27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 10.30 a.m.. and read prayers.
– Honourable senators will recollect that some time ago I was asked a question by Senator Keeffe about motor cars parked around Parliament House. 1 wish to inform honourable senators that in the last 24 hours I have made an examination of the parking of motor cars around Parliament House. I have been asked questions already about what I have described as motor car pollution and it is my opinion that we have reached a stage of almost civil defiance. Therefore, I have requested the Usher of the Black Rod to inform the relevant officer of the Department of the Interior that motor cars are to be prohibited from infesting the lawns and nature strips of Parliament House. I have consulted Mr Speaker regarding this matter and we are in agreement.
– I direct a question to you, Mr President. In view of the impending dissolution of the House of Representatives and the conclusion of the twentyseventh Parliament, is it proposed that the Senate notice paper will be cleared as from the date of the dissolution of the House of Representatives? Will all committees of the Senate - select, standing and other committees - be regarded as functus officio as from that date? If so, what is the authority - constitutional, historical or traditional - for such procedures? In view of the fact that the Senate by its nature and the form of its composition under the Constitution has continuum over and above the term of the House of Representatives, and that the establishment and extension of the committee system of the Senate have brought under the scrutiny of the Senate matters of an important nature and that the investigation of these matters should proceed with a minimum of delay and that in some cases the Senate has required reports by a certain date, will you inform the Senate before the announced date of the dissolution of the House of Representatives whether it is proposed that the business of the Senate, not being business of a legislative character which requires the complementary existence of the House of Representatives, should be permitted to continue? In the event that there are inescapable reasons why the Senate should not continue to operate even in a nonlegislative role pending the calling of the newly elected House of Representatives, will you ascertain whether it is the will of the Senate that Parliament should be called as soon as practicable after the return of the writs for election to the House of Representatives so that the Senate committees can proceed with their processes of investigation and report?
– The honourable senator will realise that he has asked a long and complicated question involving deep constitutional issues. I think it is proper that I should make some observations immediately in order to inform honourable senators of the situation as it exists at the moment. Since March this year, when a new circumstance arose as a result of the dissolution of the House of Assembly in Tasmania, I have sent the Clerk of the Senate and one of his deputies to consult the Clerk of the Legislative Council in Tasmania. I will not enlarge on that any more at this stage except to say that the matter is of deep constitutional importance, as the honourable senator has indicated by the scope of his question. The whole matter now is before the Standing Orders Committee which is examining the situation to try to throw some light on the matters which have been raised by the honourable senator. That is a situation which has to be cleared up before the proposed dissolution of the House of Representatives. I should add, however, that I have discussed this matter with the Clerks at some length and the matter of substance is that since 1903 the House of Representatives has been dissolved by proclamation and, in the context of the Senate, the Governor-General’s proclamation carries 6 rather mysterious words, namely, ‘honourable senators are discharged from attendance’. What the meaning cf the words discharged from attendance’ is we must discover before the House is dissolved.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. In view of the great demand by residents of New South Wales,
Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory for replays of the rugby league World Cup matches to be played in France from 28th October 1972 to 12th November 1972, will the Minister investigate whether the Australian Broadcasting Commission intends to procure the video-tapes of these matches for Australian audiences? If it is not the intention of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to do so, will the Minister tell the Senate why not?
– I think the honourable senator is aware, particularly from discussions which took place and in which he participated at a recent hearing of the relevant Senate Estimates Committee, that it is the Australian Broadcasting Commission which determines what shall be the range and the scope of the sporting coverage which that Commission provides. Parliament has given to the Commission the sole authority to determine what are the adequate and comprehensive programmes which either broadcasting or television stations run by the Commission shall provide. The honourable senator invites me to seek from the Postmaster-General, and then from the Commission, an explanation of why certain conduct is taking place, and I am sure that the Postmaster-General will obtain that information for the honourable senator. However, by way of general response to the question, I am quits sure that there are many sporting activities which are of interest to vast numbers of Australians and that those Australians would like to have their particular sport, whether it be table tennis or lacrosse, televised and to have international events in that sport televised. But whether or not rugby league or Australian rules, when it is played overseas, is to be televised is essentially a matter for the Commission. Having said that and appreciating that it is the Commission’s prerogative, that it has a difficult jab to determine, and that it is proper that it be left in the hands of an independent body, I will ask the PostmasterGeneral to seek whatever information he can obtain from the Commission.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. In view of the lack of reserves of petrol in Queensland due to previous industrial trouble and now a new spate of industrial trouble at the Ampol refinery in Brisbane which is likely to bring Queensland to a halt due to a shortage of petrol, will the Minister request the Prime Minister to confer with the Premier of Queensland to see whether emergency supplies of petrol can be provided for Queensland?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI will refer the matter, as requested, to the Prime Minister’s Department for examination. I did hear a radio report early this morning of the extent of the crisis which apparently is developing in Queensland and, if that was an accurate report of the situation, it is a very serious matter that more than 50 per cent of the normal retail consumption of petrol in Queensland could be affected almost within days. It is a very critical matter. The Commonwealth will intervene if necessary. Any assistance which the Commonwealth Government can give in this matter will very properly be given. But this is an industrial matter. I wonder whether the honourable senator wishes this to be referred to the Prime Minister’s Department rather than to the Department of Labour and National Service. But that can be sorted out now that the honourable senator’s question has made its first impact. That will be done without further reference to the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. Has the attention of the Minister been drawn to a report that the New South Wales Department of Decentralisation and Development has criticised an official Commonwealth-State report on decentralisation as not necessarily representing the views of the New South Wales Government? What is the attitude of the Commonwealth Government towards the naming by the New South Wales Government of the Orange-Bathurst district as being a growth centre to be developed by the Government of New South Wales?
– I might observe in passing that in view of previous comments made perhaps I should not refer to this matter because I live in the BathurstOrange district. But I have noticed the comments to which the honourable senator refers. I have not yet read the full report which, I understand, had a qualification by the New South Wales Department of Decentralisation and Development, a department which I know. I believe that it was said in the comment I read that this report did not necessarily represent the views of the New South Wales Government but was the view of that Department in particular.
I know that for a long time - as far as I can recall this goes back to just after the Second World War - very active work has been carried out in New South Wales on regional development. This was promoted by Professor McDonald Holmes who wrote a book entitled ‘Regional Planning in New South Wales’. It has been quite a work of consequence. For my part, I would regard the workin New South Wales on the study of growth regions as being a work of consequence, importance and understanding. My understanding of the Commonwealth’s position in this matter is that it wishes to see unanimity in the development programmes. What it would like to see is some information on this proposal that allows it to confirm the judgment of the New South Wales Department or which leads it to make some request, perhaps, for further information.
AsI went through the comments, it appeared to me that there was no great conflict other than probably, I might say, a sense of mistiming. I do not wish to get into an argument as to which is the best growth region in Australia or in New South Wales in particular. What I would like to see is the whole question of decentralisation and development regionally become the subject of a CommonwealthState exercise drawing particularly the knowledge of the States to account and as far as possible, having established the broad premise, to leave the implementation of these matters to the States.
– Yesterday I asked the Minister for Health a question concerning a possible major increase in the bed rate subsidy to assist the running of hostels for retarded children. The Minister for Health was good enough to say that a reply might be forthcoming today. I ask the Minister whether he has been able to obtain the information that I requested.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONYes, I did seek some information to confirm my own thoughts at the time. This is an administrative matter within the area of the Department of Social Services. Nevertheless, I sought background information so that I could avoid the necessity for another question to be asked of the responsible Minister. I have obtained that information for the honourable senator. The Department of Social Services is responsible for the administration of the Handicapped Children’s Assistance Act 1970 which is designed to give capital assistance on a $2 for a $1 basis to approved institutions which provide residential accommodation and/ or training for the various kinds of physically and mentally handicapped children. I understand that since the introduction of this Act the Commonwealth has approved expenditure totalling approximately $4m to approved organisations.
The other form of financial assistance provided by the Commonwealth in respect of handicapped children is a benefit of $1.50 a day, which was introduced in January 1969, and which is made under the provisions of the National Health Act for which I am responsible. It is payable in respect of children under 16 years of age who are accommodated and cared for in homes approved under the Act. So the Department of Health had a secondary administrative function. This benefit applies to both the physically and mentally handicapped and is payable to homes conducted by charitable and religious organisations. As at 30th June this year total benefits paid by the Commonwealth under this scheme amounted to some$1. 4m.
The recommendations contained in the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Health and Welfare on the physically and mentally handicapped have some bearing on the points raised by the honourable senator, and these recommendations are currently under examination by the Government. Yesterday the honourable senator posed certain questions which related to policy matters, and quite obviously I cannot comment on policy matters at question time.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the approaching termination of the session, which will be followed by a general election, can the Minister give an assurance that a greater effort will be made to provide answers to the many important questions which have been on the notice paper in my case for almost 2 months and in other cases going back to December 1971, especially since procuring these answers would not appear to involve a great amount of effort or research in many instances?
– From time to time in the Senate questions have been asked relating to departments which are not under the direct responsibility of Ministers sitting in this place. After question time today I will refresh my memory by looking at the notice paper and I will send requests to the appropriate departments in order to obtain as many answer to questions as is absolutely possible before the dissolution of this Parliament.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is the Minister aware that payroll tax is contributing to serious economic problems in many small industries in South Australia, and no doubt in Australia generally? One such company in Adelaide had to find $18,000 for this purpose during the last financial year, which contributed to a financial loss by that company. Does the Minister realise that this is forcing some businesses to retrench employees? Will the Minister ask the Treasurer to include an examination of this form of taxation in the overall review of the tax structure?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONPayroll tax is now a State tax, and the terms of reference of the committee of inquiry into taxation do not extend to making recommendations about State taxes. The committee has a large job to do in covering Commonwealth taxation, and it is important for the committee to proceed with that task as expeditiously as possible, and by common consent everybody concurs in that. However, I should add that in order to improve the expenditure commitment of State governments revenue would need to be raised in one way or another, and merely to reduce payroll tax, or any other form of tax for that matter, would not mean that some other impost would not necessarily replace it. Therefore, it seems to be putting the wrong slant on the question to suggest that the financial position of particular companies must be laid at the feet of the taxation system. We all understand the procedures of government. We all know the budgetary principles that apply, and judgments have to be made in good faith by governments of all persuasions as to how they will raise their revenue. The decision in this field has to be made by the State governments.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral been advised that the Yugoslav Government has asked the United States Government to curb Croatian terrorists because of its concern that the Croatian Liberation Movement may gain world wide recognition and that the Yugoslav Government also has asked the Nixon Administration to suppress Croatian publications openly advocating revolution and the assassination of President Tito? Will ‘.he Attorney-General inquire into whether the newspaper produced in Australia, the ‘Hrvatska Borba or ‘Croatian Struggle’, contravenes the Crimes Act by advocating the armed overthrow of a government recognised by Australia? Also, in view of the Yugoslav action in relation to the United States of America, is it still believed that the Croatian Liberation Movement is a myth in Australia?
– I have read Press reports of what the Yugoslav Government is purported to have asked the United States Government to do. [ am aware also that a newspaper named ‘Hrvatska Borba’ is produced in the United States of America and that copies of it have been available for sale in Australia. Whether or not the sale of an overseas produced newspaper in Australia - I understand that it is not produced in Australia - constitutes an offence is a matter of examination of any relevant law which is said to be offended against and comparison of what the newspaper contains with that law.
I think we in Australia recognise that the free speech and tolerance available in this community are things that we cherish and wish to preserve. We believe that the law should be invoked only on those occasions when there is unlawful conduct or such inflammatory incitement that it is in the interests of all that action should be taken. That has been the view taken by this Government over a long period. I am sure that all honourable senators appreciate that from time to time people have made statements - highly inflammatory statements, some of which have been reported in the daily newspapers - which if followed by action unquestionably would arouse and attract the criminal law. But generally we believe in free speech and that is the situation we would like to see continue. Having expressed that view, we would be of the view also that we cannot and will not tolerate unlawful conduct.
The honourable senator asked whether I would say whether the existence of some Croatian liberation movement is or is not a myth. The word ‘myth’ has been put into my mouth by newspapers without my having used it and I am sure that the honourable senator is trying to do that in regard to this movement. There is such a movement in this country. If its activities contravene the law the Government will take action.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport aware that the traffic regulations in Australian States relating to axle loadings and speed limits on road transports vary so much that the maximum speed limit in Queensland is 60 miles per hour., in New South Wales it is 50 miles per hour and, according to my understanding, it is soon to be 50 miles per hour in Victoria, but it is only 30 miles per hour in South Australia? Will the Minister have discussions with the respective State Ministers for Transport in an endeavour to establish uniform traffic regulations, particularly in relation to speed limits and axle loadings?
– It is perfectly true that there are differences in regulations and differences in speed limits in the various States. These matters are taken up regularly by the Australian Transport Advisory Council on which the Commonwealth and the States are represented. The Council, with its advisory committees, puts forward recommendations and suggested standards from time to time. In that way it seeks to achieve uniformity. That is the direction in which it is working. I understand that these matters are discussed at its meetings. It would not be possible for the Commonwealth to act unilaterally in this sense. There are constitutional problems in this area. The Council is seeking to achieve a result by cooperative discussion on a Commonwealth-States level.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. Is the Minister aware that the new pillboxes built outside embassies for the use of Canberra police are equipped only with gas lights and that they lack either heating or cooling devices? As thousands of dollars have been spent on the construction of the new shelters, will the Minister examine the possibility of spending a few more dollars on connecting them to the electricity mains so that heating and cooling equipment can be installed?
– I saw one of these installations for the first time last night when I was driving by. I am not aware of the details of the construction; nor am I aware of the deficiencies mentioned by the honourable senator. However, he may be assured that I will endeavour to find out and that I will draw the matter to the attention of the responsible Minister.
– Is the Minister representing the Treasurer aware that Australians currently hold more than 8 million life assurance and superannuation policies? Is the Minister further aware of reported statements by Austraiian Labor Party spokesman Mr Frank Crean opposing the principle of allowing life assurance premiums as taxation deductions? Would not such a disallowance, if implemented, constitute a serious threat to the future of life assurance and cause a significant fall in the moneys available from life assurance companies for vital investment in government loans and major development undertakings?
– I rise on a point of order. Questions are not to be hypothetical, though on occasions such questions are allowed to slip through. On this occasion I take a point of order because the hypothesis is untrue. If the honourable senator wants to debate such issues the opportunity should be taken at the proper time. It is not for him to refer in this way to a statement that was not the statement of Mr Crean and to ask a hypothetical question which seeks an opinion on the matter from the Minister.
-I owe honourable senators an apology, because I was looking at a note that was handed to me and I did not hear the question. I assume that Senator Carrick has the question written out. If he will let me have a copy of it I will look at it and rule on the point of order later.
– I studied the Standing Orders very carefully. As I understand the position, I have not infringed standing order 99. Mr President, I ask for your specific ruling on this matter.
– If you let me have a copy of the question I will give a specific ruling later.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration. Does the recent United States Government decision to tighten up on traveller visa procedures make conditions for Australians entering the United States more restrictive than those under the procedures that operate when United States citizens enter Australia?
– It is true that there have been some recent changes in relation to entry to the United States but I think the position should be recognised. Australia allows overseas travellers to enter without visas and spend up to 72 hours in this country while in transit to other countries. The recent United States decision means that it has temporarily ended a situation whereby Australians and other travellers may spend up to 10 days in the United States while in transit to other countries.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Air, refers to Press reports and much speculation about an American offer to sell to Australia 23 Phantom bomber aircraft at socalled bargain prices. Is the Minister in a position to give us any information about the offer to Australia and whether it has been accepted or rejected?
-It is true that the Government has made a decision on this matter. I had proposed to make a short statement after question time. As the question has been asked perhaps the Senate will give me leave to make the statement now.
– It is a matter for the Senate to decide. I would prefer, if Senator Bishop is in agreement, to defer it until later. It would then serve as an answer to the question. If the Senate is in agreement we will follow that course.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of a large amount of the current Australian wool clip being exported at prices beyond the capacity of the local textile industry and the consequent concern of that industry, does the Government contemplate introducing some scheme to bring price stability to the wool market and so help the Australian textile industry to gain a fair share of the wool clip?
– I do not know who gave the honourable senator the impression that prices paid for wool which is being exported at the present time were prohibitive. It is quite true that in answer to a recent question I said that I would not like to see the price for wool go so high that it would be necessary to use synthetic fibres. But I also pointed out that the industry had gone through a very drastic period in regard to the price paid for wool. The wool industry had a debt of about $120m which was owed to various kinds of lenders. I thought that the industry should reap some benefit from the price and demand for wool at the present time. Of course this will bring objections from certain textile users. They will cry poor or say that the price of wool is too high. But I believe that the producers of the fibre are entitled to some benefit when there is a demand like this for their wool.
– Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware that more than 4,000 important Government publications are printed annually and that approximately 1,000 of these are given to members of both Houses of the Parliament? Does he agree that these publications are of vital concern to honourable senators amd members of the other place as well as to the Australian people but that because of reading time limitations many reports are not read and not publicised? Has the Government given any consideration to making research assistance available to each member so that documents of the Parliament may have the serious consideration of members of Parliament?
– I always remember - this is borne out by my own experience - that when a new honourable senator or honourable member comes to this Parliament he usually asks other members in a very courteous and friendly way: ‘Have you any advice you would like to give me?’ My advice always is: ‘Do not try to read all the publications that are sent to you because if you do you will be master of nothing and you will get completely bogged down in publications’. I think that is even more the case now in 1972 than it was when I came here in 1950. We all have to make judgments. 1 agree with Senator Gietzelt that it is almost impossible to keep up with publications. The Publications Committee, which makes evaluations, has a function in relation to government publications. Perhaps the honourable senator might inform himself more of that Committee’s functions. 1 must confess that I cannot so inform him at the moment. 1 do know the Committee is calculated to try to put some restraint on and to make some intelligent approach to the publication and distribution of the various government documents. 1 think that from time to time honourable senators receive questionnaires in which they are asked which publications they want sent to them. Perhaps the honourable senator could obtain some background information from the Publications Committee. If he wants to ask me another question about it, perhaps tomorrow or next week, he may do so. I will do my homework too and we may be able to obtain some further response to the question.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Army. What is the reason for the long delay in providing me with answers to a series of questions I placed on the notice paper on 22nd August seeking information regarding the present and future use of the Army drill hall at Murray Bridge in South Australia?
– I can give an answer to the honourable senator only when the Minister for the Army supplies one to me. I shall certainly make inquiries to see what is causing the delay.
– I direct a question to you, Mr President. In view of the considerable changes that have taken place in the Senate over recent years, looked at in the light of the fact that we have been operating for some 70 years according to procedures which were inherited from other places, would you consider presenting to the Senate considered views on what might be done, in your opinion, to improve the efficiency of the operations of this chamber so that the rights of honourable senators could be preserved and at the same time so that we might be able to achieve the optimum of efficient operation?
-I am grateful to the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate for asking me this question. Ever since the Senate did me the honour of electing me its President I have been seeking ways in which the work load of honourable senators can be more effectively used in order to achieve greater efficiency. My natural cast of mind is to look at the question of streamlining procedures. In May this yearI indicated to the Senate that I would use the winter recess to examine the whole structure of the Senate work load both in its plenary session in which we are presently engaged, and in its committee structure. In pursuance of that undertaking to the Senate, the
Senate secretariat set to work during the winter recess and a week in August was devoted wholly to an examination of the matter by myself and the Senate secretariat. There is a vast volume of matter to be digested by the Standing Orders Committee because it is not possible to achieve this effective streamlining, if I may use that word, unless it - properly so - goes through the filter of the Standing Orders Committee. When it emerges from the Standing Orders Committee honourable senators no doubt will wish to retain what they consider to be the privileges they already hold and refuse to accept some diminution of them while at the same time having the pleasure, interest and responsibility of participation through the committee system.
All I can say is that there is no possibility of the Standing Orders Committee being able to handle the vast mass of information that has been compiled by the Senate secretariat and consideration ofit will have to be postponed until after the mysterious circumstances that will occur when the dissolution of the House of Representatives takes place. When the election is over I look forward to being able to invite honourable members of the Standing Orders Committee to attend on the Senate area for at least a week to see whether they can make some recommendations to the Senate. I will bring down a definite statement on this in clear and coherent terms before the Senate rises for the election.
(Senator Jessop having addressed a question to the Minister for Health)
– I anticipated some objection being launched to Senator Jessop’s question, which I think invites a statement from the Leader of the Government. Question time is not the time to make such a statement. If the Leader of the Government wishes to make a statement on that matter he may seek leave to do so. I do not think question time should be used as a forum for this sort of propaganda question, as I have indicated to honourable senators on many occasions. The purpose of question time is to seek information. I disallow the question.
– Was the Minister for Works exercising his ministerial authority when he demanded that a letter relating to what is known as the Jetair affair be published by the Hobart ‘Mercury’ and suggested that if this were not done ‘it would be the worse for you’? Was the Minister not threatening and intimidating the editor of a newspaper, a practice which is becoming far too prevalent in these days of hijacking, blackmail and violence?
– The question proceeds upon an assumption that what is printed in the ‘Mercury’, that it would be worse for the editor of that journal, is true. The assumption is ill-founded. I still reassert my right, when subjectedto criticism on a matter of departmental administration, to have an impartial and balanced exposition of the facts that are given in explanation. It is time that the ‘Mercury’ woke up to this situation.
– Following the operation of the F111 on active combat in Vietnam, can the Minister for Air say whether deliveries of the F111 to Australia will be any earlier than the previously arranged delivery date?
– With the operation of the F111 in Vietnam, that country becomes the third zone throughout the world from which F111 squadrons are operating. No doubt the information gained in this operation will be of great value to all who are operating F111 aircraft. The honourable senator asked whether this will mean a delay in delivery of the Australian order. At present the Australian aircraft are going through a refurbishing programme. The last information I have is that the entry into that programme was on schedule, that it was expected that the aircraft would come out on the scheduled dates, so the first batch of 6 aircraft would be arriving in Australia at the end of May next year.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry and follows the question which I directed to him yesterday. The Minister will recall that yesterday I asked him a question concerning the pronouncement of Government policy in regard to Federal Government plans for the fruit industry by a person who is not a member of this Parliament but who is a Country Party candidate at the forthcoming elections and who stated in the course of delivering the paper that he had been deputed to represent the Minister for Primary Industry. Was the statement printed and distributed at Government expense and is the Minister now in a position to answer the question I asked yesterday, namely, why was this person who was not responsible to this Parliament chosen to speak on behalf of the Government on such a vitally important rural matter?
– It is true that the honourable senator asked me a question yesterday but it is also true that I said then that I would get some information for him as I had not seen the statement. I asked him whether he would show me the statement, and he did. I have sought some information from the Minister for Primary Industry and I have that information here. I asked earlier whether the Senate would give me permission to make a statement but I was not given permission. I ask now whether I may have leave to give a reply to the honourable senator.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I am informed that Mr Kronborg did not in fact make policy pronouncements on behalf of the Government. The seminar he addressed was held on 28th September, a date on which both houses of Parliament were in session. The Minister for Primary Industry, (Mr Sinclair), had hoped that the programme of the House of Representatives would have permitted his attendance at the seminar and he had prepared a paper to deliver. However, the Cabinet programme made it obvious that the Minister would not be able to leave Canberra. In the circumstances Mr Sinclair arranged for Mr Kronborg to read his paper at the seminar. No new policy pronouncements were contained in the paper read by Mr Kronborg; it was a statement of existing Government attitudes.
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer whether he is aware that overseas cleaning companies are now taking over Australian cleaning companies. Is he aware that the takeovers to date amount to between 25 per cent and 30 per cent of the total Australian investment? Can the Minister advise the Parliament whether he is prepared to investigate this matter and use preventive measures where foreign invesment exceeds 50 per cent or where new capital is not being used in the best interests of Australia?
– This is clearly a question of detail on one hand and a question of policy on the other. For that reason I ask the honourable senator to put his question on notice and I will expedite a reply.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral: What is the present constitutional position regarding zone allowances under the taxation system? Has it not been quite definitely established that zone allowances introduced in 1945 have withstood a High Court test as to validity and has the constitutionality of such allowances been put beyond question?
– The honourable senator’s question is clearly one which invites me to express a legal opinion, and I do not propose to do so. Zone allowances have been introduced by an Act of this Parliament and that Act of Parliament is a valid Act in respect of which rights and obligations have been incurred. It is a fact that the High Court at some stage was asked to hear argument and did hear argument as to the validity of those provisions and I think a perusal of that High Court judgment would indicate that the assumption which the honourable senator has made in his question may or may not be borne out. However, on this matter there are differing views which are essentially legal views. If he examines the High Court judgment in the case of Clyne v. The Commissioner of Taxation he will find an answer to his question.
35-HOUR WORKING WEEK
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Will the Minister make a statement to clear up confusion over the extravagant cost that has been stated for a reduced working week and the statement by the Minister for Labour and National Service, in the shorter working week document circulated to government members only, that the gradual introduction of a 35-hour working week over a 5-year period would increase unit costs in any one year by1½ per cent to 2 per cent?
– There is no need for the Minister to attempt to clear up any confusion on this matter. The introduction of the 35-hour week would impose such tremendous cost on Australian industry that it would be really imprudent and productive of unemployment at present. That of course - and not for propoganda purposes do I say this - is what Senator Cavanagh advocates.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. By way of preface I refer to a complaint by the New South Wales Liberal Minister for Lands, Mr Lewis, that he is disappointed with the progress of negotiations between the Commonwealth and the State on the transfer of harbour foreshore lands to the New South Wales Government. How can we reconcile the disappointment of Mr Lewis and the assurance of the Prime Minister that all is well? I further ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate, as a fellow Sydneysider, to say when the citizens of Sydney can expect to know all the facts of the dispute, which have no military significance and should not be classified.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONAgainst the background of other things that have happened this morning - and I know Senator Mulvihill will understand this when he thinks about it for a moment - when a couple of points of order were taken in respect of references to political parties, political reactions and reconciliations between leaders and shadow Ministers and a few other things, in fairness to you, Mr President, and to the Senate, I do not think I should pursue the answer to the question.
- Senator Carrick, a point of order was taken on a question you asked earlier this morning. You were kind enough to give your written question to me. I read it and returned it to you with the suggestion that the third paragraph might be rephrased. The essence of the question was entirely in order, and I now call you.
– Thank you, Mr President, for your advice. My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is the Minister aware that the people of Australia currently hold more than 8 million life assurance and superannuation policies? Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to a printed and issued statement by Mr Frank Crean, Labor Party spokesman, being the official text of his speech to the Australian Securities Institute on 4th August this year? Did this statement by Mr Crean contain criticism of the current Government policy of allowing life assurance premiums as taxation deductions? Is it a fact that a policy of disallowance of life assurance premiums as tax deductions would constitute a serious threat to the future of life assurance and would cause a significant fall in the moneys available from life offices for vital investment in government loans and major development undertakings?
– I am aware of the dramatic and enormous amount of money that is invested by the people of Australia in life assurance. I cannot respond with precision to the figure of 8 million policies; nevertheless I know that it is of that order. I am sure everybody would agree on the tremendously important part that life assurance plays in the lives, hearts and minds of people in this democracy of ours. It is a form of investment at the highest possible level and, indeed, at the family level. It is a form of saving which for the working community in contemporary times is linked with the purchase of homes. We are aware of the implications of life assurance in terms of retirement and superannuation. Therefore, I would agree entirely with what the honourable senator has said.
Before I refer specifically to the other part of his question, I think that I should add that inherent in the forms of saving by the community in life assurance is the fact that taxation concessional allowances, which are most important for the family man, apply in respect of life assurance contributions. From memory, at the last time I looked at my income tax figures life assurance premiums up to a ceiling of $1,200 were an allowable deduction. This is a tremendously important concession. Any inroads into the deductions that persons may claim for income tax purposes pose a serious threat to what has been a tradition in our country by which people have linked their payments to life assurance companies with opportunities to borrow for the purchase of their homes and to provide for their retirement. That is the position at one end of the scale.
On the other hand, a falling off in life assurance has implications in respect of government investments and government loans. As I recall it, investments in life assurance companies are trustee investments. This means that, in turn, those companies are required to invest their funds in government securities. In the cycle governments lend this money to other governments and use it for housing projects and in many other areas concerned with day to day administration related to the lives and hearts of the people. There is no doubt about that fact.
My attention has been drawn to the speech made by the Opposition shadow Treasurer to the Australian Securities Institute in Sydney in which he made the point that, in his judgment, a case existed for not granting these life assurance concessions for income tax purposes and for using the revenue saved in some other ways. I think it would be a tragedy if it were the policy of any future government to abolish taxation concessions in respect of life assurance. The value of these concessions is tremendously important to the ordinary person.
– I direct my question to the Minister representting the Treasurer. In view of the reluctance of the Attorney-
General to investigate the affairs of Dr Nielsen of Townsville and the Universal World Church, I now ask the Minister whether he will undertake to request the Treasurer to examine the affairs of Dr Nielsen and the Church which he claims to lead to ascertain whether any breach of Commonwealth taxation laws or Commonwealth company laws has occurred.
– Order! Before I call the Leader of the Government in the Senate I mention that this matter was raised in the adjournment debate last night. Unless the Leader of the Government is aware of the facts adduced in that debate, he may feel disinclined to answer the question, or I may disallow it. I do not think that the Leader can be expected to answer it. However, it is a matter for him.
– I was not here for the adjournment debate last night. In any event, I would not answer or attempt to give any assurance which deals with a purely personal matter. It could be quite improper for me so to do. I suggest that the honourable senator should place his question on the notice paper.
– I ask the Minister for Health: Have discussions taken place with the Hospital Benefits Association on the question of its investing in the fields of general insurance, land and housing finance, etc?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONNo. If the honourable senator is talking in contemporary terms,I am not aware of discussions taking place. But there is a code in relation to this matter and there are certain provisions in respect of any of these organisations. As the honourable senator would know, I think, they are obliged to keep funds which are involved in hospital or medical insurance separate from any other funds that they have. I think there was a Press article on this matter, to which I responded by inquiry through the Press in Melbourne yesterday. If a company is registered in Victoria - Ithink this was the reference made yesterday - under the State Companies Act it is subject to the controls exercised by virtue of section 24 of that Act. The Victorian Government refused the request of the executive committee of the Hospital Benefits Association to diversify its activities. The HBA did not approach the Commonwealth regarding this matter. However, as the proposal envisages the company branching into all purpose insurance, possibly the company would be subject to the provisions of the Insurance Act 1932-66, in addition to the relevant State legislation.
Under the National Health Act the Commonwealth exercises the necessary controls over the administration of health insurance, particularly in relation to the accumulation and investment of fund reserves. In this regard the Commonwealth has power to ensure that any proposal by a registered health insurance fund of the nature put forward by HBA would be kept entirely separate, and that is the point I was making. The funds would have to be completely separate, as indeed was shown in the annual report which I recall was presented to this chamber during my absence. The report referred to the separate funds of the medical and hospital benefit funds. From memory I think the assets of the hospital benefit funds run to the order of about $126m.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Treasurer. In the interest of materially assisting the many low income earners in Australia to become home owners, will the Minister say what consideration has been given to making all or part of the interest paid on a loan for the first home a tax deduction, and will he note that such action would help those who most need assistance in this matter of buying a home?
– Again I am being asked to reflect upon a matter of policy, not even in my own right as the Treasurer but indeed as the Minister in this place representing the Treasurer, and I cannot do so. I think the best I can offer is to have the matter referred to the Treasurer.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is it a fact that recently Mr Gorton described the President of the Liberal Party in Queensland as one who is not a fit and proper person to nominate as a candidate for the national Parliament? Is he now aware of the statement of Mr R. Heinze, M.L.A., a member of the Country Party in the Queensland Parliament, inviting Mr Gorton to campaign actively in Queensland against the President of the Liberal Party in Queensland and to support the Country Party candidate in the Division of Mcpherson? Are these statements indicative of the deepening of the divisions in the ranks of the Country Party and the Liberal Party coalition?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- In view of what was said earlier, the way in which questions are answered is entirely within the discretion of the Minister.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONIn view of what happened earlier I submit that the question is out of order.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport: What is the present situation in relation to the control of dumping at sea at a distance greater than 3 miles from a State coastline? Has the Commonwealth Government been consulted in relation to the proposal for the dumping of waste from the Electrolytic Zinc Co. of Australia Ltd in Hobart off the south-east coast of Tasmania? If so, has any decision been reached? If a decision has been reached, with what result? Further, will the Minister inform the Senate of the results of any tests conducted in relation to any damage resulting from the dumping of waste from the North West Acid Pty Ltd plant at Burnie in Bass Strait, some miles off Burnie?
– There is considerable interest in the Senate - there always has been - in the pollution problem and the dumping of material at sea. Those of us who sat on the Senate Select Committee on Off-shore Petroleum Resources directed inquiries into this matter and did some work on it. I really am not up to date on the latest situation. I know that there were Commonwealth-State discussions, but the honourable senator has referred to specific cases. I shall have to find out for him the actual position and I shall do that as soon as I can.
– My question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, follows the answer he gaveto Senator Carrick. Will he agree that Mr Frank Crean, in the address that Mr Crean gave in Sydney on 4th August, when referring to taxation deductions for life assurance was merely drawing attention to the fact that the taxation law allows a taxation deduction of up to $1,200 for life assurance but allows only a little over$300 for a wife who is wholly maintained by a taxpayer and even less for a child who is wholly maintained by a taxpayer, and that Mr Crean, far from saying that the life assurance deduction should not be allowed, was merely using it as an illustration to highlight the unfairness, disparities and anomalies that exist under the present taxation law relating to allowable deductions? Will the Minister agree with Mr Crean’s contention that the taxation law generally, and particularly that relating to equity so far as deductions are concerned, is very much in need of review?
– 1 do not detract at all from what I said. I do not want to repeat it. I think I covered it fairly well. The question was linked to the efficacy of all the deductions which a taxpayer can claim, but particularly those relating to special deductions, whether they be for a wife, dependent children, medical claims or life assurance. I placed particular emphasis on life assurance because that was the subject of the question posed to me. I do not think I mentioned Mr Crean by name;I referred to the shadow Minister. However, since the honourable senator has mentioned his name-
– I think Senator Carrick mentioned his name.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONAs the honourable senator would know, I do not like using names per se in these cases; I talk about a position or an office. As for the additional things that Mr Crean said in his address on 4th August, I am not in a position to challenge them and if the honourable senator likes I will put his question on notice and look at the address in depth. However, he did say, in the generality - I do not think this is under challenge - that he was advocating or canvas sing the easing of this special concession as against other concessions. [ have criticised the proposition that there should be any easing of deductions in respect of life assurance premiums.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. What does the Government intend to do about this extremely important aspect of our national finance: We have enormous and increasing cash reserves overseas, held on terms which by general agreement are not very satisfactory to Australia, while at the same time our real resources are being taken over by foreign interests? Does the Government propose to allow this to continue or does it intend to do something about utilising these enormous cash reserves to reverse the trend towards increasing foreign ownership and control of Australian industries, commerce and resources?
– Obviously the matter, with all its implications, does not lend itself, if I may say so without intending to be discourteous, to a question or an answer at question time.
– Do you mean that you have no answer?
– No; to the contrary. Statements already have been put down in the Parliament on these very issues. I think that on reflection Senator Murphy would agree that to take up time during question time to canvass the question of our overseas balances and reserves would not be fair to other honourable senators who want to ask questions. I point out that question time has been going on since 10.30.I would be perfectly happy to make and put down a statement on this matter in due course. The Leader of the Opposition could move that the Senate take note of it and we could have a debate on it.
– I request the Minister to do what be has suggested.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONIn the fullness of time and within the limits of time that we have, I certainly will look at that matter without delay.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Works. Because he implied that my previous question was incorrect, will he deny that by telephone to the editor of the Hobart ‘Mercury’ he said that if his letter were not published it will be the worse for you’?
– I have already answered that question.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. In view of the fact that many weeks ago he said that Australia was on the verge of signing the Refugee Seamen’s Convention and in view of the fact that I subsequently asked him to define on the verge’, I, on behalf of the Australian maritime unions, now ask him: Will we have a specific answer before the Parliament is dissolved?
– I interpret the honourable senator’s question as a request that we should do so. and I shall do my best to comply with it
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, Is it a fact that design plans for a fast combat support ship for the Navy to be known as HMAS ‘Protector’, were completed in November 1971? Is it also a fact that a tender for construction was completed by Vickers Australia Ltd in May 1972? Can the Minister now inform the Parliament whether the plan to construct HMAS ‘Protector’ has been abandoned? Can he advise how much taxpayers’ money has been spent on the project to date?
– I would not attempt to answer that question. If the honourable senator puts it on notice I will ask the Minister for the Navy to give him an answer.
– Is the Minister representing the Postmaster-General aware that there are many complaints concerning overcharging on private and business accounts for subscriber trunk dialling tele phone calls and that a prime example of such overcharging is the$1 5,000 overcharge on the Parliament House account? Can the Minister inform the Parliament of the number of accounts which have been adjusted in favour of the subscriber during the past 12 months and the steps being taken by the Department to overcome the problem?
– The PostmasterGeneral or the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs has made public statements contradicting the assumption on which the honourable senator based his question. The honourable senator has referred to one instance and has asked what other instances there are. I suggest that if he requires that information he put an appropriate question on notice.
– I wish to reply to a question asked of me by Senator McLaren at question time yesterday. There was no suitable opportunity yesterday because the Senate rearranged the notice paper and moved to the Estimates Committees. So I now answer Senator McLaren’s question which concerned the gift of a sword for the use of the Usher of the Black Rod on ceremonial occasions. The dress worn by the Usher of the Black Rod on ceremonial occasions is based on that worn by the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod in the House of Lords and a sword is part of his traditional ceremonial dress. Ushers of the Black Rod in certain other Commonwealth countries and in the Australian States also dress similarly to Black Rod in the House of Lords and a sword is part of their ceremonial dress. When Wilkinson Sword Pty Ltd generously offered to present a ceremonial sword to the Senate I accepted the offer and, as I said in my statement yesterday, I am sure that the Senate fully appreciates that gift.
– Pursuant to section 14 of the Commonwealth Grants Commission Act 1933-1966, I present the thirty-ninth report (1972) of the Commonwealth Grants Commission on the applications made by
Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania for financial assistance under section 96 of the Constitution. Incorporated in this report is the special report (1972) on the application made by Queensland for financial assistance under section 96 of the Constitution.
– Pursuant to section 32 of the Homes Savings Grant Act 1964-1971, I present the eighth annual report on the administration and operation of that Act for the year ended 30th June 1972.
– Pursuant to section 33 of the Australian Capital Territory Electricity Supply Act 1962-1966, I present the ninth annual report of the Australian Capital Territory Electricity Authority for the year ended 30th June 1972, together with financial statements and the report of the Auditor-General on those statements.
– Are notices of motion, Government Business, Numbers 1 to 4 formal or not formal?
Motion (by Senator Greenwood) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to approve accession by Australia to the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft, to give effect to that Convention and to Provide for the Punishment of the Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft and Acts of Violence on board Aircraft in certain circumstances in which that Convention docs not apply.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing orders suspended.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill and the 2 associated extradition Bills together constitute the third significant legislative step taken by the Commonwealth in furtherance of its endeavours to combat an essentially modern problem, namely, the disruption of aviation by hijacking - or air piracy as it is sometimes called - and the acts of violence that accompany the commission of that offence. Honourable senators will recall that the first step was taken in 1963 with the passage of the Crimes (Aircraft) Act. That Act created the Commonwealth offence of hijacking in respect of aircraft engaged in interstate flights, aircraft, including defence aircraft, owned by the Commonwealth and foreign aircraft that were engaged in a flight ending or commencing in Australia. The Act also dealt with crimes committed on board aircraft engaged in interstate flights, in flights to and from overseas and, in respect of Australian registered aircraft and Commonwealth owned aircraft, crimes committed on such aircraft even if they were engaged in flights outside Australia. The law to be applied in respect of such crimes was the criminal law of the Australian Capital Territory. In effect, the Act made aircraft to which it applied Australian territory for the purpose of the application of criminal law, the particular law to be applied being, as I have said, that of the Australian Capital Territory.
The second major step was taken in 1970 when this Parliament enacted the Civil Aviation (Offenders on International Aircraft) Act. That Act gave effect to the Tokyo Convention on Offences and Certain Other Acts committed on Board Aircraft. The Convention established that, as for ships, the law primarily applicable to aircraft was the law of the State in which the aircraft was registered - a flag law. The Convention conferred upon an aircraft commander power to impose restraint in cases where that action was necessary for the protection of the aircraft or persons or property on board. It provided for the delivery of the persons who had been restrained by the commander of the aircraft to the responsible authorities at the place where the aircraft landed. The Convention imposed upon its contracting parties obligations to exercise jurisdiction over offences committed on board aircraft, the primary responsibility being placed on the
State of registration of the aircraft. Machinery was provided by the legislation for the holding in custody and extradition of offenders. There was power also to return an offender to his home State or to the Territory in which he bad begun his journey.
Neither the Convention nor the Act created any new offence. Rather the intention was to ensure the expeditious dealing with offenders under law. Like all conventions on this subject the Tokyo Convention applied only to international civil aviation. Military, customs or police aircraft were excluded from its operation. The third step is the acceptance of the Hague Convention. This Convention was made at the Hague in December 1970 and is entitled Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft’. The English text of the Convention is set out in the schedule to the Bil). From it honourable senators can see that the Convention takes the unusual course of creating in Article 1 by, so to speak, international legislation the offence of hijacking. The offence is committed when a person who, being on board an aircraft in flight unlawfully by force, threat or any other form of intimidation seizes or exercises control of the aircraft or attempts to perform any such act. An accomplice on board such aircraft also commits the offence. Hijacking is generally accepted as a word descriptive of the offence. By Article 2 each contracting State is obliged to make the offence punishable by severe penalties.
As benefits its standing as one of the world’s principal aviation nations Australia took part in the formation of the Hague Convention. It was signed on behalf of Australia in June this year. The Convention came into force on 14th October 1971 following ratification by the tenth signatory State, the United States of America. The main purposes of this Bill are to approve accession by Australia to the Convention, to create the offence of hijacking in cases to which the Convention is applicable and to provide the necessary procedures with respect to the taking of offenders into custody and their detention in custody pending a decision whether to try them or extradite them. There is also provision for the holding of a preliminary inquiry into the facts of a hijacking, as provided for by the Convention, the findings of which are, under the Convention, to be reported to other interested countries.
The opportunity has also been taken, however, to extend the ambit of Commonwealth law in respect of aircraft crimes to some categories of offences with which the Convention does not deal. Honourable senators will note that the offence of hijacking is committed in a number of circumstances which are set out in clause 8 of the Bill. The first circumstance is the offence to which the Convention directly applies and which Australia, pursuant to the Convention, is required to make punishable. The remaining circumstances are not wholly covered by the Convention but, in the view of the Government, are cases to which this legislation should apply. These other circumstances are: (a) the hijacking of an aircraft on a flight in the course of trade and commerce with other countries or among the States or on a flight within a Territory, between 2 Territories or between a State and a Territory; (b) the hijacking of a Commonwealth aircraft, including a defence aircraft; (c) the hijacking of an aircraft of the government of a foreign country in Australia or on a flight commencing or ending in Australia; and (d) the hijacking of an aircraft outside Australia by an Australian citizen.
Cases falling within paragraph (a) above would mostly come within the Convention with the important exception of a flight between places in Australia by an aircrat registered in Australia. Cases falling within paragraph (d) would also be mostly covered by the Convention, but the Convention would not cover the hijacking by an Australian citizen of a foreign aircraft in flight between 2 places both within the country of registration of the aircraft. The other provisions ensure that in conjunction with the Crimes (Aircraft) Act 1963 the offence of hijacking is comprehensively covered. The Bill provides that the maximum punishment for hijacking is imprisonment for life. The Convention also requires its contracting states to establish their jurisdiction over ‘any other act of violence’ against passengers or crew committed by the alleged hijacker in connection with hijacking.
Clause 9 of the Bill therefore provides for the creation of offences arising from acts of violence committed on board an aircraft against the passengers or crew. The circumstances in which those offences are punishable are substantially the same as those in which hijacking is made punishable by clause 8. The clause therefore is not confined only to those acts of violence occuring in connection with a hijacking. It covers all acts of violence committed on an aircraft for which there may be no Australian law currently applicable. As in the case of the Crimes (Aircraft) Act 1963, the law that is made applicable to such offences is that of the Australian Capital Territory which has been selected as it is an area of general criminal law over which this Parliament has control. Clause 10 of the Bill embodies the obligation imposed by the Convention upon Australia to take the proper measures to restore control to the commander of an aircraft on which a hijacking has been committed or attempted.
The remaining clauses of the Bill provide appropriate machinery for dealing with occurrences of hijacking and persons who have committed offences against the Act. Honourable senators will observe that there is substantial similarity between those provisions and the corresponding provisions of the 1970 Act. Provision is made to ensure that any hijacked aircraft is restored to the control of its lawful commander and for the taking of alleged offenders into custody or for their arrest. Where it is necessary for the facts of an alleged offence to be inquired into a magistrate is authorised to hold an inquiry and observed and procedures to be followed in the holding of an inquiry.
Finally 1 refer to the 2 associated extradition Bills. The primary purpose of the Hague Convention is to ensure that hijackers are punished. It provides therefore that the State in which a hijacker is found shall either extradite the offender or itself consider the prosecution of that offender. The offence of hijacking does not fall precisely within the category of extraditable crimes in our present extradition legislation. The 2 extradition Bills now before the Senate are designed to remedy that position. With the passage of these 3 Bills Australia will be able to fulfil its obligations under the Hague Convention and play its full part in the attempted resolution of a world-wide problem.
There is a Fourth international convention relating to the safety of civil aviation, namely, the Montreal Convention for the Supression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Civil Aviation. This Convention was made at Montreal last year. Arrangements have been completed for Australia to sign this Convention tomorrow and legislation to enable the Convention to be ratified will be introduced as soon as possible. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wheeldon) adjourned.
I give notice that on the next day of sitting, following the normal period of questions without notice and other formal business, I shall move:
That Estimates Committees A and C meet at 12 noon and that for that purpose the sitting of the Senate be suspended from 12 noon to 6 p.m.
It is proposed that Estimates Committee A will meet in the Senate chamber and Estimates Committee C will meet in room L17.
– As honourable senators will recall, 24 F4E aircraft were leased from the United States Air Force in 1970 to enable the Royal Australian Air Force to maintain proficiency and expertise in the strike role, pending a Government decision on the acceptance of the F111C. As the first F111C aircraft to Australia is expected in mid-1973, the F4E aircraft are no longer required for the purposes for which they were leased. The United States Air Force made a proposal that Australia purchase the F4Es and associated equipment offering them at a price substantially lower than that provided by the original lease terms. The Government’s defence advisers have reviewed the possible advantages, the costs, industrial implications, and other factors bearing on a decision whether or not to retain the F4E aircraft.
In considering the additional capability that would be provided by the retention of the F4Es, a review was made of the forecast needs in the air defence and close support roles, and of the existing and continuing capabilities of the RAAF’s Mirage 1110 and the Skyhawk aircraft of the Royal Australian Navy and the projected capabilities of new-generation aircraft that may come into service late in the 1970s or early 1980s. This review did not indicate a high strategic priority for acquisition of the F4Es now. In addition, the review took into account the special maintenance arrangements which would be required, the additional skilled manpower, spares, ground support equipment and other ancillary costs. The resulting overall financial effect on the 5 year defence programme would be substantially greater than the simple purchase price of the aircraft and leased items.
In parallel with the United States Air Force’s purchase offer, the McDonnell Aircraft Company, which makes the F4E aircraft, made a conditional offer which could provide the Australian aircraft industry with the opportunity of participating in some offset work. This is an indication of the effectiveness of the Government’s established policy on offsets, but it is assessed that retention of the F4Es could have effects on other industrial programmes now under consideration for which the McDonnell proposals would not compensate. After considering a detailed report on all these matters and bearing in mind the effects on the development of Australia’s force structure as a whole, the Government has concluded that although the terms of the United States Air Force’s offer are attractive, the total cost and other consequences could not be justified against other high-priority major items now included in the projections of the 5 year defence programme. The Government has therefore decided not to accept the proposal made by the United States Air Force.
Motion (by Senator Greenwood) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Extradition (Commonwealth Countries) Act 1966-1968.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing orders suspended.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill has been indicated in the second reading speech on the Bill relating to the accession to the Hague Convention. This Bill will make the offence of hijacking an extradition crime for the purposes of the Extradition (Commonwealth Countries) Act 1966-68 and I commend this Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wheeldon) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Greenwood) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Extradition (Foreign States) Act 1966-1968.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing orders suspended.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Extradition (Foreign States) Act 1966-68 in the same way as the accession to the Hague Convention requires an amendment to the Extradition (Commonwealth Countries) Act 1966-68. The purpose of this Bill has been explained in the second reading speech on the Bill for the accession to the Hague Convention. I commend this Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wheeldon) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Greenwood) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act relating to Restrictive Trade Practices.
Consideration of House of Representatives’ message (vide page 1264).
At the end of clause 3 add ‘, subject to the amendment of the agreement by the omission of clause 9 of the Schedule and the insertion in place thereof the following clauses: “9. The State shall ensure that planting during each year is carried out efficiently and in conformity with sound forestry, environmental and financial practices. “9a The State shall ensure that natural forests shall not be cleared for planting softwoods unless the particular proposed clearing has beforehand been the subject of an environmental impact study made by an independent expert on behalf of the Australian Forestry Council and that Council after considering the report of the said study has approved the particular clearing.” ‘.
House of Representatives’ amendment:
In the Schedule, at the end of clause 9, add and shall ensure that environmental factors relating to the planting have been considered*. and motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Committee does not insist on the amendment disagreed to by the House of Representatives, and agrees to the amendment made by the House In place thereof.
– -Mr Temporary Chairman, Senator Mulvihill has sought the call and while I wish to hear him - I always listen to his views with interest - I should like to make some comments which may well be of interest to him and which may alter the context of his observations. I should like to make some comments before dealing with the measure that is before the Committee. Firstly, as well as handling my own portfolio as Minister for Civil Aviation, I represent in the Senate the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Industry, the Minister for National Development, the Minister for Customs and Excise, the Minister for Shipping and Transport, the Minister for the Interior, the Minister-in-Charge of Tourist Activities and, during the absence of the Leader of the Government in the Senate from time to time, the Treasurer. If honourable senators look at the notice paper they will see the kind of work load that falls on Ministers in the Senate, admittedly sometimes unevenly on one as against another. However, it is a fair indication of the volume of work that one has to cover. Therefore it defies my understanding how Senator Keeffe can expect the business of the Government to proceed if a Minister who rep resents another in this place cannot do so at some particular time because of a private interest that he may have.
The Softwood Forestry Agreements Bill 1972 is a Government Bill. I am part of the Government and I am proud of the Government, but in this matter I represent the Minister for National Development and I am in no way the Minister responsible for this legislation except as part of the full body of the Government. Senator Keeffe has observed that because my family has some interest in the timber industry in Oberon I should not deal with the Bill. I believe that if he thinks a little further than that he will see that such an attitude might well preclude much of the Senate’s business proceeding at all; one might ask what the situation would be for anybody who represents another at law in a particular case. I should like to make this brief comment: So far as what my family and I have done is concerned, we are rather proud of what we have done; we are proud of our achievements and of our contribution to decentralisation and development where we have been working. We do not feel disposed to apologise to anybody for that or to make explanations about it.
For my own part, I have had a lot to do with the Oberon area. I went there in 1943 to found a timber industry which has been a very useful development and which has contributed greatly to the growth of that region. In fact, it has been visited and commended by 2 Labor Premiers of the State of New South Wales, one of whom joined with me to open a huge new industry which we had been helping to establish. Further, should any honourable senator be interested to check with officials of the Timber Workers Union he will find that they have commended it. In 28 years of operation, the companies concerned with that industry have never lost a minute of time as a result of industrial disputes. They have a proud record in what they have done for their employees. They won the National Safety Award, which was open to al! industries in .Australia, as a result of their proud and safe working record Therefore all of us who have been involved with those companies - I myself am no longer involved; I am a long way out of it - feel that they have done a useful job.
Equally, it ought to be understood that the companies and those concerned with them have operated at all times under the auspices, licences and authorities nf the New South Wales State Forestry Commission. The companies’ activities are both controlled and supervised by the Commission. However, I shall pass over that. 1 have been interested in conservation all my life, and 1 think I can say that I share that interest with Senator Mulvihill. I believe that I have the same concern as most people have and that I have demonstrated it in much of my life. This can be verified by those who are interested in this matter.
Some discussion occurred about carbon dioxide situations, and Senator Keeffe v/as wondering why we could not do more about them by planting pine forests close to the city of Sydney. I think the problem will be found to be one of insufficient land, of what one could call suitable site quality, on which to grow economic and efficient pine plantations. That is the difficulty as I understand it. Senator Mulvihill may have done some research on this; I am not an authority on it but I have looked a little at the question of what has to be done with poplar plantations. The difficulty about poplar plantations also seems to bc that of securing suitable areas of land close to Sydney on which to plant them and also that poplars are deciduous and their whole leaf pattern falls at a certain period of the year. I do not know the absorptive capacity of a poplar plantation; therefore I cannot be helpful on it.
I should like to make another brief comment. I was glad to hear Senator Keeffe say that he cast no aspersions on my integrity. 1 was rather pleased about that. However, I do not think that my family or my previous associates would draw much comfort from the observation. Senator Mulvihill made several observations to which, as always, I listened with some interest. I think that the comments I shall make on behalf of the responsible Minister and his Department should satisfactorily solve the problem he has had. I would also observe for myself - this is not a departmental view but a senator’s view which I have expressed before - that I believe that the issues of quality of life, long term interest in the environment, conservation of resources and addition to resources are all very good matters to be considered by the Senate, which I regard as the custodian of the long term interests of the Australian people and their general heritage. Therefore I would not quarrel with the observations that have been made here to the effect that the Senate ought to have regard to some of these matters. However, 1 do seek to point out to many people who were talking about them that the States, and particularly New South Wales, have for a long time had both a proud and effective record in dealing with these matters I do not think honourable senators should pass over them as if we were the only ones who had ever thought about them.
The Softwood Forestry Agreements Bill 1972 provides for the Commonwealth to enter into agreements with the States for the provision of financial assistance for the purposes of expanding softwood plantings by the States. The form of agreement between the Commonwealth and the States is included as a schedule to the Bill. The Bill provides for the continuation, for a further 5-year period commencing on 1st July 1971 and ending on 30th Jims 1976, of the financial assistance the States have received under the Softwood Forestry Agreements Act 1967. Agreement has been reached with the States for the Commonwealth to provide finance for the planting of 25.000 acres annually for 5 years with the States financing 29,680 acres annually.
The Bill passed through the House of Representatives unamended on 30th May 19 2. The Senate debated the Bill on 15th and 16th August 1972 and amended it. The amendment made by the Senate was rejected by the House of Representatives, and a new amendment was made by the House of Representatives consequent upon the rejection of the Senate amendment The new amendment proposed is the addition of the following words at the end of clause 9 of the Schedule to the Bill: and shall ensure that environmental factors relating to the planting have been considered.
Each of the States was approached concerning the amendment made to the Bill by the Senate. The States expressed strong objections to the addition to the agreement between the Commonwealth and the States of clause 9 as proposed by the Senate. The amendment that it is now proposed to submit involves recognition by express reference in the agreement between the
Commonwealth and the States to the need to consider environmental factors relating to the planting which will take place under the softwood planting programme.
The absence of reference to the environment in the originally proposed agreement did not mean that this important field bad been ignored. Environmental aspects of forestry activities are very much in mind within the Australian Forestry Council which recommended the softwood planting programme. The expression ‘sound forestry . . . practices’ in clause 9 of the original agreement contemplated recognition of the effects of forestry activities on the environment. The Government has no objection to including in the agreement a form of words that recognises the need to protect the quality of the environment. It has not been considered desirable, however, that the Commonwealth should seek to dictate precise procedures that the State forest services and indeed the Australian Forestry Council should follow in undertaking a task to which they have diligently addressed themselves in the past.
State forest services are autonomous and they operate under their own Forest Acts. The powers and duties of each forest service include not only the management of forest areas for the production of wood but also the management, protection and use of forests for non-wood benefits; for example, soil conservation, aesthetics, water catchments, provision of habitats for native fauna and public recreation: The use of public land comes under the scrutiny not only of the forest services but also of other government departments and bodies concerned with land use. Machinery exists within the States for the examination of areas before dedication as State forest. The responsible attitude of State governments to land use is exemplified in Victoria where a Land Conservation Council has been established under statute and whose membership may include both government and private members. The function of the Council is to investigate and to make recommendations in respect of the use of all public land. In addition, all States have a Minister with a specific responsibility for the environment. The State Ministers meet with appropriate Commonwealth Ministers regularly as the Australian Environment Council.
As far as possible State forest services acquire land previously cleared for agriculture, for pine planting. The Bill encourages the purchase of land by providing for the State to receive from the Commonwealth the same proportion of funds spent on acquiring land as they receive for other plantation establishment costs. South Australia acquires all its land from private interests, and in New South Wales, of some 210,000 acres of plantation, about three-quarters are on land that has at some stage been used for agriculture, and in some cases has reverted to scrub. It is accepted that softwood plantations do modify the flora and fauna of an area. However it is expected that the area of softwood plantations established by the year 2000 will represent less than 1 per cent of the native forest and open woodland, scrub and brushland which provides the habitat for much of our native fauna.
In the main establishment of plantations under this Agreement will bc extensions of existing blocks of plantations and in areas where the sight of softwood plantations is familiar. The requirement of a report by an independent expert would disrupt the programme, thereby aggravating rural unemployment and wasting the effort already expended in preparation for planting.
The Australian Forestry Council, which recommended the softwood programme, has demonstrated a responsible attitude to the environment by endorsing a Forestry and Wood-based Industries Development Conference to be held in 1974. Any honourable senator interested in this Conference will be welcome to attend. The conference will recognise the importance not only of economic matters concerning forests and forest industries but also of social and environmental aspects of forestry and forest industries. The council has also established liaison with the newly formed Environmental Council.
Whilst the Government has no objection to including in the Agreement a form of words that emphasises the need to protect the quality of the environment, it would not appear to it to be desirable to dictate a precise procedure for the Forestry Council and the forest services to follow in undertaking a task to which they have diligently addressed themselves in the past. The amendment which has been made in the
House of Representatives and to which I have referred will ensure not only that planting each year is carried out efficiently and in conformity with sound forestry and financial practices but also that environmental factors will have to be considered before plantations are established. The Minister for National Development also recommended that similar special references to the environment should be considered in any future agreements. This is equally of interest to Senator Mulvihill and Senator Byrne as it is to me. We are also informed that the Minister for Conservation for New South Wales had ordered a full environmental study of the Boyd Plateau region which was to be considered before further planting was undertaken. lt is noteworthy that the Forwood Conference will be held in 1974 and panels have been established to consider our resources and future requirements with a view to making recommendations to the Conference about how to cater for our future needs for forest products. Representatives from industry, government and the universities are involved in these studies. An assurance can therefore be given that present forecasts will be under critical review in the future.
Some references have occurred in the past to the ‘irresponsible’ actions of New South Wales in the establishment of plantations and its failure to preserve areas of native forest of the kind which is being replaced by softwoods. As a matter of interest. Professor Pryor of the Department of Botany of the Australian National University, in a paper on ‘Nature Conservation in relation to Modern Trends in Australian Forestry’ delivered to the Twelfth Pacific Science Congress in 1971, mentions that much of the development of conifer plantations will be by conversion of sclerophyll vegetation - which is representative of our native eucalypts - adding that ‘in the broad sense the survival of the sclerophyll vegetation as a type is not at stake due to any known or foreseen form of agricultural or forestry land use’. He mentioned that there was a need to ensure for future reference that enough samples of the original type are retained in sufficient size to be self-sustaining - that is enough seed trees, etc.
It should be remembered that the Boyd Plateau is entirely a State matter and its future is totally independent of the Softwoods Bill. I am glad that the study that I have mentioned is to be undertaken. It is a matter for that Government to determine. The New South Wales Government has promised to review the future of the Plateau and the Forestry Commission is to embark on an environmental study, which really is, I think, satisfactory. The boundaries in that area between forests and parklands were defined after consultation between the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Forestry Coramission. The New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service has on its staff ecologists, zoologists and anthropologists.
The New South Wales Forestry Commission, I am informed, has been acquiring cleared land and failed farm land as rapidly as it has ben able. Much more than 50 per cent of the areas around the Tumut plantation would have been failed farm land. Privately owned land purchased by the Commission has usually been in somewhat poor or marginal economic condition, sometimes run-down or weed infested. Several areas of plantation have been established specifically to assist in controlling weed outbreaks such as St John’s wort and serrated tussock. (Extension of time granted) I thank the Senate. I felt that I had a duty to the Senate to ask the Department to prepare a fairly detailed account of the matters involved in this legislation because I believe that the comments needed answering and that they should be answered not by me. Nonetheless good rural properties have certainly been acquired on occasions, often to consolidate existing plantation areas. The acquisition of land by the Forestry Commission is usually on a voluntary basis, in that the owners wish to sell. It is only for exceptional circumstances that the Forestry Commission resumes land. Perhaps threequarters of the existing area of pine plantation established by the Forestry Commission is on land that has at some stage been cleared of much of its native vegetation and that subsequently either has reverted to or has been purchased by the Crown. At present the Commission believes that it holds or has access to sufficient land for about three-quarters of the target plantation area of one million acres, but acquisition of a further 250,000 acres of suitable land will still be necessary over the next 20 or 30 years.
The basis of the first Softwood Agreement Bill was that at the turn of the century there would be a deficiency in timber. An estimate was made of the population at that time by the ANU, of timber consumption by the Commonwealth and of timber yield by the States.
I refer briefly to the document ‘Australia’s Nature Resources - Minerals, Forests. Water and Energy, which was presented recently on behalf of the Department of National Development. I have not read it in detail but it contains a section on forestry which to me highlights the importance of forestry activities in this country and the problems of future wood deficiency. It has been said that the future of the world is very much in the hands of the forest nations. Australia,- on the other hand, is a wood deficient country. This is brought out in the document to which I have just referred, as it has been in the past 25 years. It is necessary in the public interest, this Government and the State Governments believe, to remedy this deficiency and this softwood agreement is designed to help overcome this problem. The estimates of the acreage required are based on the best data available, much of which has been supplied by the Commonwealth.
Forests are often accused of being ‘biological deserts’. This is not necessarily the truth. Indeed, it is said not to be the case. It is not widely appreciated that a considerable amount of wildlife can be found in pine forests. There are many diffierent varieties of bird life as well as kangaroos and wallabies. These are not my remarks. They have been given to me by the responsible Department. We understand that about 80 different bird varieties have been observed in pine plantations in New South Wales and continuing observations are expected to extend this list substantially.
It might be worth quoting Vincent Serventy who wrote in the ‘Sun-Herald’ on 27th August 1972, that ‘a suprising amount of wildlife flourishes in a pine forest - far more for example than would be found in a wheat paddock or an area of pasture’. He also pointed out that pine plantations go on for ever, not like an oil well or a quarry. Serventy says ‘as a conservationist, I would only ask that wherever practicable, already cleared land should be used for plantings rather than clearing natural bush’.
Another quote worth mentioning - and not in any offensive style - was that of Professor Bruce Williams, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney. This is a matter with which we would all be concerned. He said:
If public awareness and will to action can be built up in a healthy fashion - reasonably immune from the hysteria of doomsayers and econuts and the enervating inertia of the complacent-
This is the important point: further economic growth can go along with an improvement in the quality of life.
– I intervene again in this debate. I know that, at a later stage, Senator Byrne wishes to deal with the terminology used in the amendment. I listened intensely to the remarks of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton). I wish to confine my speech to the New South Wales scene. I do not think the Opposition toad any desire to upset the forestry programmes of the other States. It will be recalled that when I spoke the other night, when the debate was resumed suddenly, I did not have all the authorities which I wanted to quote. When Senator Cotton delivered his brief I do not think anybody objected to the long term objectives to which he referred, but what concerns the Opposition and me is the form of the words used to describe the ideal situation.
I was and am still somewhat doubtful as to the adherence by New South Wales to this concept. I say that because the fact of the matter is that even when we talk about the position from 1974 onwards, New South Wales at this point of time has only 2.2 per cent of its acreage defined as forestry land. When we consider that New Zealand has over 30 per cent and that Canada has 32 per cent of their acreage defined as forestry land, probably if I err on the side of being a miser as far as sacrificing any of our native bushland is concerned, I think that I am on safe ground.
What I was trying to establish was the fact that the Commonwealth, through the Minister for National Development, was more or less the convenor of the forestry programme. I consider that we should be quite clear on the adherence to conservation principles by the New South Wales Government. Senator Cotton assures us that this is the case. To prove my doubts of this 1 refer to a letter from the Secretary of the Save Colong Committee, in which he said:
Incidentally, the Colong Committee asked the State Pollution Control Commission to require the Forestry Commission to submit an environment impact study on Boyd Plateau. The NSW Government’s policy states that the Commission is to adjudicate in matters which are either of major consequence or highly controversial. However, Forestry is preparing a half baked public relations statement without any ecological studies being made. Now the Minister for Conservation advises in writing that he will adjudicate his own Department’s report . . .
I quoted that letter because whilst it is true, as Senator Cotton has said, that there will be a stay of proceedings as far as the Boyd Plateau is concerned, until about February, nobody knows for sure what the final decision will be. I hark back to the limited 2 per cent acreage of forest land in New South Wales, and I relate that to the Boyd Plateau which comprises 35,000 acres. I said in my contribution to the earlier debate that whatever the future and expansion of our forestry programme, I felt that as an indication of good faith the Forestry Commission could waive any claim to Boyd Plateau. I know that Senator Cotton questioned whether Boyd Plateau was so super in the way of native forests. I will not bother delaying the Committee by referring to a pamphlet on Boyd Plateau, but in the concluding paragraphs of the pamphlet emphasis is placed on the Plateau’s role in wildlife conservation.
I think that this is a case of the egg and the chicken. If it comes about that one day more than 7 per cent of the continent, including New South Wales, would be set aside for national parks and wildlife refuges, probably I would be a little more flexible, but in the absence of such a target I lean unequivocally for the retention of the Boyd Plateau. Nobody knows whether, if we endorse this proposal today, the Forestry Commission will still prevail with its present policy. Besides the representations from the Save Colong Committee, I have correspondence from the Blue Mountains National Park local committee which also believes that Boyd Plateau should remain in its present state.
But having said all that, there is the question of the ethics or objectivity of the New South Wales Forestry Commission. I remind honourable senators, particularly those honourable senators from New South Wales, of a very fine article entitled ‘The Death of a Forest’ in the Sydney ‘Daily Telegraph’ of 7th October last. It referred to 10,000 acres being felled in the Eden district in connection with the wood chip industry and the environmental damage suffered. I know that some counter statements have been made by the Forestry Commission, but to my way of thinking there is still not a total adherence to the objective at which we are aiming. It is not the first time this has happened. The United States Senate and even the American State legislatures have had tremendous battles about protecting the Californian redwoods.
I summarise my argument this way: Whilst at the moment there is more or less a holding operation as far as Boyd Plateau is concerned, I believe that as an act of good faith the Forestry Commission should waive any claim to Boyd Plateau. Perhaps Senator Cotton could use a gentle leaning or even his persuasive qualities. Whatever our long term forestry programme is, I cannot see that waiving claim to 35,000 acres is much of a price to pay to allow conservationists to win one of their rare victories. Senator Cotton represents the Minister for National Development, and I read the overall statement on national development by the Minister for National Development. We are still jibbing, as it were, in relation to the Northern Territory, as to whether a certain area should be sacrosanct to mining interests. The same principle applies here.
I repeat that the other States have certain problems. I would like to believe that subsequently in this debate Senator Cotton could indicate that the responsible New South Wales Ministers - and I include the Forestry Minister and the Conservation Minister - will say: ‘Look, is it worth arguing about 35,000 acres?’, because believe me, whatever has been done about
Colong Caves must be linked to what will be done about the Boyd Plateau. When I look at the miserly 2 per cent of New South Wales that is defined as national forests, I believe that even segments like 35,000 acres are very vital.
I know that other speakers in the debate will deal with the broad principle involved in this issue. I do not quarrel with the terminology in the amendment, but I am a very practical person. I do not want to find after February, when we have agreed to pious principles, that the New South Wales authorities will say ‘We had a look at it’, because, mark you, if you look at the letter from Mr Milo Dunphy of the Save Colong Committee, he implies that it is a sort of Caesar to Caesar appeal. I again emphasise the point that whatever the outcome of this legislation, 1 believe that New South Wales should indicate that it will give practical adherence to what is contained in the amendment. That is the contribution I wanted to make.
– The Bill now before the Committee has been returned to this chamber as a result of an amendment moved by me on behalf of the Australian Democratic Labor Party being approved by the Senate and the Bill in the amended form then being returned to the House of Representatives. Of course, the whole object of the exercise was to indicate the concern of the Federal Government and of the national Parliament on the question of conservation and the preservation of our natural environment. This was to be done by an amendment to this Bill, which provided that if the Commonwealth were to provide moneys, it should be a condition precedent to the availability of those moneys that the environmental factors should be considered. The amendment propounded by the Democratic Labor Party when the Bill was originally before this chamber purported to amend the Schedule by deleting clause 9 and inserting the following clauses:
Australian Forestry Council and that the Council after considering the report of the said study has approved the particular clearing’.
That matter was considered by the Minister for National Development (Sir Reginald Swartz) and by the Government, and subsequently by the House of Representatives. Certain important factors were presented for consideration as to whether the amendment in that form was acceptable. Discussions took place between Senator Cotton and myself - he representing Sir Reginald Swartz - in which it was pointed out, I think in quite compelling and convincing terms, that if we were to insert the requirement as was proposed and was executed in the amendment requiring an environmental study by an independent expert before a reafforestation programme should proceed in terms of the pending agreement, it would involve a number of things. It would involve the interruption of the existing planting programmes, because they are planned 2 years ahead, and it would involve the displacement of labour. Those were very serious consequences which inevitably would have emerged, on the advice which the Minister was good enough to pass on to me, if the original amendment had been persisted with. In addition, the States expressed perhaps legitimate concern that this was a trespass not only on their sovereignty but also on their real solicitude and concern for the protection of the environment and consideration of the environment in any reafforestation programme. I accept, on behalf of my Party, those propositions as having a very high measure of validity.
Senator Mulvihill expressed concern that the States, while they may manifest a solicitude, may have a different interpretation of how that solicitude should be exercised. He pointed to what he regards as specific failures by one of the States to have that regard for the environment and the preservation of natural forest which he would always try to engender. I think we must accept the fact that the States are as conscious of the protection of the environment as is this Parliament; and that they already have taken very many steps in their own field on questions relating to water pollution, and conservation of the environment in many areas and in many forms. I think we can accept that this will be done. However, I think it was not inappropriate that, following the presentation of this Bill and the consideration of it, the Senate should express its insistence and its concern to put on record that it should be a condition precedent to the availability of this money, in terms of the agreement, that the environmental factor, as a matter of agreement and of law, should be considered by State governments which plan to proceed with forestry plantings with money made available under this legislation. Therefore 1 think the proposition is valid on both sides. I can accept the position of the States and their protestations. At the same time I think we are quite right in re-presenting our proposition.
The amendment which has now come forward from the House of Representatives is in a form which substantially embodies the proposed replacement of clause 9 of the Schedule as carried in this place. It merely puts it in other words, namely: arid shall ensure that environmental factors relating to the planting have been considered.
That will impose on the States the obligation, if this money is to be made available and utilised, that in terms of the agreement they shall be able to assure the Commonwealth that in their forward planning they have considered the environmental factor. Possibly there is no more we could do, accepting the goodwill of the States, which I do without any reservation whatsoever. 1 think an important point has been made in the progress of the debate on this Bill through the 2 Houses of the Parliament. The Commonwealth Government, perhaps for the first time, has taken a strong legislative stand in relation to insistence on respect for and observance of the protection of the environment. In legislation this is possibly one of the strongest steps that have been taken. I think it is to the credit of this chamber that this step was taken at its instance. As I pointed out when speaking originally to this Bill, we members of the Democratic Labor Party have been in the very forefront of the programme for environmental concern. We included it - perhaps we were the first and only party to do so - in a national policy speech some years ago. It is a matter which remains of considerable concern to our Party. It is one in which some of our members are intensely and personally interested because they serve on various national and State committees dealing with environmental protection.
For those reasons the Democratic Labor Party supports the amendment which has emerged from the House of Representatives and which substantially embodies one part of the amendment originally propounded in this place by our Party. It underlines the principle which we wanted to project and embodies it in the new agreement. I have little doubt that it will be observed in completely good faith by the States when they utilise this money for the purposes for which it is provided. In those circumstances we support the amendment presented by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton). I take this opportunity of thanking him personally for his concern about this matter, for the assistance he has given in consultation, and particularly for the informed and interesting presentation he made to this chamber on this matter during the progress of the second reading and Committee debates.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– I do not want to delay the passage of the Bill for very long, but if we had proceeded on normal lines when it was before the Committee previously there is no reason why it could not have been passed. Honourable senators will probably recall that after my 12-minute speech it took 33 minutes in an attempt to throw me out of the chamber. I am pleased that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) today had explanations of the studies that will be made in New South Wales. It might be appropriate for me to remind him that when I made my contribution to the previous debate I was hoping to have recorded words which in the long term would do something to preserve the indigenous flora and fauna and at the same time I was trying to preserve his political integrity. I gather that the lesson has been learnt. In view of his analyses and his explanations today it does appear that something in the nature of proper studies will be carried out in the future.
I reiterate that the Bill applies not only to New South Wales but also to Queensland. Probably the deadest areas in that
State are those areas which have been given over to softwood plantings without any attempt to preserve the indigenous plant, bird or animal life. The situation in Queensland is a little different because a fair amount of the so-called hoop pine, which is an indigenous plant, is planted there. In other States almost all the softwood plantings are exotic pines. In the long term, if we developed our own softwoods we might further eliminate damage to the environment. I hope that the recent words of the Premier of New South Wales can be taken with a grain of salt. He is reported to have said, in words of encouragement to people to build industries in that State, that he would protect them from the environmentalists. Quality of life is a major factor in 1972. Fifty years ago we did not worry very much about it; our population was small, and the chances of pollution of our forests, of our waterways and of our air was immeasurably smaller than the chances of pollution today.
With mechanisation rapidly stretching its tentacles out into country areas and into areas that were once sparsely populated, but which are not now sparsely populated, and wilh overcrowding and overstocking in the vast central areas of this country, we have a major problem on our hands. The people who will make the great contribution to the preservation of the Australian way of life as we know it and as those who went before us knew it will be the people who plan our forests and our roadways. In my view, these things go hand in hand. 1 believe that the planners of the future cannot go willy-nilly in separate ways without co-ordination of planning. This applies to those who want to expand our cities or to decentralise. It applies to those who want to build highways in this nation, lt applies to those who are responsible for the airways. This matter could bc dealt with by the Minister wearing his hat as Minister for Civil Aviation and not wearing his hat as Minister in charge of this Bill. There should be complete cleanliness and no pollution of the atmosphere.
I deal now with reafforestation. There are great areas in which regeneration can be carried out without the need to carry out new plantings. Regeneration is a new field in Australian forestry. Many of our native trees are quite productive commercially. Not only in the areas where we need to grow softwoods but also in other places, such as the places where we are developing our wood chip industry, vast areas are denuded of original trees. I recall that only a few days ago someone made a statement that in 20, 30 or 40 years lime the wood chip industry will prove an asset to Australia. It will not, if it is not controlled or if there is not proper overseeing. Who better to do it than the Commonwealth? The industry is being established in a number of places. The projection is that it will be established in other areas too. The Commonwealth is taking a very light view of the whole situation, particularly the situation in the Northern Territory. There is no quarrel about the amount of overseeing that we can do there. In Commonwealth Territories we have complete constitutional power to see that in a wood chip industry reafforestation is carried out in accordance with all the good practices that this country wants to see.
I made my submissions on the amendment when 1 spoke a fortnight ago. I do not want to repeat anything that 1 said then. 1 believe that the House of Representatives amendment, which will allow i’.ie States to obtain sufficient money to proceed with their softwood planting.*, goes part of the way to what I would like to see. I think 1 state fairly the attitude of my Party when I say that we will not oppose the amendment but we want these protective measures taken not only at the Commonwealth level but at the State level.
– The Softwood Forestry Agreements Bill was a Bill of major national importance when it was before the House of Representatives and the Senate some weeks ago. At that stage the Committee dealt very fully with the Bill. It reviewed the agreements by the States and the Commonwealth to a continuing programme of financial assistance to the States for the establishment of forestry for an ensuing 5 years. The agreement was a continuing one that had existed for some years previously. One could well predict that no matter what the political complexion of the government in power was, this type of agreement was of national importance. It was of great importance to the growth of a product such as timber used for the production of cellulose, the supply of which, in our future, will be of major importance not only to ourselves but to other nations. In this great country, with its great expansive areas which can be laid down to forestry, the Bill was of national importance.
It was interesting that the Committee should amend the Bill and that the Senate should return it to the House of Representatives. Those honourable senators who voted against the amendment have felt quite strongly that the action taken by the Australian Labor Party and the Democratic Labor Party was, to an extent, irresponsible. I think this statement is well emphasised by the fact that the Bill has now been returned to us, which indicates that there is an acceptance that those things which were debated in the Committee and contained in the amendment were certainly unnecessary. At the time I said that representatives of a States House should not suggest that there was not the competence in the States to ensure, when studies were being made of areas which were to be established by the contribution of Commonwealth money, and certainly by the overwhelming work of the State governments that there would be a concentration on those things that were suggested. I recall that the Democratic Labor Party moved the amendment, which was supported by the ALP. That amendment attempted to set out certain things and provided that the Bill be amended by adding the words ‘The State shall ensure that planting during each year is carried out efficiently and in conformity with sound forestry, environmental and financial practices’. I do not suggest that my State ot Victoria with its great background of forestry work does not have the competence or the wisdom to do just those things. It has dealt with many millions of dollars over the period of plantings in that State. Perhaps other honourable senators have less confidence in their States.
– That is what Senator Byrne thought about Queensland.
– The interruption that I hear from behind me indicates that at least some members of the Australian Labor Party did not consider that their party in the States which they represent had enough competence to attend to the propositions which they put. I make the point that it is quite evident that every State has been in the forefront of concern for forestry, its efficiency and its environmental aspects in past years. And they certainly will be doing likewise in the future. The Senate suggested to the House of Representatives a further amendment which stated:
The State shall ensure that natural forests shall not be cleared for planting softwoods unless the particular proposed clearing has beforehand been the subject of an environmental impact study made by an independent expert on behalf of the Australian Forestry Council and that the Council after considering the report of the said study has approved the particular clearing.
We were suggesting to the Australian Forestry Council - a body consisting of the highest forestry authorities in the State and Federal spheres - that it needed to be attentive to some matters which the Senate suggested were of importance. There is no doubt that environmental practice, so far as it relates to forestry, is of concern to everybody. I am certain that Victoria has been very conscious of environmental problems within the State. Not only has it had an obligation to consider its water catchment areas, but also forests have been planted to purify the water and to prevent soil erosion. One by-product which comes forward is the protection of animals when natural parks are created.
Well before this Bill ever came to the Senate there was some suggestion that the continued planting of pinus insignis or pinus radiata had the effect of discouraging bird life and creating little growth under the concentration of trees. It is quite obvious that that type of tree allows for little growth underneath. It can be said that unless there are rows of fire breaks throughout the area flora and fauna may not live there. But those fire break areas, which are constantly cultivated, provide the most lush feeding areas for all sorts of animals. Honourable senators who have had some connection with the planting of forests, the general improvement of areas and the provision of fire breaks which are now an essential part of development, have indicated that the planting of pinus areas in the whole State has encouraged bird and animal life. I am quite confident that the Government of my own State is aware of the very important environmental aspects which this Senate had the presumption to suggest should be provided for in the Bill before the allocation of money was made.
The Senate amendment has been returned from the House of Representatives and it has disagreed with the amendment. The House of Representatives has suggested that the Senate should reconsider the amendment which had been made and it desires the concurrence of the Senate in the amendment made by the House of Representatives. All that it has done has been to say that the States will do what they have been doing traditionally for many years. The amendment states: and shall ensure that environmental factors relating to the planting have been considered.
I think it is quite appropriate that the Senate, having discussed at length the benefits which the Commonwealth as a whole is gaining, should now accept this Bill and the amendment proposed by the House of Representatives.
– I enter this debate to make a few points relating to the best use of each type of forest product. This Softwood Forestry Agreements Bill relates to an agreement between the Commonwealth and the States in connection with softwood forests and it also brings within its rather wide sweep the clearing of present forest land which often carries sub-standard timber. If one travels along the higher rainfall areas of our eastern coastal belt and also of Western Australia one finds that the clearing of land to plant pinus radiata or pinus insignis necessitates the felling of considerable amounts of eucalypts which are then bulldozed into rows and burnt. This is part of the traditional process. For 100 years this policy has been carried out in my State of Tasmania, and the same applies to the other States.
In legislation such as this I would like to see the Commonwealth’s interest directed towards the enormous wastage which occurs of this tremendously important natural resource of timber and forest products. Further use should be made of the second tirade timber which is bulldozed or felled for the purposes of softwood planting. Perhaps we can speak with a certain amount of authority because Tasmania has developed an industry which is increasingly exploiting the forests products which are not specifically used for sawmilling or for the building and furniture trades. I refer to the pulpwood industry, the paper making industry and associated industries such as hard board manufacture. I wonder whether honourable senators realise that of the, total amount of timber available for lumber in Australia approximately 50 per cent, and in some cases 60 per cent, of the log is unused? Around every sawmill we find quite considerable piles of waste timber. Of course in the olden days some of it went into firing the steam engines which drove the saws and other equipment. But now with the introduction of the combustion engine this timber is either burnt in the furnace or is carted away and dumped.
Senator Webster referred to cellulose. This is the end fibre of either the eucalypt or the pine tree. It is there that our great natural resource is condensed into something of world value. If we look at the statistics we see the amount of pulp, that it is still necessary to import into Australia from the Scandinavian countries and, I understand, even from Brazil. Because of the nature of the fibre of the pine tree, it is an important ingredient in the manufacture of writing paper and other products of the paper industry. Of course, an overall plan for the planting of softwoods is essential for the balance of our economy, particularly our paper industry.
Australia is the worst off of all continents in regard to timber resources. It is endowed with smaller timber resources per square mile than is any other continent. Therefore, we have to be very much aware of and alert to the needs of this industry, and do everything we can to develop and expand it because of its ever growing importance for man’s use. Also, economically it is essential that we get the fullest use from this industry. It is in relation to this point that I want to try to impart to the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) and the Government - I am sure that the Minister is aware of this problem - the need for some encouragement to be given to the sawmill’! scattered throughout the country to install a chipping machine. The cost of this machine could be written off in a short period, the products could be sold tax free or some other incentive could be provided to bring into use the 30 per cent to 40 per cent of waste that eventually becomes cellulose which at present not only is not being used but also is often an eyesore around timber mills.
That is the main point that I wish to make on this matter. Now I refer to the amendment that has been returned from the House of Representatives. Like Senator Webster, I believe that this is a non political matter. It is a matter of great national importance that we should be directing our attention to this Commonwealth-State agreement on forestry. The States, because of their lack of finance, are very much behind in the work that they could have done both in regeneration and proper husbandry in their natural forests, and in softwood plantings. The amendment that was sent to the House of Representatives for its consideration was initiated by honourable senators on this side of the Senate. We wanted to draw the matter to the attention of the Government by moving an amendment that the following words be added to the end of the motion: but the Senate deplores the Government’s failure to prepare and publish, in consultation with the States, a national plan for -
Of course, the Australian Democratic Labor Party, as usual trying to score its political points, moved another amendment with exactly the same content and intent, instead of coming straight to the point and asking the Government, in conjunction with the States on a non-political level, to implement a plan for the full use and development of Australia’s forestry resources and the conservation of the existing hardwood forests. This is the amendment that was moved as a political ploy:
The State shall ensure that planting during each year is carried out efficiently and in conformity with sound forestry, environmental and financial practices.
That is what they are doing now to the extent of their financial resources. The point is that the States need to know, firstly, that the Commonwealth is associated with them financially, and secondly, the Government’s policy on forest products and forestry in general so that they have a long range plan and a short term objective towards which to work.
– Why do you say that was a political ploy? That was to be written into the schedule of the agreement. So it was ours.
– The amendment that we moved in the first place was the same in intent as the DLP amendment. The point I am making is that we were given no credit whatever for having drawn attention to the importance of the Commonwealth having a long range plan and working in conjunction with the States by giving them a blueprint, if necessary, of thinking at Commonwealth level on what it wanted the States to do in their common interests. The next part of the DLP’s amendment reads as follows:
The State shall ensure that natural forests shall not be cleared for planting softwoods unless the particular proposed clearing has beforehand been the subject of an environmental impact study made by an independent expert-
I think this is where the rub came - on behalf of the Australian Forestry Council and the Council after considering the report of the said study has approved the particular clearing.
If honourable senators go among foresters on the job, they will find that that is offensive to them because they are naturally conservationists. It is their job to conserve, to get the best they can from the soil and to give the tree every opportunity to develop to its fullest extent and its fullest economic value. Besides that, it is in their interests to see that the environment is encouraged to the utmost by giving the younger trees a chance to perpetuate forests. The whole idea of conservation is inherent and embodied in the training of a forester. Therefore, for him to be told in this amendment that some independent person has to come along to teach him how to do his job is possibly one of the main reasons, along with others, why this amendment met with so much opposition. However, the message has been received loud and clear by the Government and it has made the necessary compromise. I believe that we now have a renewal of the policy that has been operating over one 5- year period and is proving to be a great success. It is encouraging other people also because of the lead that has been given in the forestry departments to accept that forests can become a farming proposition although there is an old traditional saying that it takes too long. I have heard of a forester who said to a farmer: “Why don’t YOU plant some pine trees there?’ The farmer said: Tt takes too long to get anything from it, but 1 wish my old man had planted some’. This is the attitude that people take. They wish that someone else had done it for them. Forestry and tree planting are an economic proposition for every farmer who has suitable rainfall and land. He should have such an area tucked away for his grandson.
– ls it somebody in Tasmania who said that?
– That is right. 1 think that it is a very good policy. Finally, I feel we must have a very long, hard look at where we stand with regard to the investment that is so important to make in this continuing asset. We need now and will need all the products that our forests can produce. We need the most modern techniques and the best that science can direct towards this wonderful asset. As I see the position, the provisions of this legislation are only scratching the surface of the job that eventually needs to be done. We can look on this as being the pilot for expansion and development of a forestry policy which not only will make us self-sufficient with regard to cellulose but also will enable us to supply overseas markets which need, and will continue to need, the products of the forest, including cellulose. It seems that the more civilised we become the more paper we have flowing about the world. For that reason I think the compromise that has now been reached over the amendment which has been returned from the other place to the Senate will be supported by the Opposition.
– In his remarks before lunch the Minister mentioned the report of the Department of National Development and recommended that the section on forestry be noted with interest, but he made no further reference to it. To my knowledge this report has not been distributed to honourable senators - at least, I do not have a copy of it. I have been wondering whether copies are available. I have tried to see one but 1 have been unable to do so.
– If I may reply to that question before Senator Keeffe proceeds, I understood that copies would have been made available to all honourable senators. I would be concerned if that was not the case. Perhaps I could send my copy to him now.
– Perhaps the Minister had better keep the report over there; otherwise it might cause us to make another speech. I thought that when I spoke Senator Webster would be better advised not to leave the chamber, but as he is not here he will be able to read my remarks in Hansard tomorrow. I propose to refute some of the arguments raised by Senator Webster. His were typical Country Party arguments in favour of knocking everything clown in order to make a buck from doing so. When he began his remarks I thought he was the official spokesman for the Country Party on the subject of forestry, but by the time he had finished speaking it was obvious that his only experience of timber was in relation to toothpicks. He spoke first about the amendment which originally was carried in this chamber and said that because the amendment was carried the Bill had to go back to the House of Representatives. I said earlier that the proposal that we ure considering was a watered down version of the amendment which we carried originally and that I hoped that it would have enough teeth to ensure that the environment was properly protected. This is where the Country Party representative completely missed the point.
There was no need for him to say that we were irresponsible in this place in carrying such an amendment. I suggest that we showed a great degree of responsibility, because if the amendment had not been carried the Bill would not have come back from the House of Representatives in the form in which it has been amended. Although I believe that the amendment does not go far enough, it does provide a safety break so that some of those States which want to go ahead with the bulldozing of natural forests will have a second look at the situation.
The honourable senator’s suggestion that only certain types of flora and fauna disappear from afforested areas is completely untrue. That might have been true in 1920 when afforestation was a very minor industry in this country, where areas of S or 10 acres were being given over to the planting of softwoods and when the planting was nearly always of araucaria cunninghamii, which was one of the native pines which grew prolifically particularly in the, warmer parts of Australia. Afforestation of this kind did not necessarily preclude indigenous animals and birds from the area, but the big problem has come with the planting of exotic softwoods. If we can get that into the rather impervious skull of the Country Party senator from Victoria, perhaps he will be able to see some light in what we on this side of the chamber are saying. If areas which are afforested are divided with strips, as wide as possible, of indigenous scrub we will overcome many of the problems.
I think the honourable senator was trying to create the impression that the Australian Labor Party was opposed to reafforestation. We are not opposed to it. W.- realise that Australia’s import bill is f: too big and that there is an export market that we can develop if we have the timber with which to develop it. However, while we go ahead in an unbalanced way in which the Commonwealth takes little or no interest in the subject we will not achieve anything in either field - we will not have timber to export and we will not reduce our import bills for the timber that we have to import. In recent debates we have talked about the problem of the sirex wasp in areas of softwood in Australia. Perhaps if there had been proper supervision at the Commonwealth level this pest of softwood might never have come into Australia, but because there is no overall supervision and because afforestation has proceeded in an ad hoc or piecemeal way we have experienced this trouble. When I spoke earlier this afternoon I hoped that it would be my last contribution on a Bill on which I have found myself in much trouble. I wish to add only that I hope the honourable senator from the Country Party will be a little more flexible in this thinking on softwood plantings.
– I make a further contribution to the debate in order to refute the thesis from Senator Webster. I propose to quote from a very reputable Victorian newspaper, the Melbourne ‘Age’, in which a letter appeared from Mr J. G. Mosley, Acting Chairman of the Save Our Bushlands Action Committee, a body whose reputation stands very high in conservation areas. In the letter which he wrote to the newspaper Mr Mosley referred to land conservation in Victoria. I understood from remarks made earlier this afternoon by Senator Webster that Victoria was the perfect State so far as conservation was concerned. Mr Mosley wrote:
The flaw in the act has already resulted in the marring of the proposed Alpine National Park in the vicinity of Mount Speculation. Last year the Forests Commission extended a logging road over the boundary of the proposed national park and now intends to log this area which is an integral part of the best wilderness area in the Alps.
I simply say to Senator Webster that not everyone in Victoria concurs in his idea that everything can be left to the Forestry Commission as it is a paragon of conservation virtue. It is not, nor is the Forestry Commission of New South Wales. Reference has been made to fire breaks. I directed a question to the Minister for Works (Senator Wright), who represents the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, and I studied the last annual report of that body. There does not appear to be any study at present of the role of Australian bird or animal wildlife in the new pine forests that we are creating. I know that Senator Cotton and I do not see eye to eye on the question of fire breaks or on forests generally, but I suggest that an essential corollary of all that we have been talking about is that we would have been much more satisfied if the Wildlife Division of CSIRO had been given additional funds to pursue an investigation of the kind I have mentioned. In the meantime I await the Minister’s reply on the future of the Boyd Plateau and conservation generally in New South Wales.
– Because of remarks that have been made I think it important that I place on record for the Senate the very big advance that is implicit in the writing into the schedule of the agreement on this matter of the provision for environmental concern. This is a tremendous step forward. Admittedly, initially we tried to do more, but we must realise that the States have the primary responsibility of afforestation and that the Commonwealth is giving aid through the provision of finance. Therefore, any viable arrangement must be one which is in accord with the wishes of the State and the desires of the Commonwealth. If one attempted to impose its authority on the other the whole exercise would be accompanied by sheer disaster and would be nullified. Therefore, when this matter was considered further following the resolution and the acceptance of our amendment in this chamber, and the States had been consulted on it and had expressed their views, as they were entitled to do, it was only proper that the Parliament should consider those views. This has been done.
The amendment which now emerges, which is substantially the amendment which was initially proposed in this chamber by the Democratic Labor Party, has now the acceptance of the States. The States have agreed to the formal incorporation in a document of agreement of a provision that environmental factors should be considered when moneys provided by the Commonwealth are made available to the States for expenditure on afforestation projects. The States therefore have agreed to a forma) acknowledgment of their responsibilities in this field at the instance of the Commonwealth and of this Senate. That is a tremendous step forward and we should be gratified at the co-operation of the States, as we should be gratified at the initiative shown by this chamber of this Parliament and - if I may be pardoned for a slight element of vanity - at the initiative shown by the Democratic Labor Party in initially propounding the principle which is now incorporated in mutually acceptable terms in the schedule to the agreement which is before the Senate.
– I do not want to involve myself in this contest for public acclaim but I think all honourable senators are entitled to share in the observation that T made earlier that we as senators have a proper responsibility in the long view on broad areas of national interest of which this subject without doubt is one. Senator Mulvihill said that in New South Wales only 2 per cent of the land was designated as forests and that we should preserve these forests. He referred to the Boyd Plateau which, as honourable senators would know, is an area well known to me as a former bush walker. About 35,000 acres of that forest was being considered for clearing by the State Forestry Commission. Senator Mulvihill felt that, forest land being so scarce, as an indication of good faith the Commission should agree to waive its right to clear the land. I did refer in the earlier remarks I made from information given to me by the Department that in regard to that area an arrangement was made whereby the State Minister for Conservation would have a full environmental impact study undertaken before proceeding in any way with any present plans. I might say in passing that I think this is an excellent idea. I regard it as quite sensible and wise. We will be referring to the Minister for National Development (Sir Reginald Swartz), who is the responsible Commonwealth Minister, the Senate debate on this matter in order that he may in his own time raise these issues as the Senate sees them in Forestry Council meetings with his State ministerial colleagues.
Senator Mulvihill referred to only 2 per cent of land in New South Wales being forest area. The statistics available to the Department show that the total forest area in New South Wales is 32 million acres. I would want to qualify that by saying, that there are large areas of open type forest - such as cypress pine - what we call forested cover or forest. The total area of New South Wales is 195 million acres so forest as a percentage of total land is 16 per cent. The Forestry Commission’s plantations of 213,000 acres equal 1 per cent of the total forest area. Those are interesting figures for the honourable senator to consider. Senator Keeffe, as I should have mentioned earlier, had some forestry experience during his life about which he and I have often talked. I am not familiar wilh the Queensland scene in great detail but 1 know a little about it. The general operation in Queensland was to plant wallum lands on the coast. In any event, in my earlier years there was a lot of discussion on the prospects for the wallum lands. I pass over that to say that I, like the honourable senator, am most anxious that we should preserve the araucaria, the hoop and Bunya pines of Queensland. I think I am correct in saying that plantation and nursery work is being undertaken but what its state of success is I do not know. In general I agree that we should be endeavouring to preserve the native Australian softwoods.
Although Senator Keeffe did not mention this I am sure that he is interested in the great rain forests of Queensland which are almost unique for their concentration of so many diverse species. These areas should be looked after as far as is possible. Senator Keeffe also referred to the wood chip industry and stated that the Commonwealth did not appear to be taking much interest in it. The Commonwealth’s constitutional power in that matter relates to price control. As I understand it, we do exercise price control over exports of wood chips in order to ensure that the industry is viable and that the forests which back it up get a proper return. I am informed that there are afforestation contracts in many cases associated with this. 1 cannot be more precise than that because I have no other information. 1 understand Senator Keeffe’s general view that we should look to this as a resource to be used in the interests of the Australian people. He also spoke about the Northern Territory forests. There are approximately 7 million acres, all in the 25-inch isohyet or better, and without any doubt in the eyes of anybody looking at it, it could have a potential that could be quite useful, but the productivity in native forests is quite low due to termite damage.
We did some work in an estimates committee last night on the question of breeding a tree suitable for planting that would be free from termite damage. There is apparently some termite which gets inside the living tree. It is not a white ant but it is something of that order. There is at present a search for a suitable species. Pinus caribaea is a tree which is being looked at quite seriously. Planting programmes of native cypress at the moment provide about 1,000 acres a year but the ultimate planting with a suitable species free from destruction by the local termite I referred to could be 5,000 acres. There are large areas of national parks in the process of reservation. Senator Webster referred to the non-political character of this matter and expressed his concern that the States’ position should be understood and safeguarded. I referred to that at various stages. The Slates have been in the forestry job longer than anyone else. They have the principal responsibility. The Commonwealth acts as what might be called a coordinatorleader in making sure that the total Australian position is given a hand to be rectified in the national interest.
Senator O’Byrne talked about eucalypt areas being bulldozed and burned. We have ali seen this occur. It is common practice to carry out extensive salvage and logging operations before clearing in most of these areas in a way with which I am familiar. Mill waste is being used in Tasmania for chipping. I made a few notes myself as I was listening to what was being said and am referring now mostly to those notes although there are one or two departmental comments among them. There is without doubt, and it has to be accepted as a fact, some forest waste in clearing operations but the extent to which it is convertible usable material is hard to say. There is an element of waste in it. There is certainly what I would call a high level of waste in conversion of a standing tree to a piece of timber usable by the Australian public. The order of waste conversion is a great deal higher than even the honourable senator might say because there are problems with the eucalypts. Not all trees are good trees. Then there is the problem that the crown of the tree is completely unusable, as well as the problem of high butts and sawdust coming out. So the conversion loss is substantial. One has to bear in mind that a tree, like a person, has a life cycle and to some extent we are involved in ensuring that they are used up in their time adequately and replaced with something better.
As the honourable senator very properly said - and this is one of the most significant things of all - there is a tremendous increase in the use around the world of products of the tree, wood pulp, ground wood and cellulose extraction. The great acceleration is in the wood pulp ground wood area. It is literally quite huge. As we have said earlier and as was mentioned in the report, we are a wood deficient country. With the immense amount of land that we have and the tremendous ability of this country to grow timber sensibly and wisely, it is a resource that the Australian people are en- titled to expect us to provide for them, having regard to all the safeguards which should be preserved. I did not speak about the huon pine. It is a Tasmanian species. It is an interesting softwood. One wonders in passing what is being done about looking after the huon pine regenerations in Tasmania. 1 want to remark to Senator O’Byrne very briefly that any Tasmanian would view with interest the tremendous development in Scotland of planting huge areas of land with forest trees which it is believed will make a tremendous transformation in Scotland before long. It was begun after the last war and it has been quite extensive and quite substantial. It has always appeared to me that Tasmania had a huge forest potential, but that is a matter for Tasmanians and not necessarily for me. Forest farming is undoubtedly something that will have to come and families should be playing their part in providing the forests of this country. I believe that is something that anyone could do today not for himself but for his children and grandchildren. Senator Keeffe spoke of the sirex wasp, which indeed posed a vexed problem for forest authorities both in Victoria and in Tasmania. I can give the honourable senator details of this. I do not have them with me, but I dealt with them last night. They include the joint CommonwealthStates attempts to deal with the wasp and the raising of a fund with which to combat it provided on, I think, a dollar for dollar basis. A point which may be of interest to Senator Keeffe is the development of a new method of attack on the sirex wasp which is based on nematodes imported from overseas and bred in this country. It is believed that this new method of attack will counter the sirex wasp, and it is possible that we shall soon see the elimination of this problem as a result of current scientific research.
Senator Mulvihill referred to conservation in Victoria. I dealt with this in the statement that was supplied by the Department and I do not wish to add to that, except to say that I was very familiar with the mountain ash forests of Victoria both before they were fired and after they had been destroyed. There was nothing more tragic than to walk through a mountain ash forest 6 months after it had been practically burnt right out by that major fire. While Senator Mulvihill and I do not necessarily agree on the best methods of attacking a forest fire, we agree totally that such a fire must be dealt with in a substantial way. The greatest depredation in the timber world is to suffer a fire such as the one which Victoria suffered at that time. The scars remain in the forest and one can still see standing there trees which were killed in the fire. The question of fire control operations is very important. I believe, as a result of my years of observation, that there has been a great advance in forest fire control. I have seen the art developed by scientific and practical foresters - and I pay great tribute to them.
Senator Byrne, 1 think, was speaking of the overall impact the Senate could have on this legislation. I think he was correct when he said that the Senate has a proper role to play in respect of this legislation, and indeed I tried to reinforce that view by my own comments. The honourable senator’s comments will no doubt be of value. I think that his observations on the need for the Commonwealth and the States to work in harmony in order to achieve a common national purpose are correct. Although we have been dealing with this Bill for a long time and have had a difference of opinion about it, 1 do not think anybody would depart from the view that this is what it is all about: The Commonwealth and the States working together to achieve a common national purpose; that is, to remedy the Australian forest estate deficiency and to protect the Australian forest estate for future generations both in terms of its commercial value and the effect it has on lives right across the board.
– I do not want to engage in a filibuster, but I find myself adopting the stance so often adopted by my illustrious colleague Senator Cavanagh on such issues - that is, to dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘f, because the aftermath is so important. I shall briefly pursue this debate which I think has been quite exhilarating. When one studies in written form what the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) has said, one probably will have a more clearcut reaction to it. However, this is what I want to know from the Minister - and he is aware that I am now speaking on the Boyd Plateau issue: Should there be a stay of proceedings until February as a result of the outcome of the New South Wales State Government’s feasibility study, whatever it may be, am I to understand that when this Bill is passed today the die will be cast and it will not be impossible in February, if the day is lost by the conservationists - and 1 certainly hope it will not be - for those involved to approach the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts (Mr Howson) or, conversely to come back to the Minister for National Development (Sir Reginald Swartz) for Commonwealth intervention? I have just realised that I am talking about incidents that will not occur for some months and that there may be other Ministers holding these portfolios. Therefore, let me deal with the subject on an academic level. Could the Minister clear up finally for me and the conservation group, which will be studying avidly the Hansard report of the debate, whether there will be any avenue at the Commonwealth level by which a final plea can be made? Let me put it this way: Just as Mr Justice Moore played a vital role in the recent oil dispute, will there be a Mr Justice Moore at the Commonwealth level to save the Boyd Plateau?
– I understand Senator Mulvihills concern and perhaps he detected that I am equally interested in the subject; indeed I have been for a long time. However, I repeat that I am not the Minister responsible for this legislation; I only represent the Minister and the assurances I have are those I have been given. Honourable senators have the acceptance of the general proposition contained in this amendment and they have the statement that the Minister for Conservation in New South Wales intends to make a full environmental impact study before proceeding with his plans. Since the subject is within his area of authority, one could not expect to take it from him. However, we have the advantage also of having a Commonwealth Minister for the Environment and the report by the Minister for National Development, which I will not refer to in depth but which gives his observations on the environmental importance of this matter. For my part, I can give no more assurances. Honourable senators will have detected my overall interest and concern and they have access to the report by the Minister for National Development which has been tabled.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Debate resumed from 20 September (vide page 1006), on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This Bill provides for grants to be made to the States as a result of arrangements agreed between the Commonwealth and the Stales at the Premiers Conference held in June this year. It provides for the grants which are included in the Budget arrangements as payments to the States, including funds to be made available to the States, directly or indirectly, to finance State works and housing programmes to the extent of $3,449m - an increase of almost $400m as compared with the grants made last year. I quote those figures as a background to the comments that I shall make on this legislation. However, I ought to point out first that the revisions that have been made in this Bill are in 3 forms. A total of 8112m is to be added to the financial assistance grants payable to the States in 1972-73. An additional grant of $2 per capita, which was paid to both New South Wales and Victoria each year, has been increased to S3. 50 per capita in 1972-73. These latter amounts will be added to the formula grants so that they will escalate in future years. Thirdly, it was agreed that a special temporary addition of S3. 5m would be made to the financial assistance grants payable to Western Australia in 1972-73. The overall effect of these 3 revisions is that SI 28m will be added to the financial assistance grants that will be produced in 1972-73 by the arrangements embodied in the existing legislation. The figures that were supplied by the Minister show that the estimated total financial assistance grants payable to Tasmania in 1971-73 will be S79.4m. It would appear from those figures that Tasmania, in relation to the size of its population, is being relatively well treated.
As has been said so frequently, the overall problems associated with the management of State finances have got so far out of hand that a completely new approach must be made to the financing of State and local government administrations. The formula which has been devised and which is contained in this legislation is in my view a temporary measure which does no more than overcome the immediate pressing problems and, in many respects, does not meet those problems.
I wish to support the case that was so well outlined in the 39th report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission and also to refer to some observations that were made in other places relating to the most vexed problem of State and local government finances. In paragraph 25 on page 18 of the Commonwealth Grants Commission report, the Commission states:
There are some significant interstate differences in age distribution. Tasmania has the youngest population, of all States, in terms of pre-school and school-age sections of the population. In addition it has the lowest proportion of population in the ‘working-age’ group and a comparatively low proportion of elderly, people. Therefore, it has the lowest proportion of work force to total population. New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia have the lowest proportions of population in the ‘school-age’ group and highest proportions in the ‘working-age’ section of the population.
The Commission states further:
Queensland has the second lowest proportion of population in the ‘working-age’ group but the highest proportion of elderly people (65 and over).
I quote that paragraph to illustrate the variation in the problems which beset the individual States and the great burden that has been placed on my State of Tasmania in relation to the provisions necessary for this younger age group in a modern society.
First and foremost, the health of the nation not only must be maintained but also must continually be improved. This means that the States have a continual call on their resources to provide health services, hospitals, clinics, mobile dental facilities, school health inspections aud many other requirements needed in the. whole field of health. This responsibility rests not only with the State governments but runs into the local government area. The same requirements exist in relation to the provision of schools. Tasmania has the added responsibility, when compared with the other States, of giving its children the equality of opportunity that is rightly theirs. The States require not only well trained teachers who are able to impart their knowledge to the children but also the establishment in the environment of the schools themselves of the standards which have been set in Canberra and which should be a yardstick for the standards to which the other States should aspire and which they should seek to maintain. When we compare the standards of the schools in the States, which are financed by the relatively inadequate funds made available under the present CommonwealthState arrangements, much remains to be desired.
The other problem which the States face - particularly is this problem faced by Tasmania - concerns the greatly expanding and avaricious motor vehicle industry which is pouring all types of motor transport onto the roads and in the process is making handsome profits. The motor vehicle industry depends on the capacity of Slate governments and local government authorities to provide road facilities for the means of transport that it produces.
– Why do you criticise the industry? It is not pouring vehicles onto the roads. People are buying these vehicles. People are not being forced to buy them. Why do you people constantly criticise industry?
– Why do you constantly interject?
– Because there is so much to interject about and because what you say is so foolish.
– The whole point is that the motor vehicle industry persuades people to use private transport. The money could be better directed towards improving the quality of life.
– That is your policy - to direct everybody on every matter.
– Why does this niggling stupidity appear before an election? Cannot people be rational when an election is to be held? Elections are always with us, either for the House of Representatives, the Senate or for a State government. When an election is on, honourable senators opposite suffer from the same fever, the same disease. They must be political.
– Profits as usual.
– That is quite true. Some of these organisations are imposing great burdens on State governments. 1 divert from this point to refer to the lack of planning that has occurred in respect of our immigration policy. The Commonwealth, through its recruiting officers in various countries, offers a golden handshake to intending migrants and in colourful brochures which sometimes do not contain the facts relating to employment opportunities in Australia invites these people to our country. When they arrive on our shores they are handed nice little brochures by the immigration authorities and are dispersed to the States. The big headaches then begin for the . State and local government authorities which must handle what should essentially be a Commonwealth responsibility. State and local government authorities are accruing greater debts and have increasing requirements for loan moneys. These involve high interest and repayment charges. These matters all should be the responsibility of the Commonwealth. But we never see a frontal attack made on so many of these problems which disadvantage the States.
To follow up some of these points that 1 am making with regard to the added expenditure incurred by the States in providing facilities, I turn to the problem of pollution. Most people are aware or are becoming aware of the problems of the environment. Yet in Tasmania we have the problem of the pollution of our rivers. The handling of this problem is beyond the resources of our local government and our State Government, particularly as the State Government has a very sharply pruned Budget and greatly reduced resources. Yet we do not find any reference being made to assisting Tasmania to deal with this problem.
Mining operations have been carried on in Tasmania for many years and the effluent from these mines has been discharged into our rivers which are the source of our fresh water supplies. At times of flood, these rivers overflow their banks and all sorts of chemical substances are deposited in our soil causing a deterio ration in the quality of that soil. In the north of Tasmania 30,000 tons of untreated sewage are flowing into the Tamar River. Parts of the Tasmanian coastline are being polluted by effluent from various factories. These matters are in abeyance. The Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution drew attention to this great problem in very strong and certain terms, yet none of the State or local government authorities can consider solving the problem because of the economics involved. While I believe that this new formula of distribution for which provision is being made in this legislation will put sticking plaster over the sore and will cover it from public view temporarily, it will not be long before we see the little red tell-tale marks coming up again and the sore will be bigger and deeper in the coming years. 1 hope that this will be the last year ;n which we will have to worry about this type of formula. Unless there is a Commonwealth and State conference to review the Constitution, so provision can be made for the States and the Commonwealth to live together much more amicably and with much more financial stability than is the case at the present time, something will have to give.
– Really, you mean that you see the Commonwealth directing the States on all of those matters.
- Senator Webster is putting words into my mouth, as he usually tries to do.
– I am the only one listening to what you have to say. On that basis, I understand what you have said.
– Lots of people outside are very interested in what goes on in this Senate. When they hear interjections like those made by Senator Webster, they do not like them because they disturb their train of thought. However, it is of great importance that as speedily as possible we should come to grips with a constitutional review which will include a good look at section 96 of the Constitution and at the shortcomings of the whole of our Constitution. We are not operating within the vision of the framers of the Constitution, and after 72 years, with so few alterations having been made to the Constitution by referenda, we are really using the horse and buggy technique in a high speed age. For that reason I believe that an impasse has been reached between the Commonwealth and the States and local government in which the Commonwealth has obtained and maintained power over the purse, by its power over taxation, and the States are getting a very poor part of the deal.
I hope that with this type of legislation under which we are sort of a generous godfather giving handouts to the States, there will be a much more reasonable distribution and that better facilities will be provided to the States to enable them to bear the growing burden of responsibilities that are being handed on to them both in tennis of the repayment of interest charges and in coping with Commonwealth policies such as the immigration policy, which should be the responsibility of the Commonwealth. The matter of the railway systems rapidly comes to mind. Of course, the States have to maintain this most essential part of their transport system. We find that in practically every State this need for an efficient railway system is growing, yet the States have not the finances to enable them to meet the challenge.
We do not oppose the legislation. This practice of distributing money to the STates in this way has grown up over the years. The Commonwealth Grants Commission in its report gave a very comprehensive outline of all the submissions that were made and of the terms under which these .era Us are being made and I recommend the report to people who are interested in this matter. I believe that under the circumstances the Commission does a very good job in evaluating this matter within the terms of the present Constitution. All I say in conclusion is that I hope that as soon as possible the States and the Commonwealth will get together in conjunction with those people who are capable of having a deep and hard look at the inadequacies of our present Constitution, particularly as they relate to Commonwealth-State financial relations. When that is done, the better it will be for us as a nation.
– 1 rise merely to indicate that the Australian
Democratic Labor Party supports this Bill. It is one of those types of Bills that come forward following agreement between the Commonwealth and the States, and is a further legislatvie acknowledgment of the continuing unsatisfactory financial relationship between the Commonwealth and the States - something that must ultimately be resolved in a quasi-permanent form otherwise these periodic adjustments will have to be made, very often accompanied by differences between the Commonwealth and the States and differences between the States themselves.
So far as the State of Queensland is concerned, of course, there has been a recent major development in that Queensland has now become a claimant State under the Commonwealth Grants Commission. I know it was suggested that if this happened Queensland’s free public hospital system would be in jeopardy and might even be destroyed. Of course, that has not happened and it will not happen. As far as I can see. the only threat to Queensland’s public hospital system might well be the health policy which is propounded by the Australian Labor Party. That is the real threat, and the threat that was to manifest itself in Queensland’s becoming a claimant State has not developed as was predicted by the apostles of doom.
The constitutional convention which is contemplated at the instance of the States, in which the Commonwealth will participate and about which a steering committee has met already to plan the mode of approach for a review of the Constitution, undoubtedly will take into its ambit of consideration this vexed question of Commonwealth and State financial relations, and it is certainly time that that was done. I think that honourable senators who have had an opportunity to attend Premiers Conferences or have seen these periodic Bills coming through the Senate, in some way trying to retrieve the difficult and contradictory financial conditions which have developed will welcome some permanent and final solution of this very difficult question. We can only hope that that will be one of the early matters considered by the constitutional convention because we must always remember that under the present concept of the Constitution the States are substantially the developing and construction authorities, that the Commonwealth has complete control over the major resources of revenue, and that the reconciliation of those 2 things can be accompanied only by the development and the projection of a proper financial formula. As I say, we hope that this will come about.
I do not think it is necessary, if one speaks specifically and relevantly to the Bill, to discuss it in any detail. It has 3 provisions - two pertaining particularly to Victoria and New South Wales and one to Western Australia. There is no particular provision applying to the State of Queensland, but we of the Democratic Labor Party welcome these 3 provisions - retrieving positions as they should equitably be retrieved in the 2 States to which I first referred and in the third State. Western Australia, to which I also have made some reference. This gives the States an opportunity to balance budgets over which they had virtually lost control because of circumstances beyond their disposition. After all. the wage rises comma from the federal arbitration court under federal awards and flowing through were matters in which the States could be only the inheritor1; and in no sense the architects. They were not the disposers under a testament: they were the beneficiaries of the economic difficulties that followed from these determinations. They placed their budgetary positions in very considerable difficulty. They put them, to use a vulgarism, out of plumb and the Commonwealth had to go to their support and retrieve the position.
That, in principle, is not a good position, lt is a contradiction of the old principle relating to representation and taxation: that those who have the responsibility and entitlement to spend money should have the responsibility of raising it. That is contradicted in the new situation because, as I say. the revenue power virtually is concentrated in the Commonwealth and the expenditure opportunities, apart from defence and things of that nature, virtually are confined to the States. That is a position which should not bc allowed to continue. A much more realistic approach must be discovered and developed. We hope that in time we will see the elimination of this type of Bill and that with the emergence of a more permanent and more viable financial relationship on a proper basis between the Commonwealth and the States, we will see automatic adjustments without the necessity for legislative intervention from time to time which only follows traumas, discordances and confrontations between the Commonwealth and the States. Fortunately those were few in number at the Premiers Conference on this occasion and they lacked the intensity which has become traditional and even customary in more recent years at meetings of the Australian Loan Council and the Premiers Conference.
The Democratic Labor Party supports this Bill with the fond hope that it may not be the first or one of a succession of Bills that we will see in future years. We hope that we may be coming to the end of this type of procedure and that the rationalisation and normalisation of CommonwealthState financial relations, access to revenue and opportunities for expenditure - in particular, in the sphere of local government which finds itself in continuing difficulties - will eliminate all these problems in the future. Subject to those qualifications, the Democratic Labor Party supports the Bill.
– in reply - I have been sitting here in a state of animated suspense for quite a while listening to those 2 formidable people. Senator O’Byrne and Senator Byrne. Only in the latter part of both their speeches did I detect that they proposed to support the Bill. I am delighted, on behalf of the Commonwealth and the States, that that is the case. I say that because the total effect of these 3 increased payment provisions will be to add SI 28m to the financial assistance grants that would be produced in 1972-73 by arrangements embodied in the existing legislation. The addition to the grants in subsequent years will be much greater, of course, as a result of building the major part of this amount into the formula grants. Taking into account all the changes in the revenue assistance arrangements that were decided at and since the June 1970 Premiers Conference, it is estimated that in 1972-73 the States will receive in Commonwealth general revenue assistance over S420m more than they would have received had the arrangements which existed before 1970-71 continued unchanged. I think it would be expected that we, as a body of senators concerned with this problem, would regard this as a welcome piece of legislation.
I have no wish to traverse the fields that have been traversed. I do not think we can afford that amount of time, particularly on my part although I was interested in many of the observations that were made, because there is quite a lot of work yet to be done and a notable event was announced to us in recent days which will call for us to get through the work on our programme. I think we ought to observe that the Prime Minister of Australia, Hon. William McMahon, has been one of the most notable figures any of us have seen at work in this field of trying to improve Commonwealth-State financial relations. I think he should be given due credit for that, for his attitude and for his attempt to help.
I agree wilh all honourable senators that it is very wise that the Commonwealth and the States are coming together to discuss the problem of the relationships of governments, including the local government situation. I agree with the observations of Senator Byrne on many of these matters. A lot of work has been done in this area. A notable study group is now at work at the Australian National University on inter-governmental relations. It is dealing with this particular problem and with some of the research material needed to establish facts rather than what might be called human wishes and hypotheses. I believe that this work will be studious, very worth while, quite objective and completely nonpolitical. It could establish some substantial facts which will lead to deliberation being well informed.
I think all honourable senators know of my long and sustained interest in this matter and of my great belief that the outstanding problem to be resolved in the Australian Federation is that of governmental relationships and what we are all trying to do in our general areas for the benefit of the Australian people. I do not believe that this country is 6 self-governing principalities; I believe that it is one nation of people with a common purpose and des tiny and that governments exist to serve that common purpose and destiny. We should sort out, and I believe we will sort out, how we should properly go about that. In no sense whatsoever do I wish to abdicate - and I never have - the responsibility for economic wellbeing and monetary policy which, properly and sensibly in my view, is vested in the Commonwealth. I thought the debate was worth while and interesting. I do not think I can add any more, except to suggest that the motion for the second reading of this Bill be now put.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 20 September (vide page 1010), on motion by Senator Drake-Brockman:
That the Bill bc now read a second time.
– This is an extremely interesting Bill which breaks some new ground in a number of ways. 1 was interested, when reading the second reading speech of the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman), to note the emphasis he put on various points. I refer particularly to the grant of 54,156,000 which is to be made available to the State of South Australia, because it is not entirely of the same nature as grants that have been made available previously for assistance with war service land settlement. In South Australia it has been found that the land settlement scheme on Kangaroo Island has been very adversely affected recently by the high incidence of clover pastures which apparently brought in their train a high oestrogen content in the feed resulting in a deleterious effect on the sheep population in particular.
The Minister referred to the fact that on Kangaroo island there is a unique combination of circumstances. He mentioned the problem of the oestrogen content of the clover. We have had this problem in Western Australia also. It is quite a significant problem. In the past we have endeavoured to obtain the use of the research facilities of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation to throw some light on this very serious subject. 1 am pleased to say that recently, within the last 2 years, the CSIRO has been carrying out considerable research in Western Australia on this disease. Apart from this clover disease, which would be expected with the advent of clover pastures, we have had, as the Minister mentioned, seasonal feed shortages, the high cost of replacement stock, limited transport facilities and higher than average production costs on Kangaroo Island. Because all these factors have become cumulative at this time the Government has decided to make an additional grant to the State of $2.5m. This is over and above the normal grant that would have been made available to the State.
Western Australia and Tasmania are the other 2 recipients. Western Australia will be granted $1,600,000 and Tasmania will be granted $744,000. The grants will be made to the 3 States mainly to alleviate the distress that is being experienced by those farmers on land settlement schemes, the difficulties that they are facing at present - difficulties in obtaining carry-on finance and difficulties in finding fodder reserves - and similar problems on less viable areas in Western Australia, Tasmania and South Australia. The farmers will be granted a loan which will have to be repaid, hut at least it will be assistance that will enable them to meet their commitments and to expand where they feel that it is possible to do this in a viable way. lt will assist the land settlement schemes principally situated in those States.
This is not the first time that a loan has had to be granted to provide assistance for land settlement schemes. It brings to mind the need for a very careful look at similar schemes instituted at any time in the Commonwealth. I know the situation in Western Australia better than I know the situation in the other States. On a number of occasions the capital investment on war settlement schemes has had to be written off to help farmers who have been given assistance to go on to the land on their return from serving their country overseas. It has been essential that they should be further assisted when they have found thai they had too much of a millstone around their necks to carry, with the return they received from the prices that they were getting for their products, and because of what they had to pay to continue their operations. Therefore, while not opposing the Bill, the Opposition feels that certain words should be added to the motion for the second reading of the Bill. I move:
This seems to me to be a very reasonable approach to the problems that might obtain from time to time in the war service settlement scheme. The scheme has been in operation for a good many years now. I agree that in the main it has operated successfully. I think the Minister mentioned this fact in his second reading speech. He said:
The scheme has stood the test of over 20 years of operation.
It has stood the test, but a number of difficulties have arisen from time to time. It is in order to meet these difficulties and to try to anticipate what might occur on future occasions that I have moved the amendment, lt does not seem likely that this will be the last lime that we will consider the soldier settlement scheme, nor will it be the last time, I predict, when we will have to help the land settlement schemes in the way that we are helping them now. So I have sincerely moved the amendment, believing that it will give us an opportunity to discuss the value of such research, such inquiry and such report as would assist the Government in any future proposal of this nature. I support the Bill and the amendment which seeks to add certain words. I hope that the Senate will be prepared to accept the amendment, in view of its terms.
– In my opinion, the provisions of the Loan (War Service Land Settlement) Bill 1972 provide the greatest and most gratifying breakthrough for the well-being of soldier settlers, particularly those on Kangaroo Island, that I have experienced in the Senate. As has been mentioned by Senator Wilkinson, the Bill provides for the raising of loan moneys amounting to S6.5m for war service land settlers in South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. It is proposed that $4,156,000 will be directed to South Australia, $1.6m to Western Australia and $744,000 to Tasmania. The significant difference between the amount made available for South Australia this year and the amount made available for South Australia last year - an increase of $2. 5m - is the need to meet what has been described by Senator Wilkinson as the uniquely difficult situations, both physical and biological, experienced on Kangaroo Island, which have set back the settlers in a very serious way. Those problems are quite different from the problems in any other area of Australia. There is clover disease which, I believe, is caused by high oestrogen content in pastures, with a predominance of Yarloop clover. This leads to very low survival rates in lambs and up to a 10 per cent loss in wether population. Its harmful effects require greater investigation. Continuing research is required.
I commend the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) for having visited Kangaroo Island to see for himself the situation that exists. I commend the Honourable Dr Jim Forbes, member for Barker, in the House of Representatives, who, for many years, has persistently advocated the recognition of the difficult situation prevailing on the Island. I also commend my former colleague in the South Australian House of Assembly, the Honourable David Brookman, M.P., for his continuing interest in this major matter. Today we have what I have described as a major breakthrough in the betterment of conditions which soldier settlers and others on the Island will experience. Naturally the money will be devoted to soldier settlers but experience will come from research which is being carried out and this will be of benefit to all producers on the Island.
I shall summarise the benefits which are provided for in this Bill. The Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman), when he introduced this Bill, stated: . . the Kangaroo Island improvement programme will comprise initially scientific investigation
I have referred to the need for this in relation to the background of experience in the quite unusual prevailing conditions on Kangaroo Island, both physically and biologically - partial rental remission-
That is, to meet immediate difficulties of liquidity for many of the settlers - credit for fodder conservation facilities; recasting of settler’ accounts in appropriate cases; and provision lo pay out stock mortgages for creditworthy settlers.
The provision of money under the war service land settlement scheme is at an m’.erst rate of 31 per cent. As Senator Wilkinson has indicated, this money basically is to be advanced under loan conditions but the interest rate, long term facilities and background are such that it will be of assistance to producers there.
I am delighted, as I say, to see what is being provided for settlers on Kangaroo Island. Also I am delighted that money is is to be devoted to the Upper Murray region at Loxton. I notice that the work on block drainage for improving horticultural holdings and on irrigation headworks, including channels and pipelines, which supply water to settlers on holdings at Loxton and drainage of those areas is to be improved. While the detail of this provision is not as great as has been given for Kangaroo Island, it is a further improvement for the very deserving settle -s in irrigated areas in South Australia. At some future time I would like more information as to what is being done in relation to the revaluation of holdings in certain of the irrigated areas of the Murray.
– That does not help at all.
– No, I realise that, but this is quite an urgent matter which I feel should be looked at by the Government. Again I commend the Government for providing funds as set out in this measure. They will be of immense advantage to those to whom they are directed These funds are made available in accordance with the spirit of assisting those who have shown by their endeavours that they are worthy of being given consideration. I indeed have great pleasure in supporting the passage of this legislation. The suggestion made by the Opposition as an addendum to the motion for the second reading of the Bill, that is that an inquiry be held by a select committee, has virtue. I have always said that an independent inquiry would be of great assistance in a situation such as this. I am in accord with the spirit of that suggestion. In the circumstances now prevailing I feel that 1 will not support it at this stage. But I still say that an independent inquiry into certain facets and the background of soldier settlement both for the present and for the future - I notice that the Opposition’s amendment relates to guidelines for future settlement - in certain situations and not particularly in relation to Kangaroo Island could well be recommended to the Government. 1 support the Bill very warmly.
– in rep!- I thank the Senate for the passage of the Loan (War Service Land Settlement) Bill. There is not very much I can say other than has already been said by the 2 honourable senators who have spoken. I shall give the Senate a little information about matters to which 1 know both honourable senators have alluded. Perhaps this will be a little more detailed information as to what will happen at Kangaroo Island. In regard to the scientific investigations, we find that for many years South Australia has carried out research into the problems connected wilh high oestrogen content of subterranean clovers. This has been concentrated on the haemoglobin typing of sheep to develop a resistant strain. To date the results are most promising. But in order to provide useful information to the war service land settlement settlers on stock management practices in the shortest possible time it is desirable that extensive field testing be undertaken. It is proposed that this work will involve the co-operation of the settlers using 600 breeding ewes on each farm grazing predominantly on Yarloop or other high oestrogen content clovers over a period of up to 5 years. Initial results are expected in about 3 years. The estimated cost of this investigation is SI 6,000 during the current financial year, SI 00.000 over the first 3 years with an additional $75,000 if results substantiate the desirability of carrying on for a further 2 years.
Senator Laucke referred to the South Australian mainland. I might say that all settlers on the mainland in South Australia will be eligible to apply for measures which relate to Kangaroo Island in respect of taking over stock mortgages, recasting of accounts and fodder conservation facilities. Senator Laucke went on to refer to the Upper Murray valuations and Senator Wilkinson interjected. I think I will be given permission to refer to this point. Under the war service land settlement scheme some 300 horticultural and viticultural irrigation farms were established. The settlers pay rent for the land but they are required to purchase, at valuation, the plantings and improvements on the farm. They have been given the privilege of appealing against the valuation of their farms up to 1 0 years after they are notified of it. Quite a number of appeals have been lodged. Settlers have been interviewed and farms have been re-inspected where necessary, and advice of the results of the appeals have been sent out. Only a few of the valuations were adjusted downward. Generally it was found that the grounds on which the appeals were based had been taken into account by the officers when the original valuation was made. I just give Senator Laucke that piece of information. If he wants further information I am quite sure that if he lets me know I can get the departmental officers to give it to him at some later date.
– Could the Minister clear up that point? That has been done? lt is not part of this Bill.
– Yes, the honourable senator is quite right. I referred to his interjection to Senator Laucke. But seeing that Senator Laucke raised this matter and as we have not spent a great deal of time on this Bill I thought I would give the honourable senator that information. I will now deal with what 1 think Senator Wilkinson called an amendment.
– It is an addition.
– Very weil. It is an addition to the motion that the Bill be now read a second time. This is not new. Last year Senator Drury moved a similar addition. I spoke to it at length pointing out that 9,173 farms have been provided under the war service land settlement scheme and that of those. 6,565 farms are located in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. I know that the honourable senator is well aware that those are principal States which provide from their own resources the necessary capital funds for the scheme. The Commonwealth shares with the States agreed losses which occur. Those States are on their own. Of course, the question arises of the authority for a Commonwealth committee to inquire into the running of a war service land settlement scheme in States which are principal States. I pointed this out last year and said that I believed it rather difficult for any committee to do this. The guidelines for levels of rentals and the option prices of properties can be laid down properly only in full recognition of the economic circumstances of the times. It is considered that an inquiry by a select committee would not serve a worthwhile purpose. If the honourable senator thinks about this, he will realise that an inquiry really could be conducted only into the situation prevailing in Western Australia. Tasmania and South Australia. I do not think it would be adequate or even fair to do that when 6,565 of the 9,173 farms are in the other States.
– I do not agree that it would be impossible.
– I did say that it would be impossible. Two-thirds of the farms that the honourable senator wants to investigate and which should be investigated if an inquiry is to be conducted, are in principal States that have nothing to do with the Commonwealth in this regard.
– You could still do it.
– I think that the honourable senator would find it a little difficult to obtain the authority to investigate the matter in those States. For the reasons I have stated, I oppose the proposal that Senator Wilkinson has moved on behalf of the Australian Labor Party.
– I wish to speak to the amendment that is before the Senate rather than to the Bill. The Australian Democratic Labor Party, with all other parties, is in agreement with the proposition contained in the Bill. The amendment does not mean necessarily that a Senate select committee would be set up. It merely expresses the opinion that the Senate feels that a select committee should be set up to inquire into all aspects of war service land settlement. It must be assumed from the amendment as it is worded that it would necessitate a subsequent resolution of the Senate to carry out the actual function of setting up a committee about which the Senate has expressed an opinion the course of the debte on this amendment that such a committee should be set up. The DLP is not of the opinion that such a committee should be set up at this stage even if its activities were to be confined to the States that are mentioned in this Bill. There is no certainty that that would be the ultimate decision of the Senate on the matter nor would there be a limitation to that extent. If the committee were actually set up, it cou’d be done on a much broader basis than that.
Our view on this question is largely confined to the area of consideration that the setting up of further Senate committees at this time is completely impractical, anyway. The members of Senate select committees that are functioning at present are trying to carry out the most careful research into the problems of the nation while meeting over lunch and eating their sandwiches. We maintain that a committee cannot function properly in those circumstances. We just do not have the manpower. With the Senate standing committees now functioning, together with the Senate select committees that are in the process of producing reports at the moment, it is not a logical proposition to set up any further committees.
Dealing with the subject that is contained in the amendment, we feel that the whole matter of land settlement and primary industry in this country is something that must fit into the general pattern of the economy. In the economy there should be a place for war service land settlement that has served this nation and its citizens very well in the past. It has not always been successful, but in many areas it has been.It has given to men who have served this country in time of war and who have the necessary ambition and drive at lest an opportunity to see whether they can succeed in this area. It necessarily follows that when such an opportunity is created, it is not inevitable that everyone will succeed.
This applies particularly in the area of primary industry where the farmer battles with the elements as well as with the ordinary circumstances of business and the economy of the nation. Indeed, he has to grapple with the added influence of world prices that are unpredictable and that we cannot control.
We support the principle of the man on the land. We believe that in a country of the nature of Australia it should be among the ambitions of our people to further develop even that land which may be considered today to be so arid that is is impossible to develop. It may compare in many respects with parts of Israel that today are blooming gardens in arid deserts because the Israelis have seen fit to use the ingenuity of man to tackle the problems of nature. We feel that all those things are part of the further development of primary industry in this country to meet the requirements of a demanding and expanding world population. They are not necessarily matters that are limited to war service. Indeed, if there were to be inquiries of this character we feel that they should be far wider than merely being limited to the war service level alone. This is within the competence of the departments as they now exist and the Parliament can consider the measures by debate as they are brought forward. If there are specific areas such as that mentioned in the amendment about the level of rentals. I do not believe that a Senate select committee can do any more than can the Parliament to obtain the relevancy of the economic factors that may have a relationship to the method of valuations, the rentals that are demanded and even the option of purchase prices and how they may fluctuate. We do not see the necessity for expressing an opinion that a committee should be set up for this purpose in view of the pressures and strains that are placed on Senate committees at the moment. We propose to support the legislation as it stands as it is completely necessary to cany on the functions of land settlement for the returned servicemen in the States that are outlined in the Bill.
Thai the words proposed 10 be added (Senator Wilkinson’s amendment) be added.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– T refer to the long title of the Bill and seek an explanation of what is perhaps a minor point. The long title reads:
A Bill for an Act to authorise the Raising and Expending of a sum not exceeding Six million five hundred thousand dollars for a Defence Purpose. . . .
I agree that this is a war service land settlement scheme, but as it deals with farms, and with money which is to be made available to farmers, why should the Bill be described as having a defence purpose?
It seems to me that this is quite wrong. I suppose there is some theoretical reason for doing this, but the description in the long title of the Bill seems to be a bit peculiar. Obviously the purpose of the Bill is not to defend Australia but is rather to protect a farmer from a situation which has arisen in farming due to circumstances beyond his control. It has nothing to do with defence. I presume that I can do nothing to have the long title altered, but I should like to know why we must persist in calling this a defence purpose. No doubt the Minister will be able to explain the position.
– I understand that the establishment of the war service land settlement scheme was authorised under the Commonwealth’s defence power. The long title of the Bill was arrived at after assistance was sought from the Attorney-General’s Department, which believes that this is the way that it should be worded. That is all the information that I can give on that matter. If the honourable senator would like further information I shall certainly get it for him. If he wishes to approach me on the subject I shall advise him of the position by letter.
– I would be quite satisfied with what the Minister has proposed. Nevertheless, I think we should know why our wording still harks back to the inauguration of the scheme which was established under the defence power and why the long title should describe the Bill as having a defence purpose. If the Minister will provide me with a letter containing an explanation I will be satisfied on that point.
I mention next that there is no schedule to the Bill. In the Minister’s second reading speech we were assured that the purpose of the Bill was mainly to deal with a problem facing people on Kangaroo Island. Why is there no specific reference in the Bill to Kangaroo Island? I suggest that the legal basis upon which the scheme would proceed would be the wording of the Bill. The State of South Australia might decide to use money obtained under this Bill for some other purpose connected with the war service land settlement scheme and not read the Bill in conjunction with the second reading speech which was made by the Minister. When a specific aid is envisaged I suggest that there should be a schedule to the Bill setting out where the money is to be allocated and used.
– I understand that discussions are held between the States and the Commonwealth as a result of which the Commonwealth finally says: ‘These are the conditions on which we will make money available’. The States have to comply with those conditions if they want the money. That is the reason why it was not set out in the schedule. This information was given in the second reading speech in relation to South Australia and Western Australia and set out in that speech are details in respect of acquisition, development and credit facilities. Again I cannot give any further information than I have already given and if the honourable senator wants greater detail I am quite prepared to get it for him and write to him.
– I am sorry to persist in this. I accept the fact that there have been discussions but to my mind the point is that no honourable senator here, with the exception of perhaps one, was present at any discussions. We have no knowledge of any agreement that was reached or of any signed document. Nothing was produced to the Senate. It does seem to me that there should be something attached to the Bill which gives authority for this money to be expended in certain directions. There is no reference here. Just imagine that there was a change of government in South Australia, for which some people would hope, and the new government decided to do something else with the money. The Bill does not say that it could not. In this Bill we are specifically aiming to help Kangaroo Island. I am sorry to be pursuing this point but it does seem to me to be urgent that wc know something.
– To give the honourable senator more information I can break the figures up in this way: In South Australia $1,000 is being made available for the acquisition of property, $255,000 for development work and $3.9m for credit facilities. That has been agreed to. In Western Australia $1.6m is being made available for credit facilities. In Tasmania $1,000 is being made available for acquisition, $60,000 for development work and $683,000 for credit facilities.
– 1 would like to raise a matter dealing with that part of the second reading speech of the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman), which reads:
A comprehensive review of the scheme has been undertaken by the Department of Primary Industry. As a result, some further adjustments may bc introduced lo offset particular difficulties where such are demonstrated. The Government will, as necessary, effect improvements in the war service land settlement scheme . . . 1 have raised several times in this chamber the matter of the difficulties of returned soldiers from Vietnam who are unable to secure soldier settlement leases because the Act has not been amended to cater for them. I refer specifically to the Loxton irrigation area and the dispossessed blocks of soldiers of the First and Second World Wars who, due to age and other personal difficulties, have been unable to carry on. There is no provision in the present Act to allocate these blocks to returned servicemen from the Vietnam war or to those who have served in the regular Army. By reason of the fact that there is no such provision in the Act, if a person who qualifies because, of service in the First or Second World War does not apply for these leases, these blocks are put on the open market and sold to people who have no war service. No consideration is given to those people who have served in Vietnam or who have been members of the permanent Army. 1 would like the Minister for Air to enlighten me as to whether this has been considered since he said in his second reading speech that he is considering some amendments to the Act. Could the Minister enlighten me on these aspects?
– While I am on my feet I will add a little more information to that which 1 have given to Senator Wilkinson. I have been informed that the States Grants (War Service Land Settlement) Act 1952-53 gave the Minister for Primary Industry the power to make grants to the States in such amounts and subject to such conditions as he determines. Conditions to be attached to grants were determined in 1953 and have broadly applied since that time. In reply to Senator McLaren, the question of whether land settlement schemes should be introduced for national servicemen was considered by the Government in 1965 against the background of the National Service Act. Again in 1966 it was considered against the background of national service and membership of the permanent forces. At that time an interdepartmental committee examined the situation and made certain recommendations to the Government. The Government’s decision was influenced by a number of points that the committee raised in respect of the land settlement scheme. The Government, having had that examination made and having viewed the whole aspect of national service and service by permanent members of the Forces, decided that a scheme for national servicemen was not warranted.
– I am disappointed that the Government arrived at this decision because I believe that these men who served their country in Vietnam or, if they were in the permanent Army, in Malaya, should be considered. Why does the Government not concede that these people are just as much entitled to the same consideration as people who served in the 2 World wars. I do not want to go too much into the fact that they were rejected from the scheme in 1965 and 1966 but what I am asking in this case is that priority be given under the existing scheme to ex-servicemen from Vietnam and those in the permanent Army before these dispossessed blocks are put on the open market if there are no applications from persons qualified by reason of service in the First or Second World War. Surely that is not too much to ask the Government to do in consideration of the men who have served their country. These men should be given some priority before the blocks are placed on the open market.
– Senator McLaren has expressed his view. I have informed him that an examination was made of this question. That examination established that reestablishment measures were aimed at assisting national servicemen to settle effectively in civilian employment following discharge and ensuring that they are not disadvantaged by their absence on national service. I think the honourable senator will agree with that. The examination also established that since 1963 a study of the ratio of prices received to prices paid for all rural products showed that greater emphasis has been placed on management in farming. Few national servicemen are likely to have the necessary skills. Regular servicemen are not likely to be up to date with modern farming techniques. It is estimated also that not more than 30 or 40 servicemen a year would qualify for land settlement and this number would not justify an extensive scheme throughout the Commonwealth. Finally, the examination showed that the cost of settling a man on the land would many times outweigh the assistance given to non-rural servicemen who probably served alongside him in Vietnam.
– With due respect to the Minister, I think he must have missed the point I was trying to make. I am not suggesting that this Act should be amended to set up a war service scheme on a broad basis. I asked him to give some consideration to the servicemen I have mentioned in relation to blocks which are already established but which, because of certain circumstances, of the persons who have been on them, are now dispossessed. I refer to such lands as are in the hands of South Australia and under the jurisdiction of its Lands Department. These blocks are still being worked for the Lands Department which controls the scheme in South Australia. All I am asking is that some consideration be given to ex-servicemen who feel that they have some priority for a block.
– Even that the blocks be purchased at market price?
– No, 1 am not saying that. I believe that the ex-serviceman should be entitled to purchase a block at the price at which an ex-serviceman from the First World War or the Second World War would be entitled to purchase it. In the particular cases I have mentioned, if there are no applications by ex-servicemen from the First World War or the Second World War. then surely priority should be given to ex-servicemen who have served either in Vietnam or in the permanent forces before any block is placed on the open market. There is no great difficulty, as I see it, in the Government adding to the Act a provision to give this priority to those ex-servicemen. The Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman) has said that perhaps men who have served in Vietnam or in the permanent Army would not have had rural experience. I know one such young man who has had the necessary experience, as has his father-in-law. I would like to see something done when there is such an applicant. The Minister has said that overall there would not be more than 40 or 50 such applicants in a year. In South Australia there may be only three or four. Surely the Government can do something to reward those who have served their country. There is no great problem in amending the existing Act.
– I did not want to continue this argument with Senator McLaren, but I point out to him that in my own State of Western Australia there are no blocks available for ex-servicemen. A block could become available if the ex-serviceman occupying it decided to get out; but in deciding to get out he would seek the highest price he could get for his block - and I do not think the honourable senator would want to deny him that right. Therefore, if a lad who returned from Vietnam was interested in paying the price for that block, he would have to outbid others. I understand that in South Australia blocks that come on the market are first offered to war service land settlers living in the area. If those war service land settlers do not want the available block, then I believe that that block would probably be a pretty poor block - because the original settler has decided to get off it and no other settler in the area is prepared to buy it. The honourable senator says that it should be offered to the lad who returns from Vietnam. When one considers the drastic decline which took place in the rural industries during 1971, that young settler, with his lack of experience in the rural industries, if he got that block would be getting off to a pretty bad start. I believe that for the remainder of his farming life he would be dependent on assistance from the Commonwealth to keep him going or he would have to sink. I do not think we would want to start him off in that situation.
The Commonwealth does not ignore young men who have completed national service and who have had previous farming experience. Those who are eligible can apply for certain assistance and can receive up to S6.000. Many former national servicemen have asked me how they should apply for assistance, and no doubt every other senator has had similar experience. While I appreciate the point that Senator McLaren makes, it is not as practicable as he suggests. The honourable senator can rest assured that, if there was a bigger intake of national servicemen and a corresponding demand by national servicemen with rural experience for farms or further assistance, the responsible Minister would be aware of this and no doubt would examine the situation and, if necessary, would make recommendations to the Government. But on present indications there are only 30 to 40 such ex-servicemen in the whole of Australia in any one year and this number is not likely to become greater, as the national service intake has fallen in recent years.
– I must pursue this matter because I think the Minister is trying to sidetrack me by saying that I am asking for an overall scheme. I am not asking for an overall scheme; all I am asking for is that a provision be written into the Act to give ex-servicemen from Vietnam or men who have served in the permanent forces priority to available blocks before they are thrown on the open market. The Minister said twice that in the whole of Australia there would not be more than 40 or 50 exservicemen with the required qualification. I accept that, but I cannot understand why the Government is not prepared to make some provision for priority to be given to these ex-servicemen before a block is put on the open market. If a block is viable enough for a person who is not a returned serviceman to bid for it on the open market, surely it is in good enough condition for an ex-serviceman to work it. The blocks I have in mind have been kept up to scratch and are producing.
The Minister said also that a block probably was not viable because no other ex-serviceman had applied for it. I point out that most of the ex-servicemen settlers in the up-river districts of South Australia are First World War settlers and therefore are about 70 years of age. They are not physically able to take on an extra work load by amalgamating their own block with one of which another settler has been dispossessed. I am confident that the young men who have returned from Vietnam or who have been discharged from the permanent Army are both young enough and able enough to work these blocks. Those with whom I am associated have enough sense - one was an officer - not to put their heads in a noose by taking on a block which they could not make a go of. The Government should at least make it possible for them to apply instead of rejecting them with the blanket statement that they are not eligible and that, if there are no applications by qualified men who served in either the First World War or the Second World War, the block must be offered on the open market. Surely the men I have mentioned should be given some priority and should at least have their cases examined. Then, if the departmental officers believed they could not make a go of it, I think most of them would be satisfied; but they are very unsatisfied that their applications have not even been considered. The least this Government should do is give them some consideration.
– I agree with Senator Wilkinson that the terms of this Bill show a great scarcity of explanatory matter and information. Clause 4 reads:
Moneys borrowed under this Act shall be issued and applied only for the expenses of borrowing and for the purpose of financial assistance to the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania in accordance with sub-section (1.) of section 2 of the States Grants (War Service Land Settlement) Act 1952-1953.
I should like the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman) to give me more details of the expenditure of the $744,000 allocated to Tasmania. In his second reading speech the Minister referred to the unique situation on Kangaroo Island. It appears to me that it is a situation which has resulted from some sort of bungling. The people who were associated with the choice of this land for war service land settlement purposes, who worked in developing the pastures and in recommending the types of top dressing, the various fertilisers and the like to be used have succeeded only in developing a combination of circumstances which have broken the hearts and the financial standing of those who took up these blocks. These men who have grown old on their farms have no alternative employment to which to go. By this legislation quite a considerable sum of money, $2,5m, is being directed towards the purpose of assisting these people to meet their problems.
Evidently this clover disease is worse on Kangaroo Island than perhaps in most other areas of Australia. The Minister has said that it results in a low survival rate amongst lambs and causes up to a 10 per cent mortality amongst wethers. It appears that the ex-servicemen who are engaged in farming on Kangaroo Island are bearing a burden which results from some bungling along the line. This combination of clovers is responsible to quite a degree for the situation in which these farmers find themselves today. Mention has been made of some research being done on the problem and that action has been taken to increase research activities financed from State resources and supplemented by money from the Commonwealth extension service grants, lt is beyond my comprehension that some other method has not been found to utilise these clovers. Perhaps these farmers might diversify into cattle or be provided with additional areas permitting them to carry equivalent income-bearing stock in order to make their properties viable propositions so that they may persevere with their undertakings at this stage in their life.
Many of these men who fought in the Second World War were 25 years of age or older when they obtained their farms. I know that some were much older than 25. The Second World War ended 27 years ago. These men are now well in their midfifties. Yet this burden is now on their shoulders, lt must be heartbreaking for them. It does not appear that what is being done about the problem is positive enough. All we are drawing attention to is that research is being done, but because of the high mortality rate amongst lambs and wethers the objective of these exservicemen, the production of lamb and mutton, is being negatived as the result of some blunder in the selection and recommendation of the clovers to be introduced on these war service land settlement, farms.
I ask also whether the money that is being allocated to Tasmania will meet in any way the problem that exists on King Island and Flinders Island which are similar to Kangaroo Island. The people on these islands face a problem completely outside their control. I refer to freight costs. I have spent a good deal of time on King Island and Flinders Island. They are both most pleasant places to visit. The islands are fertile and otherwise very desirable but the isolation which the people on these islands experience and the high freight rates imposed on them through shipping services mean that their economic situation at the moment is practically unbearable. That is why I supported the amendment that the Opposition moved at the second reading stage of this Bill.
We are not really coming to grips with this problem. There are some deep rooted in-built difficulties which are wrong in relation to the human problems involved in the war service land settlement scheme. Among these settlers are a number of poor bank accounts and many broken spirits. At this stage of their lives, these people cannot obtain jobs elsewhere. They must remain on their farms where they are saddled with many in-built disadvantages including, in my view, the wrong selection of the type of stock that they should run and the prevalance of this clover disease because of incorrect selection of clovers or whatever the background reason may be. On the other hand many of these settlers, especially the Tasmanians, have never felt that they own their farms.
As I said on a previous occasion today when dealing with the allocation of Commonwealth funds, we are not coming to grips with the fundamental financial illnesses that exist today; nor are we coming to grips with the morale problems suffered by these ex-servicemen. Each year when we discuss war service land settlement, we find that the responsible Minister is quite sympathetic in expressing his views about the battle that these people are having. But the situation does not seem to improve from year to year. When we visit these soldier settlement blocks today we should find that after 25 years of operation these men are relatively prosperous, established and secure. Instead we find that they are surrounded by an aura of uncertainty and poverty.
I suppose that it is the prerogative of farmers every now and again to whinge about their conditions in order to let off pressure. The whinges of these farmers are too deeply ingrained to be covered up by an annual allocation designed to overcome their immediate problems. I really feel that we are only skimming the surface of the problem and that a much deeper investigation should be carried out to try to establish these people for the remainder of their lives in a viable and, as far as possible, a relatively lucrative occupation that will give them what was proposed for them in the first place. This scheme should supply them with a means of income and should make worth while for them the application of their talents to the land because of their love for it. I can say only that although we cannot refuse the passage of this legislation we do think that a broader approach should be made to this whole problem. It does seem that we are skimming over a problem with which we must come to grips eventually.
– Let me say to Senator O’Byrne that I believe that the war service land settlement scheme as a whole has been a very well conducted and a well thought out scheme. It has been of great value to many families in Australia. I recognise that problems have occurred in some areas. But I recall that, since I became a member of the Senate, Ministers for Primary Industry together with their departmental officers have inspected these holdings and studied these problems on a number of occasions. I know from my own experience in Western Australia that Commonwealth departmental officers together with Commonwealth Ministers for Primary Industry over a period have met with their State counterparts and have visited the project areas. They have walked over the properties and have gone out of their way to assist these people in whatever way they can assist them. Because of depressed prices for primary products last year, people on Kangaroo Island and in other areas of Australia who are involved in the war service land settlement scheme are finding it difficult to meet their commitments. So the Government has tried to help them.
In reply to the second reading debate I referred to the scientific investigations which had been carried out and to the assistance that has been given to farmers. Some 600 breeding ewes were used as a sort of a trial to speed up the scientific investigations. Mr Chairman, you must have smiled when Senator O’Byrne was talking about farmers who had bungled because of clover disease.
– It was not the farmers who bungled but the people who advised them.
– The war service land settlerent people?
– Clover disease has been prevalent in Western Australia for lengthy periods and respected farmers - men of great experience - have had lambings as low as 25 per cent because of the clover problem. That is why I referred to the Chairman. He lives in a very dense clover area and he has been confronted with many problems over the years. His background and scientific knowledge probably stand him in much better stead than is the case with some other farmers. But there has been no bungling in regard to the war service land settlement scheme. This is a problem which all breeders have struck when they have gone into clover areas in order to endeavour to breed sheep. There is a density of clover on Kangaroo Island, and the settlers there have run into problems, as have other farmers. The Department is trying to assist these men to overcome the problems. Because of the falling value of primary products, the Government has allowed a partial remission of rents to the settlers. It also has helped them by providing fodder conservation facilities and an interest rate of 3¾ per cent on money which they have borrowed. Surely that must be a great advantage over another fanner who is paying 6½ per cent interest on money which he has borrowed in order to build haysheds, grain silos and so on. So I do not believe that the bungling to which Senator O’Byrne referred is factual.
– You have admitted it in the amount of money which you have allocated for research and for trying to get them out of their present position. There is something along the line which makes it unsuitable.
- Senator O’Byrne andI differ in our approach, and I accept that, but I will not accept the fact that the war service land settlement people have bungled because I know from my own experience the assistance that has been given to the settlers. I will admit that there have been isolated cases. Sometimes the settler himself has not had the background or farming experienceas he has just not been capable of conducting that type of a business. I think I have covered the points raised by honourable senators.
– 1 was hoping that the Minister would give some indication that at least the Government will take some notice of what I have said about priority being given to the people whom I have mentioned. 1 ask him again whether he will give an undertaking that some priority will be given even to the relatives of existing settlers - say, to their sons or sons-in-law who might want to apply for a dispossessed block before it is put on the open market. If he is not prepared to go that far, will he give consideration to specific cases which a member of Parliament brings to his notice and at least examine the qualifications of the people who are desirous of getting one of these blocks?
I am referring to the Loxton irrigation area. Will the Minister at least listen to these people and give urgent consideration to placing some embargo on particular blocks which have been dispossessed and are now awaiting a decision to put them on the open market? I ask the Minister at least to hold those blocks off the open market until he considers the cases of people who feel that they are justly entitled to be given an opportunity to make a life for themselves in the Loxton irrigation area. Can he give an undertaking that something will be done at least to heed to pleas of these young chaps who have served this country?
-I find it difficult. How would a block become vacant in the first place? It would become vacant because someone who has a debt over his head leaves it. Surely if a man has been slaving away for 20 years trying to make a livingon a farm eventually has to leave it, he would want to walk out of that situation with as much money as he could get for his 20 years of labour.
-I am not disputing that.
- Senator McLaren is disputing it by saying that the block, first of all, should be offered to a returned national serviceman.
– In this case a block is offered first to the person-
– Now we are getting down to it. He says: ‘In this case’. He is referring to one particular block.
– This would apply to all blocks under the Act.
-I do not know of any other blocks in the area to which he is referring. The honourable senator is referring to one particular block in a particular area in South Australia. This is the whole argument. I say to the honourable senator: J will give him no assurance except to say that the door of the Minister for Primary Industry is always open for the honourable senator to go and see him and discuss this matter personally with him. I only represent the Minister in this chamber, and I can do no more than that. If the honourable senator wants me to make an appointment for him and take him along to the Minister, I will even do that.
We will read in Hansard what the honourable senator has said. The departmental officers will study it, the matter will be drawn to the attention of the Minister and the Minister will be briefed on the background of this matter and on everything that the honourable senator has said. I think the honourable senator should go along and have a talk with the Minister about this particular block and the particular person who wants to have an interest in this block. Surely the honourable senator and the Minister can come to some agreement and thus avoid our discussing this question backwards and forwards across the chamber. I will do all 1 can to assist the honourable senator, but I cannot give him any assurance that I will do this and that because these are policy matters which must be considered by the Minister for Primary Industry himself.
– It is not my intention to prolong a cross-fire argument, but the Act definitely states that the only consideration to be applied to a dispossessed block - and it is not any specific block - is the consideration that the block is given only to a person who already is qualified under the Act, that is, a returned serviceman from the First World War or the Second World War. As I pointed out earlier, the people on the blocks at present are reaching the age when they do not want to take on further blocks because they are unable to cope with them on account of their age and in some cases their physical disabilities. I am not arguing for any special person; I am arguing that some provision ought to be put in the Act to cover all people who want to apply for one of these blocks when they become dispossessed The particular block 1 have in mind is still in production but it is being worked by the Department of Lands in South Australia.
The Minister for Air said to me that I should discuss this matter with the appropriate Minister. I have spoken to the South Australian Minister of Lands and to the officers of the Department of Primary Industry, both in Adelaide and in Canberra, by telephone. I have done all that I possibly can to see whether something can be done. The only way this person could get a block would be by some underhand means. I do not want to see that happen; I believe that he is entitled to a block. He is not the only person in this position. There must be many others. That is why I want the Act to be amended. Surely it is not asking too much to ask for a slight amendment of the Act so that before a block is put on the open market the ex-servicemen in the categories I have mentioned - men who have returned from Vietnam or who have left the permanent army - at least have the opportunity of applying for the block. If they did not qualify, I do not think anybody on this side of the chamber would have any argument if the block then went on the open market.
– The Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman) said that he could refer to you, Mr Chairman, for information about the incidence of clover disease in Western Australia. I do not know whether he remembers that during the course of his second reading speech he said:
He stated specifically that there is a problem there. The settlers have been there for up to 20 years, perhaps more, and that problem is recurring. He also said:
During 1971-72, a detailed investigation of Kangaroo Island problems was made by officers of the Department of Primary Industry in conjunction with State officers. Following these investigations and after discussions with farmers and farmer organisations, an improvement programme has been developed for Kangaroo Island and approved in principle.
Recognising that this great problem does exist, the Minister went on to point out:
The programme is a flexible one capable of being modified in the light of research findings . . .
He also said:
It will be based on the need for scientific investigation to achieve breakthroughs to overcome the underlying problems of soil-plant-animal relationships . . .
These are unique to Kangaroo Island. Attempts to draw a red herring across the trail by saying that there are clover diseases in some parts of Western Australia, some parts of Flinders Island and other places where various clovers are grown, do not get the Minister away from the fact that these people are on war service land settlement areas which put them at a disadvantage when compared with other war service settlers in other parts of the Commonwealth. Kangaroo Island virtually is a less suitable area for growing fat lambs and mutton because of the prevalence and higher incidence of this disease there compared with areas held by other settlers.
The Minister went on to say that the research will be based on the need to achieve breakthroughs to overcome the underlying problems of soil-plant-animal relationships that are presently reflected in practical farming problems in this environment’. Only at this stage of the development of Kangaroo Island is the Government getting around to tackling these problems and seeing whether it can help the settlers overcome them. The Minister said that South Australia has already taken action. He said:
Now additional funds will be made available for work aimed at the selection of suitable livestock types appropriate to agronomic conditions on the Island.
It is very late in the piece for investigations into the selection of suitable livestock types because, as I have mentioned to the
Minister before, these people are well past middle age; they are getting to the age at which many people, particularly those in the Public Service, think of retiring from work.
– They do have sons, however.
– Of course some ot them have sons, but not all. Many of those sons, having seen the battles that their fathers have had to go through, leave as quickly as possible for the cities. This is one of the great problems facing us. Talking about decentralisation, it is places such as these war service land settlement areas which should be providing continuity of interest in the land. Instead we see these recurring problems and these continual battles. I know from personal experience the things that a man on the land has to put up with. He has to face the lot. Not only does he have to face the elements - drought, flood fire and all sorts of diseases: he also has the agent on his back and he never seems to get rid of him either.
The point 1 am making is that at this time, after 20 years of experience with war service land settlement on Kangaroo Island, the settlers there have this problem on all fronts. By that I mean the soilplantanimal relationships. Somewhere along the line there has been some sort of boob. The type of livestock on the Island should have been altered earlier. As I said earlier, perhaps the settlers there should have gone into beef; perhaps they should have gone in for a different breed or a cross-breed in order to help overcome the basic cause of the high incidence of this disease there. That is the point I am making, yet the Minister seems to just brush it off and to say that we members of the Opposition are emphasising the incidence of clover disease on Kangaroo Island although it can occur anywhere. This is a No. 1 problem for the people on Kangaroo Island, lt is my view that the people operating these farms have been saddled with a burden because cf the unsuitability of that war service land for the use of that particular type of sheet for fat lamb raising, plus the excessive planting of these clovers which bring about the high mortality rates that were mentioned by the Minister in his second reading speech.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator DrakeBrockman) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 26 September (vide page 1184), on motion by Senator Cotton:
Thai the Bill be now read a second time.
– I suggest to the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) that, as this Bill, the Australian Capital Territory Tax (Purchases of Marketable Securities) Bill and the Australian Capital Territory Stamp Duty Bill are short measures, we might consider them at the one time.
– That suggestion is accepted.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Laucke) - There being no objection, the Chair will allow that course to be followed.
– We will get through these Bills very quickly. I wanted to have them dealt with together because they are closely related. Until recent years the Australian Capital Territory has been a tax haven as far as sales tax, purchase tax and stamp duty are concerned. Only a few years ago it was brought into line with the States. Since that time the .States have changed the rates at which they impose stamp duty and tax on sales and purchases of marketable securities. The 3 Bills have the sole purpose of bringing the legislation which applies in the Australian Capital Territory into line with that which applies in the States.
The first Bill is the Australian Capital Territory Tax (Sales of Marketable Securities) Bill. In effect it changes the rate of stamp duty payable on smaller sales of marketable securities from 5c to 7c and on larger sales from 20c to 30c. This brings the rates in the Australian Capital Territory into line with the rates in the States.
The second Bill is the Australian Capital Territory Tax (Purchases of Marketable Securities) Bill. It deals with the other side of the transaction. It does precisely the same thing. The 2 Bills impose a minimum rate of stamp duty payable by a buyer or a purchaser and have the effect of imposing stamp duty on transactions involving marketable securities. The third Bill is the Australian Capital Territory Stamp Duty Bill (No. 2). This seeks to bring about an alteration to the First Schedule of the Act by omitting ‘5c’ and inserting in its stead 15c’ for each $25 of the value of the securities. The present rate is 5c for each SI 2.50. The subsequent clause in the Schedule, clause 4, effectively completes the legislation.
The Opposition will not oppose these Bills. They are purely machinery measures. I do not think the people in the Australian Capital Territory will be as happy as they would have been if the situation were left as it is, but one part of Australia cannot impose a rate different to that imposed by the States. The Opposition does not oppose these Bills.
– in reply - I thank the Opposition for its concurrence in the legislation. As Senator Wilkinson said, we are treating these Bills as if they were one issue, which they are. As he quite properly said, they bring the situation in the Australian Capital Territory into a reasonable balanced situation. I think they are good legislation. I do not think I need delay the Senate any further.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Consideration resumed from 26 September (vide page 1184). on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Bill be now read a second lime.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Consideration resumed from 26 September (vide page 1184), on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Debate resumed from 26 September (vide page 1 1 85), on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Bill be now read a second lime.
– Is the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) .prepared to have the Estate Duty Assessment Bill, the Gift Duty Bill and the Gift Duty Assessment Bill debated together? They are associated Bills.
– The matters contained in the Bills are very substantially related, and the Government sees no problem in dealing with the general context of the matters. The speeches could cover the broad field of the 3 Bills - the Estate Duty Assessment Bill, the Gift Duty Bill and the Gift Duty Assessment Bill. It could well be that quite a number of senators will speak on the Bills. In the process we might be considering amendments. I do not know. I am assuming that this sort of thing could be the order of the day. If that is the case, Senator Wilkinson would understand that while we debate the 3 Bills in general we would have to vote on each separately. We might find ourselves in a situation of having to deal with an amendment to a particular Bill. We are happy to have a general debate on the 3 Bills.
– I think that the situation will sort itself out as we proceed. The Bills deal with estate duty and gift duty. Anybody who wishes to speak, obviously will be directing himself to one or the other. I do not think it will be at all confusing. I will not speak at length on these Bills. I am quite in favour of them. The Opposition is in favour of them, as far as they go. On 7th May 1970 I led for the Opposition in the debate on the Estate Duty Assessment Bill. I expressed support for the Government’s amendments to the Estate Duty Assessment Act. At that time I moved, unsuccessfully I regret to say, an amendment seeking to add certain words to the motion that the Bill be read a second time. I shall read what I moved so that honourable senators may understand the point I am trying to make. I moved:
At end of motion add, but, whilst realising that some estate planning may already have been effected following the promise of this legislation on 24th September 1969 and that this limited Bill offers some measure of relief from death duties in the rural sector, the Senate is of opinion:
That the Bill is inadequate as it fails to recognise -
the extension of liability for and the burden of Federal and State death duties resulting from the pressure of inflation.
the particularly critical situation of -
the relatively small farm in the rural sector, and
the small business unit in the industrial and commercial sector, where in both cases a large part of the estate is in a non-liquid form, the dismemberment of which to meet the tax liability destroys the basis of efficient operation, and
that difficulties are aggravated by the joint operations in this field of the Commonwealth and the States; and
that these matters should be fully examined with a view to early relief being afforded by further amendments of the Act.
Honourable senators can see that I pointed out that it was necessary to have a very detailed inquiry into the operation of estate duty. It seems to me from circumstances which followed that this was obvious to the Government. Perhaps this specifically resulted from the emphasis which was brought into this chamber by an honourable senator who believed that there should be some relief of probate and estate duty in Australia. This probably forced the
Government to exercise some discretion by giving a little more relief than it had in the past. 1 think that nowadays the whole matter of estate duty has to be thoroughly examined. I do not approve of the elimination of estate duty. I think there are reasons for its being persisted with but I do think that in the present state of valuation, particularly of the property of farmers, it h is to be looked at closely. When a farmer dies probate is collected on the value of the property and not on the price for which his widow can sell the property. An anomalous situation arises when a person is or could be forced to sell a property for a sum which is not the true value as far as the Commonwealth Taxation Office is concerned. This is just one of the areas which ought to be looked at.
I know that the Government has progressively eased the operation of estate duty by increasing the level at which it becomes applicable. The Government has also amended the legislation so that if a number of deaths occur in fairly rapid succession this is taken into account and there is not a second or perhaps a third imposition of estate duty. We also know that should an occasion arise where difficulty is experienced by the testator or where the estate itself finds difficulty in meeting the estate duty, however the duty is arrived at, the Commissioner of Taxation can consider the situation and extend the time at which the tax becomes payable. I know that the Government has - I have approved of this - taken many measures to lessen this load. I think that this has had quite a significant result. Only a fortnight ago I was listening to either a news item or some programme which dealt with this matter and it was pointed out that over the last 5 years the Treasury claimed that no estate had had to be sold in order to meet estate duty. This was rather significant. Where as it has been frequently claimed that a person has been pui in the position of having to sell a property when it was disadvantageous to do so, in actual fact this has not occurred. But the possibility is there, and that is what I am worried about. This is why 1 feel we should have a very close look at the imposition of estate duty. I do not want to go on any more with this because 1 agree with the amendments which are being affected by this Bill.
I think the provisions in relation to gift tax and gift tax assessment are an improvement on those which have applied hitherto. The Opposition is not opposing these provisions. I have expressed these few thoughts because I think this matter is vital. It concerns very many people, particularly farmers, and applies also to the owners of small businesses. But in the case of small businesses the owners have the opportunity to sell part of that business such as stock. This is not the case when one is dealing with a farm. I think the Minister for Civil Aviation will be happy that the Opposition is not endeavouring to move an amendment to any of the 3 Bills. Having expressed myself on these lines 1 just state that we will support the Bill.
– The Budget proposals of the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) involved matters concerning estate duty and gift duty. We have before us the Estate Duty Assessment. Bill. It will he followed by a Bill relating to gift duty. Both these bills, in the first instance, will allow a greater exemption before an estate has to pay duty. In the case of gift duty with which we will deal later, a gift to a near relative or others to a much higher amount than was previously the case is allowable. The Government is to be congratulated on this measure. It is fair to say that honourable senators from all parties over a period of years have been drawing the attention of the Government to the inequity that has been created, firstly, by the very existence, of estate duty and the unfairness that applies when relatives receive some grant from an estate, and secondly, by the great problems that follow in having the estate assessed and having to pay the duty.
There has been a difference of opinion amongst honourable senators on the manner in which estate duty should be applied. In this instance the Government has decided to make a very substantial contribution to the statutory exemptions that apply in relation to estate duty. In the case of estates arising from deaths on or after 16th August 1972, the outright statutory exemption from duty will be $40,000 for an estate which passes wholly to close relatives - that is, a spouse, children or grandchildren - and $20,000 for an estate, of which no part so passes. These exemptions contain a shading out content in that they will shade out at the rate of $2 for every S8 by which the net value of the estate exceeds the exemption limits, with the complete shade out points being reached at estate values of $200,000 and $100,000 respectively. The proposals that have been put forward in that regard have gone a long way towards an acceptance of the argument that has been advanced in the Senate, particularly by my Party and certainly by others, for the complete elimination of Commonwealth estate, duty.
The matter proceeds further. As a Country Party representative I am pleased to say that the Government in recent years has further recognised the very important role that primary industry plays in the community. This is more so in view of the very disastrous results which harsh estate duty plays in weakening a rural primary producing estate by its very incidence. Under this legislation, the outright statutory exemptions applying to primary producer estates arising from deaths on or after 16th August 1972 will be 20 per cent higher than those for ordinary estates. In the case of an estate passing to a close relative the exemption will be $48,000, and foi estates passing to others, it will be $24,000. Those exemptions will shade out at the same rate as do exemptions for ordinary estates with the complete shading out points on estates in this class being reached at $240,000 and $120,000 respectively. I have with me an interesting table which is headed: ‘Estate. Duty - Amounts of Duty Payable at Present and as Proposed’, lt lists the values of estates and deals with those estates which are passing wholly to the spouse, children or grandchildren, and then with estates which pass wholly to other beneficiaries. This document was prepared by the Treasury. I ask for leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– We see in this document an illustration of what I said at the outset of my remarks, namely, that a very substantial contribution is made by the Government to the lessening of the incidence of estate duty. A summation of the great benefit accruing to the community was noted by the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) in his Budget speech. If my memory is correct on that matter, he said that onehalf of all estates - I emphasise that because it is of great importance - which would become eligible for payment of death duty under the existing legislation would now become wholly exempt. Again, I say that this is a very major contribution and one which is acceptable. Honourable senators do not wish to spend a great deal of time debating a Bill the main subject of which has been debated in the Senate on many occasions and about which we have had considerable argument. But there is another matter which must still be emphasised. It is that there are many honourable senators who fully believe that the time is not inappropriate - whether it be now or in the near future - for a total elimination of Federal or State - perhaps Federal and State - probate duty. Arguments can be advanced that perhaps some duty should be levied. I am one who believes that probate or estate duty should be eliminated entirely and that some other method of control should be found.
If it is said that the Federal Government should bow out of the probate duty field - certainly, this is an area in which we have some say - this argument cao be emphasised only by the fact that in the Commonwealth we have the most wasteful of administrations, and surely the State and Federal Governments should be vitally interested. A Federal Government authority has been set up to handle estate duty. That authority may make certain calculations in relation to an estate. I realise that they are not the first calculations thai are made on an estate. The operation which assesses and looks at the values of estates and which applies duty, is duplicated. There is the cost of labour, the value of the labour that is lost, the loss of productivity in the community, the cost of office space and of all the other things that are connected with the complete duplication of Commonwealth and State activities in this sphere. I appeal to the Federal Government to consider, in discussion with the States, some method by which the basis of Commonwealth interference in estate duty, as it is called in the Federal sphere, and probate duty, as it is called in some State spheres, should be completely eliminated. This wasteful duplication of resources is not necessary or warranted in this country. I am one in the Federal sphere who says that it is necessary for the Federal Government to get out of the field of estate duty.
Comment was made on estate planning. I regret that at times we hear honourable senators and members of the community criticise individuals for what they may do, on the one hand, to avoid the incidence of taxation or, on the other hand, to engage in some form of estate planning. Honourable senators should support individuals who have enough intelligence to see that they work within the ambit of the law and at least plan their estates so that they do not attract this form of taxation. One could well advise that it is very necessary for every individual in the present circumstances to see that he takes consideration very early in his life of what he hopes to provide for others in the future. What has come forward from the evidence that has been produced to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations dealing with its reference on death duties has been of great importance. Those who have read it will fully endorse my words. 1 have great pleasure in supporting this Bill.
Silting suspended from 5.45 until 8 p.m.
– 1 understand that the Gift Duty Bill and the Gift Duty Assessment Bill are being debated together with the Estate Duty Assessment Bill, ls that the position?
– Yes, that is the position.
– I support the 3 Bills. The Estate Duty Bill marks a big step forward by the Commonwealth Government. As a result of this measure the income from Federal death duties will be reduced by about 25 per cent, although the reduced rate of duty will not apply to all estates. Instead of receiving $72m in revenue in death duties, which is the amount received in the last financial year, the Government will receive an amount about 25 per cent less than that. That is the big leap forward. It will be of great help and provide a significant breakthrough for those who support the total abolition of death duties throughout Australia.
The exemption in relation to gift duty is to be lifted from $4,000 to $10,000. That also will be a big help and will mean that every 18 months or so it will be possible to make a gift of $10,000 without attracting Federal gift duty, although the gifts would attract State gift duty. This provi sion will greatly assist in reducing the death duties that would be payable eventually. lt is interesting to note that if the Australian Country Party’s policy for the total abolition of death duty is carried out, the need for gift duty will vanish, or very nearly vanish. So by eliminating death duties completely we remove the need for gift duties. Some States still levy a State gift duty. I understand that State gift duty is not payable in New South Wales whereas it is payable in Queensland. In this respect there is some inequality between the States.
I am the Chairman of the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations which is charged with an inquiry into all aspects of estate duty and gift duty. I understand that because we have a daily Hansard report of proceedings of the Committee I am at liberty to quote from the public evidence received by the Committee in the course of its inquiry. I have been informed that by having a published Hansard report of our proceedings we are regarded automatically as reporting to the Senate. Naturally I cannot anticipate the final report of the Committee, as its inquiry relates to a very wide range of problems. One problem with which we have been confronted is the valuation of estates. Under the law as it stands today - 1 do not think we can alter it very much - the valuation must be made at. the date of death. In some American States the executors of or beneficiaries under a will may elect any date within 12 months for valuation purposes, but valuation at the date of death seems to be the only fair method. Nevertheless it does create some problems, because assets are frozen until death duties are paid and it becomes very difficult for executors to realise on the assets. The Committee has had mentioned to it the case of people who own a considerable value in shares. If a man who had invested heavily in shares died at the height of a share boom and it was perhaps 6 months before the executors had settled the affairs of the estate, the shares could in the meantime have dropped to about one-quarter of the previous value. This would create a great many complications. I understand that in some cases people have been unable to pay the duty and the estate has been bankrupt for the reason I have just mentioned.
One of the problems associated with death duties as they are levied at present is the freezing of assets. Another trouble is the effect on some sectors of the community as compared with others. I should like to refer to the rural sector, in which people must have most of their capital tied up in property. In most cases practically all their capital is tied up in property and they are unable to dispose of it if they want their property to remain viable. Once half the property, or even portion of it, has been sold, the property ceases to be a viable enterprise. This is one of the great problems that gift duties create for the rural sector. Although people in the rural sector represent about 6 per cent of the population and pay about 6 per cent of the income tax, they pay between 40 per cent and 50 per cent of the death duties. These figures relate to the Australia-wide position.
– These are interesting figures.
– Very interesting, Mr Minister.
– Where did the figures come from?
– They are available in some of the evidence presented to the Committee.
– Could those figures be incorporated in Hansard? Are they set out in a table?
– I propose to mention those 3 figures only and they will be incorporated in Hansard automatically.
– What authority have you for those figures?
– I forget who gave the evidence, but I am sure that the figures appear somewhere in the Hansard report of our proceedings. I have mentioned how the estate duty applies to the rural sector. I propose now to refer to other sectors of the community and to mention first the professional man. We have been told that whatever he might have paid towards obtaining the degree or qualifications needed by him to practise his profession, the country still pays a considerable amount towards his training. I am surprised at how much it costs the country, through scholarships and educational assistance, to enable a man to possess professional qualifications. Because of those qualifications he is able to earn a good income, but when he dies the qualifications die with him and the Commonwealth receives no return in duty for its outlay in training him. The only duty -payable is on his savings. I invite honourable senators to compare the situation of that man with the position of someone in the rural sector.
I refer next to business of various kinds, most of which normally have some liquid funds. Usually people in business are able to disperse those funds whereas, as I have explained already, once a rural property is broken up beyond a certain point it ceases to be viable and to provide a living area. That generates all sorts of problems. It is easier for people in the non-rural sectors of the community to minimise the effect of duties, and action to achieve this is taken throughout most parts of the country. We are trying to find out the actual extent of this. There are many methods by which duties may be minimised. One method is the formation of companies or partnerships. Different methods which have so far proved to be legal have been mentioned to us. The Bray case shows that one cun give a loan, without interest, repayable on demand; the Gorton case revealed methods which are still legal and still availed of. And there are many other ways to minimise death duty which can be ascertained on good legal and accountancy advice.
The policy of the Country Party is for total abolition of death duties. The federal revenue from such duties is a little over 1 per cent of total revenue representing a little over S70m of a total revenue of about S8,000m. The States get a much bigger percentage of their revenue from death duties. It is about 15 per cent or 16 per cent in most States. Many States have already made reductions in death duties. I do not think they would agree at present to a total abolition of death duties but they may agree to a progressive abolition. There are some people who fear that if the Commonwealth vacated the field completely the States would pick up the tab, but I do not think that is likely because they would have to compete with each other and I am sure that the more attractive States would get the business. Then we have the position of the Australian Capital Territory. What will happen there if the Commonwealth vacates the field? The duties in the Australian Capital Territory are Commonwealth duties only - no State duties are involved - so people in the Australian Capital Territory would have a definite advantage.
An unusual situation exists in the Northern Territory. The Committee has discovered after a lot of researching that the application of death duties in the Northern Territory operates under an Act - it has been a bit difficult to get hold of this Act passed by the Parliament of South Australia - and assented to on 25th October 1893. That Act is still in force in the Northern Territory. In the Northern Territory the application of duty starts on estates valued at £500 and that on estates of between £500 and £700 left to lineal descendants there is a duty of H per cent. In relation to estates left to strangers in blood there is no exemption. On estates under £200 the rate is 1 per cent. The maximum rate in each category is 10 per cent at the £200,000 level. I understand from inquiries 1 have made in one of the Estimates Committees that an amount of $79,000 was collected in death duties in the Northern Territory in the last financial year. It is interesting to note that the Attorney-General’s Department is charged not only with the collection of death duties in the Northern Territory but also with the assessment of estates. Commonwealth duties are not uniform throughout Australia and the Territories when we have situations of that nature.
I have had letters from all over Australia on this matter. They have come from the city and the country and all have appealed for total abolition. The general feeling of the people concerned is that the breadwinner has paid taxes all his life and has not been able to accumulate a huge fortune or build up a massive estate because of taxation. Taxation looks after that or is supposed to look after it. But he is taxed again when he dies and this burden falls heavily on the beneficiaries, those people whom he has worked for and tried to help and provide for in later life, to save them from being a charge on the State and having to get a pension. I have had letters of this nature from all over Australia. There have been several cases of widows having to get a social service pension while the estate is being finalised. When the estate is made available, the duty is paid and the assets cease to be frozen there is enough money to provide an adequate living for the widow and family in many cases. But in the meantime what have they to do? They have to eat and live and consequently there have been many instances where these people have had to get help from the Department of Social Services.
We have had cases in the rural sector and in the cities where estates through a fall in wool prices or prices in the cities have become hopelessly bankrupt through the application of death duties. The people involved would have been able to carry on but for the death duties. The Committee in receiving evidence has heard a lot of such cases. It has come to believe from the facts it has gathered that a new thinking on death duties is evolving right throughout the world. It is no longer necessary to break up big estates which is why the system began in the States prior to federation. Federally it was started during World War I to raise money to help pay for the war and it is interesting to read Hansard of that time. Some Ministers and the Government then said that it would help to break up big estates but there are not too many big estates of that nature around the country now. There are not too many people who can accumulate that sort of estate in a lifetime. So it has become a revenue tax and a form of double lax in many cases on the beneficiaries, widows and children who are least able to afford it. The larger estates in many cases are using the tax avoidance schemes I have mentioned. Therefore death duties in their present form are not fulfilling their purpose of stopping the accumulation of wealth, as has been stated on many occasions. The bigger estates are able to afford lawyers and accountants to obtain advice on how to practice tax and death duty avoidance legally.
The new thinking has been applied in the United Kingdom where considerable concessions have been granted, even greater concessions than we have granted here. In many parts of the United States of America the same thing has happened. This Government is to be commended on the start it has made. I hope it will be only a start and that we will go on to provide further exemptions and further concessions until the duty is totally eliminated. 1 hope that we will be able to assist businesses, especially in the rural sector, to achieve greater prosperity rather than be wrecked several times in a short period because of a succession of deaths. One Opposition senator said that there was a provision for such cases, but that provision applies only in respect to a 3 or 5-year period. It is a help if 2 people die in the one year but it is not much help after that because one has to pay estate duty again. This does not help the stability of our country or our cities particularly in respect of the appreciation in the values of homes in our bigger cities. Until this concession was made by the Commonwealth Government many people who were never involved before and who never dreamed that they would be, came within the ambit of the death duty provisions. They are still liable for the estate duties in States which have not provided the exemptions or reduced their taxes as the Commonwealth has done. I commend these Bills and hope that they have a speedy passage and that they will be the start of many more exemptions until we get complete abolition of death duties.
- Mr Deputy President, I move the following amendment to the motion before the chamber:
At the end of motion add - but the Senate expresses the view that the Government should consider as soon as possible the complete elimination of Federal estate duty’.
Copies of the amendment have been circulated to honourable senators, but unfortunately no other member of my Party is present at the moment to second the amendment.
– I formally second the amendment.
– I have been a member of this chamber for some years and, to my recollection, the legislation governing the imposition of Federal estate duty has been amended 3 times. The Bill presently before the Senate is at least the third amending measure; there may have been others. The first amendment I recall was the one referred to by Senator Lawrie when relief was afforded from the duplicated imposition of estate duty in the case of quick successions; there was some alleviation of that position. A year or so ago there was an alleviation of the imposition of Federal estate duty by lifting the level of exemption and by other types of concessions. The Bill now before the chamber is of the same character. 1 do not propose tonight to go into tha whole matter of the justification for the elimination of Federal estate duty, but I do say that the Senate is indebted to Senator Lawrie, who has just resumed his seat and who is the Chairman of the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations to which this matter has been referred in these terms:
The effects of Estate and life duties on the public revenues and the economic circumstances of individuals and communities, and the social consequences of such duties.
That Committee has not yet presented its report. However, Senator Lawrie as a result of information which has come to him in public hearings of the Committee has been able to give the Senate the benefit of certain inferences that can be drawn as to the effects of the incidence of this duty, the effects of individual cases of hardship which are involved, the general oppression implicit in the imposition of this duty, the economic consequences of it generally and the effect it has on rural industries and on rural settlement, on individual ‘lives, on domestic circumstances and on the breakup of justifiably accumulated family estates. The Senate, I think, could well rest upon the detailed information which Senator Lawrie has been able to furnish to it from the evidence which has been presented to his Committee.
When a similar Bill to the one now before the Senate was introduced in this chamber about 2 years ago - again when the level of exemption was lifted - I moved an amendment on behalf of my Party. A. similar amendment was moved in relation to, I think, the Budget when, among other propositions, this amendment was advanced on the motion for the second reading of the Appropriation Bill. On the first occasion, to the motion for the third reading of the Bill 1 moved an amendment which was in identical terms to that which has now been moved and circulated to honourable senators.
– You had some support, too.
– Yes. On that occasion I was supported by a number of honourable senators. Our amendment was supported by a number of members of the Liberal Party; by all members of the Country Party except a Country Party Minister, but 1 must say that since he was a member of the Cabinet he perhaps had little alternative but to support his Government’s legislation; by one Independent senator, if 1 remember correctly: and by all members of my own Party of course. But it was totally opposed by all members of the official Opposition, and was defeated.
– It was a pious resolution.
– Senator Milliner says that it was a pious resolution. It was to be an expression of opinion by this chamber, and I do not regard a formal expression of opinion by this chamber as being merely a pious resolution. It must be interpreted as the opinion of one chamber of the legislature formally presented to the government as expessing the view of the representatives of the 6 States on a matter of very great importance. I must accept the resistance of the Australian Labor Party to our proposal for the total elimination of estate duly as an expression of opinion by that Party, and as an expression of the policy of that Party. I presume that that policy remains the same today and I would therefore be gratified if in the course of this debate Opposition senators would indicate whether they still resist the elimination of Federal estate duty or whether that policy has been changed or the attitule of their Party has been altered and they will now support our amendment as, I am sure, many honourable sentors on the Government side - I hope, in increasing numbers - will do.
The fact that on 2 occasions in the last 2 or 3 years it has been necessary to represent this principal Act and to amend it by granting further exemptions is an indication of 2 things. Firstly, it is an indication that due to the change in the economic climate of this country an air of unreality is now being injected into the valuation of estates, attracting then the imposition in harsh terms of Federal estate duty, and this is something that has to be constantly rectified. That has been done before and is being done again. That in itself indicates a totally unsatisfactory situation and one which surely must ultimately be eliminated by the abandonment of the tax. The second thing that is indicated is, of course, the growing concern that obviously is being expessed in the necessity, firstly, to relieve a matter such as the double incidence and then to ameliorate the level of incidence by lifting the. level of exemption. That must indicate a growing concern and a growing acknowledgment and appreciation that this lax by its nature is an unsatisfactory and unjustifiable tax and one which, if it cannot be eliminated immediately, must be eliminated gradually until we reach the process of its final elimination.
Those are the conclusions I draw from the presentation and re-presentation of the principal Act with amendments on 3 occasions to my knowledge, and probably more, as I may have discovered, if I had researched it in that depth. It is important that the Parliament should express its view on this matter, and it is important that the Senate should express its firm view in relation to this tax insofar as it is imposed under Federal law. That is why I cannot for a moment accept that a formal resolution of this chamber is merely a resolution which is passed here and dies here. A resolution of this chamber surely must come into the cognisance of the Government and must have at least some persuasive effect on the Government in regard to its acceptance when the opportunity presents itself. On the last occasion on which a resolution was moved in these terms Senator Prowse moved an alternative resolution to the effect that the Government should take this matter into budgetary consideration, the Budget of that year then being pending. That resolution was supported by my Party, by all members of the Country Party with the exception of a Country Party Minister and by a number of members of the Liberal Party, but again was opposed by the Australian Labor Party. Of course, circumstances change insofar as that Budget has passed and the current Budget has been formulated; therefore to refer to a budgetary situation now in this resolution would be unreal. What the Democratic Labor Party does, therefore, is seeks a firm expression of parliamentary opinion on this chamber to the effect that the chamber, having considered the matter, is averse to the continued imposition of the tax and commends to the Government early consideration of its total abolition.
The fact that the Senate by resolution - if 1 remember correctly, by unanimous resolution - referred the matter to the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations, of which Senator Lawrie is the Chairman, surely means that the Senate must have expressed its concern. We are merely asking that in a formal way that concern be clearly and unequivocably expressed tonight. I hope that the Senate therefore will support our amendment. It has been suggested that there may be other propositions for further partial alleviation of the present level of imposition by one method or another or by the application of one formula or another. The Democratic Labor Party cannot accept such specific proposition insofar as they would represent a precise amendment to a Bill which is part of the budgetary situation, and that would amount to rejection of the Budget. We do not think that would be appropriate. Therefore we think the best that can be done at this stage - and we do it as firmly, as clearly, as unequivocally and as persuasively as we can - is to present this amendment and trust that it will receive the unanimous support of honourable senators. lt is not necessary for this chamber tonight to canvass in detail all the injustices and all individual hardships of estate duty or to canvass the merits of the case for the abolition of Federal estate duty. We do know that, today, the Commonwealth has complete control over the major sources of revenue in this country. Those sources are the imposition of direct, taxation, of duties of customs and excise, and of sales tax. The States are left with ancillary methods of raising finance. One of those methods to which the States resort is the imposition of estate duty, probate duty or succession duty.
We know that whatever our views may be on the principle of estate duty, constitutionally the most that we can do in this place is to direct our minds to the elimination of that duty insofar as it is imposed under Federal constitutional power. Whatever we might think of the continued imposition of that duty by the States, that is a matter for them. All we can do is to go as far as we are entitled to do constitutionally. This amendment purports to do that.
– It is not my wish to interrupt the flow of the honourable senator’s thoughts. But I think it may be easier for me now to offer an observation than to make a long speech in closing the second reading debate. Has the honourable senator taken into account in his calculations - I am sure that he has - the problem that a reduction in Commonwealth estate duty might lead to an increase in the level of such duty imposed by the States?
– I was just going to canvass that point.
– I am glad that you are because what we are wishing to listen to is the force of argument for that case.
– I think that the point made by the Minister is very appropriately and most relevantly raised. He is’ asserting that, insofar as the Commonwealth may vacate the field of this duty, this action may be an incentive to the States, with a wider field of revenue then available, to impose this duty in their own sphere at an increasingly high level. We think that that would be a most unacceptable alternative because that is not the purport of our amendment. It is not the intention which is implicit in our approach. We think that the duty in principle and by its very nature is indefensible whether it is imposed by the Commonwealth or by the States. Therefore, in our approach to it we would say that we wish to eliminate it as far as we can in the Federal sphere under constitutional powers. We would ask the States similarly to adopt this principle. We wouk request that insofar as their revenue necessarily will be affected, alternative sources of revenue might be discovered by them or for them; otherwise the whole of the exercise would be nugatory and of little value and effect.
What we challenge here - it was very well put by Senator Lawrie - is the principle implicit in this opposition, that is, the inequities which inescapably accompany it and the injustices which inescapably are imposed by it. These are the things that we want to eliminate. I mention the disturbance of families that have devoted themselves for years to the building up of only one asset which basically is land. Everything has been sacrificed to the retention of the homestead and some producing land surrounding the homestead. That becomes virtually the sole asset of the family and the sole asset which is passed on in succession. The moment the succession arises, not sufficient money is available to meet the estate duties which are imposed under valuation of the property which may be unreal in terms of its productive capacity. The estate must be sold; the assets have to be distributed; a whole domestic family unit is disturbed. The succession is no longer inviolate but is destroyed for all time. We think not only that this is an injustice but also that it is socially undesirable. It is towards the elimination of this situation and for this purpose that we have moved this amendment.
The Senate discussed this matter as recently as 18 months or 2 years ago. We spoke on it then and, before that, on many occasions we have presented our case. We think that it is a case which is now finding increasingly common acceptance. We think that it does find acceptance in the Government, which has the responsibility for discovering the revenue which must be discovered in order to finance the expenditure of government. We do feel that the Government giving these constitutional alleviations is now sensitive to the undesirability of the retention of this tax. A firm expression by this House of the Parliament may well persuade the Government that a final effort should be made to discover an alternative source of revenue and to eliminate this highly undesirable means of raising it by way of Federal estate succession duty.
For those reasons, we commend the amendment to all honourable senators. I feel that on this occasion we shall obtain increased voting support from the Government benches beyond those members who have supported us on previous occasions and who supported the amendment on the occasion when you, Mr Deputy President, moved an amendment as an alternative to the one that we had proposed. Your amendment was virtually in the same terms, with some minor qualifications. But particularly do I hope on this occasion that members of the Opposition will support our programme for the elimination of estate duty. We do hope that we will obtain their support on this occasion because, if we do, it will be the first occasion on which a House of this Parliament has come out clearly and without equivocation in appealing to the Government on behalf of the people involved - and so unjustly involved - to eliminate this imposition on their life of thrift, sacrifice and saving.
Therefore, with considerable enthusiasm and, I trust, with equal hope, we ‘commend this amendment to all honourable senators. We trust that its fate on this occasion will be different from that which it met on previous occasions. Allowing perhaps that amendments of this kind may- not be able to be accepted in the disposition of members of the Cabinet, although I could not see why, at least those who may not in some way be bound by any Cabinet loyalty will find it possible to support the amendment and to let if not a unanimous at least a substantial vote flow from this chamber, stating the principle of elimination by supporting the terms of the amendment. For those reasons, I commend the amendment to all honourable senators. I do hope that the amendment will meet the fate and the outcome that I contemplate arid for which I so fondly and eagerly hope.
– 1 rise to support the legislation introduced by the Government. I oppose the amendment moved by Senator Byrne, which asks that estate duty be totally abolished. We on this side of the Senate cannot go along with that proposition. The reason why we support the Bills before the Senate is that we have seen and know of the problems that beset people operating smaller and medium sized businesses in our community, be those businesses engaged in rural or secondary industry or any other type of industry, when they come up against the problem of estate duty. This duty is a tragedy in cases where a breadwinner is suddenly taken away from his family. Particularly is this so in the case of the widow with a young family who, virtually before she has been able to bury her breadwinner, is beset with the problem of finding finance to pay probate duty and, at the same time, to go ahead with earning revenue to feed and clothe her family. From my own personal experience this is nothing more than a tragedy.
Strangely enough, the percentage of taxation revenue that is collected by the Commonwealth in estate duty has declined over the years. In 1961-62 the percentage of the total revenue collected by the Taxation Office through estate duty was 1.6 per cent. It rose to 1.7 in the years 1962-64. Since then, with slight fluctuations, it has decreased. In 1971-72 this duty amounted to only 1.1 per cent of the total tax revenue collected. It is becoming a declining factor. If we look at the statistics in respect of taxation for 1970-71 we see the tragedy of this duty. Under the heading Grade of Net Value of Estate’ we find that people in the $20,000 to $29,999 bracket number 25.1 per cent of the total number of people who are paying estate duty at the present time. It seems to me that any person today who, on death, has assets worth $20,000 is nothing more than a person who has worked relatively hard and has been somewhat circumspect with his funds over his lifetime - long or short as it may have been. He has been able to build a comfortable triple fronted brick veneer home and have a motor car, a gold watch and perhaps a boat of some description used for leisure on Saturday or Sunday afternoons. That fits thousands of Australians. In my opinion, those people cannot be considered to be wealthy or affluent. One might say that they are comfortably off-
The tragedy about the imposition of probate duties in that bracket is that they fall also very heavily on the small farmers and small businessmen in our community. In the majority of farming categories in Australia today one would be a poor farmer if one, on death, had assets worth between $20,000 and $29,000. In fact, in most of our rural industries anybody who had only that amount of assets on which probate duty had to be paid would virtually be able to apply for rural relief. The situation in the dairy industry as I know it today, is that any farmer who, on death, did not have assets worth $60,000 to $80,000 would be virtually on the way out, and I think that would apply throughout many of our other primary industries. For example, in the State of Victoria today any person who is not milking more than 60 cows is in trouble, and 60 cows at $150 a head represents a magnificent sum of $9,000. So a widow would only have to find herself stuck with another $11,000 - and that could be covered quite easily in the value of the land, house and all the other equipment that is necessary for carrying on that operation - to be liable for one of the smaller assessments that are made.
Whilst we support the Bill, and we do so for the reasons I have stated, it will not greatly alleviate the situation. I am not quite sure of the situation in the other States, but in Victoria the. State Government still imposes a rather stiff tax. I have here some examples that were taken out at my request by a friend of mine. They give some idea of the ratio between the State probate duty that is struck on estates, both rural and non-rural, in the State of Victoria and Federal estate duty. On a nonrural estate of $33,485 - the beneficiaries in this instance were a child over 21 years of age who received $1,000, and the husband who received the residue - the State probate duty was $2,167 and the Federal estate duty was $430. In other words, there was a ratio of $5 to $1 between State probate duty and Federal estate duty.
In the second example, which again is of a non-rural estate, a gentleman passed on and left an estate dutiable at $28,171 to his widow. The State probate duty was $1,513 and the Federal duty was $255, or a ratio of $6 to$1 . I come to an example involving an estate valued at $62,254 which was left to a man after his wife had passed on. He was obliged to pay $4,729 in State probate duty in Victoria, whereas only $1,675 was payable in Federal estate duty. There was a ratio of $3 to $1 between the State probate duty and the Federal duty. There are many other examples of that type of thing. They run from a ratio of $9. to $1 between State probate duty and Federal estate duty down to the ratio I quoted of $3 to$1.
Desirable and all as it is for the Commonwealth to get out of this area of estate duty, there is still a great deal to be done before some of the hardships and tragic problems that are involved are liquidated altogether from our society. But again I must reiterate that we on this side of the chamber cannot support the amendment which has been moved by the Democratic Labor Party. We believe it is highly desirable and fair that estate duty should be payable on any estate which is very large by our standards. Of course, whilst saying that we also realise that the people in the higher bracket normally make provision during their lifetime to opt out of estate duty. One of the tragedies about this problem - and I am sure that all honourable senators are aware of it - is that one can take out assurance on one’s life to the value of $1,200 per annum tax deductable to cover probate duty. This is all very well if one is fit and well when one goes along to the doctor to have a check-up. But for a small or middle sized farmer or businessman who desires to take out assurance against probate duty, it is just too bad if he happens to have a bad heart or something like that; he just cannot get cover. Consequently, should one die one’s widow and children are liable to pay this duty.
I have before me a document which was prepared by the Legislative Research Service of the Parliamentary Library, setting out the details of the rates of Victorian estate duty and the exemption values. I ask for leave to incorporate this document in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) -Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
Request: Details of exempt values and rates of Victorian estate duty.
Answer: The proportion of the estate exempt from duty and the rates of duty payable vary according to the blood relationship between the beneficiary and the deceased. There are three levels of exemption, as follows:
$12,000 for an estate passing entirely to either a widow, widower, children, under. 21, wholly de pendent children over 21, or to wholly dependent widowed mother of deceased.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 11 October 1972, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1972/19721011_senate_27_s54/>.