have developed which have become old fashioned and undesirable and which are economically unsustainable and indefensible. Such a check could be done by periodic reviews and examination of the Public Service. It becomes a question of what is the appropriate type of body to conduct such an investigation. On page 4697 of the notice paper, notice of motion No. 2 under General Business is as follows:
– To move :
I presume that at some stage the Opposition considered that the appropriate investigating body would be a select committee of the Senate. I do not know whether one motion has been superseded by a subsequent motion. Obviously the Opposition itself is not fixed in its own mind on the more appropriate type of body to conduct art investigation of this great magnitude and of such immense proportions. I. do not think that either body suggested is the appropriate body to do it. The terms of reference would be so immensely widethat they would require attention by experts in that field who perhaps, if the job was done properly, would have to be drawn from the British public service or the American public service and then, with the assistance perhaps of experienced men from some of the States, one might constitute a top body of inquiry which would draw upon personal identification with the operation of public administrations in other English speaking countries such as Canada, America and so on. Such people would bring their knowledge not merely as advisers to a committee of the Senate, but would act judiciously in the final determination of what the committee’s recommendations should be. Any inquiry at a lower level of expert structure than that would be highly undesirable because it might do only a second class job for the Public Service and would certainly not achieve the purpose which so worthily Senator Willesee has in mind.
If a proposition were placed before this chamber at some time in the future that there should be a body - not a parliamentary body - of inquiry which would be called into being with a charter which would require a similar body, after a lapse of 5, 7, 8 or 10 years, to reinvestigate the matter,I personally would support it because I believe that the Public Service must be kept under constant and expert scrutiny by a body outside the administration itself. It is not sufficient that that scrutiny should involve the bringing of ideas purely from this Australian milieu. Instead it should attract the ideas which would come from the invitation to distinguished people associated with other public services to join the body of inquiry. This Parliament should be enthusiastic about such a suggestion. I would be extremely disappointed if the only investigation held into this proliferating public federal admi nistration in Australia was an investigation of this nature with all the limitations of time, the necessary limilations of personnel and the acknowledged limitations in expertise of the honourable senators who would comprise such a committee or, for that matter, even a select committee. I would regard that as a totally inadequate body to undertake thistask. We would achieve a result on which people might rest inadequately, and which would not give us those guidelines and pointers to the future for the Public Service which we feel should be a clear indication for the future planning of the public administration.
For those reasons, while 1 support the concept of an inquiry into the Public Service I do not think that either a select committee, or more particularly a standing committee, would be the appropriate body to do so. If Senator Willesee on the appropriate occasion and in the appropriate form were to put forward an idea for a top level inquiry by a commission or some such body into the Public Service, I would be very happy about it and enthusiastically would give it my support. My Party feels that it cannot support the proposition now before us. Therefore we find ourselves in opposition to the motion moved by Senator Willesee.
– I rise to speak against this reference because, as I mentioned in my maiden speech in this chamber, 1 believe that we should bear in mind very carefully that we, as senators, have to act responsibly in this chamber, we have to face up to our responsibility to our electorate and we have to find time to fulfil our new-found responsibility towards the committee system. In my opinion the committee system has focused a lot of attention on the Senate. Therefore we should make sure that the references that are made to the committees have sufficient merit - perhaps I should not use the word ‘merit’ because there is merit in all the references that are put before us - to warrant the inroads that they make into the limited time available to senators to carry out other aspects of their work.
Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson has referred already to the fact that committee references take precedence over government business. This in itself appears to me to be an anomaly that should be looked at in the future because I do not think it is fair that government business should be delayed to any great extent by these references. It might be necessary for the Senate to review its thinking on this matter. Perhaps at some future time it might feel disposed to grant this precedence on one day in the sitting week. I cannot help but note that other references that have been put before committees seem to be quite unwieldy and no doubt will be very time consuming. It occurs to me also that many of the references - in fact most of them - come from the Opposition side. Although I believe that most of them have great merit, some of them seem to be motivated by political interests. I must say, to follow up that statement, that the Standing Committee on Health and Welfare on which I am serving has treated the references to it in a non-party political way. But some of the references on the notice paper seem to indicate that the motivation behind them could be political. If that is the case, it would tend to lead me to believe that some wastage of time could be occurring because of that.
I would like to mention one matter that has been referred to the Committee that we are considering at the moment, lt is one which, I think, was referred very fairly at the instigation of Senator Davidson. I am sure that it would have the full support of Senator Negus, who only recently made reference to the matter in this place. It reads:
The effects of Estate and like duties on the public revenues and the economic circumstances of individuals and communities, and the social consequences of such duties.
That reference will demand a considerable amount of time of the honourable senators on this Committee. I hope that the report, when it is presented, will have some influence on the Government in effecting changes in this area.
There is another reference that ought to be looked at, and that is the introduction of a national superannuation scheme. That matter has been referred to the Health and Welfare Committee. At present that Committee is engaged in studying all aspects of repatriation and we would hope that a report could be presented in this place within the next 6 months. But, looking at the subject matter of the next reference, I would not be surprised if the Government made some radical changes with regard to social services which could render that reference unnecessary. All these matters have to be considered.
I would like to refer to what Senator Byrne has said and also to direct the attention of the Senate to Senator Willesee’s interest in the Postmaster-General’s Department. It would appear that most of what Senator Willesee said related to that Department and that he has preconceived ideas about what should happen in this area, namely, that the Department’s method of operation should be changed and that it should become a statutory body. I believe that this matter is beyond the scope of the competence of the Finance and Government Operations Committee to decide. Senator Byrne pointed out fairly clearly the confusion that obviously exists in the minds of members of the Opposition. Senator Murphy has suggested that this matter be referred to a select committee. This is a classic example of how Senator Murphy gets carried away wilh his references. I think it is fair to read it out at this time:
That goes a little beyond the reference proposed by Senator Willesee. But Senator Murphy’s proposal goes further and says:
I am sorry; I over-reached myself in relation to the terms of reference. Senator Murphy goes into more detail-
– You are displaying where the confusion lies.
– Obviously there is confusion in Senator Willesee’s mind. Senator Murphy has gone a little further than he has. He has stopped at the question of the management of the Public Service. 1 believe that that is a very good reason why the Senate should reject his proposal. Had he come up with a narrower reference which would have taken the Committee less than 18 months or 2 years to deal with, we may have been more amenable to his suggestion. Although I recognise the motive behind his motion - no doubt he has good reasons for putting it before the Senate - I believe that it is unwieldy and would be far too time consuming, particularly in the year ahead. I have no doubt that members of the. Labor Party will be anxious to get out into the electorate in an endeavour to convince the people that they have a case to put to them. That is a very difficult task because in recent weeks we have seen how the credibility of the leadership has bean put in very grave doubt. With that nonpolitical finish to my speech, I oppose the motion.
– I have listened to this debate with considerable interest. I congratulate the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Senator Willesee, on the excellent case that he put forward this evening as to why the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations should inquire into the structure, recruitment and management of the Commonwealth Public Service. I do not intend to reiterate all of the multifarious matters that were the subject of his remarks. Bearing in mind the prima facie evidence that he submitted in his address to the Senate, I say frankly that we as members of Parliament would be recreant to our trust as custodians of the interests of the people in this place if we did not insist on some form of inquiry.
Indeed, it would appear to me, having listened to the debate, that the Government does not object to an inquiry. It objects to a Senate select committee of inquiry and it objects to a Senate standing committee of inquiry, but it does not object to an inquiry as such. Indeed, as I will show later, the Federal Treasurer (Mr Snedden) in the last Budge Speech said that the Government was taking action which, I suggest, was in the form of an inquiry. Senator Byrne, representing the Democratic Labor Party, went on record as saying that his political organisation did not object to an inquiry about it did not want a parliamentary inquiry. Indeed, if I remember correctly, Senator Byrne said that if the Opposition were proposing the establishment of a body which would have a broad charter to investigate the ramifications of the Public Service in this particular year and then, in 7 years time, recharter that body to conduct a further investigation, the Australian Democratic Labor Party would have no objejction to such a proposal.
– I did not say that. I said that I would support it. I had not consulted my colleagues.
Senator DOUGLAS MCCLELLANDAll right. I thought the honourable senator was speaking on behalf of his party.
– No. In that respect I said that I would support it.
– 1 accept the correction. Frankly, I thought that the honourable senator was speaking on behalf of his political Party. When I make mention of what Senator Byrne said, I do not think he disagrees with my interpretation of his remarks except that he was making them on a personal basis and not on behalf of the DLP. I assume that the honourable senator was speaking on behalf of the DLP when he said that his political party would support the form of inquiry recommended by the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party. So we have it that all political Parties in this chamber agree that there should be some form of inquiry into the Commonwealth Public Service.
– Our Leader did not say that.
Senator Young disagrees. But let me remind the honourable senator what the Treasurer had to say in the presentation of his Budget papers in August last year - some 6 months ago. He said:
The Government is concerned about the rate of growth of departmental’ expenditure and has taken action to curtail it. It is proposed to initiate within the Government a review of the existing functions and activities of departments.
If that does not indicate a form of inquiry into the activities of Government depart- meats of the Public Service then, frankly, I do not know what else it does. This was a policy statement issued by the Federal Treasurer in his Budget Speech. There the Government, in the introduction of its last Budget, agreed that it was necessary for some form of inquiry to be embarked upon into the Public Service. As I have mentioned, Senator Byrne has said that as far as he is concerned he will support the chartering of an organisation which would inquire into the Public Service and which would, in 6 or 7 years time, conduct a further investigation. But then, in fairness to the honourable senator, I point out that he went on to say that the Democratic Labor Party would not support the proposed type of inquiry suggested by the Australian Labor Party. I assume that his Party would have no objection at all to the establishment of some form of inquiry into the Commonwealth Public Service. I well remember that when Senator Willesee was on his feet Senator Gair, the Leader of the DLP, interjected: ‘I was the first to make such a suggestion’.
– I think my colleagues would support it.
– Senator Byrne now confirms that it is his opinion that his colleagues would support such a proposal.
– What does that mean?
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLANDWhatI am getting at is that it is obvious that all sections of political thought represented in this chamber - apart from the independents from whom we have not heard as yet - agree that there should be a form of inquiry into the ramifications of the Public Service. The Government, in its Budget papers, has said that it is proposed to initiate within the Government a review of existing functions and activities of departments. Going on the debate which has taken place here this evening it is obvious that the matter comes down not to whether there should be an inquiry but what form of inquiry should be undertaken. 1 come now to the submissions made by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson as to why a Senate standing committee or select committee should not embark upon such a course of inquiry. We have related this proposition to an inquiry by a standing committee. Let me specifically deal with Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson’s submissions in that regard.
In fairness I say that frankly I agree in part with what Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson had to say about the onerous responsibility of members of the Senate who serve on standing committees. But I suggest that some standing committees are operating more as select committees. If the standing committees which have been established and which it is proposed to establish inquired and inquire into matters on an injunctive basis, as it were, and submitted an expeditious report or a series of expeditious reports dealing with the various individual facets of the subject of inquiry then I suggest that there would be no difficulty at all in any standing committee conducting an inquiry of this nature. I say with great respect to all who are members of standing committees that I think that a great number of us have fallen into the trap of commonly regarding standing committees as select committees and taking detailed and voluminous evidence from a vast section of the Australian community so that at the end of the receipt and consideration of the evidence a detailed and voluminous report is tendered.
– May I ask the honourable senator a question on this matter? Does the honourable senator not think that the terms of reference themselves force the committees to do this because the terms are so big?
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLANDNo. This is where I disagree. I suggest that pockets of the inquiry can be dealt with on an individual basis - facets of the inquiry - and a hasty report can be submitted. For instance, let us look at this proposed inquiry into the administration of the Public Service. Let us have an inquiry into the manner in which the Public Service Board is administering the Public Service. The committee could submit a report to this Parliament and demand to know from the Government what action it will take to see whether the recommendations on that particular facet are going to be implemented. Then the matter could go back to the Committee and another facet could be dealt with. So we would have a permanent running inquiry into all the matters which are the subject of standing committees. As 1 say, in that regard I feel that there is a great difference between the roles of standing committees and select committees of this Senate.
– Which of the 2 propositions which the honourable senator has put up does he prefer - the select committees or the standing committees?
– I prefer a standing committee operating on the basis I have suggested.
– Constant scrutiny?
Constant scrutiny; determinate action; and the submission of a number of reports to this Parliament demanding action from the Government on those reports. Frankly, I am not so much concerned at the work which is involved on the part of honourable senators who are members of standing committees but I am more concerned at the lack of action taken by the Government to carry out the recommendations of the standing committees and select committees. Certainly, I suggest that if the Government played its part and reported back to the Senate on the action which it had taken, which it could take or which it intended to take in relation to a particular report, then more encouragement would be given to Senate committees to get their reports in expeditiously. I do not think therefore that it is so much a matter of the committees having ‘competency’, to use the word adopted by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, to investigate matters of this nature; it is more that the Government should ensure that action is taken on the recommendations of such committees. Not one public criticism has been voiced on all the reports that have been submitted by Senate standing committees and Senate select committees. Each of those reports has been considered to be an excellent one. They have all highlighted various matters that need to be considered and upon which action must be taken.
I refer, for example, to the most excellent report of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution, of which Senator Davidson was chairman, and my good friend, Senator Mulvihill, was an active member. The presence of Senator Hannan on the Government side takes my memory back some years to the Senate Select Committee that inquired into the encouragement of Australian productions for television. He and I were members of that Committee in 1963. Again, that Committee produced an excellent report. 1 refer next to the Senate Select Committee on Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse. Its report was excellent. The Senate Standing Committee on Health and Welfare inquired into the problem of the mentally and physically handicapped in this country. As a member of that Committee - I can speak only for myself but I dare say that my experience is in common with that of the other members of that Committee - I have received many letters congratulating members of that Committee on the excellence of its report.
– The one regret is that none of the recommendations has been implemented.
As Senator Mulvihill says, the one regret, as I have emphasised, is that none of the recommendations of any of those committees has been implemented by this Government. Therefore, I think it is completely unfair for the Leader of the Government in the Senate to call into question the competency of members of the Senate to conduct investigations of the type proposed by the motion moved by Senator Willesee.
Let me deal now shortly with one or two matters to show why an inquiry should bc conducted into the Commonwealth Public Service. Firstly, it was as long ago as 1968 that the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Australia at its annual meeting in Hobart urged the establishment of an inquiry into the Commonwealth Public Service. It urged the appointment of a commission, similar to the Hoover Commission in the United States of America, to investigate the efficiency of the Public Service administratively. It is interesting to note that the report that was tendered to that conference was presented by the Past President of the Sydney Chamber of Commerce, Mr F. M. Hewitt, M.L.C., who is now a Minister of the Crown in the Government of the State of New South Wales. As long ago as 1968, the annual meeting of the Associated Chambers of Commerce urged an inquiry into the Commonwealth Public Service.
In 1971 the Associated Chambers of Commerce again urged an inquiry into the Commonwealth Public Service. In the submission made by the President of the Associated Chambers of Commerce, Mr Neville Blyton, it was stated:
Evidence of inefficiencies in the administration of expenditure by a number of Federal Government departments has been brought to light in the recent report of the Joint Committee on Public Accounts.
Mr Blyton went on to say that the Federal Treasurer had said in his Budget Speech that it was the intention of the Governmcm to conduct a review of existing functions and activities of Commonwealth Public Service departments. He then said:
Since the Budget– this was 4 or 5 months after that Budget was presented:
. there has been no announcement by the Government about the terms of the inquiry nor who would bc carrying it out.
On the one hand, we have the Associated Chambers of Commerce pressing for years for an inquiry into the management, efficiency and structure of the Commonwealth Public Service; the trade union movement has been pressing for such an inquiry; on ils own admission the Government slates that an inquiry is warranted; the Australian Democratic Labor Party believes that it would support an independent inquiry, although not a parliamentary inquiry; and the Labor movement which seeks an inquiry is the only body which has come forward wilh a constructive suggestion as to the type of inquiry. Yet the idea is pooh-poohed by all those who do not sit on our side of the Senate.
Lel me say one other thing in rebuttal of what Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson said. He suggested that the Redfern Mail Exchange has the most efficient mail sorting machine in the world. I think tha! was his expression. When I interjected on the question of costs. I think that he said that I should be able to associate the question of costs with the question of efficiency. This machine was installed in 1966 at a cost of S3.58m. From 1967 to 1971 in excess of $4m was spent on the maintenance of and running repairs to the machine. Already, in the first 4 months of this financial year, $311,560 has been spent on the maintenance of that electronic letter handling machine. If we multiply that figure to achieve an annual figure, it would appear that the maintenance cost of that machine will run out this year at Sim or 33 per cent of the initial capital cost of ils installation. If (hat is efficiency, frankly I am not satisfied with it.
There is the question of arbitration procedures and the protracted delay that is involved on the part of the Commonwealth Public Service in handling applications by industrial unions of employees for determinations. In a Press release on 13 March 1970, the Australian Broadcasting Commission Staff Association which represented at that time approximately 4,0C0 employees of the ABC made a scathing attack on the Public Service Board before Deputy Public Service. Arbitrator Mr O’Reilly, lt suggested that lop management of the ABC was little more than a front organisation for the Public Service Board, lt cited delays of up to 12 months and accused the Public Service Board of unreasonable delay and an inconsistent and illogical approach which had resuled in many anomalies.
I refer next to the case of Commonwealth meat inspectors. I raised this matter in this Parliament. When I suggested by way of question that there was a dearth of Commonwealth meal inspectors caused by the comparatively low wages that meat inspectors received and the poor working conditions of their employment, those from the corner benches on the Government side - the Country Party - scoffed at me. But, suddenly, it was found that there was a shortage of Commonwealth meat inspectors. Recruits were brought from Queensland to Victoria. Indeed, an attempt was made to bring recruits from New Zealand.
The Commonwealth Meat Inspectors Association lodged an application for an increase in wages and improved working conditions. Negotiations were conducted with the Public Service Board. Those negotiations failed. The case then went to arbitration. The Public Service Arbitrator refused to accede to the requests of the Association. After all that trouble that that union had been put to, the matter was referred back to the Public Service Board which then offered Commonwealth meat inspectors a 10 per cent increase. Why could not the Board have done that 12 months earlier than it did rather than put a small union to the trouble and expense of submitting the matter, in the first instance, to the Public Service Arbitrator. 1 feel that I have spoken long enough. I congratulate Senator Willesee on his exposition of the reasons why there should be an inquiry. Because of the ability of members of Parliament so to inquire I urge that the reference to the Standing Committee be carried by the Senate.
– The motion urges that a comprehensive study of the Public Service be undertaken by a group of members of Parliament. I urge the Senate to reject it as a serious breach of principle and as a considerable confusion of thought. The idea that parliamentarians could conduct an objective comprehensive inquiry into members of the Public Service, who are really their servants and who represent one quarter of the Australian voting public, is advanced by the Opposition either with naivety or in a deliberate attempt to tie up the Senate in a long, protracted and useless debate. The relationship of the Parliament and the Public Service is a relationship of master and servant. The motion suggests that the Senate, the political master, be invited to conduct an inquiry into the servant, the Public Service in an election year. I have often suspected that the Opposition had no sense of humour, but the thought that in an election year there could be anything approaching an objective inquiry into the Public Service surely is a joke. I remind the Senate that under our quaint system of elections almost every year is an election year. Therefore I reject the motion as being a massive breach of principle, apart from being utterly incompetent in its concept.
I remind the Senate that the number of persons employed in the Commonwealth Public Service represents about 1 in 4 of the people employed in Australia. That represents about one family in four. 1 remind the Senate also that the concept is that we should solemnly sit in judgment. The simple fact is that we are partisans. It is our job to be partisans. It is our job to make political decisions regarding the Public Service. If the Senate were sincere in its desire to have an inquiry into the Public Service the last body on earth that it would suggest to conduct the inquiry would be the Senate or a parliamentary committee. I ask the Senate to regard the motion as being a breach of principle. If honourable senators opposite thought that there was to be an objective inquiry, I would have expected to hear tonight a list of suggested terms of reference. I heard one or two things. I heard the poor old Redfern Mail Exchange trotted out again. It is usually a good standby when the Fill is not in season. Beyond that I did not hear a comprehensive list of reasons why there should be a detailed inquiry. Such an inquiry might be merited, but if an honourable senator seriously advocated an inquiry surely he should have backed up his advocacy with reason.
The suggested inquiry is to be into the structure, recruitment and management of the Public Service. As Senator Willesee said, this would affect such interesting things as the wages policy of the Public Service in an election year. My sense of humour is strained. What are we trying to do? Are we trying to present naivety to the public? That is quite ridiculous. There would be 2 levels to any kind of inquiry into the Public Service. Firstly, there would be an inquiry on a managerial and efficiency basis, and also on a technical or technological basis. This clearly would be done by an outside body. If one were searching for such a body one would have in mind the Hoover Commission. When that kind of inquiry was completed one would apply the philosophy of one’s political Party when reviewing the report because each Party would have a different view. On the basis that it is a breach of principle I reject the motion. I ask for leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I wish to speak tonight on behalf of one of the unfortunate young men especially singled out by the Government for prosecution under the National Service
Act. I wish to speak about the sentences imposed on men who breach the Act. These line young Australians are being forced into the courts not because they are criminals and not because they are common lawbreakers but because they are opposed to an unjust law which has been put on the statute book by a government and its supporters, all of whom are renowned for conducting election campaigns on the fear complex and on the policy of there being a Red under every bed.
– What is unjust about the law?
– It is unjust. I will continue with my speech.
– I knew that you could not answer that.
– It is unjust because it was imposed upon the young men of this country to force them into the Army to fight an undeclared and illegal war in Vietnam. You, Senator Webster, supported the war. You are one of the people who-
– Order! The honourable senator will address the Chair.
– Because many young men are prepared to oppose publicly the immoral action of the Liberal-Country Party-Democratic Labor Party coalition in committing Australia to an illegal war in Vietnam, as I was explaining to Senator Webster, they, their wives, their parents and their relatives have to suffer the humiliation of court action. The young lad to whom I refer lives in my area. South Australia, very close to Murray Bridge. His present address is 18 Fisher Street, Fullarton. His name is Robert William Martin. He is aged 22 years. His parents reside at Wall Flat, a few miles up river from Murray Bridge. His father served in the Australian Imperial Force during the Second World Wai and is a member of the Relumed Services League, at present holding the position of Vice-President of the Mypolanga sub-branch. This lad knows what it is for members of his family to fight for his country in time of need.
Robert Martin was one of the top students at the Murray Bridge High School. He was a student at the University of Adelaide from 1967 until June 1969. Because of the policy of this Government, supported by Senator Webster, the future career of this fine young South Australian has been taken from him. He has been thrown into prison. He will be forced to spend the next 18 months of his young life in the company of convicted criminals. At this very moment he is behind bars in the Adelaide gaol, the victim of inhuman legislation enforced by this inhuman Government for the purpose of participating in an inhuman, undeclared war in Vietnam.
I shall relate to the Senate the so-called crime committed by this boy which has brought about his imprisonment. Firstly, he refused to register during the JulyAugust 1969 regis1 ration period. Secondly, he informed the Department of Labour and National Service of his reasons for refusing to register - namely, that he considered the National Service Act to be unjust. Thirdly, on 28th April 1970 he was fined $70 for failing to register. Fourthly, on 24th September 1971 he was fined a further $80 and imprisoned for 7 days for failing to attend a medical examination. Fifthly, on 1st October 1971, on being released from prison, he was served wilh a notice to attend a call-up at the Keswick Barracks in South Australia on 2nd November. He did not attend. Sixthly, on 10th February 1972 he was served a no’.ice to appear in the Adelaide Magistrates Court on 25th February. He attended the Magistrates Court in Adelaide on 25th February and appeared before Mr J. W. Nelligan, Q.C., S.M., and pleaded guilty to a charge of failing io report at Keswick Barracks on 2nd November 1971. On being asked to enter into a bond which would require him to obey any further call-up notices he refused because of his belief that the National Service Act is unjust. What was the result? He was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment.
How much longer is the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Greenwood) going to pursue an inhuman course of political persecution of the youth of Australia? As a parent and a grandparent, I ask him on behalf of all parents and grandparents to show a glimpse of human understanding and to give consideration to the sufferings of the people involved by ordering the immediate release of all persons now in prison because of breaches of the National Service Act. Is that too much to ask in the nairne of humanity? In conclusion, I offer this comment: I wonder how the members of this Government and its supporters sleep at ease in their beds at night when some of the young men of this nation are rotting away in gaols in the company of convicted criminals because of their belief that the National Service Act is unjust. I think that that is a shame and that it is a blot on the democratic system under which we are supposed to operate in this country. The Attorney-General must have many sleepless nights. Surely his conscience must prick him and lead him to repeal this vile Act and release these boys from gaol so that they can go back to their normal occupations and bring some degree of pleasure to their parents and their relations. I ask the Attorney-General, in the name of all humanity, to release these (ads immediately from the custody of the wardens in these gaols.
– In recent weeks there has been a lot of talk by supporters of the Government about taking steps to reduce unemployment in the rural areas. I dare say that as a result of the gallup poll figures which were, released last Sunday the Government, in a desperate bid to make up the ground that seems to be crumbling underneath it, will be uttering a lot more talk about this subject in the near future. But, whilst there has been a lot of talk, there has not been much action. In this regard I want to refer to a particular situation which exists in the State of New South Wales. It has now been necessary for the New South Wales Government, as a direct result of Commonwealth policy, to reduce the softwood planting programme for this financial year. I urge the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) and, in particular, the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton), who represents in this chamber the Minister for National Development and to whom I spoke earlier in the evening and said that I would be speaking on this subject, as well as the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) if necessary, to have a very close look at this matter and take remedial steps to allow the original plantation programme to proceed.
Under the original Commonwealth-State agreement on softwood planting programmes, the Commonwealth provided loans to the New South Wales Government to meet the additional annual cost of new plantations over a base area of 8,100 acres each year. That agreement, which began on 1st July 1968, was to run for a period of 5 years. In anticipation of similar arrangements continuing after 1971, the New South Wales Government was planning to achieve an annual rate of new plantation development of 25,000 acres a year by 1975-76. I am informed that the Commonwealth, in renegotiating the agreement for the second 5-yearly period, put a ceiling of 9,730 acres on the area of plantation for which it would provide loan funds - not grants but loans - each financial year. The Commonwealth also lifted the base area from 8,100 acres to 8,700 acres. In short, the New South Wales planting rate has been pegged to about 18,500 acres a year instead of the planned developmental rate of 25,000 acres. That, of course, means that the softwood plantation programme in New South Wales this financial year has been reduced by more than 4,000 acres.
What has been the effect of this policy on a number of country towns in New South Wales? The Tumut planting programme has been reduced by 3,000 acres and the Bathurst programme has been reduced by 1,000 acres. The softwood plantation programmes in the Casino and Coffs Harbour districts, on the information conveyed to me, have been stopped completely. The Glen Innes programme will not be expanded and the commencement of the Barrington Tops programme in the Gloucester district has been deferred indefinitely by the New South Wales Government as a result of the cut in Commonwealth funds. This proposed programme was expected to become one of the district’s biggest employers in the future.
In the present serious economic period, especially for rural areas and rural workers, and when we hear so much about the Commonwealth Government taking action to reduce unemployment in country areas we now find that, as a direct result of the policies pursued by the Commonwealth, very essential timber production programmes are being curtailed. Men who have become unemployed as a result of these policies are being engaged - if they can get engagement - by local government organisations on non-productive work, such ns clearing patches of weed. This is a scandalous situation. At least hundreds if not thousands of timber workers are affected by the policies of this Government. The Labor movement requests the Government to take action which will enable full and effective development of this softwood plantation programme to continue in New South Wales, it is a programme which will not only provide employment for many men but also enable others to be constructively and effectively employed. The Government’s decision can have very serious economic consequences for all the towns 1 have mentioned, particularly Casino on the far north coast of New South Wales and Gloucester on the mid north coast of New South Wales where virtually the only industries existing, as the Minister representing the Minister for National Development will know, are the dairying and timber industries, and we know how many poeple have had to leave the dairying industry in order to seek other employment as a result of this Government’s policies in recent years. I urge the Minister representing the Minister for National Development - there is no-one in this Parliament more qualified than he is to speak about the timber industry - to take this matter up immediately with his colleague in the House of Representatives, to discuss it urgently with the New South Wales Government and, if necessary, to take it into the Cabinet room so that very speedy action can be taken to restore the planting programme in the State that I and the Minister to whom I have directed my remarks represent in this Parliament.
– 1 wish to draw the attention of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton), who represents in this chamber the Minister for National Development, to some questions 1 asked of him on 8th December last concerning the takeover by the Burmah oil company of the Woodside and Mid-Eastern oil exploration companies. I refer the Minister to the report of my remarks at page 2504 of the Senate Hansard, lt reads:
This takes in several of the other overseas companies such as Shell and Caltex because of international arrangements. My question, Mr Ministers, is this: Has the Designated Authority of Western Australia and the Designated Authority of the Northern Territory agreed to a transfer of the permit areas to the Burmah group? Have
Woodside and Mid-Eastern, either or both, any interest in the permit areas at the present time? Under clause 1 1 of the agreement which underpins the petroleum submerged lands legislation it is provided that before the transfer or otherwic of a title - if I might use that in the broad term - the Commonwealth must be consulted. Has the Commonwealth been consulted as to ‘.he transfer of title from Mid-Eastern and/or Woodside and/or both? Has the Commonwealth Minister notified the Western Australia Designated Authority that consultation is not necessary? Has the Minister for National Development who administers the petroleum submerged lands legislation agreed to a transfer of the WoodsideMid.Eastern permits or that portion of them which they hold in equity being transferred to the Burmah oil company?
The Minister replied:
asked a number of questions and my advisers from the Department of National Development have informed me that they cannot at the moment supply the detailed information for which I have been asked. The honourable senator will appreciate that I represent the Minister for National Development in this place. It is not possible to bring along the full team of advisers that one would bring to a Senate Estimates Committee to answer questions. There is no room in the Senate for this to be done. One would not be able to handle the managerial problems that are involved here. Therefore 1 shall also direct the honourable senator’s detailed questions from the Hansard record to the Minister, who will obtain through his Department the information that is required.
To date the information is nil. At that stage the takeover of the 2 Australian companies was only in the process. It has now been completed. I want to inform the Senate of the way in which the permits in Western Australia have been divided by international arrangements. Under the Western Australian Petroleum Exploration Act 1936, Woodside, Shell and BOC were granted permits 213 and 232. When the 1967 Act came into force permit 213 became WAP 1, WAP 2S, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34 and 35. Permit 232 became WAP 37. The issue of the permits under the 1936 Act did not specify the proportions of the permits that were allocated to each of the member companies but it is assumed that they were held in equal proportions. 1 asked the Bureau of Mineral Resources for this information before Christmas. I was to be rung back but 1 was not. Obviously the Bureau has the information because it pays an oil search subsidy under the oil search subsidy legislation in relation to the Australian equity in the permit in the off-shore areas, but it cannot give the information. However, the permit was presumably on the basis of a one-third interest for each of the 3 companies.
Under the 1936 Act BOC had regisstered an agreement between BOC and BP that gave each of those companies equal shares in the proportion of the permits held by BOC. This resulted in 33) per cent of the above permits being held by Woodside, 33) per cent by Shell, 16$ per cent by BOC, and 16) per cent by BP. The Shell company had an agreement under the 1936 Act with the CaliforniaAsiatic company to share the proportion of the above permits equally between them. This meant that Shell and California-Asiatic each held 16$ per cent of the permits, but this agreement was not registered under the .1936 Act. Woodside did not have any agreement under the 1936 Act but it seems that since that time an agreement has come into existence whereby Woodside is to share its proportion of the above permits on the basis of Woodside £, or 25 per cent, and Mid-Eastern i, or 8) per cent.
I was able to obtain this information, yet the Minister cannot get any information at all, or at least he cannot pass on any information. I wish to invite the attention of the Minister to section 80 of the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act. Despite what I said about the agreement underpininng this legislation, section 80 provides:
A legal or equitable interest in or affecting an existing or future permit, licence, pipeline licence, or access authority is noi capable of being created, assigned, affected or dealt with, whether directly or indirectly, except by an instrument in writing. 1 pose the same questions to the Minister again. Has the Designated Authority of Western Australia, with the concurrence of the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz), agreed to a change in the equity of the permits that are issued in Western Australia? Has the Designated Authority for the Northern Territory, with the concurrence of the Minister for National Development, agreed to such a change? If the Minister for National Development has advised either of them that consultation is not necessary the onus for the change in the equity of the permits rests with the Designated Authority, and the Minister for National Development is relieved of responsibility. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to have a look at the next payments of subsidy in the off-shore areas. I will be looking at the matter very closely because the information that I have been able to get in relation to payments of subsidy up to date is still based on the old holdings of the permits.
The equity holding in the permit is the only equity that the shareholders in Woodside and Mid-Eastern Oil have. If petroleum is found in the permit area they will have an enhanced value. This will push the price of the shares up. But when shares are bought in the company the equity is the permit area. As Mr Jones has pointed out, if these people finish up with useless scrip because of a takeover by BOC it can be only with the concurrence of the Designated Authority of Western Australia and the Northern Territory and with the concurrence of the Minister for National Development in this Parliament. I ask the simple question: Has the Minister complied with section 80 of the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act? It this confidential information which cannot be given out? Surely the stock exchanges must know who are the responsible people with respect to these permit areas when the stock is listed. Woodside is no longer listed and Mid-Eastern is no longer listed but a new company Woodside-Burmah is listed. I ask the Minister to say when he can expedite to me the information that I asked for on 8th December last.
– I rise tonight on behalf of numerous conservation groups throughout Australia to express concern at the undue delay exhibited by the Minister for Education and Science, the Honourable Malcolm Fraser, in calling a meeting of the State Ministers who are responsible for wildlife conservation. There is no need to go further back than the unanimous resolution of this Senate, following which the House of Representatives Select Committee on Wildlife Conservation was set up. As a matter of fact, prior to the Parliament adjourning for the Christmas recess I did draw to the attention of Senator Wright, who represents in this chamber the Minister for Education and Science, recommendation 6 contained in the interim report of the Fox Committee. In essence it called for the acceleration of the acquisition of additional land for the creation of national parks and wildlife conservation on the basis that the Commonwealth would provide financial assistance to the States, lt is true that as a witness before that Committee 1 suggested sources of revenue from which money could be obtained for such a venture. That was prior to Christmas. In fairness to Senator Wright I mention that he pointed out that the recommendations were fairly lengthy and he felt that the 6 State Governments and the appropriate Commonwealth authorities would have to give them fairly deep consideration. In the meantime, the National Park and Wildlife Service slated that kangaroos had assumed plague proportions in the south west of New South Wales and it advocated a culling out of 5,000 kangaroos. At that time I was approached by one of the very progressive conservation groups in New South Wales, the Kangaroo Protection Committee, whose secretary, Mrs Marjorie Wilson, is an extremely active and intelligent woman. The committee’s research officer, Mrs Jones, went to considerable pains to examine the bona fides of this claim. Mrs Wilson and Mrs Jones were helped in their work by a Mr Arthur Queripel, who is well known to Senator Poyser. The substance of the recommendations, which has been conveyed to the Minister, is that there are 3 properties in this area, known as Tapio, Wild Dog and Woorlong stations. Mr Arthur Queripel said in a letter to Mrs Jones that there were no marsupials in that area as they had been exterminated 15 years earlier. He went on to mention that all these properties had been leased to the late W. J. Caffrey who died about 2 years ago. In Arthur Queripel’s picturesque language he said:
He … is by far the richest man in the Mildura cemetery.
That is an important point. He goes on to say, in referring to the late Mr Caffrey:
He has no dependents as far as the station properties are concerned and by, rights the leases should terminate. But they have not, the pastoral companies have seen to that.
I shall not delve into that question, but I produce for Senator Wright’s edification a map showing these properties. In making submissions to the Minister I usually suggest ways and means by which revenue can be found. I go no further than to point out now, as I have suggested already to Mr
Malcolm Fraser, that some of the enormous amount of money that is being poured into the pastoral industry could provide finance for what is proposed. I know that many graziers are in a dilemma with their properties and I think it is conceded that large areas of grazing properties will have to be phased out. But as Arthur Queripel and the Kangaroo Protection Committee pointed out, these 3 stations could be acquired by the Commonwealth with finance that is now used for the relief of grazing properties. These are areas where the New South Wales and National Park Wildlife Service allegedly claims there is a surplus of kangaroos.
I suggest respectfully that all Ministers know that whatever form of rural relief is provided, ultimately there will be large areas which will be returned to their virgin slate. No matter what our individual views may be or what assistance is given through subsidies or taxation remissions, unless the grazing industry is rationalised we will see a drain. I do not say that in order to be provocative. However, I point out that we of the Opposition have never been ones to shed crocodile tears, although some crocodile tears might have been shed if tears were shed when there was a contraction of the work force in the coal mining industry or a transfer of work from blacksmiths to the metal tradesmen who superseded them.
I suggest that Mr Malcolm Fraser has to do a little better. I wrote to him before Christmas and Senator Wright, who is a diligent Minister in the Senate, also took the matter up with him. I followed up the approach to Mr Malcolm Fraser with 2 letters, but all I received in reply was a measly acknowledgement. That is not good enough. All the conservation groups are aware that this country does not s:and still. On the one hand we have the butchery of 5,000 kangaroos, and on the other hand we have a report of 3 areas where it would be better if the properties were phased out of the grazing industry. Consequently, I suggest that a minute portion of the millions available for the pastoral industry should be used to acquire these station properties. This suggestion is not as advanced as my own theory; the suggestion that the land be acquired was prompted by an all Party committee of the House of Representatives.
Senator Wright will remember that memorable afternoon when he, Senator Poyser, Senator Lawrie, Senator Byrne and I stood shoulder to shoulder on a resolution calling for prompt action at Commonwealth level in respect of wildlife conservation. What I and the Kangaroo Protection Committee are suggesting is not a major project but it would be a tangible way in which the Commonwealth and States could work in harmony to create a haven for the kangaroos in that part of New South Wales to which I have referred. I know that Senator Cavanagh would support my remarks and I know also that Mr Broomhill and Mr Casey in South Australia have combined in an activity of this kind in that State.
I know well enough, as the Minister does, the political differences that I have with the New South Wales Minister for Lands, Mr Lewis, and the New South Wales Premier, Sir Robert Askin, but this has not prevented us from being unanimous in looking for assistance from Canberra for this project. I know that the Federal Treasurer (Mr Snedden) has problems, but I suggest that this provides him with a golden opportunity. If he were to dole out some of the millions which are now going into the rehabilitation of grazing lands he would be able to kill 2 birds with one stone by placating conservationists like myself, Arthur Queripel and the Kangaroo Protection Committee in New South Wales and also would be giving the State Ministers leadership. On that basis I leave my brief with the Minister.
– In response to Senator McLaren, I can only express the personal viewpoint that one regrets the fact that young men who choose not to obey the National Service Act find themselves in gaol for a period of 18 months. In the case of Mr Martin, he was a person who apparently accepted that he was not going to obey the National Service Act, knowing the choices which were open to him. On my reading of the newspaper account of what happened in the court, he took a particular political view and, in pursuance of that political view, he chose to go to gaol. This, I believe, is an unfortunate tactic which is being adopted. I do not think it is appropriate to suggest that this is an area in which, however emotively expressed, lt can be urged in the name of humanity that this particular person should be released from his obligations.
– I was referring to all persons in gaol.
– I feel that it cannot be extended, as the honourable senator suggests, to cover all people because if there is one principle which ought to govern human relations, it is the principle of fairness and equity. It is not fair, when the law imposes an obligation with which more than 99 per cent of those required to comply with it do comply, to allow the other 1 per cent to go free. That is what would be involved in allowing those persons who take a vigorous political objection to national service to go free. I think it is fair that we should have a system under which those young persons who have to undergo national service do their national service, while those who do not, particularly those who choose deliberately not to do it, should suffer a deprivation or penally by virtue of their refusal to do it. In the case of Mr Martin, as I understand the position, he did not claim to be a conscientious objector. He simply said that this was a law which he believed was political and that he did not intend to comply with it. In those circumstances, the magistrate has no alternative. The law which has been passed by this Parliament requires that if a person is not prepared to do his national service when given the opportunity to do it, after he has failed to comply with his call-up notice, he shall be sentenced to gaol for a period of 18 months. As the magistrate said in Mr Martin’s case, he had no alternative but to sentence Mr Martin to 18 months gaol. He had no alternative because that was what the law said.
If people object to the National Service Act and want to have it repealed, as I understand is the policy of the Australian Labor Party, there is a legitimate means by which that ultimate objective may be pursued - that is, by making it an issue at the coming election. I understand that that is what the Labor Party wants to do. I for one would be quite happy to stress and to publicise the reasons, including defence preparedness, why we should have a National Service Act. The Opposition, for its part, could indicate whatever reasons it has tor taking the contrary view. That is the appropriate forum, and that is the appropriate way in which these political issues can be canvassed. In those circumstances I cannot indicate to the honourable senator that I will take any action whatever with regard to Mr Martin. I conclude as I started: I regret that a young man decides to take this course but he takes it with full knowledge of the position.
– Senator Douglas McClelland referred to softwood plantings in New South Wales and said that the situation was scandalous. I do not think it is. If the situation is as he claims, then it belongs to New South Wales and not to the Commonwealth Government. Softwood planting primarily is a State function, as softwood planting is in most countries. In this country constitutionally forestry is a State function. The Slates derive revenue of quite great magnitude from forestry royalties. Half of that revenue goes to Consolidated Revenue. So State finances are heavily augmented out of the existing plantations, from new plantations and from indigenous forests. Recently in New South Wales the royalty has been very heavily increased; so the revenue must continue to expand. Let us look at the revenue position of the Commonwealth and of the States. Despite continuous claims by the States for increased money from the Commonwealth the fact is that over 20 years the revenue available to the Commonwealth has multiplied by 6i times and that of the States by 8) times. The ability of the States to do things is greater than that of the Commonwealth, in relative terms.
The Commonwealth has done a great deal to help forestry programmes over the whole of Australia in the last 5 years, and it plans to do more. Over the last 5 years the Commonwealth has financed a planting programme of 113,100 acres. In the next 5 years it plans, in conjunction with the Australian Forestry Council, to plant 125,000 acres. So in total it will agree to help to plant in the next 5 years more than it has in the last 5 years. In New South Wales the planting programme has been as follows: In 1967, 12,500 acres; in 1968, 16,000; in 1969, 17,500 acres; in 1970, 10)56/72- S.-[i2) 18,300 acres; and in 1971, 19,600 acres. The programme agreed upon which is a totally greater programme, is 18,510 acres. The fact that New South Wales wanted to plant 25,000 acres and wanted the Commonwealth to pay for the difference ought to be put in its proper context. If there is a problem then it belongs substantially to New South Wales. I suggest that in forestry matters the Commonwealth has done a remarkably good job. It is going to do more than it has done before. If more is required to be done by the States, perhaps they should do it themselves.
I listened carefully to what Senator Cant said but it was quite impossible to write everything down because he gave everything in fine detail and the matter was extremely involved. What it really boils down to is this: He posed a series of questions to me and I posed them to the responsible Minister. I shall pose them to the same Minister again.
– I want to say a few words which I think are necessary to correct the record and to correct the mistaken impression of the Attorney-General (Senator
Greenwood). It is very easy to say that all wrongs can be rectified at a general election. If that were so there would be no National Service Act today. A previous election would have rectified that situation. All wrongs cannot be rectified at any particular general election. The electors vote, for a Party in accordance with that Party’s policy, not in accordance with one particular item in its policy. Those who seriously disagree with the National Service Act but agree with the rest of the Government’s policy have to decide whether to vote for the Government’s total policy or to vote in accordance with their views on the one principle of national service. Because of other principles in the Opposition’s policy for the coming election, we may see the end of the National Service Act. Overall the policy of the Opposition could be more acceptable to the Australian people.
It is wrong to say that the suffering of a person as a result of the passing of oppressive legislation introduced by a government, despite the great support that person may have and despite the unanimous or majority opinion of electors on that particular issue, can be rectified at a general election. If an individual is wronged we must find some method of rectification in justice to that individual.
It would be difficult to say that honourable senators on the Opposition side of the chamber favoured law breaking or differentiation in the administration of the law as between individuals. In support of the stand taken at the weekend by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), no decent fairminded Australian could claim that it is a criminal act, that it is doing wrong, if a person has an objection to the National Service Act for that person to refuse to be conscripted in a free country. We heard statements about a person choosing to go to gaol. Now, who chooses to go to gaol? Did Mr Martin choose to go to gaol? His belief about the National Service Act and his opposition to it was such that he could not comply with it. Mr Nelligen S.M. chose to send him to gaol. In the words of the AttorneyGeneral, he had no alternative because this Parliament had imposed upon the magistrate the responsibility of sending this man to gaol. We have taken from the penalising judge the right to take into consideration the mitigating circumstances of some particular action. It is not a question of an individual choosing to go to gaol: this Parliament decided, to use the words of Senator McLaren, to let someone rot in gaol for 18 months under the protection of the warders in South Australia rather than allow that person to make a useful contribution to society as a whole.
– He would be sitting in the gutter if he was not in gaol.
– I raise a point of order.
– What is the point of order?
– My point of order is that Senator Webster made a derogatory remark about William Robert Martin. He said that he would be sitting in the gutter if he was not in gaol. I demand the withdrawal of that remark.
– To what standing order are you referring?
– I do not know the standing order but I think it is a derogatory remark about a young lad.
– Resume your seat, Senator McLaren. No point of order is involved.
– We may disagree politically. Everyone understands that this man refused to comply with the National Service Act. The AttorneyGeneral said tonight, quite politely for a change, that an individual chose to go to gaol. He said nothing derogatory about this man. But we now hear some senator with a depraved mind, not knowing the individual and not appreciating the suffering which that individual is prepared to experience for his convictions, make the derogatory remark that he would be sitting in the gutter. This man has the background of a small farming community. Possibly he has been a Country Party voter all his life. His father is a vice-president of the Returned Services League, and is closely associated with Liberal thought in country returned soldiers associations. The honourable senator made derogatory remarks today. He is the type of individual who would send 20-year-olds to gaol because they adhere to their principles and their conscience.
– Who made that remark about him?
– Many unpleasant remarks have been made but there is only one person in the Senate who is low enough to make the remarks, and the honourable senator knows well that that person is Senator Webster. I have said over and over again in this House that the Government has no mandate to bring in legislation unacceptable to the people. In this country we have government for the people. The Government legislates only for the people. While it can be said that there was some mandate by majority at the last election, minorities have to be given some recognition. When otherwise well respected members of society - not members of the criminal element - break the law, then the law is bad and should be rectified.
In Australia there is a big group of men of whom anyone could be proud. In that group are men whom any person would be proud to call his son. But those men are in gaol today and the Government wants us to brand them as criminals. It is to the credit of our leader that he will not do so.
It is well that we are able to select one such young man of principle and honour to stand as a candidate for our Party. Full credit is due to Senator McLaren for raising this matter tonight. He has displayed to public gaze what the Government is continuing to do against the youth of Australia.
– In my capacity as Minister in this place representing the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch) I want to make one or two remarks noticing what has fallen from Senator Cavanagh. He clearly displayed that he and his colleagues will seek any prey to be used for the purpose of their own depraved political propaganda. They will seize the opportunity at all times to make a respectable youth, even if he comes from the country, the butt for this paranoia which I seek to penetrate once more.
The National Service Act, I am reminded by one of my colleagues, was passed without opposition by the Labor Party. 1 remind the Senate that the provision whereby compulsory military service for defaulters was repealed and compulsory civil imprisonment was substituted, was passed with the approval of the Labor Party, upholding a claim by several seclions of the community at that time. Leaders of the Labor Party are on record in Hansard as approving it. I can understand that when compulsory overseas military service was imposed upon young men, all sorts of emotions were generated when that overseas service involved immediate battle service in such a campaign as the Vietnam campaign. But are the Labor members of this chamber so impervious to changing political events that they do not realise that Australian forces have been disengaged from that campaign which I would have thought was their only arguable objection to compulsory military service?
Whereas Mr Martin began his vendetta against the Act when that engagement was in full operation, we are told placidly by Senator McLaren that on 25th February when M r Martin appeared in court he said to the magistrate that he would not accept the alternative of intermittent service with the Citizen Military Forces over a period
of 5 years because of his belief that the Act was unjust. How childish can people become when they make that a pretext for opposition, not only by themselves but also by the youth of this country, or at least the very few of whom they have succeeded in convincing that they should oppose the Act? How absurd in a democracy for grown men to suggest that if a contravention of the law is incurred consciously by a man, and he appears before a magistrate and that law requires that as an alternative to 2 years compulsory military service he should be subjected to 18 months civil imprisonment, they should say: T refuse to do the military service because 1 consider that the Act is unjust’. I suggest that honourable senators opposite who hold those views should renounce their parliamentary salaries, return to their homes and carry on with other parliamentary occupations if Parliament is as innocuous, as vacuous and as silly as that. In a democratic country it is the Parliament which writes the laws that apply to one and all.
That brings me to the last item I wish to raise in relation to this matter. It is the statement which was made by the Leader of the Opposition the weekend before last when he said that Labor would immediately repeal the National Service Act if it persuaded the electors of Australia to put it into office. Then remembering that there is a Senate, he said that if the Senate would not pass the Act there would be no prosecutions. That is dictator stuff. If members of Parliament take the oath to the Crown to administer the laws of the country, and then if E. G. Whitlam, Q.C., Leader of the Opposition in another place, puts forth this poisonous subversive matter, then the attitude that the Labor Party adopts should be well known throughout the country. The Leader of the Opposition has adopted this dictatorial attitude whereby, even if he does not get the approval of this House of the Parliament and if, in effect, he cannot repeal the law, he will nullify it.
I turn now to something more reasonable, namely, Senator Mulvihill’s remarks with regard to kangaroos. On 23rd November 1971 an all-party committee of another place presented to Parliament its interim report on conservation and commercial exploitation of kangaroos. I need not remind the Senate that that report 29 February 1972 Adjournment most thoughtfully recounts the opinions of various scientists who support and approve a properly managed culling programme for the kangaroo population according to its density. The committee discusses the way in which kangaroos are harvested and exported and then it deals with the question of commercial farming of kangaroos. I mention those aspects because it will be realised that they have to be considered in relation to the laws of each State as it is in the State province that the laws are made as to whether it is legal to be imprisoned for wrongfully taking kangaroos.
Therefore it is proper that the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) should give time for this report to be studied by various people responsible for the administration of the law. Then, when the State Ministers and he have a programme of some purpose and practicality, he will take the earliest opportunity, I have no doubt, to consult with them on the extent to which these matters should be recognised by appropriate conference and legislation.
I assure the honourable senator that this matter engenders on the Government side just as much eagerness and enthusiasm as I am most pleased at all times to see him exhibit in this chamber. If there is a feature of life in our generation which has come to require our acceptance, it is the conservation of our natural environment and the fauna which inhabit it with us. Having said that, I hope that the honourable senator’s impatience - permit me to say that without provocation because that is how I categorise his second reference to a report tabled as recently as 23rd November - will not be so great as to prevent the Minister having a proper interval in which to consult in the way I have suggested with a view to bringing in appropriate measures as a result of his report.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 29 February 1972, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1972/19720229_senate_27_s51/>.