27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Aci to establish a Monopolies Commission, and for purposes connected therewith.
– I address my question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is the Minister aware that a Captain Gordon Taylor, who, after having had discussions with a departmental officer at tha Department of Civil Aviation head office in Melbourne on 11th October 1972, was ordered to leave the precincts of the building under threat of forcible expulsion by the Commonwealth Police? Will the Minister make an immediate investigation into this most serious allegation?
– I know quite a lot about Captain Gordon Taylor whom we see frequently in the House of Parliament. Equally, I have seen Captain Taylor myself I think on 2 occasions. He has seen the Department of Civil Aviation himself on some occasions. I am not aware specifically of the circumstances which the honourable senator has mentioned, but I have called for a report because the honourable senator mentioned this matter to me yesterday afternoon. In general it is true that we are taking extreme care in the Department of Civil Aviation against all possible people who may come in because we are concerned, with recent threats of hijacking and things of that character, for some of the security of the Department.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. Following the statement of the Minister for National Development that a uranium enrichment plant is to be established in Australia, will the Minister give serious consideration to its establishment in South Australia, as that State had a successful uranium treatment plant some years ago until its contract with the United Kingdom Government ran out and its Department of Mines was regarded very highly for its research on the treatment of uranium?
– It is quite a while ago now, but because of my association with Broken Hill I remember very well the work in uranium at Radium Hill and the hope that South Australia had that this would lead to something quite substantial. I could not go beyond that except to say that I have noted the honourable senator’s comment and I will refer it to the responsible Minister. I am quite sure that the general decision of where the plant is to be established would be made in the interests of the whole of the Australian community. I cannot really be any more precise than that. The honourable senator will understand this. But he may be quite sure that the interests of South Australia will be raised specifically by me with the responsible Minister.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Is it a fact that the Australian Broadcasting Commission Commissioners met last Thursday and Friday to discuss the current controversy over the programme ‘This Day Tonight’? In view of the growing belief among senior staff members of the programme ‘This Day Tonight’ that the show will be axed after it goes into Christmas recess on 15th December, can the Minister approach the PostmasterGeneral to give a firm assurance that this popular and successful programme will not be killed off because its staff have tried to preserve their independence? Also, if there are no plans to end the programme, why has not the Australian Broadcasting Commission yet approached the 2 main people - Mr Peach and Mr Carleton - to renew their contracts, when usually this approach is made some months before their contract is completed?
– It would seem from the tenor of Senator O’Byrne’s question that either he has inside information about certain matters relating to the Australian Broadcasting Commission or persons connected with the Commission or he is speculating wildly. I am unable to say. But I have repeatedly stated in this chamber in response to questions from honourable senators, as has the PostmasterGeneral in the House of Representatives, that the matter of programmes and what programmes shall be provided by the Australian Broadcasting Commission is a matter for the Commission itself. Parliament has made the Commission an autonomous, independent body and has given to it the role of providing adequate and comprehensive programmes and that is its function. Whether the Commission is to continue with the programme which has been referred to I am unable to say. That is a matter entirely for the judgment of the Commission.
I am unaware whether the Commission met last week. The Postmaster-General is not in the practice of receiving information as to when the Commission meets and what it discusses because, as 1 have said, it is independent. Nevertheless it is quite apparent that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is faced managerially with as serious a problem as any management could be faced with and that is the attempt to take out of its hands the control of the functioning of the ABC which, of course, would be inconsistent with the provisions of the legislation.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry whether it is a fact that at a meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council held in Melbourne on Monday all State governments agreed to introduce quotas to control egg production. Are details of the quota proposals available? When is it anticipated that effect may be given to these proposals?
– It is a fact that the Australian Agricultural Council met last Monday and discussed a number of matters affecting the rural industries, among which was the control of egg production in Australia. It was decided that egg production should be controlled by the licensing of hen quotas. It fixed an Australian quota of 12 million hens and divided this quota among the States proportionately. I could give the honourable senator the proportions, but a statement has been made by the Minister for Primary Industry on this matter and I shall give him a copy of it afterwards. However, the decision taken by the Agricultural Council is in line with the recommendations made by the egg industry through the egg marketing authorities of Australia, as is the decision made by the Council that the quotas be reviewed annually. Some States have already implemented legislation but other States which have no authority to enforce quotas have given a guarantee that they will treat this as a matter of urgency and will get the legislation on their statute books.
– Is the Minister for Civil Aviation aware of the disquiet among pilots of aeroplanes using Archerfield Aerodrome, Brisbane, at the prospect of alterations to runways? Can the Minister indicate what steps are to be taken to resolve the differences of opinion between such operators and the Department of Civil Aviation?
– I am not aware of any disquiet. I am interested to hear of it. I shall take this matter up with my Department. It is not normal that these problems cannot be resolved. I suggest that there is a clear case for the Regional Director tolook into this matter and I shall ask him to do so.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport aware of the high level of unemployment at Port Pirie, in South Australia? In view of this will the Minister recommend to the Government that Commonwealth Railways be authorised to use concrete sleepers to replace the sleepers on the railway between Port Augusta and Port Pirie and also for use in future railway projects in South Australia and the Northern Territory so that a substantial industry can be established in the north Spencer Gulf area?
– There are 2 kinds of representations about this matter; one conies from Western Australia and is on behalf of those people who are interested in the preservation of the jarrah sleeper industry and the other is on behalf of people in South Australia who want a concrete industry to produce concrete sleepers in South Australia. I cannot arbitrate between these areas of tribal war. I can say this: There has been a very detailed evaluation taking place by. I think, the Bureau of Transport Economics of the relative merits of the wooden sleeper as against the concrete sleeper. I understand that the matter is still in the process of investigation. 1 cannot add any more. The arguments are strong on both sides. I have listened to them and I have read a lot of the material. I shall refer the question to the responsible Minister and ask him how soon he can determine the issue.
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General say what recourse members of the public have against the might of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department when they feel that they have been overcharged due to inaccurate mechanisms in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department? Will the Minister say whether consideration has been given to more frequent billing than the present 6-monthly system? To put at rest the public feeling that all is not well within the PMG charging system, will the Minister say how many objections to PMG accounts have been received by the PMG over the last 6 months? Finally, will the Minister say whether it would not be possible to install a meter in line with the telephone in a person’s home so that he can monitor the charges for his calls?
– The honourable senator has raised a number of questions which are interesting but which are technical in their ramifications. Representing the Postmaster-General as I do, I am certainly not in the position to give the honourable senator the ready answers which he seeks. Therefore 1 suggest that he put an appropriate question on the notice paper. Referring to the first part of his question as to what means people have to assert rights against the might of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department when they feel that they may have been overcharged for their telephone calls, people should not feel in any way inhibited in questioning the accounts which they receive. I know that the Postmaster-General considers all queries received and the matters are checked. It is the right of every citizen to ask the Postmaster-General to examine the matter and that can be done simply by writing a letter. There also is access to members of Parliament. I think the honourable senator is a fair example of a person who is persistent in his inquiries in this area. Members of Parliament will take up the interests of a particular person if they think a matter warrants further investigation. I would not like it to be thought that the citizen should feel completely powerless in this area; he is not.
– By way of preface to my question, addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, I refer to a letter from the Minister for Immigration in which the concluding paragraph mentions further action to assist people whose country of their birth claims dual nationality. Will the Minister for Foreign Affairs undertake Minister-to-Minister discussions with the Government of Greece about the continued press gang tactics applied to Australian citizens of Greek origin who visit their homeland? As a prelude to such action, will our ambassador in Athens seek the whereabouts of Achilles Voulgaris of Balgownie, New South Wales, whose wife has arrived back in Sydney and is unable to find out what happened to her husband when he was taken away from her several weeks ago in Athens?
– Undiplomatic as I am, I think the honourable senator exceeds that quality when he uses the term ‘press gang tactics’ as an approach to diplomatic conversations between the Australian Minister and the Greek Minister. Despite that bad beginning, I shall ask the Minister to consider the proposal with regard to the particular individual citizen referred to. The matter will, of course, receive the attention of the Department of Foreign Affairs now that it has been raised by the honourable senator.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for National Development give the Senate an assurance that everything possible is being done to restore fuel supplies to Queensland following the shortage of supplies from the refinery in Brisbane last week? Will he also ask the Minister for National Development to see whether any further action can be taken to speed up deliveries, particularly to rural areas, where a continued shortage could have a serious effect on grain harvesting?
– That is a serious question, and I know that the departments concerned are anxious to do everything they possibly can. I think I might take the question as also concerning the Department of Customs and Excise, for which 1 also speak, and the Department of Shipping and Transport, which I also represent, because I think all three of them could be involved. I will direct the honourable senator’s question to the 3 departments with the request that they do everything they possibly can. I know that they have been doing this, but I do not think the reminder will do any harm.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. In view of the Prime Minister’s very welcome statement that taxation concessions were to be investigated in relation to expenses incurred by fully employed single girls who are raising children, I ask whether the concessions, if granted, will apply to deserted wives fully supporting children? At the same time, could the investigation cover the abnormal expenses incurred by deserted husbands or widowers who are in an identical situation of raising a family unassisted?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThis is clearly a matter of policy, and I will have it referred to the Government in that sense. I will make one comment though: Speaking personally, I do not believe that the situation of the deserted husband is the same as that of the deserted wife where a family is involved, although they both have a tremendous problem. At a different level, in a charity field, I have had something to do with this matter. I personally do not believe that the situation of the deserted husband is in any way comparable with the overwhelming problems of a deserted mother who has kiddies with whom she has to stay and therefore cannot earn an income I do not think the situation of the 2 groups is relative, but I will refer the honourable senator’s question as it has been asked.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Works. I seek some clarification of 2 replies which I received to the same question yesterday. The basis of the question was: What is the value of the airconditioning plant situated in the meteorology building at Cloncurry and why was it not included in the Bureau of Meteorology’s inventory of plant? Yesterday the Minister for the Interior replied to me:
It is not therefore included in a separate plant inventory.
Yesterday the Minister for Works also replied to me:
The Department of Works records indicate that the air-conditioning plant has been listed.
I now ask the Minister which is the correct answer.
– The honourable senator yesterday received in an answer in writing a statement from me that the plant was listed and was regularly maintained by my Department and that the last maintenance was as recent as September 1972. He can draw his own inference as to whether there is any inaccuracy whatsoever in those detailed, practical and objective facts.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Can he inform the Senate whether any undertaking has been given by the Australian National Line to provide a shipping service to King Island? If not, can the Minister indicate whether any political party or coalition has made any such undertaking on behalf of the ANL? Further, to what extent and in what circumstances can a government direct the ANL to undertake such a service?
– I am not aware of any direction to the Australian National Line to provide a shipping service to King Island. No papers have come to me indicating that any such decision has been taken or, indeed, that anybody has made such a promise. I think that what I should do for the honourable senator is ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport whether he will find out from the ANL what are the facts of this matter, because I am quite sure that it would not be very fair for the people of King Island to be left in a situation of being misinformed.
Senator DOUGLAS MCCLELLANDMy question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to a report that the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s Director of Current Affairs, Mr L. Shaw, has offered his resignation to the General Manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission? Has any reason been given by Mr Shaw, who has had 18 years excellent service with the Commission, as to why he is offering his resignation? Is the Attorney-General aware that since his statement to the Senate about the staff of the ABC consisting of the Mar.cusian left, the workers student alliance, the Communist Party and a whole host of others the morale of both the management and the staff of the Commission is now at an all-time low? Because of the constant attacks that have been made by senior Ministers on the Commission -
– Order! Senator Douglas Mcclelland, I ask you to proceed with the asking of your question.
– Because of the constant attacks that have been made on the management and the staff of the Commission, will the AttorneyGeneral request the Postmaster-General to consider making public the McKinsey report on the structure and management of the Commission? Will the Government give an undertaking that the Commission shall be completely unbridled in the presentation of all current affairs programming during the course of the forthcoming election compaign?
– I repeat that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is an independent body. It is not subject to any Government control in the way in which it determines that it shall provide the adequate and comprehensive programmes as denned in its charter. While there has been a lot of talk that the position is otherwise, no-one has ever adduced evidence to suggest the contrary - notwithstanding that the assertion is constantly made. But the position to which Senator Douglas McClelland refers is of an entirely different character. It is a fact demonstrable on the record and provable by the statements of persons themselves that there are persons employed within the ABC who deny the right of the Commission and the right of management to exercise their statutory responsibilities. There are persons who believe that they, as employees, have the right to say what goes over the ABC. The management cannot tolerate that situation. It is very reassuring to have read the statement of the Chairman of the ABC, backed by his commissioners, that there is no place in the ABC for people who will not accept the authority of management and the Commission. I am sure that it is the wish of all honourable senators that the Commission be strengthened and supported insofar as it is prepared to assert its role to protect what the Parliament has accorded to it.
I am not in a position to express any opinion about the particular matters to which Senator Douglas McClelland has referred, and I do not do so. I will convey to the Postmaster-General his inquiry whether this report to which he has referred will be made public. But I want to assert quite positively that any statements I have made in the past are statements that are based upon what has come from the members of the ABC staff and what is, as I have said, demonstrably provable by what they have done. In those circumstances if there is, as the honourable senator alleges, a low morale within the ABC staff, I imagine that it is a low morale because they are not getting very far in their pursuit of the so-called worker control to which a number of them are committed.
– I direct a ques tion to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. It follows the question asked by Senator Little with regard to assistance for widowers or deserted husbands for child care expenses. Will the Minister also pursue the difficulty of such persons with regard to other forms of supplementary assistance which could be granted to offset the great problems which are faced by widowers and deserted husbands in the care of young children.
– I would not like it to be thought that in my original answer to Senator Little - I was speaking personally - I was saying that I did not recognise that there are very real problems for deserted husbands with children. I would not like the honourable senator to think that I was conveying that impression in what I was saying. I was referring only, in my own judgment, to the question of relativity. They all have problems. I will take the same action with the question that Senator Guilfoyle raises as I undertook to take in regard to the question that Senator Little raised.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Air. Is it a fact that the Mirage fighters being used by the Royal Australian Air Force have a high equipment and spare parts usage turnover? Is it also a fact that major servicing of equipment critical to the airworthness of the Mirage fighters must be returned to France for servicing? Does the Minister agree that because of the high usage of spare parts of Mirage fighters the fighter arm of the RAAF could be grounded within 6 months if France cut off supplies? Finally, I ask: Is the Government reluctant to impose worthwhile sanctions on French Government as a protest against the declared intention of that Government to conduct further nuclear testing in the Pacific region, because of the fear of French reaction which the Israeli Government experienced in 1967?
-BROCKM AN - The honourable senator has used a number of terms which, I think, require some interpretation. What does he mean, for instance, by ‘high usage’? i wish to look at the question and I will reply to it at a later date.
– I will put it on notice.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral: Is the Commonwealth Police Force still searching for a man who threatened to hijack and blow up an airliner unless his 2 associates were freed from a Tasmanian gaol, or has this man been arrested? If he has been arrested, why has he not been charged for such a serious offence? Is the man to whom I refer the same man who faced in Brisbane a charge of blowing up the Communist Party headquarters there but who subsequently absconded?
– All of what the honourable senator has said is unknown to me and I am unable to make any comment about it. 1 would suggest either that he should place his question on notice with more details than he has provided in the question to me or that he should see me at some other time and in some other place to give me the background information which he has and which Ilack.
– Has the Minister for Civil Aviation any information on a report from a committee on environment commissioned by the Government of South Australia? Is he aware that, among the recommendations in this report, is one for a new airport lor Adelaide, probably of international standard? Will the Minister indicate whether the present traffic at Adelaide airport is such that a second airport is necessary? Has his Department any plans for eventually upgrading the Adelaide airport to international standard? Has he any information on plans which his Department would of necessity have to undertake if a second airport were established in South Australia?
SenatorCOTTON- The matter to which the honourablesenator refers is not known to me. but I can give him some general information which bears on the whole issue. At the present time, Adelaide airport has a comfortable capacity for quite a few years ahead for its traffic patterns. Always in the Department of Civil Aviation studies are made of the long term situation leading to whether or not there will be a need for another airport to serve any particular centre, including the major capital cities. Such studies would be going on in relation to Adelaide and have been for some time.
We also have the practice of joining with the State governments concerned to study such problems in depth. We are so well placed as to be in that situation with the Government of South Australia. There is a general group of Commonwealth officers and State officials who work together on this problem. 1 am quite sure that the environment study to which the honourable senator referred will be known to that committee and through that to any officers of the Department of Civil Aviation who arc concerned. I could not go beyond that except to say that we will look at the article and I will see whether we can find further information for the honourable senator that might help in the general situation in South Australia.
– My question, which I direct to the Minister for Civil Aviation, concerns the review commenced into parallel flights by the domestic airlines and which seems to have resulted in some minor improvements. As the Minister is well aware, there are matched flights almost every evening by the main companies. I ask the Minister: Is the review of these flights continuing? Will the Minister again look into the matter with a view to providing improvements in the options for travel between the State capitals?
– Yes, the review is continuing, and the problem is continuing. We are making improvements. We are watching the problem all the time. We have found a tendency on the part of the operators to slip back once again into what I call practically a uniform schedule situation. We are continually trying to improve this situation. What concerns the honourable senator concerns me also. I would wish to see some further work done to improve this position.
– Does the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry recall my raising with the Department of Primary Industry the necessity to continue investigation into the need to upgrade the financial accounting advice which is available to primary producers? I ask: Has the Government moved in this direction? Will the Department take the opportunity to publicise widely the fact that substantial funds have been allocated by the Government to investigate further the proposals of the Australian Committee for the Coding of Rural Accounts?
– As the honourable senator said, he raised this matter some time ago. I have been carrying in my files an answer toit. The only information I can give him is along these lines: The Australian Committee for the Coding of Rural Accounts was formed in 1966. It was formed to develop an informed system of coding farm accounts and records, to produce a glossary of all agricultural terms used in farm management accounting and to obtain support for its general use throughout Australia by all organisations using farm records for any purpose. A 7-man committee was allocated $29,800 from the Commonwealth Agricultural Extension Services Grant between 1968-69 and 1970-71. This money was approved by the Standing Committee on Agriculture and by the Australian Institute of Agricultural Science. The tasks of the Committee have been passed on to a Canberra workshop which has accepted the coding arrangement and which has recommended a reporting system which is suitable for a wide range of organisations concerned with farm records. The work of the secretariat is being financed by the Commonwealth Agricultural Extension Services Grant over a 3-year period from 1970 to 1973, to a total of$1 23.000. at a maximum rate of$41,000 this year. 1 think thatif the honourable senator looks at the Budget he will note that the money is available this year. That is all the information that I can give him.
– Is the Minister for Health aware that aGoverment White Paper in the United Kingdom revealed that 5,607,435 experiments were done on living cats, dogs and other animals in 1971- an increase of 25,000 over the 1970 figure - and that much scientific experiment is done simply for the sake of experiment and produces nothing of relevance? Will the Minister inform the Senate of Australia’s record in this area? If the behaviour of Australian scientists is no better than that of those in other countries, will he consider alternative research techniques?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONAs a matter of interest, Australia has set down a very strict code. Recently I had occasion to look at it to satisfy myself, as Minister, that the code and provisions in relation to experimental work which is being done in the name of health are appropriate. I came to a judgment that they were. In Australia there are qualifications on the limited amount of research work that is done. The qualifications in that field are appropriate. The matter is one of public interest, and I would be perfectly willing to supply a paper which sets out the codelines that are imposed. I must admit that when the honourable senator gave the figures in relation to the United Kingdom he rather jolted me. All honourable senators recognise the need for research, in all its forms, to be continued, but I must admit that the magnitude of the figure that he gave jolted me, as I am sure that he was jolted when he read it. I will try to get information on the United Kingdom background. I will put down Australia’s codeline principles on this issue.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. Firstly, why arc people secretly photographed when attending peaceful demonstrations and meetings to dissent from Government policy? Secondly, by whom are they photographed? Thirdly, what use is made of the photographs? Fourthly, is it the policy of the Commonwealth police to take photographs of people both before and after their formal arrest? Fifthly, what redress, if any, is available to a person by way of return of the photographic material when the court has found him not guilty of the chargelaid? Sixthly, if any redress is available, will the Attorney-General take steps to order the return of such material in the case of a person whose name I can give him and who wasfound not guilty of charges laid?
– The honourable senator asked 6 questions in one and each could well have been the subject of a separate question and received a. substantial answer. In the circumstances I feel that the prudent course, in view of the character of the questions which have been asked, is to ask the honourable senator to put them on the notice paper and I will arrange for a considered reply to be given to each of them in due couse.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. In respect of his problem of the parallel time-tables of the major airlines, is he aware, and if not will he find out whether it is a fact, that when the current schedules of the major airlines were prepared one of the airlines issued its schedule which was an attempt to get away from the parallel times of running; then, when the other airline saw the new schedules, although it had its own schedules prepared and printed, it withdrew them and prepared new schedules which proved to be in keeping with the parallel times of departures and arrivals on the major routes?
– This is a practice that each airline accuses the other of adopting; but what each is doing is trying to get the greatest share of the market for itself. I understand that, because both are operating in the commercial field. I would like to add something, without the help of Senator Keeffe who is interjecting: There is a problem over and above that. That is the problem of what is the public interest and convenience, and it is to that problem that we have directed our attention for quite some time. We have made quite a lot of improvements and we seek to make more.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Will the report of the Bureau of Transport Economics on its investigation into the suitability of concrete sleepers for use by the
Commonwealth Railways in South Australia be presented to the Parliament before the Minister makes a decision on the letting of a contract for the supply of 200,000 concrete sleepers for which tenders were called last April?
– I do not know, but I shall find out.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Can the Minister inform the Senate of the relative costs involved in providing television programmes of Australian and overseas content? How do Australian programme ratings compare with those of overseas programmes? Is the Minister aware of the financial difficulties being experienced by some television stations in maintaining the prescribed 50 per cent content of Australian programmes? In view of the pressures to increase the Australian content, will the Government consider granting a subsidy to television companies to enable them to provide additional Australian programmes?
– The honourable senator’s question is comprehensive and I will answer it as best I can. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board has certain information which makes it appear that the cost of televising Australian programmes is considerably in excess of the cost of televising imported programmes. There are, of course, a number of variable factors which affect this. For example, the costs of the television rights to imported drama, which is probably the most costly of the various forms of televising, are about $4,000 per hour whereas the costs of producing Australian drama are anything from $12,000 to $25,000 an hour. Notwithstanding that, recent television audience ratings suggest that of the 20 leading programmes in each capital city approximately half are Australian produced. It is suggested that some country television stations in particular are finding the cost of producing Australian programmes prohibitive. Whatever might have been the problem in the past, I understand that to a considerable extent that problem has been alleviated because of the availability of the video-taping facilities in country stations which previously did not exist. I think about 2 out of 48 or 50 stations now lack such videotape facilities.
On the final part of the honourable senator’s question relating to whether a subsidy should be made available by the Government, it must be remembered that currently an inquiry is being conducted by the Tariff Board into what sort of protection should be given to production in these areas. The Broadcasting Control Board recently made a submission to the Tariff Board suggesting that a subsidy might be made available, based upon the extent to which a particular station was prepared to provide Australian produced programmes in excess of the Broadcasting Control Board’s own quotas. All I can say is that the Government will give consideration to the Tariff Board’s report when it is received.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. I refer to the Prime Minister’s Press statement on the 12th in which he said: ‘The Government has accepted with pleasure the offer by Lord Vestey to give some 35 square miles of land from the Vestey lease of Wave Hill Station in the Northern Territory.’ Did Lord Vestey originally offer a larger area? If so, what were the Government’s reasons for negotiating this reducation?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI am not aware of the circumstances but certainly I shall seek a response to the honourable senator’s question without delay.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister in Charge of Tourist Activities a question. Has any further progress been made in obtaining agreement with State Ministers on the question of licensing or bonding travel agents in order to protect the public against unscrupulous and irresponsible operators? Is the position that there is nothing to stop the principals of a bankrupted travel agency from straight away setting up a new agency on the same basis as before?
– I think the second part of the question is probably in a legal area in which I am unable to help. Obviously I am not permitted to express an opinion in that area, even if I were capable of doing so. The first area of trying to get uniformity between the Commonwealth and the States on tourism and the licensing of travel agents is a matter in which the Commonwealth for quite some time has been concerned. To the best of my understanding there have been problems in resolving the kind of approach that ought to be adopted as a uniform approach. Speaking only for myself, I should like to see this matter pursued with some vigour. I shall take it up with the responsible Minister on the honourable senator’s behalf.
– Is the AttorneyGeneral aware of the judgment of the Supreme Court given to the Victorian Attorney-General with regard to a breach of the Companies Act in the acquisition of shares in a Victorian company? As this is the first time that an Attorney-General has used his powers under the recent amendments to the Companies Act. and the judgment found that although a breach had been committed an order would not be made rendering the transactions void, will the Attorney-General advise whether the provisions relating to acquisition of shares in companies registered in Commonwealth Territories could result in the upholding of disparity in offers to shareholders for acquisition purposes?
– The judgment to which the honourable senator referred was delivered towards the end of last week. I have not yet had a copy of the judgment, nor have my officers, and we have not been in a position therefore to peruse it. One can gain from the tenor of reports in the Press that Mr Justice Gowans’ judgment was that the takeover code was less than fully effective to protect the rights of investors and that possibly, as a result of that, some investigation could be make as to whether there should be amendments. The main point of contention seems to have been that while the offeror company’s offer was open it negotiated through stockbrokers, not on the open exchange but privately, the purchase of shares at a price higher than what was being offered under the takeover scheme.
The problem arose because the uniform Acts, the uniform Companies Act, permit acquisition during the currency of a takeover bid of shares in a company at an official meeting of the stock exchange held in the course of trading. The judge held that the private arrangements did not amount to purchases in the ordinary course of trading, but having found that, he said he could find no purpose nevertheless in cancelling the purchases despite the fact that there had been a contravention of the Act. He did, however, issue an injunction because the takeover provisions had not been observed preventing the offeror company from giving notice to acquire the shares of the dissenting shareholders in the company to be taken over. He also made another order rendering a particular contract voidable at the option of the vendor.
The real question arises as to whether or not those particular provisions need to be amended. In the first place it is a matter which the State Attorney-General in Victoria, Sir George Reid, has under consideration and he may wish to bring that before the Standing Committee of AttorneysGeneral, as would be his right, and that would be a proper forum for the matter to be discussed. On the other hand he may decide to take action himself in the State of Victoria. I can assure the honourable senator that the matter will be looked at from the viewpoint of the Territories legislation for which the Commonwealth has responsibility, but until the full scope of the judgment has been received it might be imprudent to say more than I have said.
– I would like to ask the Minister for Civil Aviation a question. The Minister may recall that a couple of weeks ago I asked a question concerning the possibility of one class flights in Australia as a means of reducing costs of travel. I now ask: Will the Minister ask his Department to show some initiative and request of Trans-Australia Airlines a submission showing the feasibility of single class aircraft flights as many people feel this is rightly an area where his Department should show some leadership in the public interest?
– There is no case to criticise the Department of Civil Aviation for lack of initiative or interest in the public interest because the Department does show, and has persistently shown initiative in such matters. This proposal was directed to both operators quite some time ago. Trans-Australia Airlines has in fact engaged in an exhaustive study of it and therefore is displaying the initiative required by the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation. I ask: Will the Minister inform the Senate of the number of totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners and their wives, who as a consequence of the recent Budget have been deprived of pensioner medical service cards, fare concession cards, pharmaceutical prescription concessions, local government rate concessions in some localities, andlike fringe benefits? Because I have had the question asked of me, I ask the Minister: What is the attitude of the Government to a TPI pensioner who wishes to refuse the recent pension increase so as to enable him to retain the numerous fringe benefits for himself, and for his wife in particular?
– The honourable senator seeks information on a number of points that he has listed. I shall have to obtain this information for him. A totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner would not be offered an extra benefit unless he would be a lot better off than he had been before the Budget was introduced. I will also include in my answer to the honourable senator the reasons why the Government has increased this pension although a pensioner may lose some offset benefits. But what he loses on the swings, as it were, he picks up on the roundabouts.
– I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister whether he is aware that, generally speaking, employees involved in the Commonwealth parlia mentary scene are required to work under conditions and receive salary rates inferior to those applicable to other government employees. I ask the Minister whether he will discuss this with the Prime Minister when he is making recommendations in regard to upgrading pay rates for his own staff. Will he also recommend that the secretary-typists of honourable senators and honourable members and all other persons employed directly or indirectly in the service of the Parliament receive similar salary and overtime upgradings?
– I gather that the words used were ‘in the Commonwealth parliamentary scene’.
– Yes, or across the board.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONA whole series of procedures are linked, involving the Public Service, the Presiding Officers and the Parliament. I gather that the question was prompted by something which we read in the Press in the last 24 hours.
– Yes, probably.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI think that I should send the question to the Prime Minister’s Department because it is on a wide canvas. For instance, at the present time there is on our business paper a Bill which has some elements which may affect people associated with the Parliament. I am sure the honourable senator will agree that it is a fairly wide question, and thereforeI will have it referred in the terms in which he has asked it.
– I do not want to press the Senate but time is a fleeting sort of animal, as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. Today a lot of answers to questions on notice have been provided. Unless honourable senators are extraordinarily anxious I wouldlike to terminate question time as soon as possible.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior whether he is now in a position to indicate to the Senate that it can anticipate amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act to enlarge absentee voting facilities for the pending national election.
– The honourable senator may recall that yesterday Senator Keeffe expressed concern about the voting position of people in Antarctica. In responding to him I said that Senator Mulvihill had also raised some queries and that I would ask the Department of the Interior after question time yesterday to respond to both honourable senators as soon as possible.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, relates to the controversy over the television programme This Day Tonight’. Is it a fact that the Postmaster-General’s Department decided that only Mr Lane was to answer the allegations made by Mr Baker of the Union of Postal Clerks and Telegraphists over excess STD charges? Is the Minister able to tell the Senate whether it is true that during August the Australian Broadcasting Commission staff made at least 5 attempts to interview Mr Lane, the DirectorGeneral of Posts and Telegraphs, to provide the balance which the Commission management requires in ABC current affairs programmes? Is this technique of refusing to debate matters of public interest Government policy as far as public servants are concerned and is it designed to avoid public discussion of important public issues?
– The substance of the honourable senator’s question will have to be referred to the PostmasterGeneral so that he can obtain an answer in the appropriate way, because I am not in a position either to confirm or to deny the specific allegations which the honourable senator makes. As to whether it is the Government’s policy not to allow matters to be ventilated. I assure the honourable senator that the Government’s policy on all issues will be justified by the Government. It is prepared on all occasions through its Ministers and members of the Party who support it to debate those issues. Of course the extent to which public servants should debate matters is controversial and it always has been. The matter which arose in relation to Mr Baker and the finances of the Postmaster-General’s Department raises completely different issues. As it was an ancient statement by Mr Baker which was presented on the programme ‘This Day Tonight’ - I understand that the interview was taped a long time before and was suddenly resurrected for the purposes of this programme - as Mr Baker is a well know and well publicised exponent of the concept of worker control, and as there are people in the ABC who are prepared to espouse the cause of worker control, there would appear to be some arrangement between all these people to create the type of situation which is now being created. As I have said before, it is essentially a matter for the Commission to assert the role of management and that Commission, will have the support, I am sure, of the majority of the Parliament.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. I remind the Minister that reports are consistently coming from the Territory of Papua New Guinea indicating that the Territory wishes to start its own airline. Other reports indicate that the Australian Government made the decision to set up the consortium for the Territory airline without consulting the Government of the Territory of Papua New Guinea. I ask the Minister whether he will undertake to table in the Senate all documents associated with the Territory of Papua New Guinea airline deal, such documents to include complete reports of any discussions held between officials and Ministers of the 2 governments, in an effort to eliminate the bad feeling now obviously existing in the Territory.
– I certainly will not table all the documents. There is no need for that. I made an accurate and positive statement to this Parliament about the situation in Papua New Guinea indicating quite clearly what had taken place and following the line of discussion I had had up there. You may be quite sure that I and the Government of Papua New Guinea, represented by Mr Somare and Mr Jephcott, had a series of discussions about this. The final result that came out was at their request and with their full approval, despite rumours of self interested parties to the contrary.
– I ask a supplement ary question. Why does the Minister refuse to table any documents?
– Because I believe it is not necessary.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSON(New South Wales - Minister for
Health) - There is a notice of motion in my name in relation to Government Business taking precedence over all other business. I have to leave the chamber very shortly. 1 have spoken to Senator Murphy and Senator Gair, and they both have agreed that when it is called on it will be stated to be not formal and I will be able to move it later this afternoon. That is understood.
I also wish to indicate to the Senate that tomorrow it is my intention to move, after questions without notice and other formal business:
That the sitting of the Senate be suspended, to enable Estimates Committees B and D to meet, until the ringing of the bells.
Estimates Committee B will meet in committee room L17 and Estimates Committee D will meet in the Senate chamber.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present the report of the Expert Group on Road Safety, and I commend it to those members of the Senate who have expressed an interest in this matter. The report is a first class job.
– Pursuant to section 27 of the National Library Act 1960-1967, I present the 12th annual report of the Council of the National Library of Australia for the year ended 30th June 1972, together with financial statements and the AuditorGeneral’s report on those statements.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Pub lic Works Committee Act 1969-1972, I present the reports relating to the following proposed works: 14l/32R Runway and associated airport works at Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea;
Development of Nadzab Airport, Papua New Guinea.
Senator PROWSE (Western Australia)I bring up the interim report from the Standing Committee on Industry and Trade relating to an inquiry by the Committee into Australian-New Zealand trade, together with the Hansard evidence.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I seek leave to make a short statement relating to the report.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– At the outset I would like to place on record my appreciation of the work of the Committee during my absence through illness. Senator Young, the Deputy Chairman, carried on with the work of the Committee in difficult circumstances because in addition to my absence, Senator Lillico has been ill and at various times 2 other members of the Committee have been overseas. So at times there was a difficulty in securing a quorum. This, of course, has added to the difficulty experienced by the staff in continuing the work of the Committee. The Senate will recall that the Committee is required to examine trade and commerce with other countries, and report from time to time on the operation of Australia’s international trade agreements and the development of trading relations. Within the terms of the reference the Committee chose first to examine trade between Australia and New Zealand.
The purpose of this interim report is to inform the Senate that the Committee has made substantial progress with the inquiry and, indeed, under normal circumstances would have expected to present its final report during the current parliamentary session. However, this will not be possible due to the need to dissolve the House of Representatives in the near future as a prelude to the forthcoming Federal election, although the Committee would hope to make its report to the Senate very early in the new Parliament. In tabling the Hansard evidence at this time, the Committee believes that honourable senators and other interested persons should have the opportunity, at an early stage, to inform themselves on the issues raised by witnesses appearing before the Committee and in submissions received. The evidence tabled today is necessarily incomplete in that the Committee expects to take further evidence before the Senate rises. This additional evidence wm be tabled with the Committee’s final report. 1 would like to take this opportunity to review briefly the activities of the Committee over the past 12 months or so. Inquiries have been made into such diverse matters as Tasmanian freight rates, the availability of liquefied petroleum gas and the proposed takeover of Ansett Transport Industries Limited by Thomas Nationwide Transport Limited. Reports have been issued on all of these matters. Another reference before the Committee concerns the determination of prices, measures to prevent unjustifiable price increases and the establishment of a prices surveillance tribunal. A good deal of background work has already been carried out on this by the Committee secretariat. The Committee has welcomed the flexibility which the existing terms of reference have provided in enabling the examination of matters pertaining to Australia’s overseas trade, and is of the opinion that the Industry and Trade Committee should be re-established in the new Parliament, and that it should be given the same terms of reference.
– On 11th October, 2 questions of vital importance to the Senate were asked of me. Senator Byrne referred to the effect of a dissolution of the House of Representatives on business and proceedings of the Senate and its committees, and Senator Murphy asked whether, in the light of 70 years of Commonwealth parliamentary experience and in view of the recent considerable changes which have taken place in the Senate, I would present to the Senate my considered views on what might be done ‘to improve the efficiency of the operations of the Senate so that the rights of honourable senators could be pre served and at the same time so that we might be able to achieve the optimum of efficient operation’.
I indicated at the same time in response to these questions that they were matters of high importance and matters which should clearly receive the consideration of the Standing Orders Committee. I also indicated that, after the general election, I proposed calling the Standing Orders Committee together to examine these and related matters over a period of at least a week for the purpose of making some recommendations to the Senate. I also undertook to make a further statement to the Senate prior to the termination of this period of sittings.
With regard to Senator Byrne’s question, I reiterate that the Standing Orders Committee has presently under consideration the constitutional position of the Senate and its committees after a dissolution of the House of Representatives. The various aspects of this matter opened up by Senator Byrne’s question will now also be examined and it is hoped that the Committee will be in a position to report to the Senate before the Senate rises.
Senator Murphy, in his question, referred to the ‘considerable changes that have taken place in the Senate over recent years’. I believe no-one can argue with that fact, nor the fact that the workload on members of the Senate has increased enormously. I am most conscious of both these facts and am concerned to assist honourable senators in any way possible in the discharge of their obligations, to make the most effective use of the time of the Senate, and to find means whereby improvements may be made in our general proceedings.
In my initial reply to this question I mentioned that the question of effective streamlining of Senate procedures was already under consideration by myself and the officers of the Senate and that 1 had convened in August last a meeting between myself and the officers at which over a period of a week we discussed many matters aimed at improvements in the working procedures of the Senate. In all, some 23 subjects came under consideration, some of which have since been submitted to the Standing Orders Committee for examination. I now propose to suggest to the
Standing Orders Committee that it might explore certain other avenues of possible improvements in the conduct of the business of the Senate with a view to making recommendations to the Senate. Initially, I believe the Committee might examine matters such as:
In addition, it is to be noted that the Senate has before it at the moment the Sixth Report from the Standing Orders Committee in which certain recommendations are made with respect to:
Furthermore, the Standing Orders Committee has at present under consideration, in addition to the matter of the effect of a dissolution of the House of Representatives on the business of the Senate and its committees which I have mentioned, the following other matters:
It will be quite evident from this statement that the members of the Standing Orders Committee and myself are very conscious of the dramatic changes which have occurred in the Senate during recent years and of the workload and additional responsibilities which these changes have imposed upon honourable senators. We recognise that procedures must be tailored to meet the developments that have taken place and to make the best use of the time available to senators. This I am sure, with the assistance of all honourable senators, we will achieve and, in so doing, enhance the Senate’s new look and distinctive role in the Australian parliamentary system of government.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator DrakeBrockman) read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of the Bill is to provide parliamentary authority for the execution on behalf of the Commonwealth of an agreement between the Commonwealth and the States for a reconstruction scheme for the fruit growing industries and to appropriate funds for grants to the States for carrying out the scheme set out in the agreement. The agreement, which is contained in the schedule to the Bill, provides for the expenditure of $4.6m to fund amounts committed by State reconstruction authorities in respect of applications by growers for assistance for the removal of specified fruit trees.
It is an unfortunate fact that the prices Australian fruit growers are able to secure on overseas markets for fresh and canned fruit have declined markedly in recent years while costs have risen to further erode producers’ returns. At the same time, the quantity of fruit we have been able to sell overseas has also fallen. These difficulties are certain to be accentuated when the United Kingdom is fully integrated into the European Economic Community.
A vigorous promotion effort is being maintained in an effort to develop alternate markets. In spite of this those sectors of the fruit growing industry which have been supplying fresh apples and pears and canned peaches and pears to markets in Europe and especially the United Kingdom are now faced with a very severe over production problem. It is a problem which the growers are clearly unable to handle from their own resources and one which cannot be solved in the foreseeable future by the excessive build up of stocks nor their disposal by discounted sales which would erode reasonable returns from existing and newly developed markets. The Government has therefore decided to help growers to remove fruit trees in order to assist the industry to find a solution to the over production problem.
This, of course, is not the only measure to assist the fruit growing industries. The Government has been aware of their difficulties and has provided very substantial funds in recent years to assist them, $13.8m has been paid out in devaluation compensation, $2.6m has been contributed to stabilisation arrangements for apples and pears and $6.4m has been advanced to assist certain canneries. In addition a considerable proportion of the fertiliser subsidies has gone to fruitgrowing. In spite of this support, many growers and some canneries today are in severe financial difficulties. Although the failure by canneries to maintain minimum pricing arrangements in Australia and abroad has eroded market returns and contributed significantly to the present problems of the industry, there has been no real advantage to consumers. Accordingly the Government believes it is now essential to extend the rural reconstruction scheme to assist those in the horticultural area so that the industry may again become more viable.
The measures proposed in the Bill have evolved partly from recommendations made in November 1971 by the Australian Apple and Pear Board for the reconstruction of the fresh pome fruit industry and partly from recommendations made in January 1972 by the Canned Deciduous Fruits
Industry Advisory Committee for a tree removal scheme for canning peaches and pears as a means of dealing with the oversupply problem in that section of the horticultural industry. A number of meetings were held between representatives of the Commonwealth, the States and, whenever appropriate, the industry, during the first half of 1972 to consider the proposals which had been made. One element common to both proposals was for an across the board compensation scheme for the removal of surplus fruit trees to provide a long term solution to the over-supply problem. The main beneficiaries would be those fruit growers whose trees had not been removed and who would be remaining in a viable industry. Yet the compensation assistance would also enable those leaving the industry to do so with reasonable prospects of establishing themselves again and without leaving neglected orchards, unsatisfied creditors and with insurmountable debt burdens around their necks.
The Commonwealth’s view was that for such a scheme the Commonwealth, the States and the industry should each provide a proportion of the necessary funds. At a meeting of Commonwealth and State Ministers to consider a tree pull compensation scheme it became apparent that neither the industries involved nor the States were prepared to make contributions to the funds at more than a nominal level. The Commonwealth then re-examined its position and made an offer to the States of a broader-based fruitgrowing reconstruction scheme which would be an extension of the existing rural reconstruction scheme and which would be wholly financed by the Commonwealth. As an adjunct to the rural reconstruction scheme, the fruitgrowing reconstruction scheme would not be confined to pome fruit and canning deciduous fruits. By agreement between the Commonwealth and the States it can be extended to other horticultural industries in a chronic surplus production situation. A stipulation was that to be included the trees or vines producing the fruit should take at least 5 years to reach full production and have a bearing life of at least 10 years. Being set in the rural reconstruction context, the assistance provided under the scheme had also to meet needs criteria and therefore had to be restricted to growers facing financial difficulties. This offer was accepted by the States in the terms set out in the agreement contained in the Bill.
The scheme will provide assistance for tree removal to 2 categories of growers: Firstly, those farmers, predominantly hor.ticulturalists who are in severe financial difficulties and who wish to clear fell their orchards and leave the industry; and secondly, those whose properties would become viable if some or all fruit trees were removed and the land put to other use, but who lack the resources to finance the removal of trees. The scheme is primarily designed to assist the growers of canning peach and canning pear trees and fresh apple and fresh pear trees. To this end the agreement provides that the initial objective of the Commonwealth and States ls that S2.3m will be used for the removal of canning peach and canning pear trees and the remaining balance of $2.3m will be used for the removal of fresh apple and fresh pear trees. Applications lodged with Slate administering authorities from the date the scheme was first announced, that is, 14th July 1972, are being considered for assistance and further applications will be accepted up to 30th June 1973. It will be a condition of the grant of any assistance that the relevant trees are removed before a date specified by the State authority, but in no case under this present Bill will assistance be pa:d in respect of trees removed after 31st October 1973. All trees to be removed will have to be inspected before removal in order for producers to be considered for assistance.
The rates of assistance to be paid to eligible growers will be determined by the State authority administering the scheme and will take into account the age, condition and variety of trees, yield per acre, market access and other circumstances of the individual case deemed relevant, including whether it is necessary for a composition of creditors to be arranged and for the rural reconstruction authority to take over the property. The maximum levels of assistance will be $500 per acre for canning peaches and canning pears and $350 per acre for fresh apples and fresh pears. It is provided, however, that the average rate of assistance in any State, will not exceed $350 per acre for canning peaches and canning pears and $200 per acre for fresh apples and fresh pears.
Initially funds will be provided to the States as required, but the scheme itself and the use of funds within the provisions of this Bill will be subject to an early review, at the latest by February 1973, at which time adjustments may be made in the light of experience and in conjunction with the review of the rural reconstruction scheme as a whole. This date is seen as the date on which the whole of the operation of rural reconstruction can be examined in the light of experience. This extension into the horticulture field is of new character, with the Commonwealth entering a new area, and for that reason it is felt that a review of the Bill should also be included with the general review and the possibility of variations or adjustments to the scheme. Of course, any extensions of it will be considered at the same time.
As a safeguard against replanting trees, a grower who is granted tree removal assistance under the scheme will be required to enter into a contractual arrangement under which, in return for assistance in the form of a loan, he agrees not to replant within a 5-year period such fruit trees or vines as are specified by agreement between the Commonwealth and the States. Provided this undertaking has been honoured the loan will be converted into a grant at the end of the 5-year period. Horticultural producers assisted under the fruit-growing reconstruction scheme will still be eligible for the other forms of assistance provided under the existing rural reconstruction scheme.
Mr President, this scheme is one of a series of measures introduced by the Government as a component of an overall policy designed to enable farmers to adjust to changing market and economic circumstances. The pressures facing the canning fruits and apple and pear industries are intense. Currency re-alignments, rising ocean freight rates and competition in overseas markets have contributed to growers’ difficulties. On top of this Britain’s entry into the European Economic Community next year will compound the problems. Removal of surplus trees is a means of effecting a rapid adjustment of supply to available demand. The Government hopes that the end result will be a healthy, vigorous and more self-reliant fruitgrowing industry. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Byrne) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator DrakeBrockman) read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to enable the maximum tonnage of export apples and pears eligible for payment at the maximum rate of 80c per bushel under the Commonwealth stabilisation scheme to be raised in respect of the current season from 4.4 to 4.9 million bushels. The apple and pear stabilisation plan commenced with the 1971-72 season, which ended on 30th September of last year. This is the second year of its operation. At the conclusion of the first season an aggregate payment of approximately $2.6m was made to the industry under the scheme. There is no doubt that the apple and pear industry is in severe trouble particularly in Tasmania. Markets in Europe are contracting as storage techniques there are improved. Serious problems lie ahead in the light of the United Kingdom entry into the European Economic Community and returns have been eroded by significantly higher costs particularly by drastic freight increases, just to mention some of a range of difficulties with which the industry is faced.
Recently the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) announced on behalf of the Government an offer which had been made to the States on the introduction of a tree pull compensation scheme for horticultural industries which would be an extension of the existing rural reconstruction scheme. All States have now accepted in principle the Commonwealth offer. Under the scheme the Government will introduce legislation to provide up to $4.6m to the States for the operation of the tree pull scheme, which could be administered by the existing State reconstruction authorities. It is expected that the scheme will initially apply principally to apples and fresh pears and canning peaches and pears. Subject to review 52.3m will be allocated to fresh pome fruit and $2.3m to canning fruit. By its making of this offer the Commonwealth has demonstrated its very practical concern with the difficulties which the apple and pear industry is facing.
The problems of the industry are also under study by the Australian Agricultural Council but, because of the scope and complexity of these problems, it must be some time before specific proposals are available for consideration by Governments. In the light of this fact the Commonwealth Government has decided that some special measure of assistance should be granted to the industry pending completion of the studies to determine more permanent adjustment measures. It has therefore decided that in respect of 1972 exports only the maximum tonnage of apples and pears eligible for payment under the stabilisation scheme should be raised from 4.4 million bushels, as at present provided under the legislation, to 4.9 million bushels. This would add an amount of $400,000 to the maximum Commonwealth commitment under the Stabilisation Scheme for the current season.
At the time of bringing down the Apple and Pear Stabilization Bill 1971. in the Senate I said that it was unusual, in speaking to a Bill which will have application to the affairs of an industry which is spread over Australia, to elaborate upon the particular circumstances of one State. I said, however, I felt that in the context of the scheme proposed under that Bill I should draw attention to the particular importance of the apple and pear industry in Tasmania. In saying that I was not attempting to take away from the relevant importance of that industry in some other States. At the time I quoted facts and figures which demonstrated just what the industry does mean to the island State. Once again Tasmania is very much in the thoughts of the Government in proposing this special arrangement in respect of the 1972 season.
It is very much hoped that the practical application of the Government’s recently announced tree pull plan and the interim additional concession which is the subject of this Bill will, together with whatever other steps may be taken in the light of the proposals to emerge from the Agricultural Council’s consideration of the industry’s problems, do much to assist the industry. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cotton) read a first time.
– I move: filial the Bill be now read a second time.
The Bill now before the Senate gives effect to the Government’s decision to extend the subsidy on nitrogenous fertilisers at the existing level of $80 per ton of contained nitrogen until 31st December 1974; to change the basis on which certain imports of nitrogenous fertilisers become eligible for subsidy; and to express the subsidy rate in metric terms on and from 1st July 1973. The Nitrogenous Fertilizers Subsidy Act 1966-1969 expires on 31st October 1972 and the proposed extension brings the future termination of this Act into line with the expiry date of the Phosphate Fertilisers Bounty Act. Since the inception of this subsidy the case for assistance has rested on the lowering of farm costs, the encouragement of new farming techniques and the fostering of export earnings. Honourable senators will agree that these objectives are being substantially achieved. Following introduction of the subsidy, the quantities of elemental nitrogen on which fertiliser subsidy was paid increased from 84,100 tons in 1966-67 to a peak of 138,200 tons in 1968-69. Consumption subsequently fell to 121,500 tons in 1970- 71, due primarily to drought and wheat quotas. For 1971-72, subsidy payments indicate a slight recovery to 122,000 tons. The potential for increasing nitrogenous fertiliser use has been nowhere near fully realised. Use of these fertilisers should continue to expand with extension of the subsidy. Subsidy payments are estimated at SI Om for 1972-73, the equivalent of 125,000 tons of nitrogen.
Provision presently exists in the Act for subsidy to be paid on undumped imported nitrogenous fertilisers, when the importer is also the user of the fertilisers, providing the Australian producer is not prepared to supply like or directly competitive fertilisers to the importer/user on terms as favourable as the import transaction. The amendment contained in the Bill will extend this principle to all importers irrespective of whether or not they are users of the fertilisers. This will ensure that importers who are also distributors have access to subsidised supplies. Primary producers will continue to have the opportunity to purchase their fertiliser requirements at the lower of the subsidised undumped import price or the subsidised domestic price. These changes will have no effect on the Minister’s power to direct that no subsidy be paid where fertiliser selling prices do not pass on the full benefit of the subsidy. The opportunity has also been taken to convert the rate of subsidy to metric terms as from 1st July 1973. This is the date selected by industry for its conversion. In metric terms, subsidy will be paid at the rate of S78.74 per tonne, the metric equivalent to the current rate of $80 per ton. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wilkinson) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cotton) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The amendments contained in the Bill now before the Senate provide for only one change for duty rates in the Excise Tariff.
These particular amendments relate to the 50 per cent reduction in the rate of duty on wine produced from fresh grapes. Tariff proposals were introduced on 25th May 1972 to give effect to the Government’s decision to reduce excise duty on wine following consideration of Professor Grant’s report earlier this year on the wine industry. The Bill now under consideration will enact the proposals in respect of wine as from 16th August 1972. Shortly I will introduce the Bill needed to validate the reduction for the period 26th May to 15th August 1972.
This Bill also contains amendments which will permit the delivery free of excise duty of tobacco, cigars, cigarettes and snuff for use in an approved medical or other scientific research programme. The opportunity has also been taken to express the wording in respect of certain potable spirits in similar terms to that used in the customs tariff for imported spirits. A summary of the changes is being circulated to honourable senators. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator 0’Byrne adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cotton) read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill provides for the validation up to and including 15th August 1972 of duties of excise collected on wine at the reduced rate of duty pursuant to Excise Tariff Proposal No. 1 which was introduced on 25th May last. Because of the enactment of the Excise Tariff 1972, to operate on and from 1st July 1972, the Government has decided to seek validation of the reduced rate for the period 26th May 1972 to 15th August 1972, both dates inclusive, to sever both the pre-metric and post-metric forms of the Excise Tariff. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cotton) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time, ft will be recalled that when the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony) released the report of the Tariff Board on metal working machine tools and accessories on 11th August last, he announced that the Government had accepted the Board’s recommendations including the introduction of a bounty arrangement for certain specified machine tools. The terms of reference to the Tariff Board required it to have regard to the Government’s objective that at least the nucleus of a machine tools industry should be maintained in Australia, without encouraging the industry to expand beyond the range within which it was then operating. To meet this objective the Board considered that the assistance to be provided should maintain the local manufacture of those kinds of machines the production of which would retain within the industry a cadre of specialist design and manufacturing skills and specialist plant.
The Board recommended that in addition to tariff assistance certain power fed machine tools should receive assistance by way of bounty and that certain special purpose machines subject to minimum rates of duty should receive bounty assistance. The majority of the remaining machines under reference which were subject to protective duties should continue to receive tariff assistance. The changes in the rates of duty on imported machine tools made necessary by this decision were implemented recently through Customs Tariff Proposal No. 14. The purpose of the Bill now before the Senate is to implement the Government’s decision in respect of bounty assistance.
The Bill provides for the payment of bounty on the various classes of machine tools listed in the Schedule to the Bill. The level of bounty assistance specified in the Bill - 33i per cent of factory cost - accords with that foreshadowed in the Minister’s statement of 11th August. In this regard it will be recalled that the Minister indicated that although different in form this rate of assistance is equivalent to that proposed by the Tariff Board. The change in the form of the subsidy has been made only because of the Government’s concern that the form of subsidy originally proposed by the Board - a percentage of selling price - could present problems in administration. As recommended by the Tariff Board, provision has been made for the level of bounty assistance to be adjusted in accordance with the level of Australian content of the machine tool concerned.
All manufacturers who were engaged in the production of bountiable goods on 14th April 1972- the date the Board’s report was signed - will be eligible to participate in the bounty arrangements. Provision exists for other manufacturers to be brought within the scope of the arrangements where the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) and the Minister for Trade and Industry are satisfied that this would promote the orderly development of the industry without inducing undue fragmentation of local production. It is intended that this assistance should continue until 30th June 1977, during which time the industry will again be reviewed by the Tariff Board. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cotton) read a first time.
– I move:
The main purpose of this Bill is to authorise the payment in 1972-73 of special grants of Si Om to Queensland, S21m to South Australia and $7. 6m to Tasmania. These payments accord with the recommendations made by the Commonwealth Grants Commission in its thirty-ninth report which has already been tabled. The Bill also seeks the usual authority for payment of advances to the 3 States in the early months of the 1973-74 year, pending receipt of the Commission’s recommendations for that year and enactment of legislation to provide for the grants to be paid in that year.
The Government makes special grants to financially weaker States to compensate them for such factors as lower capacity to raise revenue from their own resources and higher costs in providing government services of a standard similar to those in the financially stronger States. When special grants were first paid they constituted the only regular form of general revenue assistance paid to the financially weaker States for this purpose. The main way in which special compensatory assistance is now provided is through the higher per capita financial assistance grants paid to the 4 less populous States. The financial assistance grants are, of course, the main general revenue grants to the States. The special grants may, therefore, be regarded as supplementing the financial assistance grants, and as having the special characteristic of being independently as well as expertly assessed by the Commonwealth Grants Commission.
The method used by the Grants Commission, briefly put, is to calculate grants which will bring the claimant States’ budgetary positions up to the 2 most populous States taken as ‘standard’, after allowing for differences between the States concerned in their financial practices and their efforts to raise revenue and control expenditure. This involves a detailed comparison of the standard and claimant States’ budgetary revenues and expenditures.
The recommendations by the Grants Commission for payment of special grants consist of 2 parts. One part is based on an estimate of the claimant State’s financial need in the current financial year and is treated as an advance payment, subject to adjustment 2 years later when the Commission has compared in detail the Budget results and standards of effort and of services provided in that year for both the claimant State and the States which it takes as standard. The other part represents the final adjustment to the advance payment made 2 years earlier and is known as the completion payment. It may result in the final grant in respect of that year being higher or lower than the original advance payment.
As honourable senators are aware, the Queensland Government first applied for a special grant in 1971-72. The Giants Commission submitted a special report on Queensland’s application in March this year. The Government accepted the recommendation contained in that report that an advance grant of S9m be paid to Queensland in 1971-72 and payment of this special grant was subsequently authorised by the Queensland Grant Act 1972. This advance grant will be subject to adjustment next financial year after a detailed examination of the State’s financial position in 1971-72 relative to those of New South Wales and Victoria. Queensland again applied to the Commonwealth for a special grant for 1972-73 and the Grants Commission has recommended payment of an advance grant of $1Om to Queensland in 1972-73. This grant will, of course, be subject to adjustment in 1974- 75.
The Commission has recommended the payment of special grants totalling $21 m to South Australia in 1972-73 made up of an advance payment of SI 3.5m for 1972- 73, compared with S7m in 1971-72, and a completion payment of S7.5m in respect of 1970-71. This last completion grant recommended in respect of 1970-71 brings the total special grant in respect of that year to $ 12.5m. The relatively high level of this completion grant reflects the fact that it was in 1970-71 that South Australia applied for a special grant again after several years’ absence from claimancy, and the advance grant recommended at that time was necessarily fairly tentative.
The Grants Commission has recommended the payment of special grants totalling $7.6m to Tasmania in 1972-73. Made up of an advance payment of $10rr for 1972-73 and a negative completion payment of $2.4m in respect of 1970-71. This adjustment in respect of Tasmania’s 1970-71 grant means that the advance payment of $12m made in that year has proved, after detailed examination by the Commission, to be an over-estimate of the State’s needs for that year. The 1972-73 advance grant will, of course, be subject to adjustment in 1974-75. The recommendations of the Grants Commission have been adopted by Parliament each year since the Commission’s inception and the Government considers that they should be accepted on this occasion. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
– I move:
I have moved that motion because of the complete confusion that seems to exist in the public mind about the consequences of the statement made on about 20th September that this contract was to be let wholly to a Japanese company or to a collection of Japanese companies. Arising from that statement there was an immediate furore in the Press. There were so many conflicting statements that it seems obvious that there must be some inquiry in Australia of a national and responsible character to find out, firstly, what the situation is, and secondly, its consequences on the Australian work force and the Australian economy in general.
This matter opens up an entire field of thought, particularly in view of the renegotiation of new trade agreements by many of our now traditional customer, Japan, with other countries. I refer, for example, to the recent agreement reached by Japan with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on petroleum products. That is a market which Japan had not considered exploiting or purchasing from for quite a number of year. Then there are the recent trade agreements negotiated between Japan and the People’s Republic of China. These have happened since the announcement about this pipeline. These developments cause one to speculate about their consequences on Australian industry. In the last quarter of a century we have become used to projecting ourselves so as to obtain markets in this area and. indeed, to purchase more because of the changing circumstances of our traditional markets in Europe.
I do not want to prove or disprove that a particular newspaper is for or against one side or the other in connection with the manufacture and supply of these steel pipes but I want to quote from a newspaper report merely to show the confusion that exists. Immediately the announcement was made the Press began to take different sides and to publish conflicting reports about the consequences of the action taken by the Australian Gas Light Company in awarding this contract. There is extreme doubt about whether the contract for the supply of gas from the Moomba field in South Australia to Sydney will be consummated in its entirety. This is an extract from what the Sydney Morning Herald’ had to say about this matter on 23rd September:
The whole project, and hence reduced NSW energy costs, have been jeopardised largely on the basis of completely unsupported assertions that Australian jobs are threatened - the great rallying cry of Australian parochialism, protectionism, racialism and economic efficiency for more than a century.
Well, what jobs are threatened? An examination of public comments leaves the matter in some doubt.
The same article went on to say:
In the opinion of this paper the real issue is whether or not local industry can supply pipe of comparable quality as cheaply and as quickly as Japan. AGL has stated categorically that it cannot.
So much for the view of that, lt was referring to a statement published in the Sydney Morning Herald’ on a prior date, the 21st September, in which Mr Laurie Short, National Secretary of the Ironworkers Association, had this to say:
Australian ironworkers will refuse to lay the 760-mile gas pipeline from Moomba fields to Sydney, unless Australian manufacturers share in the pipe-manufacturing contract.
The first article 1 read to the Senate - the second one published - indicates that there is very little knowledge in this country about this matter. Indeed, I share that lack of knowledge. Mr Short, in his statement on behalf of his organisation, did r.ot make any comments indicating that he had any knowledge of the relative cost factors involved in producing the pipes in the 2 countries, what tenders had been called for, or what information had been sought by the various tenderers or had been granted to them before they submitted lenders. He merely said that if the order were allocated as suggested by the Australian Gas Light Co. the ironworkers would refuse to lay the pipe. I see no way in which the Federated Ironworkers Association, as an interested party, could avail itself of all the relevant facts necessary in my view before responsibly making a decision that it was its prerogative or responsibility to protect the prosperity of other Austra’ian industries and the creation of employment in another Australian industry related to its own that may or may not arise out of the granting of this contract. This again shows the need for what the Democratic Labor Party is pressing for in moving this motion.
Concern has been expressed in the Press by political parties about the extent of employment in this country today. We have seen many conflicting statements and this is becoming an electioneering and political issue. There can be many reasons for unemployment, as we well know. Certain steps can be taken on a governmental level to improve the potential of employment in a country. Steps can be taken also on a trade union level to spread more evenly the employment opportunities that exist. I refer to the fact that in some unions there is a very definite principle - indeed, they exert pressure under their own rules to enforce it - that no-one should have more than one job. We all know very well that in this country today there are many circumstances which force some people to seek 2 jobs. Those people with the necessary energy and initiative often engage in dual employment. Yet today there is a shortage of jobs; there is unemployment.
The trade union movement would be in a very powerful position to spread employment more evenly if it adopted a total ban on the 2-job practice that exists in the community today. I am not advocating that course; 1 am merely pointing out that if a proper inquiry reveals that there is the genuine unemployment that some figures seem to indicate, there arc now many ways and means available to the Government which it has not had in some circumstances in the past when the economy of the country was unable to sustain employment. I refer to periods such as in the 1930s when very few people had one full time job, let alone the opportunity to enjoy a situation in which, if they wished, they could be dually employed, as is now possible and as is happening in the economy today.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wilkinson)- Order! lt being 2 hours after the time of meeting of the Senate, the orders of the day will be called on pursuant to standing order 127.
– I move:
This will enable the matter raised by Senator Little to be given the full amount of time for debate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I wish to deal, but only very broadly, with one aspect that creeps into this matter. My colleague Senator Kane, the Democratic Labor Party senator from New South Wales, has a Bill before the Senate. I wish to make no particular reference to that but to point out that one of the matters contained in that measure is price fixing. I am aware that agreements reached on wage increases make no provision for an increase in price as a result of such an agreement. I think everybody, particularly those representing the trade unions, would agree with that, because an increase in price only negates the wage increase and passes the responsibility for meeting costs from the employer to the general community. The matter of price fixing must be given very serious consideration in the matter we are discussing. I believe that only a committee of the Senate can get all the evidence that would be required to make a comprehensive recommendation or decision upon the question.
I refer to recent agreements that have been reached between the new giant trade union organisation set up in the metal trades industry and the employers. They have arrived at contracts which involve, first of all, an $8 a week wage increase. The ‘Daily Telegraph’ of 31st August carried a report that employers had offered an immediate $3 a week increase and a further $3 a week rise in 9 months. So agreements have been reached on increases of $14 a week in the one year. We have no quarrel with the agreements being made if the industry can afford to pay the increases. But, if the making of those agreements is one of the factors that prevent the Australian metal trades industry from successfully competing for contracts of the size we are talking about, it is a different matter. I know that this pipe is subject to customs duty unless the Government or the Department of Customs and Excise agrees that it will reduce or eliminate the duty in the interests of supplying cheaper power and energy to New South Wales industry and consumers. If employers, as a responsible section of industry, agree to wage increases which cannot be paid for out of profits but which involve an increase in tariff protection or the payment of bounties, the whole community is involved in such an agreement because the whole community has to meet the expenses of it.
My colleague Senator Kane is suggesting in his Bill that this matter should be the subject of price fixing. It is unquestionable that price fixing is relevant to this issue because, if the reason why the Australian Gas Light Co. has awarded the contract to a competing Japanese company and one of the factors that have priced the Australian industry out of being able successfully to compete is wage agreements which the employers are voluntarily entering into with the union representatives in the industry, we. as people interested in the whole of Australia and the Australian economy, and indeed as people genuinely interested in the employment of every Australian in a proper and reasonable type of job, would maintain that the interests of everybody should be considered. This makes it a national matter and not a matter that can be left for decision merely between people who are coming to wage agreements in their own industry.
If there were no question of tariffs or bounty and if there were no suggestion that there should be Government intervention to preserve the right of Australian industry to compete in tendering for contracts of this sort, the argument would not bc valid; but everybody seems to be in agreement that these matters are involved. If these factors come into it, we as Australians maintain that the matter cannot be resolved as simply as matters have been resolved in the granting of wage increases. We merely point out at this point of time, without expressing any opinion at all, that the evidence should be collated and that it should be considered in making a decision on a national level, first of all, as to whether there should be any alleviation of the customs duty normally paid in this area and, secondly, as to whether there should be governmental action to see that any contracts of this character have some Australian content included in them in the interests of the whole of the Australian economy.
I refer once again to the changing trade patterns of the world that we can expect in the near future. It has been advocated in this chamber that our country should rapidly expand, wherever possible, its trade with other countries with which we have not been trading for a considerable time, such as Mainland China. This attitude is spending to other nations such as Japan. One of the statements that have emanated from the whole of this controversy is that the Japanese steel that would be supplied on the consummation of this contract would, of course, be made from Australian iron ore and that we would have a content in the contract anyway. But, as Mainland China was traditionally a source of supply of ore to the Japanese steel industry in the past and as new trade pacts and agreements have now been consummated between those countries in an entirely new approach that we can only expect will expand and broaden there is no guarantee that by the time of the consummation of the contract awarded by the Australian Gas Light Co,, to Japan the iron ore in the pipes will be Australian ore. Japan could not give that guarantee to Australia any more than it could give it to some other supplier. I believe that a Senate committee could inquire into this aspect and give us some definite information as to whether this is a valid claim.
The overall question of consumer prices and inflation and how they affect employment is, of course, very broad and one which can be discussed only if one goes into all the ramifications of it. I would not think that, in a discussion in which it is suggested that this contract should be referred to a committee for investigation, it would be of absolute relevance, but it has a relationship. I do not believe that employment opportunities in this country can be continually improved by adopting a simplified argument that we have merely to reduce working hours or increase leave and we will inevitably absorb more labour and achieve the same productivity figures as we had before the reduced hours and the extended period of leave. That is an oversimplification by people who are not genuinely interested in solving the problem of unemployment but rather are interested in making political capital out of unemployment. If my argument that internal wage increases could affect the capacity of Australian industry properly to compete with overseas countries is valid and logical - and I believe it is - the opportunities for employment in this country could be devastated disastrously by the application of a policy that would reduce working hours and extend conditions of labour beyond the point where we are able to compete in the area in which we are trading today and in which our ambitions are to expand our trade. We are realistic enough to anticipate the closing of some of the market doors that have been traditionally open to us in Europe over a long period.
I know that there creeps into the Australian philosophy at this time this attitude: We are still going along pretty well; we have withstood the revaluation of the American currency; we have withstood some of the early and minor effects of
Great Britain’s entry into the European Economic Community. But we still have to meet the greatest challenges from that area in the next 5 to 10 years. It is said that because the economy of this nation, except for the pressing needs of inflation, is still buoyant and is still maintaining a level of employment, and because the general level of prosperity of the whole community is probably equal to, if not better than that existing in almost any other country, everything is all right and we have no more need to plan, to take precautions, to worry or to doubt that in the next 5 to 1.0 years of challenge we will be just as successful. I believe that we will be but only if we do things and take actions that are suggested by the circumstances and are designed to improve the economy of this country and make it more capable of passing through the transitory period through which it must inevitably pass. If we are not prepared to fake these stands and if we are not prepared to consider all these things I believe this nation, like any other nation, can fall and will fall. We have no special prerogative. There is no divine influence to ensure that we enjoy for ever the prosperity that we have today. This rests largely with ourselves as a nation.
As politicians in the nation, of course, we have a great responsibility to the people if we expect to lead them in our various parlies with our various ideas in these areas of international trade and the preservation and the establishment of an economy capable of withstanding the complete change that we will have to accept in the next 5 to 10 years. I believe that these are all matters that indicate quite clearly that the strikes that are threatened if the contract is allocated to the country to which it is said it has already been allocated, will not assist anybody. It will only curtail, as I heard the Minister mention today in answer to a question, the flow of the S45m that can be poured into the Australian economy in the actual laying of the pipeline and the enormous savings to the whole of the economy from the reduction of costs that could result to industry in New South Wales, particularly in the Sydney area, by the introduction of a new and cheaper form of power.
These are all matters far beyond political considerations of individual parties.
They are matters that are beyond the competence of a trade union to decide, however well managed and well run it may be. They are matters beyond the competence of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. But I believe that it is within the competence of a Senate committee to collate the very valuable information that will indicate the position to all the interested parties - the employers as individuals, the Australian Gas Light Co., and those companies that are ambitious to supply an Australian quote in respect of this contract. All of them will be given an opportunity to have access to the evidence and the information that the Senate Standing Committee on Industry and Trade can collate on this question to help them give to the Australian people the best results in the interests of all Australians, lt will not benefit the Australian Gas Light Co. if. in the allocation of this contract, it comes into conflict with the trade union movement, because neither body has been fully informed of the total consequences of its allocation. That philosophy has application to all the other interested parties. I think I have said enough. I believe that there will be unanimity in the Senate on this question. I cannot imagine that anybody would say that this is not a question that should be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Industry and Trade for the proper and fullest inquiry to obtain the information that is necessary for all those people who feel that they have an interest of their own - people with conflicting interests - and to bring those interests to a common cause for the benefit of the whole of Australia.
– If necessary, I formally second the motion and reserve my right to speak.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - lt is necessary.
Senate suspended from 1.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– The Senate is debating a motion brought before it by the Australian Democratic Labor Party. Senator Little has moved:
That there be referred to the Standing Committee on Industry and Trade the following matter - The report that the Australian Gas Light Company is proposing to conclude a contract with a Japanese corporation for the manufacture and supply of steel pipes for the proposed natural gas pipeline from Moomba natural gas field in South Australia to Sydney, and whether this would deny Australian steel producers and suppliers the opportunity to fabricate and supply the required steel or any part of it.
The general subject which the Senate is now debating was before the Senate on 27th September last. A fairly lengthy debate occurred in which honourable senators from both sides expressed their views.
The position is that the Australian public has been advised that a contract exists between the Australian Gas Light Co. and a Japanese consortium for the supply of some 700 miles of 34-inch steel gas pipeline. A number of questions were put regarding this matter in the course of that debate. This matter was raised originally by me in this place at the end of April last. I directed it to the attention of the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony). I recall that, at that time, I had been alerted by a number of Australian manufacturers - there were more than one - that the general climate was being set for the contract in respect of this enormous amount of steel gas pipeline to be granted to an overseas consortium and not to Australian manufacturers.
I mentioned when I spoke originally the great respect and regard that I have for the Australian Gas Light Co. and in particular for its general manager. No doubt exists that that company is of great significance in the Australian commercial world and is to be congratulated for the eminence that it has attained. The fact that a company such as the Australian Gas Light Co. has the ability to enter into negotiations for the supply not only of materials but also the work that will mean finally an expenditure of S300m in the one instance is of considerable credit to that company, as it would be to any Australian company. The attitude that any reasonable person should take to this matter is that any commercial interest should be able to deal where it sees conditions which are in the best interests of its own business. I believe that the Australian Gas Light Co. in keeping with thelaws that have been laid down in Australia should be able to purchase where it wishes. Provided the company is willing to agree to and to meet the obligations for the protection of Australian industry which were established many years ago and which have been agreed to by governments of all complexions in Australia, that company, if it is its wish, should be able to buy Japanese. Italian or German manufactured pipe.
– And if we wish to buy margarine, that is in order too.
– Within the limits of the law. As you would agree, I fully support this case. If anybody wishes to purchase any product in Australia he should be free to do so, provided that he is willing to remain within the law. Of course, the law in this matter says that a company will not be permitted to bring overseas manufactured pipe into Australia unless it is willing to pay a certain amount of duty. That duty is imposed to protect Austraiian industry. That is something which every honourable senator would wish to see done. I have no doubt in my mind that the general desire of the Australian Gas Light Co. would be aimed at achieving that end. The duty applicable in this case is approximately 35 per cent. A great deal of advantage accrues to Australian industry if it is involved in the manufacture of pipe of this type.
The general subject about which we are speaking is one which could be said to be quite new in Australia. It is only since the Gippsland pipeline was first laid, following the discovery of gas and oil in Bass Strait, that Australia took any interest in pipelines. No Australian manufacturing interest was then involved in the production of pipelines. But it is interesting to reflect on what took place in relation to the supply of pipeline for the Gippsland development. Australian manufacturers took a great interest in this new industry. Obviously its discovery was to be of great national importance to Australia. Certain natural resources were to be piped across the country. At Port Latta in Tasmania, iron ore was being sluiced across a mountain and brought to the port by pipe. The prospects in Gippsland were for the delivery throughout Australia of its own natural resources. Pipelines were manufactured in Australia and overseas to meet the Gippsland requirements.
– Was the Gippsland pipeline of the same diameter as the pipeline in question?
– No, it was not. It was of a variety of sizes. But in that instance, as I understand it, Australian manufacturers were not able to supply the total requirement.
– We do not wish to hear your understanding; we want some proof.
– There is proof in the fact that in the Gippsland pipeline overseas manufactured pipe as well as Australian manufactured pipe was supplied. I live next door to the general manager of one of the companies which manufactured that pipe and I had some interest in it. Indeed, the manufacture of the pipe took place some 8 miles or 9 miles from where I live. I was able to watch the manufacture of some of the early pipe produced by Australian manufacturers. In the pipe supplied to the Gippsland area there were 2 instances only of breakdown in the Australian manufactured pipe. That was an enormous feat by Australian manufacturers. The quality of their pipe was not challenged. When the pipe produced for the Gippsland development by overseas manufacturers arrived in Australia, it was X-rayed. In many instances, it was found to be faulty. I have not a figure available to me in this respect but I am told on good authority that the overseas supplier stood to a cost in excess of Sim for renewing and reparing the pipe that had been supplied. This fact is not generally known. I am not criticising the overseas supplier. The fact is that the pipe has been installed, it is working and both principal and supplier were satisfied in the end. But the further fact is that no challenge has been made of the quality that Australian manufacturers produced at that time. That point was established.
– Did the Sim that the overseas company paid in replacing the pipe include the cost of the labour that had gone into installing the pipe and then replacing it?
– No. Before the pipe was installed in the field, it was tested by X-ray and was found to be faulty. It was carted 20 miles to where the Australian manufacturer had to repair it, line it and so do a variety of things to it, then return it to the field. So we can see how the Sim claim that I understand was made by the suppliers came about. In the inter ests of the Australian community we must look at the prospects for the biggest pipeline ever to be laid in Australia - 700 miles of it. We would not have thought of a feat like that some years ago. The pipeline is to be laid across half Australia. In the interests of Australian community there must be a good pipeline manufacturing business. For many years we have said that BHP and other Australian steel is the cheapest in the world, which is by world standards. Surely it is in the interests of the Australian community that this pipeline be manufactured in Australia.
As recently as 6 months ago I believed that the cards were being dealt whereby Australian producers and manufacturers were to be by-passed. I alerted the Minister for Trade and Industry. He is not able to take action in relation to any commercial undertaking unless he is alerted by a member of Parliament about the events. How do I justify my raising that matter with the Minister? At that stage I was aware that the specification which had been given to overseas manufacturers and upon which their estimates for tender would be based was not the same specification as that given to the Australian manufacturer. On 27th September the Senate granted me leave to incorporate in Hansard a document which instanced some very interesting matters. The paper which I incorporated is in the hands of the Department of Customs and Excise. The document states what took place in relation to the tender documents. One aspect of it shows that the Australian Gas Light Co. appointed an overseas consultant. It is fair to say that on a number of occasions in this place I have argued for the use by government and by industry of Australian consultants. Admittedly in many areas - perhaps in this area - they have not the experience that some overseas consultants have, but there is a great interest for Australia and Australians in Australia using its own consultants here and overseas. Where one of our consultants is engaged on a job in South East Asia, in all probability he will be aware of manufacturing capacity and supply in Australia and will seek to tie up for the work overseas the supply that he knows is available.
– It promotes trade.
– It promotes trade. I say no more. The firm of consultants that was appointed by AGL is a firm of very high quality. I do not challenge the firm. The firm is Williams Bros-CMPS. It has an international reputation in this field. Let me read to the Senate something that I read to it on 27th September. For those who have some commercial experience, I put this as support of the argument which I have put that Australian manufacturers were at a disadvantage during the early stages of the contract. This is a comment on the tender documents. It states:
The documents issued by Williams Bros-CMPS are marked ‘Preliminary’. They are not dated. They are not in consecutively numbered pages. Some paragraphs are crossed out by hand. There are no General Conditions, so that tenderers do not know what is required with regard to Terms of Payment, delivery periods, who is the purchaser and hence who undertakes to pay for the goods supplied. There is no clearly identified date of tender call, nar of a proper closing date for the tender. Several attachments are mentioned in the Specification, but are not attached, so that tenderers cannot judge their significance or content. The Specification is not bound, so that loose pages can be lost or added, without any form of control. 1 had a further part of that document incorporated in Hansard. Anybody who may be interested I refer to page 1277 of the Senate Hansard of 27th September. They can read the general run of wording which indicated that the specification given to an Australian tenderer was given on a basis on which no sensible person could give an accurate tender. On that basis no overseas supplier could have made a proper tender. On 3 occasions at question time I raised that point with the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) who represents in this chamber the Minister for Trade and Industry. 1 asked him to ascertain 2 things from the principal in this matter. The Minister has been asked the question 3 times. One of the questions was: On what date did the Australian manufacturers get a final specification upon which to quote? That was not an unfair question when it is stated that the reason for the rejection of the Australian manufacturer in this instance was based on fair competition with an overseas supplier.
The next question was: What was the date on which Australian manufacturers knew that a 34-inch pipe was to be used for the major part of the pipeline? I think the original specification wai tor a 28-inch pipeline to be used except where it crossed the Blue Mountains, where it was to be expanded into a wider pipeline to take a particular pressure or to solve a particular problem that was likely to arise. I do not know the details. Until some time in August 1972 Australian manufacturers did not know that a 34-inch pipe was to be laid and that it was on that basis that they were to quote. One can imagine the problems confronting an Australian manufacturer who had to submit a quote in fair competition with anybody when a diameter of 34 inches was being discussed. Newspaper comment has been ill informed. I believe that the comments made by Sir William Pettingell have misled, although perhaps not intentionally, the public. According to newspaper articles, he said that Australian steel is not as good as overseas steel. It has been said that Australia has not the capacity to make a pipe of this size. Yet I was able to point out that Australian manufacturers have made pipes up to 42 inches in diameter, that they have made quite a volume of them and that they are quite competent to do this work.
What has been the result of the investigations of the Minister for Trade and Industry? I have sympathy for him. All that the Department and the Minister can do is to ask the principal the answers to the questions that were asked in the Senate. On each occasion that the Minister and his Department have given an answer they have avoided answering those questions. If the Minister for Civil Aviation intends to reply today, I ask him to use his best offices to try to alleviate my concern about this matter and to give the date on which a specification was handed to the Australian manufacturers and the date on which they knew that the pipe was to be a 34-inch pipe, because the crux of the matter is whether fair competition was allowed to the Australian industry.
There is one particularly important matter of national concern in relation to the pipeline which has not been mentioned here previously. Senator Gair and a number of other honourable senators, including lite Minister for Civil Aviation, were members of the Senate Select Committee on Offshore Petroleum Resources. I was a member of that Committee. Its recommendations contained a number of very important matters which refer to this subject. What interest is the Government taking in a 700-mile pipeline that is to be laid in Australia in the next few years? Is a 34-inch pipeline the best to be laid, in the national interest? What other minerals are likely to be sent from South Australia to the eastern coast? What will be connected up from Alice Springs to this pipeline to be brought to eastern coast? There is to be 700 miles of pipeline. The contract for the pipe alone is $150m. There will probably be another $150m for all the branch lines. What should we be doing about this pipe? Should not a national grid system be advocated at this time, and should not the national Government say to the Australian Gas Light Co.: You are a major company. You are taking this matter on your own shoulders. We will assist you to the extent of $100m in the installation of this pipeline, provided we can decide in the ultimate the size of the pipe, the type of steel and the thickness of steel.’? Perhaps there ought to be more than one compartment in this pipe so that at some stage oil also could be flowed through the same pipe. What are we, as the national Government, doing? I suggest that the Department of National Development should have taken a great interest in this matter from the first time that it w.is mentioned. Undoubtedly, departments have looked at it, have assessed the national interest and have decided that at present it can be left as it is. I do not particularly agree with that assessment.
The situation is that it has been announced that a firm contract exists with Japan for the supply of this pipeline. The volume required is instanced by the fact that at least 3 Japanese firms will be required to supply this pipe. Japan has a population of 300 million to be supplied by the interests that call on its industry. Australia has a population of about 13 million. So we are not able to compete with Japan. An interesting point about shipping costs between the 2 countries is that if one wishes Japan to supply something to Australia the shipping content of the cost will be $20 a ton, whereas if one wishes to send something from Australia to Japan on an Australian ship it will be Si 00 a ton. That is an indication of the disability under which we work. How can we compete for a world market for our products unless some of these costs are equated? Japan is a wonderful manufacturing country; it has a world reputation for the quality of its steel and for its ability to produce pipe. Nevertheless, I think that Australia’s interests must come first in this matter.
I have challenged the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) on the fact that this pipe from Japan will not be allowed into this country duty free unless it can be established that the Australian manufacturing industry is not able to supply a suitable equivalent within a reasonable time. I believe the facts as laid down indicate that to date the Australian manufacturing industry has not been given that opportunity. I shall be very concerned if in fact there is any by-passing of this factor. The Federal Government has taken a great interest in this matter. It will prove whether we are right or wrong about this matter. The Government has appointed a Professor Muir, who I understand is attached to a university in Sydney, to inquire into all aspects of the importation of this pipe. I have challenged the Department of Trade and Industry to give dates about the transaction because, when one asks Australian industry whether it has the ability to produce the pipe, once it commences production the time factor for supply is most important. I understand that, in the time that was indicated by the Australian Gas Light Co., both the suppliers of steel and the manufacturers of pipe said they could produce 50 per cent of the total pipeline and could supply it on time, f have been informed that if they were given a further 3 months once they were in production they could supply 75 per cent of the whole line.
– At what price?
– There is conflicting evidence in relation to the price, but the Australian Gas Light Co. has said that even if it has to pay 35 per cent duty-
– Twenty-five per cent.
– Thirty-five per cent; Japan can still land the pipe here at a price 20 per cent cheaper than that of the Australian product. I do not know whether that is correct. The figures given to me indicate that it is not correct. However, in the few minutes available to me I want to deal with the proposition put forward by the Democratic Labor Party because this is another instance of the Senate being involved in a matter of vital importance to the Australian community. I doubt whether Senator Little, who proposed this motion, has taken within the ambit of his proposition the national importance of this matter. He has suggested that the question be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Industry and Trade. His proposition speaks of a report that there is a proposed contract. Let me dca] with this. It is a proposed contract; it is not a final contract. No final contract has been let to any Japanese supplier. Honourable senators may be interested to know that the first announcement of this contract supposedly came from Japan. But there are 2 provisos associated with that contract. One is that the gas field must be proved - I believe that has occurred within the last month or so - and the other is that the pipe will come in duty free. I challenge anyone to say that 1 am not correct in staling that there is no definite contract and that 2 provisos must be met before there can be a contract.
– Then the wording of the motion is correct.
– The motion speaks of a proposed contract. That is what the honourable senator has asked the Committee to consider. I do not know what word to use; it is not insensible but it is pretty foolish to suggest that the Committee be asked to consider whether this would deny Australian steel producers and suppliers the opportunity to fabricate and supply. I can answer thai question now. If a contract is granted to Japan, yes, it will do those 2 things. He does not have to take his question any further than that, it does nol have to go to a committee. This motion asks the Committee to report on whether, if the contract is awarded to Japan, that will deny Australian steel producers and suppliers the opportunity to fabricate and supply.
– The suggestion is that only part of the contract go to Japan.
– The answer is given immediately and I do not think anybody would care to suggest that it is a subject that is worthy of being referred to a committee.
– What authority do you have to speak for BHP?
– I am not speaking for BHP; 1 am mentioning the facts which Senator Gair would probably agree are correct. I have only 3 or 4 minutes left :o speak and I hope that the honourable senator will have enough interest in the matter to speak. The fact is that this is a commercial agreement between a great Australian business, the Australian Gas Light Co., and somebody from whom it wishes to purchase pipe. We would all wish to see some part of the supply come from Australia, and I tell the Senate that a substantial volume of this pipe will be fabricated in Australia. Whether it will be fabricated from Japanese steel or from Australian steel is another matter; but that point has never been brought before the Senate and debated at length. On the proposition that this matter be referred to a committee of the Senate, I certainly express my view that we are laying down so many subjects for Senate committees to inquire into that at least 2 years would elapse before this subject was looked at by the Senate Standing Committee on Trade and Industry. The Government has acted in this matter; it has appointed an independent man, a professor, to inquire into it and to report on it. Surely we can wait to hear what he has to say.
– You still cannot get a reply.
– It is not the case that the Government can get a reply from AGL. If AGL is unable to reply at this date, the answer is obvious. I do not accept that there is any argument about it: The answer is obvious. Australian manufacturers have not had the benefit of the true specification and did not have in fair time knowledge of the fact that it was to be a 34-inch pipe. I understand that the Australian Labor Party intends to move an amendment to this motion. Heaven knows what that is likely to be, but it is likely to make a political football of the issue by trying to take the lead on the matter away from the Democratic Labor Party. The fact is that the Government has acted and that it is a private commercial agreement that is being made - and that is the way it should be left.
– Before I call Senator O’Byrne, I think it proper to draw to the attention of the Senate the return of Senator Lillico who has been away ill for a long time.
– Thank you.
– The motion before the Senate is in the following terms:
That there be referred to the Standing Committee on Industry and Trade the following matter - The report that the Australian Gas Light Co. is proposing to conclude a contract with a Japanese corporation for the manufacture and supply of steel pipes for the proposed natural gas pipeline from Moomba natural gas field in South Australia to Sydney, and whether this would deny. Australian steel producers and suppliers the opportunity to fabricate and supply the required steel or any part of it.
To that motion on behalf of the Opposition I move:
The Opposition, in moving this amendment to the motion before the Senate, acknowledges the worth of the existing motion but contends that it does not go far enough. This proposed reference to the Standing Committee on Industry and Trade relates to the controversy that has arisen out of the supply of pipes for the Moomba to Sydney pipeline from the South Australian natural gas field and provides an excellent opportunity for a thorough examination of the need for a national policy and planning on energy exploration, in this case natural gas. In the course of his remarks Senator Webster virtually supported our amendment, although he qualified it by saying that we would bring the matter into the field of a political football. The honourable senator had experience on the Senate Select Committee on Off-Shore Petroleum Resources, along with myself and other honourable senators, including Senators Cotton and Young, who were chairmen, Senator Laucke who was a distinguished member, Senator Keeffe and Senator Gair. All took part in this committee of inquiry. A great amount of the evidence showed that the very situation that we are facing today would have to be faced at the Commonwealth level, possibly in conjunction with the States.
Every country in the developed and industrialised world which possesses supplies of natural gas has a national policy to ensure the efficiency and economic utilisation of this invaluable power source - that is, every country except Australia. There is no reasonable excuse for Australia not having a policy. The only excuse - this is the rub - is Government neglect and disregard in the face of powerful recommendations by experts. In our view this is completely inexcusable. The case for a national plan and authority to oversee and rationalise our gas supplies is overwhelming. Without any doubt the use of natural gas for domestic and industrial purposes will increase rapidly over the next few years. This increase will accentuate the need for national planning. The Senate will recall that on 27th September last we on this side of the chamber raised a matter of urgency in the following terms:
The failure of the Government to take action to protect Australian, employment and industry in the supply of the Moomba-Sydney pipeline.
In moving this amendment this afternoon the Opposition is urging the Senate to make use of the Senate Standing Committee on Industry and Trade to recommend to the Government, in support of the recommendations and findings of the Senate Select Committee on Off-Share Petroleum Resources, steps that it can take towards a national plan in the interests of Australian industry and particularly in the interests of Australian employment. It would be no exaggeration to say that employment is a problem which now figures quite largely in our community. Many conflicting figures are being pushed out through the Press about employment in Australia.
The resolution and the amendment which are before the Senate are both very important matters because they are concerned with employment in Australia. They are important also in view of the fact that we are considering allowing a private company to place orders overseas for the supply of pipes. Whatever the size of the position of local companies in our industrial complex, if they are capable of manufacturing the pipes every consideration should be given to the supply of pipes coming from them, within our own country, in this way absorbing some of the unemployed which creates such a great problem in Australia at present. The list of people who have advocated some form of national planning and control over the exploitation, transportation and use of Australia’s comparatively untapped reservoir of natural gas is impressive. Mr Hume, general manager of the Brisbane Gas Co., and Sir William Pettingell, general manager of the Australian Gas Light Co. which is so intimately involved in the current furore over the tendering for the steel pipes for the pipeline from South Australia to Sydney, were prominent and interested commercial leaders who were referred to in the urgency motion last month. Both of these men are adamant in their contention that this country needs a national guideline on the utilisation of natural gas and the establishment of a sensible pipeline network without the bedlam that has accompanied this development in other countries.
If honourable senators refer to the report of the Senate Select Committee on OffShore Petroleum Resources they will find that the United States. Canada, Italy and other countries went through this turmoil before they eventually reached the conclusion that it was a national problem which had to be ordered on a national level. We must not repeat all the mistakes that were made by other countries on the pretext that private enterprise is involved and that this matter has nothing to do with the Commonwealth or that the Commonwealth has not constitutional powers. The reason for the hotchpotch which has developed here and which it is proposed that future generation Australians will use has developed from the lack of design at a national level of a project such as this. We have only to consider what happened in our railway system. If only we knew then what we know now. Because of the short term view when our railways were being established we saw the emergence of varying gauges throughout Australia. There was the narrow gauge in Queensland, the broad gauge in New South Wales, intermediate gauge in Victoria and the narrow gauge again in Tasmania. There has been great cost to restore the position to some semblance of a national railway policy where there can be free movement and transport between the States on the rail system, and this has only come about in recent years. A tremendous amount of money could have been saved if this problem had been attacked in its early stages. Yet here we are with the very same problem on our hands. This is only the beginning of the use of our natural gas resources.
– Circumstances are more favourable now because we have federation.
– They are much more favourable; that is true.
– When the railways were built we did not have federation.
– That is right, and it has taken ail these years since federation to achieve some unanimity between the States and to arrive at a proper plan. The railways were built as pioneering ventures in order to open up this land of ours. This was a worthy objective. Today in the north-west of Australia - and the Government’s policy is that we will not export our oil reserves unless it is found that we have sufficient to meet our own needs - we have an oil empire greater than that of the North Sea. It will be proved to be one of the richest natural gas fields in the world. But somehow or other that natural gas has to be brought to the centres of population. As a natural consequence of these huge resources being available, the present concept is that the pipeline will go to Moomba and eventually out to Mareenie where there are enormous resources of natural gas and to the tight sand oil resources in the Amadeus basin. It is a natural step to take these resources across the desert, as has happened in other countries which have this problem, and connect up with the north-west shelf. We have in this field a similar pattern to that which we had with our railway system in its embryo stages. To allow the first stage of the utilisation of natural gas resources - onshore resources - to start off in a hotch potch way, as I see the situation at the present time, Ls something which the people of Australia will resent. Those who follow us will also criticise us very strongly as a Parliament and as a government for not having taken a stronger stand.
As I have mentioned, the experience of Canada and the United States of America should have been sufficient warning for the Australian Government. As long ago as 1965, the Government ignored the recommendations of Sir William Pettingell. Now, it appears that the same thing is happening again - this phobia of the Government to want to steer away or shy away from private enterprise. But this is only part of its very general philosophy that private enterprise can do things better than governments. But this is beyond private enterprise. The pipeline between Moomba and Sydney will be part of the whole complex for the transport of oil and gas. Gas in particular is the fuel and the energy resource of the future. Not only from the point of view of pollution is natural gas desirable and more suitable in densely populated areas but, from our point of view as a nation, the plentiful reserves have come at a very opportune time when the use of natural gas is becoming better known and more widely demanded.
Business leaders and trade union officials are united in their concern about a national approach to this problem. To give honourable senators an idea of how big a problem this is in the minds of the wide spectrum of the Australian people, I point out that the efficiency of industrial development and cheaper power and the provision of job opportunities for hundreds of Australians could easily be hampered and jeopardised without a national approach to this problem. A committee - even a subcommittee - of the Senate Standing Committee on Industry and Trade would be ideally situated to look at this problem and to advise quickly on the steps that should be taken by the Commonwealth so that the Commonwealth can use the powers that are available to it to face up to the obvious need and to look through the evidence that would be available from an investigation by the Senate Select Committee. The Senate Select Committee on Offshore Petroleum Resources was able to obtain the opinions and the sworn evidence of some of the leading men associated with the oil industry. This should be sufficient basis for the Senate Standing Committee on Industry and Trade to look into this matter on a national level.
The Senate Select Committee on Offshore Petroleum Resources was presented with a considerable volume of evidence suggesting that regulatory and advisory responsibilities of an authority in the field of interstate trade could include:
To authorise the construction, ownership, operation and location of interstate oil and gas pipelines;
To make orders with respect to all matters relating to traffic, tariffs and prices; and
To study, review and from time to time report to the Parliament on such policies and measures as it considers necessary or advisable in (he public interest for the control of transportation of oil and gas.
This is just common sense. How could anyone say that in the national interest there ought not to be a Federal authority to regulate and control a field of activity as important as natural gas and determine what should be done as we begin to develop a pipeline system to take advantage of a great natural resource.
The Moomba-Sydney pipeline - and other pipelines which will undoubtedly thread their way across the country in years to come - should not be the province of a sole business interest. The Australian Gas Light Co. or any other local or overseas company should not be able to make decisions which will affect the cost of the pipeline, the jobs of hundreds of Australians and the price of gas transported by the line, without at least an overview by the Federal Government. The Committee to which this reference could be made would be able to map out a plan that the Government could follow to ensure the best and most economical construction of the pipeline and, on its completion, the best and most economical distribution of the gas. lt is wrong that this country lacks a national policy in this area. The adoption of the motion as amended would break the ground and pave the way for this policy.
To pursue this matter on the level of examining the proposal of the Australian Gas Light Co. to conclude a contract with a Japanese corporation would be on too low a key. We are to commence a project to connect up natural gas fields that will develop and extend into the distant future. If we make mistakes now, if we follow the pattern of other countries which had to pay very dearly for their mistakes, we will not be forgiven by those who follow us. I contend that this matter should be approached on a national level by a committee of the national Parliament, which would then speak with all the authority of evidence obtained from the most knowledgeable people in the land. I believe that any government with a sense of responsibility would follow, or take heed of. those recommendations. Therefore, the Labor Party feels that the present motion, although it has a lot of worth, does not go far enough and that the amendment I have moved on behalf of the Party brings the matter into its proper perspective. If a national approach is taken, Australia as a nation will gain not only at the present time but in the future. The problems that we are facing of tariffs, jealousies between competing private companies and so on have to be put onto a national level if Australia is to become involved in this industry instead of being the object of criticism from other countries for not having learned from their mistakes. If this is done, other countries will view us as progressive and as a country that understands the nature of the resources that we have and which we will develop to the highest level. T hope that the Senate will support the Labor Party’s amendment and thereby put this matter in its proper perspective.
– We are dealing with a motion which I shall read, because the Australian Labor Party has moved an amendment. Senator Little moved:
That there be referred to the Standing Committee on Industry and Trade the following matter - The report that the Australian Gas Light Company is proposing to conclude a contract with a Japanese corporation for the manufacture and supply of steel pipes for the proposed natural gas pipeline from ‘Moomba natural gas field in South Australia lo Sydney, and whether th A would deny Australian steel producers and suppliers the opportunity lo fabricate and supply the required steel or any part of it.
The honourable senator gave notice of this motion on 28th September. J shall deal with this motion. Despite the fact that there is a fair pressure of work the Government is willing to concede time for this to be debated and dealt with because it regards it as a matter which Senator Little and others have taken seriously. Senator Little’s motion suggests that a matter be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Industry and Trade. I say in passing that I have a great regard for the work of that Committee. It is a very valuable Committee and J noted with interest the statement made this morning by the Chairman on the work it had done, the work it has yet to do and the proposal that the Committee should come back to life in the next Parliament. I agree with all those sentiments.
I say for myself that the Committee was a great help to the Department of Civil Aviation and myself when it investigated the proposed takeover of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd by Thomas Nationwide Transport Ltd. lt was a valuable job which was done very quickly. Its report was concise and precise. It is no secret that we seriously took into account the recommendations and conclusions of the Committee when we were determining the extension of the 2-airline system, to which 1 have referred on a previous occasion. But 1 observe for myself and my colleagues as 1 did in a slightly jocular fashion last night - although I did not really intend to give offence or cause any upset - that there are 2 very substantial matters before the Committee. The first is:
The promotion of trade ;Ind commerce wilh other countries, the operation of Australia’s international trade agreements, and the development of trading relations.
I ask honourable senators to look at the scope of that subject. It is a huge subject and a matter of great importance. Another reference is:
Determination of prices, measures to prevent unjustifiable price increases, and the establishment of a prices surveillance tribunal.
Again this is a matter of great importance and is a huge matter with which to deal. Yesterday we referred a matter which deals with the footwear and allied industries. I imagine that this inquiry will not be as time consuming and probably can be disposed of a great deal more quickly. So the work before the Committee is of consequence and great importance. As I said, it is quite time consuming. I think that this reference which Senator Little is seeking to direct to the Committee is not so time consuming. 1 shall establish the background of this matter and produce for honourable senators some of the material which I have.
The first thing 1 refer to is the answer which was given during question time this morning in relation to this matter. I gave the answer on behalf of the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony) because, as honourable senators know, that area is not within my responsibility. In the answer the Minister stated:
In recent statements in Parliament on this matter I have indicated that it is the general policy, of the Government nol to interfere in commercial decisions which are the normal preserve of industry,
I think 1 should repeat that it is not the general policy of the Government to interfere in commercial decisions which it believes are properly the preserve of industry. The Minister’s answer continues:
Notwithstanding this the Government has, nevertheless, been concerned to ensure that the maximum opportunity be given to Australian industry to participate in the pipeline project. Earlier this year liaison was established wilh AGL by the Department of Trade and Industry in an effort to ensure that local industry was given the chance to tender for the project.
I am informed that within the contract that has been negotiated with the Japanese, opportunity still exists for the supply of a proportion of Australian pipe. I understand that this is presently the subject of discussions between AGL and Australian industry and I would not like to make any comments on these current discussions.
I believe that any comments made by the Minister either directly or by myself on his behalf or on behalf of the Department might well prejudice a delicate situation. The answer continues:
Notwithstanding the arrangements finally made for the supply of pipe for the main trunk pipeline, there will still, in fact, be substantial benefits for Australian industry and employment. Current estimates suggest that of a pipeline expenditure of approximately $150m about half will be spent locally. Installation costs, for example, are estimated at about $45m to $50m. Of this more than $20m will be spent on wages.
Moreover additional expenditure will be incurred on other work associated with the main pipeline, such as the lateral and distribution lines to country towns, the conversion of Sydney industrial and commercial services and so on. Consideration of quotations for pipe of diameter up to 30 inches is still proceeding and I would hope that Australian industry will have success in this area.
– Why does the Minister say ‘up to 30 inches’?
– Because that is what the Minister for Trade and Industry asked me to say. I want to refer to some of Senator Webster’s observations later if he will wait patiently. The answer concludes:
If this is so, the total project should result in significant additional activity in manufacturing of steel pipe within Australia.
I think that something could be added to this. As I said before, Government policy is not to interfere in commercial discussions but we are concerned that Australian industry be given maximum opportunity to tender. As I said when I read the answer, discussions are currently taking place between the Australian Gas Light Co. and Australian industry which may lead to the sourcing of part of the main pipeline in Australia.
In regard to the by-law issue, the Department of Customs and Excise is conducting inquiries into whether Australian industry can supply suitably equivalent steel to specification for pipe construction and pipe to the size required. The Department has engaged Professor Muir, to whom Senator Webster referred, as a consultant. He is the Professor of Physical Metallurgy and head of the School of Metallurgy, University of New South Wales. A decision on the by-law question will determine whether duty is to be paid on imported pipe.
The Department of Trade and Industry has the view, which it believes it can properly and fairly express, that in all those circumstances the Senate Committee cannot achieve much for the Department, the Government and the people of Australia by engaging in an inquiry. The Department believes the Committee might ventilate issues which could jeopardise some discussions. The Department says that it might; it does not say that it will. The Department suggests that an inquiry could give rise to proposals - which could perhaps be contrary to Government policy - on the basis of how much one should interfere with the normal operations of the commercial market place. I thought that Senator Little made a very sensible observation in relation to unemployment on which one might have another debate on another day. If one seeks to resolve unemployment one can easily do that by having a one man one job arrangement. It is quite a simple
Issue. Senator Little wondered why someone had not taken this matter up on behalf of the Australian Labor Party. I wondered that myself.
– How many jobs does the honourable senator have?
– I have one.
– How many shares does he have?
– Order! That is totally out of order. I take the greatest objection to that.
– I observed that I have one job. Equally I observe that 1 do not think the Australian people care for muck slinging. 1 do not. Senator Little referred to a Bill in which Senator Kane has an interest. Really, I think the honourable senator was referring to a statement on liquid petroleum gas.
– I could not find it in the notice paper.
– The honourable senator will find it is the Prices Limitation Bill where wage agreements are entered into.
– Thank you. I was looking for that.
– lt is a very important aspect in considering this matter.
– Yes, 1 think that is quite true. 1 was looking for the particular reference. I think that the case put by Senator Little should be decided by the Senate. In that circumstance we would want to hear the balance of the argument. But I think we would be saying something like this: We have sympathy with Senator Little’s wish in relation to this matter. We do not believe that it will achieve a substantial result but we do not propose to stand positively in opposition lo it. Senator Webster made some observations which tended to follow some of the remarks which I made on behalf of the responsible Department. A commercial undertaking should be able to make its own decisions and purchase arrangements within the limits of the law. I think that would be a philosophical view which the Government and the honourable senator and I hold, but which others may not hold. 1 received the Australian Labor Party amendment quite late in the day. I noted it being handed up to the table. The courtesies which normally apply were not available to me until the amendment was circulated generally so I have had little chance to do much work on it. However, I will refer to the amendment later. Senator Webster gave some details about investigations and information within the province of the Department of Customs and Excise. I am sure that some of the observations he made will be picked up with interest by the Department. I think, Senator Webster, that as well as expressing your concern to me about the answers you received to questions about this matter you should direct it to the leader of your Party who is the Minister for Trade and Industry, not to me.
I want to make one other point. Everybody is getting excited about the Japanese supplying this pipeline. Perhaps it might be worth quoting the figures relating to trade between ourselves and Japan. Japan is to us a very important buyer and to be that she has to have some capacity to sell to us. In 1953-54 Australian exports to Japan were worth $11 lm. By 1971-72 they had multiplied 12 times to $l,362m. In 1953- 54 we imported goods worth $13m from Japan and in 1971-72 those imports were worth $629m. The fact is that the Australian living standard is very substantially bound up with the Japanese ability to manufacture, to trade and to sell. That fact ought to bc taken into account by people who are concerned about this matter. It is fair enough that they should be concerned but there are more points of view than just one and they have to be considered quite carefully.
The Australian Labor Party amendment, as 1 see it, is a new motion dealing with the whole pipeline system throughout Australia and really it asks for a national pipeline authority. As for that amendment - it really is a motion - the Government is clearly opposed to it and would not agree with it. One might take into account the fact that the establishment of a national pipeline authority by the Australian Labor Party would still have to meet the test of the bar in section 92 of the Constitution to the freedom of interstate trade and commerce. If honourable senators read the motion I think they will find that it brings into play requests for legislative and administrative action which would extend the work of the Senate Standing Committee into a very time consuming and rather expert area which properly belongs to the draftsman, the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) and the departments concerned. That is the view of the Government. The Government does not believe that the Democratic Labor Party motion will do a great deal to help but it does not oppose it in a dogmatic sense. The Government simply says that it will go with the will of the Senate. As for the Australian Labor Party amendment, the Government does not believe that what it seeks is necessary. The Government does not believe it is wise. Here is an attempt to capitalise on the work of somebody else. Accordingly, the Government opposes the amendment.
– I rise to support the amendment moved by Senator O’Byrne because in the view of the Opposition it follows logically from the debate in this chamber on 27th September which I am sure prompted the Democratic Labor Party to put its notice of motion on the notice paper and to have it debated today. We believe that the amendment is more relevant because the motion restricts the investigation by the Senate Standing Committee on Industry and Trade to the immediate decision by the Australian Gas Light Co. to conclude a contract wah a Japanese corporation to manufacture and supply steel pipes for the Moomba to Sydney pipeline. That is but the tip of the iceberg. It is the first stage of what everybody must concede will be the establishment of a national development of great significance to the economy of Australia and te the Government’s more recent involvement in the affairs of decentralisation and urban matters.
One has only to examine the report on Australia’s Natural Resources - Minerals, Forests, Water and Energy’, presented to the House of Representatives recently by the Minister for National Development (Sir Reginald Swartz), to appreciate the tremendous potential of natural gas. As indicated in that report, until recently half of our total energy requirements were met by petroleum products other than natural gas. The report went on to draw attention to the fact that in the next decade or so that position will change radically. It is not of much use for the Standing Committee to examine the immediate consequences of the Moomba-Sydney gas pipeline. Rather it should examine the total problem.
Many journalists have written about this subject for our financial newspapers in recent times and have pointed to the great value that this industry will be to Australia and the great value that will flow to the steel industry from the provision of steel pipes. So we are not dealing only with the first problem, relating to the Australian Gas Light Company’s moves in this area. We must view the total position. It is true that the Australian Gas Light Co. has accepted certain tenders and that it did not provide for public examination by Australian industry the specifications of the Moomba-Sydney pipeline. In this respect I am in good company because many Government supporters already have drawn attention to this fact. When this matter was before the Senate previously Senator Webster admitted in his speech that Australia had the potential to manufacture this pipe. Quite clearly, if it is a matter of re-tooling by our major steel companies and their subsidiaries, the sooner that re-tooling takes place and we are able to realise the potential of this industry the better it will be for the economy of this country. Therefore it is important that the Senate Standing Committee examine the consequences of the Australian Gas Light Company’s activities, but from the point of view of the Opposition that is only part of the problem. That is why the amendment was specifically prepared. We are concerned about the legislative and administrative action which should be taken by the Government.
It is not just a matter of providing steel tubing; it is not just a matter of providing component parts for 780 miles of pipeline to handle 0.04 per cent, according to the estimates presented by Sir Reginal Swartz, of the natural gas resources of Australia. Surely what is involved is not just the component parts of the first pipeline but its effect upon the total picture in Australia. For instance, how can the Government concern itself with questions of decentralisation, as its supporters in the House of Representatives are doing currently, if it does not consider fuel as part of that policy of decentralisation. Are we to leave it to the Australian Gas Light Co. to determine where the pipeline will be placed? Is the pipeline to take the shortest and most economical route from the point of view of that Company and its shareholders, or is the route to have relationship to the new-found interest of the Government and to the clear long term public interest of the Austraiian people in relating any source of fuel of this magnitude to the total economic planning requirements of the community? Surely, if it is to go in a straight line, for example, and perhaps bypass the Hunter Valley area, which has a great industrial potential, this is shortsighted planning. Therefore, are we to leave it to the Australian Gas Light Co. to determine the route of the pipeline or are we to say that in terms of our decentralisation policy it should go not from A to B but from A to D and be routed in such a way as to provide fuel reserves to a town which in 1985 will have a population and an industrial potential of some magnitude?
We are indebted to Senator Cotton for telling us that in excess of $200m will be invested by the Australian Gas Light Co. Ultimately this cost will be borne by the consumer. We cannot afford to spend this sort of money without having regard to !he beneficial effects it could have on the Australian economy if in fact there was a national plan. The Australian Labor Party is not prepared to take the view that private enterprise should make determinations affecting this very great resource without regard to national planning. One does not have to go far back into history to appreciate that the development of the railway industry played a very big part in the stimulation and development of our economy in the 19th century. In fact, without the railway system, Australia probably would have been in a very much less advantageous position than it is in the world economic scene. Clearly the railways gave impetus to our economic development. We in the Labor Party believe that natural gas will afford the same stimulation; that it will play a very important part in the future development of Australia.
There is no party political advantage to be gained in recognising these facts. Sir
Reginald Swartz has recognised these facts and drawn attention to the great value of our natural gas supplies. The point on which we join issue with the Government is that we believe there is a need to look at the social consequences as well as the economic consequences of natural gas. That means that we examine what Austraiian industry is able to do in providing the component parts for the gas pipeline. It means that we have regard for the planning of new cities and what part in that scheme of things natural gas will play, lt means that surely we will have regard for the environment. Everybody seems to pay lip-service to the importance of the environment in the scheme of things today. Let us examine what the Australian Gas Light Co. is doing in this area. I am Icd to believe that so far it has examined 3 routes in respect of the provision of this pipeline. It has not been established clearly which areas it will traverse. The company has had preliminary negotiations with certain land owners because so much of the pipeline will be coming over privately owned land. The New South Wales Government has had to bring down enacting legislation to permit the laying of pipes over private property.
There are numerous difficulties in the way of the Australian Gas Light Co. There is evidence that the route which the company is proposing to follow goes through some important national parks in New South Wales. Clearly, as this industry develops, this sort of project will be repeated in other States. During question time yesterday I said that as a result of a survey the company has selected a route which will take the pipeline through one of the most unique wilderness areas in the northern sector of the Blue Mountains National Park. Surely these are matters of importance from the Government’s point of view. Surely it comes within the competence of the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts (Mr Howson) as well as the Minister for National Development to act in relation to these matters, and surely these are matters which the Standing Committee on Industry and Trade should examine. It is not just a matter of whether the Broken Hill Ply Co. Ltd was bypassed or whether it was not able to get the full specifications for the supply of pipes. We believe that the concept of the natural gas pipeline ignores the Commonwealth’s interest in decentralisation and does not take into account any of the long term plans for regional development. We believe therefore that it is within the competence of the Senate to say that the Commonwealth should take some initiative to link the private development that is associated with natural gas with the long term planning for the public sector.
We can understand that, because it is the concern of private enterprise to make the best return on its investment, the company would use the shortest and most economical route for the pipeline. But I am led to believe that the path it has chosen will pass the Newnes Afforestation camp, cross the Wollongambe wilderness area in the northern section of the Blue Mountains National Park, bridge the Wollongambe Gorge to reach Mount Irvine, go across Bowens Creek, reach Grose Vale via Bilpin and ultimately come into Sydney. We believe that it is within the competence of the Senate Standing Committee to examine these matters, and this is why we talk of the legislative and administrative action which should be taken by the Commonwealth in co-operation with the States. Clearly the Senate is aware that the States determine the areas which are designated national parks and are responsible for the control and management of the parks. We believe, as do many of the conservation groups, that the environmental factors have to be considered very seriously. We are lead to believe that the Democratic Labor Party is concerned about these matters. In point of fact, I recall that not so long ago Senator Byrne and some of his colleagues were quite vocal on the matter of the environment and the natural habitat, and with the assistance of the Australian Labor Party they were successful in carrying a resolution that the Senate request the Government to have another look at its softwoods legislation because the environment was very much affected by it.
The topography of the area I have mentioned is unique. There are unusual sandstone bridges and gorges and prolific wildflowers and other flora, including waratahs angophoras and eucalypti, many of which take hundreds of years to grow. It is easy for man to take the easy way out and just move into these areas, but as far as we have been able to determine there has been no examination of the environmental factors. For instance, has any consideration been given to using railway reserves on either side of railway lines, electricity easements or main road reserves which in many cases exceed 150 feet, having regard to the fact that invariably these are public easements? Surely these are matters which ought to be examined by some responsible authority rather than hacking into the important national parks for which the constructors of the pipeline should have regard. Already, publicly owned areas abound right across our nation which would provide an opportunity to be used for the pipeline without raising the very many important environmental factors.
Of course, the value of using existing public easements would be that in many cases they are close to the economic sinews of our nation. In other words, they invariably lead to towns, people and industry - the places where the markets are which will be of great value to the natural gas industry. The Australian Labor Party has made it clear and makes no secret of the fact that we will be establishing a public corporation to market natural gas. We wil) take into consideration the matters of the environment, decentralisation, the economy and the public interest. We will utilise the existing legislation which the Government proposes to pass in the dying stages of this Parliament and the proposed department of urban affairs will ensure that gas plays a vital part in the development of the new cities to which even this Government is now committed, having recognised belatedly the great problems in the cities and the need for an active policy of decentralisation. We will work in concert with the Stales because in the main they provide the public corridors that would enable natural gas to be brought from the fields where it abounds in great quantities into the areas where it will be able to play, as it has played in many countries, a very significant part in reducing production costs and providing cheaper fuel for the consumer.
We are not adopting a revolutionary position on this matter. It will be recalled that when it was being debated on a previous occasion evidence given before the
Senate Select Committee on Off-shore Petroleum Resources was quoted. It suggested that Australia was in a somewhat unique position in not taking a lead from many countries overseas. I draw the Senate’s attention to the evidence given by the General Manager of the Brisbane Gas Co. to that Committee. He said: . . Australia is leaving herself in a somewhat unique position at this stage in not having a federal authority whereby transmission and distribution can be controlled.
One finds it hard to understand the reluctance of the Government to give any serious consideration to how it will best use this new-found resource. The Government said in the document presented by Sir Reginald Swartz to which I referred previously that it will not permit, except in the most exceptional circumstances, the export of natural gas. It is prepared to exercise some controls in these matters but when it comes down to fitting this into a national plan, the Government seems reluctant to take even the first step of planning. At question time this morning the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) decried worker participation and the role of the trade unions in matters of political concern. It was pleasing to hear Senator Little draw attention to the fact that the trade unions, whose members’ livelihoods are affected by the inability of the Government to play any meaningful role in the matter of the pipeline, have had to move themselves into somewhat of a vanguard position. Men of such eminence in the trade union movement as Mr Short of the Federated Ironworkers’ Association of Australia, Mr Garland, one of the joint secretaries of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union and Mr Bevin, the federal secretary of the Boilermakers and Blacksmiths Society of Australia which has now amalgamated with other unions and formed the Amalgamated Metal Works Union have been active in drawing the attention of the Government to the grave consequences of its failure to recognise, failure to prepare and failure to plan for the needs of Australian industry in this matter of providing component parts for this very important new industry.
There should be Government intervention in this field. Nothing I have heard from the Government speakers has shown me that there is any substance in their view that we have to leave the position willy-nilly to private enterprise to make all of the major decisions in this matter. The Government is now belatedly prepared to recognise the merit of the motion moved by Senator Little. This is somewhat of a somersault to its attitude of 3 weeks ago. I think it has been able to pick up the thread of public opinion which has been expressed in editorial comment and which has found its best expression in the Australian ‘Financial Review’ which stated that the basic question was the entire absence of a Federal Government policy and, for that matter, a State government policy. The costs of acquiring the private property and the public property which must be traversed by the pipeline, the economic consequences of natural gas, the effects upon the environment, the effects upon the future development of new cities and an active policy of decentralisation are surely all matters which come within the province of the Commonwealth. For example, we would say that any pipeline route that ignores the possibilities in the Hunter Valley area of New South Wales - I am sure that there will be similar areas in Victoria and other parts of Australia as this industry gets under way - is a short-sighted policy. It is short-sighted because the Commonwealth has not been prepared to recognise its responsibility in this matter. Senator Little’s motion deals with this limited problem that has hit the Australian scene - the Moomba-Sydney pipeline - and restricts the Committee to an examination of that limited project, important as it is. The matter goes far beyond that. Therefore, the Australian Labor Party’s amendment which looks at the real picture as it presents itself to Australia should be the one adopted by the Senate.
– I wish to take this opportunity to support the proposals contained in the amendment moved by Senator O’Byrne to the motion before the Senate. I point out first that, in my opinion, the point taken by Senator Webster is correct and that the amendment moved by the Australian Labor Party contains a far better proposition than that embodied by the Australian Democratic Labor Party in its motion. I have no great objection to what the DLP has put
CouldI draw attention to the original motion that we are considering, which reads:
That there be referred to the Standing Committee on Industry and Trade the following matter - The report that the Australian Gas Light Company is proposing to conclude a contract with a Japanese corporation for the manufacture and supply of steel pipes for the proposed natural gas pipeline from Moomba natural gas field in South Australia to Sydney, and whether this would deny Australian steel producers and suppliers the opportunity to fabricate and supply therequired steel or any part of it.
It seems to me that that motion contains 2 propositions. If the Senate by its vote refers this matter to the Senate Standing Committee on Industry and Trade and if at the time when that Committee comes to consider the reference, the details of the contract, as Senator Webster has pointed out. have been concluded the only thing thatthe Standing Committee could do would be to say: ‘Yes, the contract has tobet eermined. That is the answer to the first proposition’. So the concern and con fusion in respect of this matter could not be examined or canvassed.
A great deal of concern has been expressed by the industry itself and by the trade union movement because such a contact is proposed and because of the failure of the Government through its respective departments to assist in establishing proper procedures in relation to this matter. Certainly the Senate Standing Committee would not deal with a question which is of great concern to Australians now, that is, the growing ownership by foreign operators in all sectors of the Australian economy. That is one of the related questions. The first proposition in this motion may be short lived.
The second proposition obviously must be determined in circumstances where, the contract having been consummated the industry and Australian producers couldbe shown to have been unfairly dealt with, Tubemakers of Australia Ltd has declared that it could supply if not all at least a great quantity of this steel pipe. As I have said, most of the organisations representing workers engaged in the industry including the Australian Council of Trade Unions have expressed concern about the consummation of such a contract. A greatdeal of consideration is called for to remove these doubts which have not been eliminated by questions which have been put to the responsible Ministers and to the Government. Those doubts have not been removed in the course of this debate.
In considering the amendment moved by the Australian Labor Party, I remind the Senate that on 27th September last, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) initiated a discussion in the Senate on this matter by moving for the adjournment of the Senate to discuss the following matter of urgency:
The failure of the Government to take action to protect Australian employment and industry in the supply of the Moomba-Sydney pipeline.
In the course of that discussion, as has been mentioned by Senator Webster and from my recollection of reading what the honourable senator said in that debate. Senator Webster laid grounds for a great deal of concern about the arrangements which were made in relation to the specifications and in relation to opportunities for Australian industry to bid properly for the work. I leave that question aside for the minute and I turn to the amendment moved by Senator O’Byrne which, I suggest offers the best chance for a thorough investigation of this matter. The Opposition’s amendment reads:
Leave out all words after ‘the following matter’, insert ‘Legislative and administrative action which should be taken by the Commonwealth alone or in co-operation with the States in relation to the construction of the natural gas pipeline system of Australia (including the Moomba-Sydney pipeline) to ensure, inter alia, maximum utilisation of Australian employment and industry’,
I do hope that the Australian Democratic Labor Party will accept what is proposed by the Australian Labor Party in its amendment. A greater opportunity will be available to the Senate Standing Committee to carry out its inquiry in relation to the general question of pipelines and Australian enterprises if the Senate adopts what the Labor Party proposes than if it supports the motion moved by the DLP. Every possibility exists that, by the time the matter comes to be considered by the Senate Standing Committee if the reference proposed by the DLP is carried - it appears that the Government may support it - the contract will be agreed to.
I remind the Senate that, in the earlier debate. Senator Murphy referred to the complaints by Tubemakers of Australia Ltd about the unfair treatment accorded it and the lack of opportunities available to it to bid in respect of this pipeline. To some extent, those remarks were supported by what Senator Webster said in his contribution to that debate. I wish to refer briefly to what Senator Webster said then because he has raised these points again today. His remarks must create within the minds of honourable senators and the public a great deal of concern and a good many doubts as to the way in which this matter is proceeding.
At page 1276 of Hansard of 27th September last, Senator Webster said that he had been told by the industry, which has since made the matter public, that:
The Australian industry has had scarcely sufficient specification on which to quote at any stage.
He referred to a document which had been submitted to the Department of Customs and Excise and which we were told by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) was being considered, amongst other things. The document referred to these disabilities. The document stated:
Most organisations when calling public tenders for works of some magnitude, establish a proper administrative procedure, for their own protection as well as that of tenderers. One of the most elementary steps is to issue a proper description of the General Conditions of tender, a proper specification of the work to be done. . . .
I interpolate that in this case that was not done. This document stated also:
The documents issued by Williams Bros. are not dated. They are not in consecutively numbered pages. Some paragraphs are crossed out by hand.
The complaint is made:
It must be stressed that this unconventional method of documentation makes it possible for different suppliers to receive different tender documents. . . .
The evidence is obvious - it has been produced - that at no time was there a specification for a 34-inch pipeline.
In addition, I wish to draw attention to the points made by Senator Murphy. We should have some regard to what was said by the Senate Select Committee on Offshore Petroleum Resources in its report. Senator Murphy said:
At pagragraph 8.55 Mr Hume, the general manager of the Brisbane Gas Co., said:
. that Australia is leaving herself in a somewhat unique position at this stage in not having a federal authority whereby transmission and distribution can be controlled. Whether you look at the United Kingdom where the gas industry is nationalised or whether you look at the United States of America or Canada where the industry is under private enterprise, in all cases you will find a Federal or central authority. . . .
I turn now to what was said to that Committee by Mr Pettingell, ashe then was, the general manager of the Australian Gas Light Co. He told the Senate Committee:
If the separate States impose diverging principles of control, the development of interstate transmission lines would be greatly inhibited - that has in mind America and Canada where there was bedlam.
In a later contribution, he said:
Uniform regulations should govern the construction and operation of interstate pipelines throughout the whole length of the country.
So we see the type of approach which the Labor Party makes to these issues which, as yet, the Government has not made.
Mr Pettingell went on to say:
A simple and practical approach by the Commonwealth Government to legislation enabling the construction and operation of interstate pipelines could possibly set the pattern for appropriate Slate legislation dealing withintra-State pipelines and associated matters such as conservation.
The Committee made these findings:
The evidence would suggest that regulatory and advisory responsibilities of an authority in the field of interstate Trade could include: (1.) To authorise the construction, ownership, operation and location of interstate oil and gas pipelines;
To make orders with respect to all matters relating to traffic, tariff’s and prices; and (3.) To study, review and from time to time report to the Parliament on such policies and measures as it considers necessary or advisable in the public interest for the control of transportation of oil and gas.
I refer to the fact, which has been mentioned already by Senator Gietzelt, that for many months the Labor Party has had a policy of looking at this matter from a national point of view. The relevant part of the platform of the Labor Party reads:
Labor will establish a joint Federal-State fuel and energy commission to devise and implement an integrated and co-ordinated national fuel and energy policy. The Commission will:
Regulate the exploration, development, transportation, marketing and use of oil, natural gas, coal, fissionable materials and generative water and prevent the depletion of fuel and energy resources needed to match Australia’s requirements . . .
For those general reasons it would seem to me to be a sensible move if the DLP were to consider the position that would arise from adoption of the amendment. I agree completely with what Senator Webster said. The motion, if carried, would mean that in the event of the contract being consummated there is nothing more to answer in respect to it. The amendment would mean that the Senate Standing Committee could extend its inquiries to ensure that Australia’s interests are best served. I refer particularly to the interests of manufacturers such as Tubemakers who have accomplished a great deal of work in relation to pipelines, who have the expertise and who, 1 believe, could have done the work if they had been given the proper opportunities. They say that they were not given the opportunity. As far as I am aware, that position still stands. lt seems to me that the answers that the Minister has given do not answer the propositions which have been raised in the debate today and on 27th September. He said that inquiries are being made and that discussions are taking place. He mentioned, I think, that the Department of Trade and Industry was rather concerned that if there were any interference in the present discussions it might be considered to be an interference in the ordinary arrangements for commerce. He restated the old Liberal principle that commerce should operate as it thinks fit - freely - provided that it operates within the law. These days most of us are starting to accept and understand that commerce has to operate in the general context of the value of commence to the Australian country and the Australian people. More and more people are accepting that principle, and more and more people are concerned about the intrusions of foreign owners into this country. I refer not only to the Japanese, who are very skilled in their operations and who have a fairly substantial dependency upon Australian raw material and mineral resources, and will have in the near future, but to others also.
Everybody is concerned about the sort of arrangements made with the Japanese. I point out that the Japanese are backed by expert government departments. The position is different from that which operates in Australia. In Japan, whether it is aircraft, minerals, motor cars, trade or whatever one likes to name, there are expert government departments allied closely to the commercial and manufac turing enterprises. The departments have a special knowledge. They give the manufacturer or producer that extra push, that national drive which we in Australia do not have. We have to watch these developments. We have to ensure that our country, our manufacturers and the standards enjoyed by employees are protected. Honourable senators will remember that in the past Senator Mulvihill and myself drew attention to the arrangements that were made about the supply of Japanese railway rolling stock. In circumstances in which large sections of our engineering plants had redundant labour, Australia was making arrangements to have railway rolling stock built in Japan.
The trade between Australia and Japan is not the real indicator. The real indicator is what will happen in 10 or 15 years time. That is the general background of the debate. In Australia there is a great concern about these matter, particularly the aspect that I have just mentioned. It seems to me that the only way in which the Standing Committee can do a thorough job on this matter will be for it to have referred to it the matter contained in the Labor Party’s amendment. Consequently I would like to see the DLP change its attitude to the amendment because I suggest that its motion is fairly limited.
- Mr Acting Deputy President -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson) - Senator Webster, I take it that you wish to speak to the amendment?
– Yes. The Government is opposing the amendment which has been moved by the Australian Labor Party. Having spoken to the motion moved by Senator Little I wish to make one or two further remarks in relation to the amendment. Apparently the proposal to build a gas pipeline from Moomba to Sydney has alerted the Labor Party to the fact that something should be done in relation to the matter. The amendment moved by the Labor Party seeks to substitute for the words in the motion after the words the following matter’ these words:
Legislative and administrative action which should be taken by the Commonwealth alone or in co-operation with the Stales in relation to the construction of the natural gas pipeline system of
Australia (including the Mooraba-Sydney pipeline) to ensure, inter alia, maximum utilisation of Australian employment and industry.
I think it is fair to say that the amendment has very little to do with the basic subject contained in Senator Little’s motion. His proposal was related directly to the Moomba-Sydney pipeline. The Labor Party has moved an amendment which certainly has much wider terms than Senator Little’s motion. I believe that it could hardly be construed as an amendment. There is some wisdom associated with the general subject contained in the amendment. I could not leave the comments that I made when I spoke previously. I support the particular proposition that the Labor Party has put. I certainly do not support the referral of the matter to the Senate Standing Committee
On Industry and Trade. I think that in the Senate on a number of occasions the stupidity of referring to a committee, which perhaps has 2 or 3 years work ahead of it, a matter which needs resolution very quickly has been instanced. Obviously there is wisdom in this matter not going ahead at present.
I think the Opposition has alerted the Government to the very important matter of a need for a national grid system. This is probably necessary in Australia in the early stages of the conveyance of Australia’s natural resources from one side of the continent to the other. The Department of National Development must take some interest in this matter. Certainly the Moomba-Sydney gas pipeline is an appropriate vehicle by which to take that interest, if the Government has not something already in mind following the establishment of the Gippsland pipeline. In my speech I mentioned a variety of things which will be conveyed by pipeline throughout this country. We certainly should be looking to a stage 10 years ahead when all sorts of things will be conveyed by pipeline across the country. The wisdom of the argument that the Labor Party put forward, that the Standing Committee shouldlook at this matter, is inappropriate. 1 oppose the amendment on that ground.
One or two matters relating to the subject that is directly before the Senate - the Moomba-Sydney gas pipeline installation - should be mentioned. I suppose it is fair to say that the thought in the minds of the
Australian people -I think the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) has emphasised this - is that there was competition between overseas manufacturers and Australian manufacturers which brought about a situation in which a great Australian principal is giving an overseas manufacturer the benefit of$1 50m worth of manufacture. We are influenced by the comment that this overseas manufacturer is a very important trading partner of Australia and that this should be taken into account. We also are influenced by the fact that the pipe apparently can be produced so much more cheaply by this overseas manufacturer that the Australian community should have the benefit of obtaining the cheapest possible product, provided it is comparable.
Let me reiterate one or two comments: I think the debate today has emphasised that fair competition did not exist. The Minister, who has come forward today with all the arguments that can be put forward by the Department of Trade and Industry, has been unable to convey to the Senate the date on which Australian manufacturers obtained a fair set of tender documents upon which to quote. The Department of Trade and Industry is unable to tell the Senate that on a particular date suppliers from Italy, Germany and Japan and Australian suppliers had like documents and therefore the principal in this matter, the Australian Gas Light Co., is able to say that this work was gained by fair competition. I have given facts which I believe are correct and they have not been refuted by the Department or by the Australian Gas Light Co. Nobody in this chamber has been able to show that fair competition did exist. The reason why the overseas supplier had access to a set of tender documents which was not available to the Australian manufacturers of steel and pipe is something that one cannot evaluate, although one has one’s own views.
The next proposition is that on a number of occasions the Government was asked to ascertain for the Senate or for me the date on which Australian manufacturers were alerted to the fact that what was required in this instance was 34-inch pipe. A number of things have been said, including that Australia does not have the competence to make pipe of this size, that it has never made pipe of this size, and therefore the principal needed to look overseas for it. That has been debated, and it is readily evident that Australian manufacturers have the competence to produce, and have in fact produced, 42-inch pipe. That cannot be denied. But, when one looks at the various sizes of pipe and the specifications for the type of steel required and the various wall thicknesses that may be required for such a pipe to withstand the varying conditions that will be applicable on the route from South Australia to Sydney, one must say that if the Australian industry is keen to do this type of work it must show interest and competence. The Senate may be interested to know that BHP, when alerted to the particular specification which it was suggested would be required but which was not actually specified, produced a number of tons of this particular type of steel. Without my going into the matter, honourable senators may be able to imagine the enormous job that it is for any manufacturer to produce a certain type of mix in steel to make steel plate suitable for conversion into that pipe.
– Order! 1 must intervene to say that at this stage honourable senators must speak to the amendment and that any honourable senator who has spoken to the original motion must now confine his remarks to the matters contained in the amendment.
– Yes, Mr President. Perhaps you would like me to repeat the wording of the amendment. Every comment I have made is directed to the amendment. 1 am saying that, to manufacture in Australia a gas pipeline that would be appropriate to a pipeline system for Australia and to ensure the maximum utilisation of Australian employment and industry, our great Australian steel industry mixed steel to the specification that was proposed and produced plate of a quality which is equal to anything that can be obtained anywhere in the world. This was made available to the pipe fabricators and the pipe fabricators then tested that steel, X-rayed it and subjected it to all types of rigour.
The interesting fact is that one manufacturer set up his own science laboratory, which was approved by the Standards Association of Australia, in which this pipe was tested by the highest authority and the testing specifications complied with the highest authority. It is interesting to note that Williams Brothers brought overseas experts here to look at the manufacturing of this Australian pipe and that those experts were absolutely amazed at the work that was done in Australia. They said that it compared with any such work done anywhere in the world. This pipe was produced. The basic cost not only to BHP but to the 2 pipe manufacturers in this instance could be expressed, 1 would suggest, as being between $250,000 and S300.000 - a very sizable contribution to this particular art in Australia. The fact that this pipe was produced, that the results were taken back to the consultants and they were very pleased with what had been done indicates the manner in which Australian industry carried out its proper function in an attempt to secure a proportion of this great pipeline.
It ought to be noted that at the outset the Australian steel and pipe suppliers never envisaged that they would supply, or requested that they be allowed to supply, more than 50 per cent of the pipeline. I think that point has perhaps been deflected in some way. Senator Cotton, in replying and presenting to the Senate comments provided by the Department of Trade and Industry, indicated that Australian industry would be very well served if it were able to supply many of the subsidiary lines for this contract. 1 do not doubt that Australian labour will be used to lay the pipe, that Australian manufacturers will be called on to do some of the repair work to pipe that may be damaged, that the welding of the pipe, which is a major task, will be carried out by Australian la:,ou r and Australian industry, and indeed that Australian manufacturers and industry generally will score greatly from this contract.
The initial matter that was discussed in this debate was the major pipeline and the ability of Australian manufacturers to supply the 34-nch pipe necessary for that pipeline. I think this has much relevance to the question of a duty being imposed by the Australian Government on the importation of the pipe. I imagine that it is the wish of the community in general that we should not ask the Japanese manufacturer or the Australian importer to bear a duty of the order of 35 per cent, if that is the rate proposed. It was argued by Senator Little as to whether the rate was 25 per cent or 35 per cent. I noted that a news report said it was 35 per cent and that is my understanding also.
If Australian industry were given the opportunity to supply as much pipe as it was able to manufacture and the Japanese exporter and Australian importer were able to bring into Australia duty free the balance of the pipe needed, that would meet the wish of the Australian community and Australian industry. This would provide fair competition, if Australian industry were able to supply within a reasonable time a pipe which was a suitable equivalent to what the principal required. In this event Australian industry would have no objection lo the overseas manufacturer bringing pipe into Australia. I believe that this is the kind of situation that we should endeavour to bring about. I do not want to see the Australian Gas Light Co. having to pay a bill for imported pipe carrying $15m in Austraiian duty. That would not lead to the greatest efficiency in laying down this pipeline. I imagine that the Australian Gas Light Co. is trying very hard to avoid this duty being placed upon its imports.
I think it must be spelt out that Australian industry must be given a preference in supplying the pipe. That is what Australia wants and that is what Australian senators want. We believe that Australian industry should be given preference in the manufacture of the steel if there is a competence within Australia to produce it, and if there is a competence within Australian manufacturers to manufacture the pipe they should be given the opportunity to produce whatever volume they can, after which, if any duty is to apply to the pipe which is imported, information will be available to the Department of Customs and Excise. Frankly I am disappointed that at this date, which I state as Wednesday, 18th October 1972, no report has been brought to the Senate by the Department of Trade and Industry to show us what are the facts, lt is disappointing that the information has not been provided, but I can well imagine how difficult it would be for the Department to present that information.
– Perhaps some people will not supply the facts.
– 1 genuinely believe, that the Department has approached AGL for the facts but as yet has not been able to obtain them. Professor Muir will be able to obtain the facts because he will have evidence from both sides. He will have a document which will set out very clearly the process that has taken place. He will be aware that Australian manufacturers of pipe have said to AGL and its consultants: ‘If you say that BHP steel is far too dear, we are still willing to quote on the manufacture from Japanese steel.’ That offer has been given some attention. If that suggestion were adopted and Australian manufactures were making the pipe with imported steel, we in the Senate would be able to say that this was providing work for Australians, that it was providing work for Australian industry. This is what we want lo see.
There are a variety of interests in this contract which must be considered. 1 have great confidence that the Department of Trade and Industry will ensure that an intense investigation is carried out. lt has indicated its goodwill by its selection of an eminent metallurgist from New South Wales who will be able to look at the matter objectively. If the facts which have been made known to me and which have not been denied by the principal or the Department of Trade and Industry are, finally evaluated by that authority, I have no doubt what the result will be. The Australian Government has acted quite properly this matter. It has been alert to the position for some time. Commercial interests make it difficult for the Government to make a proper evaluation of the situation or to determine what should follow, but I have no doubt that the comment made by the Minister for Trade and Industry has prompted some matters which eventually may allow Australian industry to manufacture some of this pipe.
I do not go all the way with comment made by the Minister. Some of the people who quoted for this pipe showed so much efficiency in the way they quoted that it will be impossible to do other than give them the contract, or at least part of it, whether the Department of Trade and Industry comes into the matter or not. I feels that it cannot be denied that in Australian industry we have a competence to manufacture pipe and that we have a competence to manufacture steel for the pipe. In this instance, in industry and in labour, we have the competence that is necessary to maintain Australia’s economic health, and I believe that both these areas of industry will be granted a large proportion of this contract before the matter has been finalised.
– Today we have witnessed one of the most amazing situations that we could ever see in a Commonwealth Parliament. Senator Webster has taken the Government to task in no uncertain manner. He has criticised all aspects of this deal involving the supply of pipe for the Moomba to Sydney pipeline. He has said in effect that the tender has been let because the Japanese corporation has been able to tender successfully in competition with Australian firms. That was the tenor of his remarks when speaking to the motion. Yet when he reached the final part of his speech he said that he could not support the motion. Then he addressed himself to the amendment and found everything wrong with that. Again he trenchantly criticised the Government. In one part of his remarks he said that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) had not answered his questions. Honourable senators will recall that the Minister replied: ‘Why do you not address the questions to your own Leader?’ There seems to be some division among honourable senators opposite as to who is handling this matter, whether it is the Minister for Civil Aviation, the Liberal Party or the Country Party.
Senator Webster must know what the position is because the Minister told him that he would not be given any answers. The Minister said: ‘I am not going into this; this is a contract between private industry and the Government is not going into it at all’. Senator Webster is pleading with a government which already has said that it will do nothing about the situation. Although the honourable senator’s criticism of the Government may be valid and justified, I submit with respect that he has to make up his mind whether he intends to support the motion proposed by the Democratic Labor Party or the amendment moved by the Australian Labor Party. Both Parties, irrespective of the way we approach the matter, want to do something to correct what has happened in the past and to ensure that nothing of that nature will happen in the future. What is the honourable senator’s criticism of Labor’s amendment to the DLP motion? He says that it is inappropriate to refer the matter to a committee and that the committee to which we suggested that it should be referred is already overloaded with work. I should like to know what committee is not overloaded with work. Yet only the other day the honourable senator supported a proposition to refer a matter to a committee.
– I did not support it.
– If the honourable senator does not accept a decision that was arrived at unanimously in the Senate he is saying, in effect, that he is the only one in step and that all other honourable senators are out of step. Let me remind the honourable senator that he accepted and voted for a proposition that children in neglected and isolated areas should be the subject of a Senate committee report.
– We did not oppose it.
– The honourable senator did that. I happen to be a member of a committee of which Senator Davidson is the Chairman. There could not be any committee that has a heavier work load than that one at the present time.
– The Australian Democratic Labor Party moved a motion in regard to that.
– I am not playing politics on this matter. I know why Senator Webster has acted in this way. He flays the Government. He says that the Government is wrong, that it is doing this and it is dong that, so that he can then go out to his constituents and say: ‘Look what 1 said about the Government. I protected your interests in the Senate’. But then he fails to show them how he voted on the actual proposition.
– There are a lot of supporters in the pipeline industry, I can assure the honourable senator, who are from my Party.
– Good. Congratulations. Come a step further and give further support by doing something that will protect their interests in the future. But no, the honourable senator is not going to do that. All he is going to do is to say to those people to whom he has referred: Look what I did for you. Gee, I spoke well for your people’. But when it comes to the crunch, we know where the honourable senator will go.
It is not remarkable that Senator Webster based his criticism on the fact that the Senate Standing Committee on Industry and Trade is overworked. Let me read the names of the personnel of that Committee. The Chairman is Senator Prowse and the other members of the Committee are Senators Durack, Kane, Lillico, Primmer. Wilkinson, Wriedt and Young. Not one of those senators has risen and said: ‘Do not give this reference to us. We have too much work; do not give it to us’. Yet Senator Webster, in trying to put something on paper as to why he will not allow the Labor Party’s motion to go any further, uses that insignificant, and if I may say so. absurd excuse. The situation is that we believe that, as Senator Webster has agreed, we should do something to protect Australian industry in the future. I go along 100 per cent with honourable senators who have said that Australian industry and Australian workers should be protected in the future. Surely no-one would disagree with that proposition. But when we say that we should set up a com- mittee to ensure that this will be done we find that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton), apparently acting on behalf of the Government - and I do not think that I am mistaken - says: ‘No, we cannot accept that because it may offend some section of the Constitution’.
– I rather thought, speaking for myself, that I observed that section 92 of the Constitution might present a problem.
– I see; it may only present a problem. Just where are we going in government when a Minister says that something may present a problem? Are we ever to reach finality if we are to hide behind an excuse that we may offend something if we set up a committee?
– ‘This is the legal word, Senator, that brought down one of your leaders on the same test.
– Well, the situation is that again the Minister comes back with the same excuse - that the legal fraternity may have something to do with it. People in Australia are human beings. They do not all belong to the legal fraternity. I say without fear of contradiction that people throughout Australia were disgusted with the attitude of the Government when it failed to interfere with the contract between the natural gas corporation and the Japanese corporation. That is over and done with. Maybe the agreement will not be consummated; we do not know. Senator Webster says that it is still in abeyance. What we say is: Ensure for the future that something of this nature does not happen again. If the honourable senator votes against the amendment proposed by Senator O’Byrne then I submit that he is not concerned with the future of Australia, Australian industry and Australian workers.
– in reply - Conscious that I am closing the debate I would like first of all to thank the honourable senators who have spoken to the motion that I have moved on behalf.of the Australian Democratic Labor Party for the very worthwhile comments that have been made during the course of the debate. In substantiating my argument that the Senate should carry the resolution as it has been presented, I would first of all reply to Senator Webster who made some criticism of the proposition that the questions that would be referred to the Committee virtually are answered in the proposition itself. I would remind him that the proposition itself in part says:
The report that the Australian Gas Light Co. is proposing to conclude a contract with a Japanese corporation. . . .
This would he one of the matters that would be referred to the Committee. That, of course, immediately opens up the question that the Committee itself can examine all aspects of the proposed contract, including the specifications that were requested, the tenders that were made, whom they were made by and what countries are concerned. That is the function of the Committee. Senator Webster suggests in turn that the Government already has relegated this matter to a professor who will do this. But he has already told us that the Department of Trade and
Industry seems to be unable to produce the facts, and this is the very relevancy of the whole question that this matter should go before the Committee, because the Senate Standing Committee on Industry and Trade can subpoena the people who let the contract, who prepared the specifications or who did anything else in connection with this matter. They could be brought before the Committee, placed on oath and evidence could be extracted. As far as I am aware no professor appointed by anyone has the power to elicidate the facts that have to be gained.
It was very kind of Senator Webster to speak - I understand he was talking to the amendment - on precisely what had been done by the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd in the production of steel. I have read about it in the newspapers too. But I would not state as an absolute fact that production of steel did take place because it is merely a statement which appeared in a newspaper which said that BHP had said that this had taken place. I believe that a Senate committee would establish whether it did or did not take place because the Australian Gas Light Co. has denied that there was any production of steel at all. This is the very controversy to which I referred in my introduction of the proposition that this matter had to be cleared up. I believe that only a committee of this Senate has the necessary powers to clear up these areas of doubt so that we know precisely what is being proposed before we act upon it.
Senator Webster said: ‘Of course, the contract is let. It speaks for itself then, and the Committee has nothing to do to establish that the contract would deny Australian steel producers and suppliers the opportunities to fabricate and supply the required steel’. Although he says that the contract would, who knows what the terms of the contract are? We have read in the newspapers that some people say the contract is for the whole of the pipe line and some say it is for a portion of the pipeline and so on. What Senator Webster has said does not necessarily establish that our proposal for an inquiry into the contract that may be completed would inevitably establish that there is no place in it for Australian producers at all. It may establish quite the contrary. The Committee may find that the contract is sufficiently wide that there will still be room for the supply of a great deal of the contract by Australian suppliers. That is why the Australian Democratic Labor Party concludes its motion by saying, ‘or any part of it’, so that the Committee is completely free to establish all the facts in relation to this one particular proposition.
This brings me to the amendment that was moved by Senator O’Byrne on behalf of the Opposition. I compliment Senator O’Byrne on arriving at very similar conclusions to what has already been thought out by the DLP. Very excellent propositions are contained in the amendment. But the DLP has deliberately excluded them from trying to elucidate the situation in relation to this one contract because of the tremendous ambit that is involved in the questions that are suggested. I think that Senator Gietzelt made this very clear in his remarks because in speaking to the amendment he drifted into the area of preserving flora and fauna and everything else. That is not an area for consideration by the Department of Trade and Industry. If we want an investigation into that aspect of laying pipelines anywhere in Australia then the reference should go to the Senate Select Committee on Social Environment. At least that Committee is obtaining some skills in investigation in that area. If that is the ambit of the amendment this matter should go not only to the Senate Select Committee on Industry and Trade but also we should cut up the various aspects and they should go to the various committees of the Senate which have been set up to inquire into such things.
– Does the honourable senator think it might be better to leave that to the Government?
– Can we leave it to the Government? I doubt very much whether the Government can call evidence and witnesses in the same manner in which the Parliament or the Senate can. Senator Webster would be as aware of that as I am because he is a hardworking member of many committees. As I made clear when introducing the motion, the urgency of it presses upon us because of the circumstances.
The original proposal raised by Senator Murphy 2 days after this matter broke condemned the Government for not taking specific action on a lot of newspaper reports. We thought that that was the wrong way to go about finding out what was involved in this in the interests of Australia and of doing something about it. Of course, at the same time the trade unions became involved. Laurie Short said. We will not lay the pipeline.’ This could be very injurious not only to people who will be denied the employment of laying the pipeline but also to industry, consumers and housewives in Sydney who perhaps can see that their fuel bills may be cut by at least one-third all the more quickly with the introduction of this pipeline. If the Department of Trade and Industry does not know - the Government cannot be expected to know - it will tak? a committee which has power to question people under oath to find out what specifications were supplied to the people who were asked to submit tenders for this contract, to examine ali relevant details, and to come down with effective answers. How can trade unions decide that they are justified in saying that they will not lay the pipeline? They make that decision on the simple concept that they feel that Australian workers have been done out of a job. That may be a good concept on which to base the decision which they suggest they might make, but we are looking al the matter from an Australian point of view - from the point of view of all the people and all the interests which are involved.
As I outlined at the beginning some of these interests conflict. But so that w? can obtain a basis on which to work we believe very firmly that this inquiry should concentrate on this particular proposition. We have thought about the amendment and again we find ourselves in agreement with the Australian Labor Party but we believe that the amendment would serve no good purpose. Indeed, it completely obscures the urgency of the proposition - we say that this proposition is urgent - by giving an investigation of this magnitude a time limit of 6 months. 1 suggest to the Opposition that, in all honesty, it could not expect a committee to come down with a reasonable report based on its amendment in a period of years. Such a committee would have to clarify the legal aspects or, in the words of the amendment:
Legislative and administrative action which should be taken by the Commonwealth alone or in co-operation with the States . . .
I suggest to the Opposition that if it wants some action it should get the States and the Commonwealth to agree on areas where these pipelines can best serve on an interstate basis.
I do not suggest that once the pipeline gets to New South Wales whether it goes to the Hunter Valley or somewhere else is a matter for other States to be interested in. I believe that that is within the jurisdiction of New South Wales. The Australian Gas Light Co. is bringing this pipeline from Adelaide to Sydney and paying for it. Therefore it has a right to bring it in in a manner which does not interfere with the rights of anybody else and the rights which have been granted by the New South Wales and South Australian governments. It has every right to do that in the cheapest possible manner. But if the New South Wales Government or the Commonwealth Government wants to suggest deviations in the interests of future development which may be envisaged then it is for those governments to approach the company and for private negotiations to take place as to who is to bear the costs of the extensions or whatever may be involved, or whether any cost is involved at all. When it becomes a matter between the States and the Commonwealth then there should be a conference between those bodies. No Senate committee can iron that out. When it becomes a matter between the States that is a matter for conference between those States. These problems have been overcome in relation to rivers, waterways and water conservation in this country. A body has been set up which is composed of representatives from the States with the Commonwealth sitting in and taking a leading role in the organisation of these things, and that is very sensible.
I assure the Australian Labor Party that if at any future time it is prepared to bring forward a constructive proposition in relation to this matter it will unhesitatingly obtain the support of the Australian Democratic Labor Party, lt has been suggested that this project which has caused all the flurry will lead to a contest of strength between employers and employees to the detriment of the country. It has been suggested in some newspapers that major finance companies in this land are venting spleen and are playing politics with each other because one company which had an interest in supplying the pipe also had an interest in supplying gas from another area and it set down terms which were not acceptable to the purchaser who is now going to establish the pipeline. It has been freely suggested in the newspapers that this is the reason why no clear specification seems to have been granted to the Australian suppliers of this pipe. We do not know whether that is a fact. That is another comment which has appeared in the newspapers. But a committee of the Senate can establish whether there is an element of truth in this sort of competition between these great companies which have been frustrated in the supply of gas at a price which they wanted. I am not here to say who is right or wrong. I do not know sufficient about the matter. I think that a senate committee could become sufficiently informed to be able to make a considered judgment. My motion is limited to the one specific case. I believe that if we want anything done it has to be limited to the one specific case.
I do not propose to go further into the amendment moved by the Opposition than the reference to legislative and administrative action. All the other suggestions apply, perhaps, to all other pipelines which may be built. But we are concerned at the moment with only one pipeline because the one in Victoria has no relationship to the problem which is set out in this amendment. The Victorian pipeline runs only a short distance in comparison with the Moomba to Sydney pipeline. It runs from the Gippsland area to Melbourne and will continue on to serve other areas of Victoria. But that is purely a domestic affair within Victoria, lt has no real relationship to the magnitude of the proposition set out in the motion.
We appreciate the debate which has taken place. We believe that everything which has been said has established quite clearly that if this Parliament wants to prevent a situation which, rather than being of benefit to the people of Australia, could cause complete chaos it will take the action which we suggest. The Senate should recommend to the Committee that it should take action in relation to this specific contract. The Committee should obtain the facts for the Senate and the Government, and for the Department of
Trade and Industry which may not be in a position to obtain these facts for itself. Guided by these facts - as it has been guided in other cases - I am confident that any government of this country, whatever its political complexion, would take steps which are in the best interests of the nation. I do not see that the amendment moved by the Opposition will achieve this. T regret that my Party will be forced to vote against some of the excellent principles in the amendment. But if these principls are presented at an appropriate time and in an appropriate form which will enable something to develop, I believe that we could support it. But we cannot support the amendment when dealing specifically with the Moomba to Sydney project.
– Mr President, am I too late to say just a few words? Is the debate closed?
– No, it is not closed. You may speak.
– Mr President, it appears to me that passage of this motion would be like closing the gate after the horse has got out. It is proposed that we try to correct something that has already happened. We cannot take from the people who have let the tender for these steel pipes the right to let that tender once it has been let. We cannot ask the people responsible for this job to do anything more than give Australian manufacturers the right to manufacture the material for which a contract has not been let. The Senate is being asked to do something which is impossible. If this reference goes to the Senate Standing Committee on Industry and Trade the Committee’s report will probably come out when the pipeline is half built or when half the steel has already arrived. We know very well that Australian labour will be used to lay this pipe if it will work on the project but we cannot take rights from the people concerned if they have already let the tender. We should have made provision to avoid this situation before it arose.
I appeal to honourable senators to think about the matter so that they can understand the situation. If I as a building contractor had let a tender to someone I would fight like blazes to retain the right to have that tender stand. If there are objections to the calling of tenders overseas for this steel pipe they should have been raised before tenders were called. As that was not done why the devil should we waste time? Please think of this matter in that light. Think of it individually as if you were the tenderer or the one who called for the tenders. The matter has gone by the board. We cannot do anything about it. Perhaps we can close the gate in order to cope with things in the future but we cannot at this stage impose a duty on the importation of steel pipe from Japan. That would be doing the wrong thing. I will not support either the motion or the amendment.
That the amendment (Senator O’Byrne’s be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Consideration resumed from 11 October (vide page 1489).
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Proposed new clause 2A.
– I move:
– Apparently Senator Negus has a series of amendments which do not seem to have been circulated or made available. I certainly do not have a copy of them.
– I have copies alongside me and I will circulate them. Mr Chairman, 1 ask you and honourable senators to bear with me. It seems to me that this matter has become far more involved than I expected it to become, even to the extent that the Parliamentary Counsel had to have 3 attempts to produce the right amendments. I did not wish to present them in the order in which, according to the Bill, they have to be presented. Put very simply, the amendment I have just moved provides that the various charities and other organisations that are now exempt from duty on estates left to them will not be exempt if part of the estate goes to the widow. children or grandchildren of the ^deceased. That is all I wish to achieve. What I have just read out is what is necessary to amend the Act to that effect.
At the present time the situation is that in many cases throughout Australia a man leaves a section of his estate to charities, perhaps with the object in mind of reducing the burden of duty on his widow and children, and in most cases the charities receive cash and the widow and children are left with property on which they have to try to raise cash to pay estate duties. I personally see no reason why a widow and dependent children should have to pay duty when charities and other organisations are exempt from duty. I do not wish to talk on this point for too long, other than to say that it seems wrong to me, as an ordinary Australian citizen, that charities and other organisations should be exempt whereas a widow and children have to pay duty.
– It might be appropriate if I spoke at this moment. I do not want to delay the Committee in its consideration of the various aspects of the measure now before us, and I certainly do not want to take away from Senator Negus his right to put propositions to the Committee. But, as a member of a committee set up by the Senate to look at this whole question, 1 am bound to raise the question of the appropriateness of the Committee of the Whole looking into matters which the committee set up by the Senate has been delegated to look into. The matter which Senator Negus has raised is precisely the matter which the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations is looking into at the present time, lt seems to me that if we are to proceed further to pre-empt the recommendations which the Standing Committee will make in due course to the Senate -
– It would be a waste of time.
– That is right. We might just as well pack up that Committee and get on with something much more important, because in this place the other night we made a decision which I suggest removes a great deal of responsibility from that Committee in terms of the area it is examining, the conclusions it will reach and the recommendations it will make to the Senate. No senator has the right to take away from another senator the opportunity, privilege and right he has here to raise matters of this kind; but, as Senator Byrne pointed out a few moments ago, we have had no opportunity to consider the deep involvements and complexities of the various issues which will be raised. I notice that we have before us not only an amendment in respect of the clause with which we are dealing at the present time but in fact a whole host of suggested amendments. From the observations which Senator Negus has made to us so far, I know that he raises this question of what consid eration will be given to relatives in blood of a testator, but I frankly confess that I have no conception of how what Senator Negus has proposed will achieve the objective he has in mind. Surely it is appropriate at least to point out that we have a committee engaged in the task of looking into propositions of this nature, calling expert evidence and availing itself of all the advice that is available to a committee in looking into this very proposition. It seems to me that, if we proceed to make a decision one way or another on the issues raised by Senator Negus, that decision must stand as the voice of the Senate and the Senate Standing Committee will have no function to perform other than perhaps to reach some judgment which in conflict with the decisions which will be made in relation to these amendments today. I am bound to question very seriously the appropriateness of raising this question at this time.
– I am delighted to hear an admission from Senator Negus that at last he has discovered that this problem is more complicated than he first thought. I thought that all of us who claim to have a little knowledge of the implications of death duties had always known it to be a very complicated and intricate problem.
– Therefore it is easier to abolish death duties straight out.
– That is quite right. In no circumstances would I be prepared to support any of these amendments, because Senator Negus is going back on what he claims he was sent here to do. I believe that it would be preferable to get right out of the field of estate duty. The, better and easier we make the provisions relating to estate duty, the longer it will stay. This is simply a fact of life. The heat will go out of the abolition issue if we start to make the imposition of estate duty not as burdensome as it might have been. For that reason I would not have a bar of any of the amendments. I can well understand Senator Negus’s argument, and I agree with him. If he read or listened to my speech the other week, he would know that I agree that it is an anomaly that charities should get a testamentary gift free of duty whereas a man’s widow and dependent children have to pay duty to get their share. But I do not think that proposition is cured by taking away the duty free gift to charities. With all due respect to Senator Negus, I think that he is backing the wrong horse. If, as most of my colleagues on this side of the Senate believe, there should be no death duty, the position should not be fiddled around with and made a little better so that people might stay with it. I am an abolitionist.
– Honourable senators will know that the Australian Democratic Labor Party has been conducting a long campaign in relation to the elimination of federal estate duty so far as it is available to this Parliament to do so under the Constitution. We have moved to do so on a number of occasions. Unfortunately, until recently we were not successful in having a resolution from the Senate supporting our proposition, although we had moved a motion at least twice before. However, only last week a specific motion before the Senate was adopted. It was supported by the Government, independent senators and members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party but was opposed by the Opposition. There is now a standing resolution of the Senate that the Federal Government should take into consideration the total elimination of federal estate duty. As Senator Devitt says, there is also a reference of the matter to the appropriate Senate Standing Committee on the basis of determining, I presume, if the legislation were to persist, what anomalies might exist and how they might be eliminated. But it is our attitude that the resolution of the Senate indicating its attitude to this matter surely must have some persuasive effect on the Government. We could reasonably expect that in the face of that resolution the Government would attempt to introduce legislation at the earliest opportunity to eliminate estate duty altogether so far as it is federally imposed.
I agree wilh Senator Withers that the amendments which have been propounded by Senator Negus, for the removal of anomalies and the amelioration of the impositions under the present statute, are aimed in the same direction. But to attempt at this stage with these complex amendments coming forward in an area which is. as Senator Withers said, of tremendous legal complexity, to assess them and fit them into the principal Act and to adopt them without creating further and even worse anomalies would be an impossible operation for the Senate. That might be an essay which we would still undertake if it were not for the resolution now standing before us that the Senate has set its face against the continuation of this imposition at any time, in any way and at any level. For that reason, the attitude of the DLP is that these amendments should not be supported, that we should by the attitude of the Senate indicate that we think the Government should retire from this field altogether, the Senate has so resolved, and the Government should at the earliest opportunity propound that as a matter of positive political and governmental policy. Then the amendments which Senator Negus is attempting to persuade upon the Senate in good faith this afternoon would not be necessary because the duty would have been abandoned completely.
In those circumstances we do not feel that we can support these amendments. But we again take this opportunity to persist in our campaign and commend to the Government as firmly as possible the resolution of the Senate made the other day that the Government should retire from this field of duty. We hope that the Government will give early attention to the resolution of the Senate. I say to Senator Negus that we find ourselves unable to support these specific propositions on the principle that the greater includes the less and the total elimination of estate duty will make amendments such as these unnecessary and avoid the complications which are inherent in this attempt, brave as it may be, to amend the statute.
– I think that I ought to make a few brief observations to Senator Negus who moved the amendment and to my colleagues. Since Senator Negus started off with these ideas, he will agree, they have gone through many manifestations as to how they will finish up. I must say that the officers of the Taxation Office and the Department of the Treasury have worked a long time and very seriously on examining all the issues raised by Senator Negus because they were conscious of the interest that he has in this matter. Having done all that, they find it impossible to recommend to the Government that the amendments be supported, even with the greatest goodwill in the world of one trying to help. Equally, I think they would agree that the matter is, to say the least, slightly confused. I think that it is a proper observation made by our colleagues, Senator Devitt, Senator Withers and Senator Byrne, that a Senate Committee is studying this matter intimately and in some depth. Equally, there is a taxation review committee which will, without any doubt, be studying many of these areas.
This measure is related to the Budget and as such is part of the whole Budget proposals to raise revenue. Within the Budget proposals, as Senator Negus freely admitted, very substantial concessions have been made in Federal estate and gift duties which represent a tremendous advance on the previous situation. Therefore, there has been a great achievement in that sense. As Senator Byrne very properly observed, in a recent debate the Senate expressed the view that we communicate to the Federal Government the view of the majority of the Senate that as soon as possible Federal estate duty should be phased out. All these things being taken into account, I wonder whether there is any useful purpose served in pursuing this matter. On the other hand, we are willing to do so if this is what Senator Negus wishes us to do. But 1 know from the advisers from both the Department of the Treasury and the Taxation Office that the amount of explanation and elucidation that will flow out of all this will be considerable.
– I do not want to speak out of turn but I want to indicate my feelings on this matter at this time. I am prepared, on what has been said up to date, to withdraw these amendments in order to avoid unnecessary debate. Before doing so. I would like to explain to honourable senators what I was endeavouring to do. I hoped I would succeed in having one of the amendments accepted by the Senate. I felt that the Commonwealth Government had not raised the exemptions sufficiently when lt doubled them across the board because valuations alone have increased by between 5 and 10 times. Secondly, I do not agree with the exemptions being raised right across the board because this includes strangers in blood. I do not consider that strangers in blood should ever have complete exemption or any kind of an exemption when widows and children have to pay. A further matter related to charities, and the final one was to bring in-
– I wish to raise a point of order. I understood that you, Mr Chairman, called on clause 2. I was not aware that we had moved away from clause 2 but genera] observations are now being made. What are we doing? Are we discussing clause 2 or are we taking the whole 4 pages of the amendments?
- Senator Negus, as I understand it, is explaining his attitude to his amendments in the light of what has been done. I think that we should continue to hear Senator Negus.
– I would like to speak briefly to the point of order. It should be observed that 1 suggested with the greatest goodwill in the world that perhaps it might be better in all the circumstances if Senator Negus’s amendments were withdrawn. What he is doing is explaining his position. I think we ought to show a little tolerance.
– In those circumstances, perhaps I should explain my position also. While I was prepared to accept that Senator Negus would make some general observations about the whole range of estate duty, but he then said that he would be satisfied if he had one of these clauses passed. I imagine that he probably–
– No, he did not say that.
– This was the impression I got.
– He said that.
– I thought that he said that. I thought that we were then discussing a particular matter but I was not clear in my mind on what we were doing. I wanted come clarification of that.
– The amendment I mainly wanted to have passed was the hardship one. I state for the information of honourable senators that there is no hardship clause in the present law. The officers of the various departments have to impose the tax whether they like it or not because there is no section dealing with hardship. That is a provision I wanted to have passed. In view of the fact I do not want the Senate to debate something that is not going to be accepted, as has been indicated, I propose to withdraw everything.
– Before Senator Negus withdraws the amendment that he has moved, I wish to say something. 1 have listened carefully to what has been said. This matter has been referred to a Senate Standing Committee, lt has been asked to inquire into and to report upon the whole question of estate and like duties and their social consequences. That committee has not yet been able to complete its inquiries and to report to the Senate. What has been said by Senator Devitt has some force. It is unfortunate that proposals for specific amendments have been brought up before that Standing Committee has been able to complete its report.
On the other hand, a Bill to amend the relevant law is before this Committee. I make it quite clear that, to my mind. Senator Negus is in order in moving such amendments as he has foreshadowed. That is his right as a senator, whether or not he belongs to a party.
– Nobody contests that.
– That is right. He can put forward his proposals irrespective of whether the Standing Committee has completed its report. It may be a matter of courtesy and of judgment whether to wait until the Standing Committee completes its report. But that does not derogate from his right when the legislation is before us to be amended to put forward proposals which he thinks should be included in the legislation.
– I concede that.
– Surely nobody is denying that right.
– No-one is denying it. But, in the light of what has been said, I think that it needs to be stated not only that that right is not being denied but also that it is being asserted that the honourable senator has the right to bring forward bis amendments. He is entitled not only to move them but to explain them, whether the prospects of their being carried are good or bad. Very often I have been in the position of putting forward proposals which had a very slight chance of being carried here, notwithstanding that I am the Leader of the Opposition. The same argument applies in the case of Senator Negus. He is entitled to put forward his proposals in order that they may be considered.
This legislation has not been considered for a long time in the parliamentary chambers. The basis of it has not been explored. No doubt the Senate referred this matter to the Senate Standing Committee in order to have a thorough investigation of it. H Senator Negus wishes to withdraw the amendment that he has moved and not to proceed with the other amendments that he has foreshadowed he certainly is at liberty to do so. But I do not think that he should feel in the slightest degree that he has been morally pressured in any way not to proceed with them. As far as I am concerned, it is extremely important to preserve the rights of those who do not often put forward matters for consideration by this chamber. I have no objection to Senator Negus explaining the basis of his proposals, other than the one with which he has dealt. If he is content to withdraw it and not to proceed with the others, that is a matter for him.
– I wish to observe briefly in response to that homily that it was all unnecessary. Senator Negus, I think, clearly understood that Senator Byrne indicated that his Party could not support what Senator Negus proposed. Senator Devitt, as did Senator Withers, raised considerable doubts whether the honourable senator’s amendments ought to be moved. In fairness to Senator Negus I indicated the Government’s point of view which is that we could not support the amendments and that in all the circumstances he might prefer the amendments not to go to a vote. That is all that I was saying. Senator Negus understands perfectly, I am quite sure, the goodwill that I have towards him. I do not think that he needs to be reminded of that by anybody else.
– Mr Chairman, I do understand. Honestly, I do not wish to waste the time of the Senate. 1 do not think that this is the moment to waste the time of the Senate. 1 will withdraw the amendment that I have moved and will not proceed with the other amendments. I do not know whether I am out of order but I do feel that it is most important that I should point out to the Committee and to Government senators that it is completely wrong for alaw such as this to have existed for so long without a hardship clause. The insertion of a hardship clause would give to Government officials the right to say to people who were really in struggling circumstances: We can wipe out 50 per cent of the tax. You do not need to pay any more than a small portion of it’. The absence of a hardship clause is completely wrong. I have a letter from the Commissioner responsible for probate duty in New South Wales which states that no hardship clause is contained in the probate duty legislation in that State. 1 think that this is a shocking thing.
– Well, move that amendment.
– I have the amendment here.
– Go ahead and move it.
– Mr Chairman, it is my wish to proceed with the amendment relating to hardship.
The CHAIRMAN (SenatorProwse)Order! When we come to the relevant clause, you certainly will have the opportunity to move that amendment. I have noted your request to withdraw the amendment that you have moved. The correct procedure is for you to indicate to the Senate what you wish to withdraw.
– The hardship clause is found on page 2 of the circulated copy of my amendments. I wish to withdraw the amendment that I have moved and not to proceed with the second amendment that I have foreshadowed which is No. 2 in the circulated copy.
– Order! Is leave granted to withdraw the first amendment? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
Clause 3 (Statutory exemption).
– Senator, you do not wish to proceed with amendment No. 2 on your circulated list?
– That is right.
– The question is that clause 3 stand as printed.
Clause agreed to.
Proposed new clause 3a.
– Mr Chairman, I propose to move amendment No. 3 circulated in my name. Is it the wish of the Senate that I should read it?
– I move:
After clause 3, insert the following new clause: 3a. After section 48 of the Estate Duty Assessment Act 1914-1970 the following section is inserted: 48a. - (1.) In any case where it is shown to the satisfaction of a Board consisting of the Commissioner, the Secretary to the Treasury and the Comptroller-General of Customs or of such substitutes for all or any of them as the Minister appoints from time to time that the exaction of the full amount of duty payable in respect of so much of an estate as is received by the widow or widower, or by a child, of the deceased will entail serious hardship to the widow, widower or child, the Board may release the administrator or other person liable to pay the duty wholly or in part from his liability in respect of that duty and the Commissioner may make such entries as are necessary to give effect to that determination. (2.) The Commissioner or his substitute shall be Chairman of the Board, and the decision of the majority shall prevail. (3.) Where an application is made for a determination under this section in respect of an amount of duty, if that amount is not less than one thousand dollars, the Board shall, and if that amount is less than one thousand dollars, the Board may, refer the application to a member of a Board of Review and shall notify the applicant in writing of its having done so. (4.) The member of the Board of Review who has jurisdiction to deal with applications referred under this section shall, at the discretion of the Chairman of that Board, be the Chairman or such other member as he authorises in writing to deal with the application. (5.) The applicant may appear before the member of the Board of Review or the member of the Board of Review may require the applicant to appear before him, either in person or by a representative, and the member of the Board of Review may examine the applicant or the representative of the applicant upon oath concerning any statements which the applicant has, or desires to have, placed before the Board constituted by this section. (6.) The member of the Board of Review shall be assisted in his examination of the applicant by an officer who is a qualified accountant. (7.) The member of the Board of Review may permit the taxpayer to be assisted at the examination by such persons as the member of the Board of Review considers the circumstances justify. (8.) A record shall be made of the information elicited by the member of the Board of Review during his examination. (9.) The member of the Board of Review shall submit a report to the Board constituted by this section upon the facts disclosed by his examination, and shall draw the attention of that Board to any facts which in his opinion have particular bearing upon the application; and the report shall be accompanied by the record made under the last preceding sub-section. (10.) In lieu of referring any application to a member of a Board of Review in accordance with sub-section (3.) of this section, the Board constituted under this section may refer the application to the Chairman of a Valuation Board, in which event sub-sections (5.) to (9.), inclusive, of this section apply as if the references to the member of the Board of Review were references to the Chairman of the Valuation Board.’.”.
That long winded section is necessary in the Estate Duty Assessment Act because it inserts a relief of hardship section to protect the people of Australia. I do not want to say much more than that. It is a relief of hardship section which can be used by members of the departments concerned to allow people not to pay tax if there is a hardship. At present there is no cover for people if there is a hardship. I request the Committee to give very serious and due consideration to the inclusion of the proposed new clause.
– I acknowledge that Senator Negus wishes to bring before the Committee a matter which has appeared to him, over the many years that he has dealt with estate and probate duty, to be a matter of concern. He suggested that the principle Act should have a relief of hardship section. A relief of hardship section appears in the Income Tax Assessment Act, but it does not appear in the Estate Duty Assessment Act. The point that appeals to me on this matter is that under the Income Tax Assessment Act the tax is paid by individuals who are in no position at that time to pay the tax, so a relief of hardship section has been inserted in that Act. My understanding of the Estate Duty Assessment Act would be that a different proposition would apply. Over the years in the Commonwealth any estate which has a maximum valuation of $20,000 has been exempted from the payment of estate duty. The Estate Duty Assessment Bill provides that an estate will not bc subject to taxation provided that it is of a value less than $40,000 if it is an ordinary estate or S48.000 if it is an estate which is comprised mainly of assets which can be termed primary producer assets. The duty is not applied if the estate is not of that value. So the proposition that a serious hardship may be caused to a widow, widower or child is not, in the true sense of the legal concept of this matter, applicable.
– Why not?
- Senator Murphy is as aware as 1 am that a person is appointed executor of an estate. He or she is responsible for the administration of the estate. One or two things are established. Under the provisions of the Bill, provided the estate is of a value less than $40,000 in the main, no tax will be applicable. So a widow, widower or child in indigent circumstances will gain. Whatever level of hardship may be inflicted upon the relatives of a deceased, on the death of an individual his beneficiaries may receive up to $40,000 without taxation being applicable to the estate, provided that the estate is not of greater value than $40,000. Where the estate is above $40,000 a tax will be applied. The ultimate beneficiaries will receive some money out of the estate anyway.
– Not always, on the evidence, I warn you.
– I realise that Senator Devitt is a member of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations. Undoubtedly his experience in this matter will be greater than mine. I have administered a number of estates. I understand the position to be that the executor of the estate has to swear as to the minimum value of the estate for probate or estate duty purposes. The ultimate beneficiaries - the widow, widower or child, the people referred to in Senator Negus’s amendment - cannot be construed as suffering a hardship. They will be receiving thousands and thousands of dollars, provided that the estate has a maximum value of$40,000. A relief of hardship section has not appeared in this Act, for very good reasons.
– Tell us why.
– The brilliant lawyers have been members of the Senate for quite some time and they have not attempted to move an amendment seeking the inclusion of a relief of hardship section. Heaven knows how long Senator Murphy has been a senator. With his legal knowledge, he has not prompted such an amendment. The Income Tax Assessment Act requires the insertion of a relief of hardship section to give a discretion to the Commissioner of Taxation. Such a section is not part of the Estate Duty Assessment Act because it has no application to probate or estate duty.
– My reaction to the amendment moved by Senator Negus is an entirely sympathetic one. 1 think there is every reason for the inclusion of a relief of hardship provision section in the legislation. Contrary to what has been said by Senator Webster, my understanding is that widows and other beneficiaries under an estate may easily be put in a position of serious hardship by reason of the operation of these laws. The exemption figures that he mentioned may not necessarily save those persons from hardship. It could easily happen with an estate which comprises shares in an uncertain market or a property in the country, where values have been known to fall sharply even in recent times, that the estate as at the time when duty is assessed - the operative date being the date of death - may have a value which is greatly in excess of the value when the estate is distributed. It could well be that the duty assessed on the high valuation at the time when it was assessed - the operative date being the date of death - may have fallen so sharply that the duty would exceed the value at the time of distribution of the estate.
– Who pays that?
– The estate is bankrupt. The estate can become bankrupt by reason of the operation of the duties. I think the proposal is sensible and that in the light of the known facts there ought to be some relief of hardship clause in the Act. However, I do not know that the proposal made by Senator Negus is entirely the best proposal that could be made. It would set up a board consisting of the Commissioner, the Secretary and the Comptroller-General of Customs. That may or may not be the appropriate body.
– It is, according to the legal men.
-I thank Senator Negus for that observation. I would be inclined to take this proposal by Senator Negus away for consideration by my colleagues. A number of my colleagues have indicated to me, because I have asked those most familiar with the matter, that they share the view which I have formed on this matter. We would like the opportunity to consider this clause and to see whether some improvement can be made to its terms and whether we can form a view on it. However, I think the proposal is reasonable. I suggest to the Senate that the Opposition be given an opportunity to consider it and to come to a decision. We, as a party, have not been able to consider the proposal made by Senator Negus and we ask for the opportunity to do so. If we are not given that opportunity, we will be prepared to indicate our support in principle for the clause by voting for it as it stands. The dinner hour is approaching - I do not know whether the Minister wishes to speak on the subject - and the dinner hour would give us an opportunity to consider the proposal rather than move that the Committee’s consideration be adjourned. I take it that the debate will run until the Committee adjourns for dinner.
– I understand what Senator Negus is attempting to do in moving this amendment; but I think that, like so many other things one attempts to do to relieve what might broadly be termed hardship, it means that one is dealing only with the tip of the iceberg. I can well understand how hardship arises.
– That is what the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations is intending to do.
– I agree with Senator Devitt because this is an area in which one sees only the tip of the iceberg. The Committee may do valuable work, but that is not to deny Senator Negus the right to bring his amendment forward at this stage. In my practice over a period of 20 years I have dealt with a reasonable number of estates; I put it no higher than that. One strikes 2 areas of difficulty, one of which is the attempt to realise sufficient liquidity in an estate to pay the duty. Contrary to most myths that float about - or maybe I have been lucky - I have never had any difficulty with the Federal Deputy Commissioner of Taxation in Western Australia in securing deferments of payment of assessments without interest. In one case I had up to 4 years, and after that I thought it was reasonable that the Commissioner should charge 10 per cent interest because the executor had not moved fast enough. With the State Commissioner of Taxation, too, over a period of 20 years I have never had any difficulty in securing deferments of the payment of duty on the statement of a proper case, again without interest and for a reasonable time in order to realise assets with which to pay the duty.
However, I do agree that cases of hardship can arise - not so much from falling land values, although that has been an oddity in rural areas recently, but particularly if the testator has owned shares in a speculative company. A colleague of mine in a firm of solicitors in Western Australia put to me some 18 months ago a case in which the testator died on the day Poseidon shares were at their peak, $200-odd, but by the time the assessment was issued by the Commissioner they had fallen to $20 or $30. The testator, who normally would have had an estate, minus his Poseidon shares, of some $800,000, at the date of his death had an estate of $2m. His death duties came to more than $lm. So the estate is being administered in bankruptcy, and nobody can do anything about it. I agree that that is hardship but, with respect, I do not believe that this is the way to tackle the hardship.
The cause is the method of valuing assets - and this is not the fault of the
Commissioner of Taxation. I think we should make this quite clear. The Parliament has told the Commissioner of Taxation that he is to value the shares of a deceased person’s estate at the value at which they stand on the stock exchange as at the day on which he dies, or words to that effect. The Commissioner has no choice: The Parliament has told him how to do it. I do not believe one can undo that by inserting a hardship clause. One must go back to the method of valuation. The problem about rural land valuation also is not the fault of the Commissioner, because the Parliament has told him what he must do about it; that is, that the way he must value rural land is basically on the old system of what a willing vendor will sell for and what a willing purchaser will pay. We have got into the crazy situation, especially in the post-war years, in which a farmer’s estate has been assessed on comparable values. That is the worst possible value one can think of, because often a particular farmer in a district will pay a very high price for land because he wants a water frontage, or wants a farm for his son, or something else. He pays an inflated price and everybody else in the district is caught by that.
– He gets bank accommodation too.
– It is the valuation. The Commissioner has stuck to valuing hotels on their turnover, which is not a bad idea. The best way of valuing a rural property is on the productivity or possible productivity, because as the value of the farmer’s prices fall so does the value of the whole of his capital asset - not on comparable sales.
Reverting to hardship and the question of setting up a board to consider it, how does one define hardship? What is hardship? Is it simply inability to pay? Is hardship the fact that a testator made a wrong investment in Poseidon shares instead of in BHP shares? Is that hardship or an error of judgment in investment? And what if the shares that were purchased go up in value? Only recently, on behalf of an estate with which I was involved I sold a parcel of land which was valued at death at some $40,000. Then, as a result of industry moving into the area and a few other things, by the time the duty was paid that land was sold for more than $200,000, as a result of which the beneficiary got something for nothing.
– The Commissioner comes back and charges more tax.
– No, he does not, because that is what the land was worth at the time of death, and circumstances altered.If I die and my shares are worth $1 each at the time of my death, that is what my estate pays duty on; and, if my widow realised them at $100 each, she would not have to pay more duty. Except in special circumstances of fraud or non-disclosure, the Commissioner cannot normally re-open his assessment. That is a bit of a myth, too. Once one gets one’s assessment, one has an assessment and that is that.
To tackle hardship, one must get to the core of what has caused the hardship. There is no point in trying to fix the hardship after it has been created. For this reason and with due respect to Senator Negus, ) do not go along with him. I hope that the Senate Committee and the committee headed by Mr Justice Asprey will be looking at this and at the anomalies which create hardship and will cure those anomalies and thereby do away with hardship. But for goodness sake do not let hardships continue to be created and then set up a board to attempt to deal with those hardships which we in the Parliament have created. That is my attitude.
Sitting suspended from 5,45 to 8 p.m.
– I take this opportunity at the earliest hour to present some papers which will be of interest in regard to the Jetair Australia Ltd matter. I ask for leave to make a short statement in relation to those papers.
– Is there any objection? There being none, leave is granted.
– I inform the Senate that yesterday, after allegations had been made that the Brins Australia Ltd group of companies showed aircraft at the value of $100,000, I addressed this letter to Mr Alexander Barton:
I wish to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated 16th October 1972-
Honourable senators will recall thatI tabled that yesterday. It continued: and I thank you for your co-operation in supplying the cost figures as requested.
I have now obtained a copy of the Balance Sheet, profit and loss account and director’s report of the Brins Organisation and Associated Overseas Company at 30 June 1970. 1 note that in that consolidated balance sheet:
1 would be obligedif you would reconcile these figures with the figures in your letter.
Honourable senators will recall that the figure of$579,325 was stated yesterday as the cost to the company of the 6 DC3 aircraft in issue. Mr Barton was good enough to send by messenger to the Sydney office this morning a letter as follows:
Mr dear Minister.
In reply to your letter of even date I wish to advise that the item in Consolidated Balance Sheet of the Erins group as at 30th June 1970 showing aircraft of $99,769 and to which Note 6 referred as follows:
This item represents two aircraft, namely Piper Aztec VH-WAB and Beagle VH-UNL. Both of these aircraft were owned by a subsidiary of Jetair Australia Ltd and were written down in the books to $107,881 during the year and depreciated at $8,112 leaving a written down book value of these two aircraft of $99,769.
The Company which owned the six DC3 aircraft became a subsidiary of the group after that balancing date and consequently these six DC3 aircraft did not appear in the consolidated accounts.
Then Mr Barton was good enough to say in his letter that he would invite me to refer to the company’s auditors. In his last paragraph he said:
I am happy to co-operate with you in disproving the false allegations made in both Houses of Parliament by the Opposition during the last few days and would be happy to provide any further information that you require.
Late this afternoon I received by telex a letter from the accountancy and audit firm of Hungerford Spooner and Kirkhope whose level of integrity in the accountancy profession is well known and permits of no challenge in this country. Over the company’s signature, addressed to the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs, the company said
At the request of Mr Hunter of your Department, and with the permission of Mr Alexander Barton, we sei out below certain information relating to the purchase and sale of aircraft by the Brins Australia Limited group.
The Brins Australia Limited group originally acquired six (6) DC3 aircraft during the period from May 1969 lb June 1970 for a total cost (including rectification and alterations) of $579,325. The same aircraft were transferred during June 1970 to an associated company outside of the Brins Australia Limited group for lease back to Jetair Australia Limited. As that associated company did not become a subsidiary of Brins Australia Limited until December 1970 the Brins Consolidated balance sheet at 30th June 1970 did not include these aircraft.
The aircraft were sold to the Department of Supply on behalf of the Department of Foreign Affairs early m 1971 for a consideration of $275,000.
The above information was obtained from the books and records of the relevant companies for which we acted as auditors up to 30th June 1971.
That letter is signed by the Sydney firm of accountants Hungerford Spooner and Kirkhope. Mr President, 1 table those papers.
– Speaking for the Democratic Labor Party, I feel that we should state our position. It is not a very easy position to state. As I said when speaking earlier in this debate, the attitude of our Party has been that estate duty should be totally eliminated by the Federal Government and federal estate duty should cease to be a taxation imposition. That has been our attitude for a long time. We were probably the first to initiate this proposal - we were in this Parliament - and we have persisted with it time and again.
– Before Senator Negus7
– Yes, before Senator Negus.
– Do you think Senator Negus followed your policy on this?
– I do not know. Many people have borrowed our policies, so possibly he would not be unique if he did that. We have persisted in our policy until the resolution of a few days ago when we were supported by a resolution of the Senate that the Federal Government should investigate the abandonment of federal estate duty. Senator Negus, who has been interested particularly in the elimination of this duty, has proposed a number of amendments. I have indicated that the Democratic Labor Party would not be able to support them. He has abandoned or temporarily postponed some of them, but he has continued to present this one which is for the relief of hardship in particular cases, based on principles which have been adopted from the income tax statute. This in principle, is a very good thing. There are cases of hardship which should be relieved and we would be disposed to support the amendment. However, as I say, in the light of our campaign, which is not merely for the alleviation of a position and not merely for the relief of hardship in particular cases, but is that the duty should be totally abandoned, we propose to take no step that in any sense would weaken the position which we have so constantly and persistently adopted.
– In the meantime this will help the people in distress.
– Well, that may be so. But, after all, the Senate by resolution has put it to the Government that it should consider this, and we fondly hope that the Government will indicate at an early stage what it proposes to do and perhaps during the course of the presentation of the forthcoming policy speech, we would expect that the Government, if it is cognisant of the resolution of the Senate and the disposition of this chamber of the legislature, would indicate that it will abandon this duty. Then the whole matter would be solved and Senator Negus would not have occasion to present any ameliorating resolutions as he has done and is doing in this chamber tonight. It is done in an attempt to relieve a position which has been relieved in part but which we believe should be relieved in total.
For these reasons, while supporting in principle what Senator Negus has proposed, we cannot in the circumstances of our campaign and of what we believe, support this resolution although we do say that it is an attempt to relieve the position. What could well be the fear is that the continued amelioration of the position might persuade a government to reach a position where it would say: ‘We have relieved it as far as we can. We have inserted a hardship clause. We have lifted the rate of exemption. We are not prepared to go any further.’ The Democratic Labor Party says this: That while the-
– Is it your theory that it has to get worse before it gets better?
– I do not think it could get worse. But when a government is not disposed perhaps or any party in government is not disposed to relieve the position it will certainly seek some sanctuary and the intermediate relief could very well be such a sanctuary.
We know that this Bill in itself is an amelioration because it does lift the level of exemption; but this Bill is part of the whole pattern of the Budget. It is in terms of the pattern of the Budget that the Government has pursued its economic remedies which are obviously operating with some measure of success in the community. It would be not opportune now to disturb, by opposing the Bill as I have indicated, the economic pattern which has been presented. What I have just said goes for the whole Bill and does not apply to this particular amendment.
Therefore, while accepting what persuaded Senator Negus to present this amendment which would operate in individual cases of hardship, the Democratic Labor Party has taken a firm and unrelenting line. We say that we expect that the whole of this tax will be abandoned at an early date. We look to the Government to do this. If the Government does not indicate that it will take this action we will support, or ourselves present, a private members’ Bill in this place to see that Federal estate duty is totally abandoned. We will present such legislation in the new Parliament. If it is a question of the retro spective operation of the relief duty that might be assessed from this point on, that is something that could well be in contemplation.
I have outlined to the Senate the disposition of my Party. We have made our position clear to the Parliament, and the Senate has made its position clear to the Government, and we trust that the Government, will make its position clear to the people who will vote at the forthcoming election. If the Government does not take this step we will move in the new Parliament on our own initiative and we trust that we will get the support of the Senate for a Bill to remove Federal estate duty completely. It is on that basis that we are unable tonight to support the amendment though it has excellent principles which, of course, would be carried completely into effect if our attitude were finally adopted by the Government.
– I have no wish to steal from the Australian public the seasoned observations of those who have made an earnest study of this matter. But I think it might be useful if I indicated the view that the Government has on this amendment, and in.no sense is that to be regarded as something which will limit the debate. What 1 want to say relates to the third amendment about which we are talking.
– It is the first amendment really.
– The first 2 have not been abandoned. I am looking at the sequence in which Senator Negus has dealt with the amendments. I regard amendments Nos 1, 2 and 4 as having been abandoned and amendment No. 3 as being the consequential one. I am using the words !No 3’ in the sense that we are all talking about a common situation. But the position in effect really is, as was said very wisely by Senator Devitt, that this is the only amendment we are concerned with.
The third amendment would authorise a board constituted under a new Section 48a to grant relief from payment of duty where the exaction of the full amount of duty would entail serious hardship to the widow, widower or child of the deceased. This amendment raises matters of considerable difficulty. As envisaged by Senator Negus a relief board constituted under the estate duty law would be empowered to remit duty in cases where exaction of the full amount would result in serious hardship to the widow, widower or child of the deceased. But with the high levels of statutory exemption that will prevail if the Bill is passed - and we should remind ourselves that this is indeed a budgetary measure - it is difficult to see how a beneficiary would be able to show that payment of the Commonwealth duty could give rise to serious hardship in respect of causing financial distress, suffering or privation for the beneficiaries.
I allude here briefly to the observations of Senator Withers who has a very very considerable experience in looking after estates and handling problems in regard to them. He has made observations from practical experience. Indeed, the honourable senator told me when I was talking to him after the sitting was suspended for dinner that at certain times he has had as many as 60 estates to look after at one time. So we are talking about a man who has very considerable experience and, if I may say so, great understanding and sympathy.
Generally speaking duty imposed by the States is well in excess of what is payable to the Commonwealth and it would be difficult to see how the Commonwealth duty alone could give rise to hardship. If the proposal were accepted, it would mean that in any cases where hardship was found to arise, the smaller Commonwealth duty may be remitted while the State duty would be collected in full. This is more than possible. ‘Hardship’ in the sense the word is used in relief provisions of tax laws is not, of course, the same as ‘inconvenience’, however severe the latter may be. It may well be that the category of ‘hardship’ Senator Negus has in mind is more in the category of severe ‘inconvenience’, for example, where property - perhaps treasured and hard-won property - has to be disposed of against the strong wishes of beneficiaries in order to provide funds for the payment of duty.
Senator Withers has been a help to us in this respect in his reference to the time that he has been allowed to have looking after these problems from the Commissioner. If this is what Senator Negus envisages would be relieved by an administrative tribunal having ‘hardship’ as its criterion for relief, his hopes would, of course, be dashed. Having regard to the fundamental nature of the tax it would not be proper for an administrative tribunal to take these matters into account in deciding whether the tax ought to be paid.
Honourable senators will recall that the estate duty law was amended in 1970 to provide substantial reliefs for primary producer estates. These reliefs are, of course, being greatly augmented by the Budget proposals. The aim of the 1970 reliefs was to avoid the breaking up of economic family holdings through the incidence of estate duty. In addition to increased exemptions from the duty the collection provisions of the law were amended - with application to all estates, not only those of primary producers - to provide most flexible arrangements for the deferment of the payment of duty so as to avoid wherever possible the need to dispose of farms or other family businesses to meet estate duty.
The Budget proposals will free from duty about one-half of the estates that would otherwise have been dutiable, and, for the remaining estates, will result in a reduction of duty in about 9 out of 10 cases. Because of this, and because of the alleviating effects of the 1970 amendments as to extensions of time for payment, it is likely that very few, if any, cases would arise where a relief board would be prepared to remit duty on grounds of hardship. The proposed provisions would very likely be widely misunderstood and much more could be expected of them than of all the circumstances they had any hope of providing.
The Senate by a majority has expressed the view in general on the need for the abolition of Federal estate duties. During the debate on this matter - and I sat through it all and found it extremely helpful and illuminating - one found oneself in great sympathy with many of the proposals which were made because of the experiences of one’s own life time. I expect that this is true for all of us. 1 think all of us have observed that the Commonwealth probably was not as great a collector of estate duty as were the States. We had to have regard to the overall problem. I have seriously noted the observations made by Senator Byrne on behalf of the Australian Democratic Labor Party, as I noted the observations of all honourable senators including Senator Negus. The observations coming from Senator Byrne’s Party will be communicated to the responsible part of the Government. As a Senate we have by a majority - I think there was some opposition - said that we believed that the abolition of Commonwealth estate duty was both welcome and desirable. The incidence of the duty as a duty is under study by the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations. I think that Senator Devitt has alluded to this on several occasions. The work is going on in depth and seriously. The Committee will take into account many of the areas we are discussing tonight. Like the work of Senate committees the work in this area will be most welcome when the Committee’s result is produced.
Also the Asprey taxation review committee will be looking at these areas of difficulty. As the Minister who represents the Treasurer at the moment I will send the report of the Senate debate on this issue to that Committee. Without doubt the Senate’s own Committee wiLl have access to the report of the debate but I shall see that the Asprey Committee gets a copy as well. In view of all this activity and because this proposal will probably have little practical effect other than to produce a string of unsuccessful applications for relief and perhaps a lot of misunderstanding, difficulty and false hope, the Government feels that while it understands the motives and the genuine feelings of a lot of honourable senators, including Senator Negus, the amendment is not appropriate or useful now. But as always we are prepared to listen to further argument.
– 1 listened with a great deal of interest to the observations made by Senator Byrne on behalf of the Australian Democratic Labor Party when he committed his Party to a line which is opposed to acceptance of the proposition which Senator Negus has put to the Senate today. I think Senator Byrne’s observation is based upon a false assumption. It is based upon an assumption that the Government will accept and implement the motion which was accepted in this chamber last Wednesday night at the conclusion of the second reading debate on the Estate Duty Assessment Bill 1972. I do not think there are great grounds for reaching such an assumption when one looks at the record of the government over the years.
– ls the honourable senator speaking of the Government as it now is or as it will be if there is a change of government?
– I am speaking of the position as it is at the present time.
– The honourable senator voted against the abolition of estate duty.
– The honourable senator has asked a question. Would he like me to answer it? I am speaking about the position as it exists at the present time. I suggest to the honourable senator that the position will be changed radically upon the election of a government of another complexion. What I am saying is that I cannot see any justification for the assumption that merely because this Senate passed a resolution last Wednesday night the Government will accept and implement it. Until now, anyway, there has been no suggestion or indication- whatever from the Government that it will accept that resolution. Why would it? It. has not accepted similar resolutions over a great many years. Why would it suddenly do so now? I know that it has implemented a lot of new ideas and propositions on the eve of an election but there has been no indication whatever - apart from the lowering of the threshold for the payment of estate duty, probate duty, death duty and gift duty - that the Government is disposed to accept the resolution which was passed by this chamber. And it is not obliged to. If it were, it would have accepted many other propositions in the past. Let us look at the reality of the situation. Commonwealth collections of estate duty comprise only one-third of the total collections of estate duty in Australia. Whatever relief we give it is only part relief.
I have urged and I urge again - though I suppose it may not be acceptable to the
Senate at large - that the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations should be allowed to do its job so that we can make a total assessment and not a part assessment of the situation. A part assessment will not grant the sort of relief which I think should be granted in the area of probate duty.
Historically probate duty was introduced to break up or to stop the aggregation of great wealth by some people who could, by accumulating this wealth, exert tremendous influence over the lives of people. As we well know this has happened in past history. Estate duty was introduced so that the aggregation of great wealth would be prevented and the distribution of wealth would be ensured for the good of the community. That was the basic presumption upon which probate duty was first introduced. Evidence has been given to the Standing Committee. I am not out of order in referring to what the Committee has done; I was told that it was not out of order to do this on the occasion when the Senate discussed the Estate Duty Assessment Bill on a previous occasion. So I feel perfectly at liberty to discuss this matter in the widest sense, based upon information which has come to me and other members of the Committee in the course of its inquiries into this matter.
The Commonwealth did not enter the field of probate duty until 1914. It was introduced then in order to obtain revenue to wage a war. The country was never relieved of this duty. As I said earlier in my remarks the States levy two-thirds of the total probate duty which is collected in Australia; the Commonwealth is in the field to the extent of one-third. Last Wednesday night the Senate decided that the Commonwealth should quit this field. Whatever my views may be - and I was prepared to go on and make a thorough, detailed and deep examination of all the implications of doing this - the Senate preempted the Standing Committee.
– That is not correct.
– Yes, it did. The Senate pre-empted this Committee and said that the Commonwealth should quit the field of probate duty.
– Yes, it did. If the honourable senator is not up with it I could take him aside sometime and tell him a little of the history of the situation. I do not want to hold up all honourable senators to inform him. I will be quite happy to take him aside and tell him the facts of life in relation to this matter. That is the situation. That is what the Senate did. I accept that it is the right of the Senate to do that. I say that that part of the Committee’s work has been taken from it. But the Senate has made that decision.
Earlier in this debate Senator Webster in all innocence referred to the fact that the Commonwealth had raised the threshhold of probate duty, as far as families are concerned, to $40,000. That is both fair and appropriate and the Parliament has accepted this. He said that this would grant tremendous relief to the families of decreased persons. There is no question that it will do this. As I say, the Parliament has pre-empted the Committee. Nevertheless that is the decision of the Parliament and the will of the Parliament prevails in these matters. The situation in relation to estates of a far greater value than $40,000 is illustrated by a number of incidents which have come before the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations. In one instance an estate worth $209,000 at the death of the testator owes in death duties $93,000. Honourable senators may ask how this came about. The testator had acquired gold mining shares which, at the time of death, were valued at $5.20 a share. At the time this person died the value of these shares began to decline. The executor and beneficiary under the will went to the stock exchange and said: T want to get rid of these shares. Their value is dropping and I want to dispose of them.’ The stockbroker said: ‘You have not been granted probate of this will and therefore we cannot take any instructions from you.’ The time was reached when the shares were worth no more than 20c a share although at the point of assessment of probate their value was $5.20 a share. The result was that the estate was bankrupted. A call in respect of these shares was made on the 2 brothers who were the beneficiaries under the will. Not only do they owe $93,000 but also they paid $10,000 from their own resources to keep their options alive.
That is the sort of thing that is happening in the probate duty field and that is the sort of thing that the Committee is investigating. What are we doing at the moment? Are we going to destroy the work that this Committee is doing? It is tremendously valuable work. It is the first really searching inquiry into this area of Government finance so far as I am aware. I know of another instance involving a farming property worth $189,000. The breadwinner died and the property passed into the name of his wife. She was terribly worried about meeting the cost of probate duty, became ill and went into hospital. The matter worried her so much that she died. The son, who then became the beneficiary, had been given a beneficial interest in the property and he had been given $20,000 by his father and mother to keep him going because he was working on the property for virtually nothing. By the time of the second death he had about $23,000 left. He was required to pay that money back into the estate and he was absolutely bankrupt. Then he was put on to manage this estate but he received not one cent in remuneration. He was in a very serious financial position.
The cases I have cited relate to estates valued at round about $200,000 so do not let any honourable senators get the silly, stupid notion that merely because the Government has granted some sort of amelioration at the level of $40,000, all is well. It is not. It is probably above that sum that one gets into the most serious areas of concern so far as probate duty is concerned. We are fiddling with this subject. We fiddled with it last Wednesday night and we are fiddling with it again tonight.
What was the purpose of the Senate in setting up this Committee? Was it not to go into all aspects of probate and to bring down a recommendation? And what was to be the basis of that recommendation? The basis was justice, equity and relief of hardship for people involved in these situations. That is what we are attempting to do and that is what we want to do. Please give us an opportunity to do it. In the meantime, a very basic concept of the establishment of the Committee to investigate this question was to relieve the people of this country from the degree of hardship currently thrust upon them at one of the worst periods in the history of a family, at the time of the loss of a breadwinner. Let us be sensible about this. If hardship is the basis on which we are to operate, let us accept the proposition that we look at these things on the basis of the hardship inflicted upon a family at this most distressing and difficult period in their lives.
– The Australian Labor Party will support the amendment moved by Senator Negus. We commend him for his foresight in introducing it. We do not support the abolition of probate and death duties as the taxation structure of Australia stands at the present time. There can be no shadow of doubt, as Senator Devitt said, that the impact of death duties has been to reduce the resources of great estates which dominated countries which did not previously have death duties. That situation was changed by the introduction of death duties. That was one of the major achievements of the Lloyd George Government in Great Britain before the First World War.
The Australian Labor Party says that changes could be made. We believe that consideration could be given to a total restructuring of the whole taxation system so that perhaps the net worth of the people of this country could be considered in assessing their tax. But for so long as the present tax structure continues we believe it would be quite improper to have the total elimination. We acknowledge that a great many people who suffer considerable hardship through the payment of death duties, not only because of the amount which has to be paid but also because of the occasions when the sudden requirement to pay falls upon them. I for one would be very much inclined to agree with a great deal of what the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) said earlier this evening when he pointed out that there are problems in ascertaining what exactly is hardship. The amendment moved by Senator Negus does not include any definition of hardship. However one probably does not need to be a genius to work out what hardship is. If such a body as is envisaged by Senator Negus in his amendment were to be established, if there were judicial decisions from time to time on the work done by this , proposed commission, then an appropriate definition of hardship and relative hardship could be determined, depending upon the size of various estates, the position of the beneficiaries, whether they had other dependants, and so on. These things could be taken into account and in due course some reliable working rules would emerge.
What I am primarily puzzled about is the line that apparently the Democratic Labor Party is going to take on this matter. The Democratic Labor Party seems to be saying that it is either all or nothing; that unless the Government abolishes death duties in toto the Democratic Labor Party will not do anything whatever to improve the position of people who are suffering from death duties as imposed at the present time, even if there is hardship. Apparently Senator Byrne, on behalf of the Democratic Labor Party, does not share all the reservations of the Minister for Civil Aviation on this matter because Senator Byrne conceded that the amendment moved by Senator Negus is in fact an ameliorative proposition; that it would make the position better for people who are faced with sudden payment of death duties and who are suffering hardship, whatever the definition of hardship ultimately may be. The Democratic Labor Party purports to say that if anything is done to improve the position regarding the payment of death duties it would serve only to continue death duties in perpetuity. That is an extraordinarily fallacious argument. If one were to follow it through to a logical conclusion one would say that death duties ought to be increased because the higher they go the more demand there would be to repeal them. That is not the history of these matters. The history of the whole process in this country is that when changes have taken place they have taken place gradually. 1 for one would not want a total abolition of death duties unless there was a total recasting of the whole mould of taxation. The entire field should be taken into account. I would oppose the idea of simply abolishing death duties while retaining the rest of the structure of relative wealth in our society. I, like all members of the Australian Labor Party, feel for those people who are afflicted in the way that Senator Negus envisaged when speaking to the amendment he moved tonight. Apparently Senator Byrne was speaking on behalf of the Democratic Labour Party. Are we to take it from what he said that unless there is a total abolition of death duties the Democratic Labor Party will vote for nothing introduced to improve the situation? That is the only conclusion one can draw from what Senator Byrne said because he said that the thing that was wrong with Senator Negus’s proposition was that it would improve the situation. That was precisely what was wrong with it - it would improve the situation. Because it would improve the situation, he concluded by the use of some tortuous logic chopping, somehow this would mean that death duties would remain in perpetuity. But even if one could conceive-
– That is only when the ALP is in opposition.
– Senator Young will have his opportunity later to express his opposition to the inclusion of a hardship clause. I am sure that some of the rural electors of South Australia will be interested to hear that Senator Young is opposed to the proposition moved by Senator Negus for hardship to be considered in the payment of these death duties.
– It is a hollow sound.
– I apologise, Mr Temporary Chairman, for interrupting Senator Young’s interjections. Even if there were some sort of an argument to be extracted from this tortuous logic chopping by Senator Byrne, we are still dealing with people, and people are mortal. While Senator Byrne and the other members of the DLP are waiting for this day of Armageddon, for this millennium when all of the death duties have been abolished, what happens to those elderly people who now are faced with the problem of hardship on the payment of death duties? Would Senator Byrne say to them: ‘It is very unfortunate about your case and that you are faced with this hardship, but I do not believe that you should be granted any relief on the grounds of hardship because I am such an enthusiastic opponent of death duties that I believe you should suffer that hardship’?
We believe that this is not really the view of the DLP. It does not have a considered view on death duties, any more than it has a considered view on any other subject. What it is doing tonight is defending the Government. It believes that the Government has been embarrassed by Senator Negus’s proposition. It believes that those Government senators who, along with the members of the DLP, only a week or 2 ago voted for the total abolition of death duties are now, when it comes down to the nitty-gritty, when they are asked to put their money where their mouth is and when they are faced with a real concrete situation being presented to them, showing that far from standing for the abolition of death duties or even the reduction of death duties they will oppose this proposition moved by Senator Negus that special provision should be made in cases of hardship. If anything exposes the hypocrisy of the DLP senators and those Government senators who voted for that pious resolution a week or 2 ago, their attitude to Senator Negus’s amendment shows it tonight.
We hope that the Australian people will be made aware of what the DLP has done and what the Government has done. We hope that Senator Negus will make them aware of it. Despite the fact that he has voted with us probably only 2 or 3 times since he came into this chamber, when there has been a chance for some forward step to be taken along the lines he has been advocating so energetically up and down the country and when it has come to the vote, who has it been who has supported him on this proposition which, as Senator Byrne admits, is an ameliorative amendment? He has been supported only by members of the Australian Labor Party; not by the Government and not by the DLP.
– I will not take very long. It is interesting to have an accurate record in a debate like this. On 11th October 1972 the Senate voted on an amendment that the following words be added to the motion that this Bill be read a second time: but the Senate expresses the view that the Government should consider as soon as possible the complete elimination of Federal estate duty.
The question was put; the Senate divided. My colleagues and I and the Democratic Labor Party senators voted for the motion; the Australian Labor Party senators voted against it.
– You know why, don’t you?
– Will the Minister say that again so that it can be heard? It was drowned out. I would like it to be heard loud and clear.
– I have a tremendous regard for the reputation of the Senate and the accuracy of its proceedings, and accordingly I mention once again, because apparently some people did not hear it as they were trying to discuss other things, the Senate did, if I recollect correctly, on 11th October deal with a proposition that the Senate expresses the view that the Government should consider as soon as possible the complete elimination of Federal estate duty’. The question was put, and the interesting figures are that the ayes - the Government senators and the Democratic Labor Party senators - numbered 28 and that the noes numbered 21. It would seem to me that most of the people who are now making a lot of noise voted no.
– As I have said repeatedly, the Democratic Labor Party has moved this type of resolution on at least 3 occasions to my recollection. At least one of them, apart from this one, was a very specific resolution which the Country Party was not able to adopt in the form in which it was presented. It presented virtually the same amendment embodying the same principle of the elimination of estate duty, that was presented by Senator Prowse. On that occasion the Australian Labor Party, to a man, opposed that amendment as it opposed ours only a few days ago. We have proposed this type of amendment in the debate on the Budget Papers and one thing and another, but inevitably it has been rejected by the Australian Labor
Party. If the Australian Labor Party has the disposition that it does not support the elimination of estate duty, let me point out that on the last occasion the matter was debated Senator Milliner made a very strong case against estate duty in which he pointed out how wealthy people could be relieved of it. Therefore we can take it that the Australian Labor Party in government would take no steps at all to relieve the imposition of Federal estate duty. I take it that that would be the case.
– Senator Wilkinson said that its elimination is opposed to their philosophy.
– I am reminded by Senator McManus that Senator Wilkinson said that its elimination is opposed to the philosophy of the ALP. I treat that as hearsay. It is significant that-
– On a point of order, I suggest, Mr Temporary Chairman, that you ask that the Committee return to consider the clause which has been proposed by Senator Negus in order that it may be able to continue its deliberations. There is ample opportunity on other occasions to consider these matters of who said what and when and what he meant by it. There is a particular matter before the Committee now.
- (Senator Lawrie) - I ask Senator Byrne to tie his remarks to the amendment before the Chair.
– Thank you, Mr Temporary Chairman. I am indebted to Senator Murphy for underlining the point I was making. As I said, I was prompted to rise to put that proposition before the Committee only because of what Senator Wheeldon said. Mine was purely a statement in response. I say that, if the Australian Labor Party supports amelioration by the introduction of a clause such as the one we are considering and if it does not intend to eliminate estate duty altogether, it is logical that it should seek every opportunity to ameliorate it in part. I suggest that the very strong support that is now coming for this proposition, divorced from the principle embodied in it, confirms the fact that the ALP in government would have no intention whatsoever of removing estate duty. The stand taken in the Senate for the complete removal of
Federal estate duty has been taken by the DLP and supported by the Government and, as Senator Cotton unfortunately forgot to mention, by the 3 Independent senators; but the whole of the Australian Labor Party Opposition has on every occasion completely and totally opposed that principle. That is the only thing that emerges. As I say, our stand is complete and it is unrelenting. We say that amelioration is out; it is only an invitation to temporise. This duty must go, and we will take every step up to the point, if necessary, of introducing a private member’s Bill. If the Government does not do it, we will do it, whichever party is in government after the general election.
– I rise for 2 reasons. One is the point of view expressed very forcefully by Senator Devitt that the Senate should not have made any decision on this matter last week because of the deliberations and investigations by a Senate committee. Noone has greater respect for Senate committees than I have, but his point of view is an impossible one. It would mean, in effect, that on every matter on which a Senate committee was deliberating the Senate should not or could not make any decision. In other words, the Senate would be morbid on a large area of national policy. This is a point of view that cannot be accepted.
– What about your attitude to the 18-year-old vote? You talk one way and vote the other.
– 1 will listen to Senator Devitt’s attitude to the vote for 18-year- olds. When he shows enough guts to cross the floor or criticise in this chamber the actions of his Caucus, or when any member of his Party does that, I will listen to him, but not one honourable senator opposite has ever had the courage to do it. That is a simple fact of life. I say to honourable senators opposite: Do not criticise an honourable senator on this side of the Senate who has, from time to time, criticised the actions of his Government and Government policy. I and others have on occasions voted on matters against the Government’s wishes. But I have never seen an honourable senator of the Australian Labor Party vote against his Party.
So when the honourable senator practises what he preaches I will listen to him. To come back to the point I am making, we are just not yes men to obey an outside body.
– If we could get through to you we would not bother preaching.
– I am sorry that Senator Devitt has become very heated about the matter because there is nothing to be very heated about. The point is that the Senate is entitled at any time to express an opinion. I wonder what attitude members of the ALP would adopt if they were in government and if we adopted the same view.
– You will soon find out.
– Hope springs eternal in the human breast; I wonder what attitude a Labor government would adopt if we said that the Labor government should not legislate or that the Senate should not express an opinion on a matter which was being investigated by a Senate committee. I do not believe this argument can be sustained. The second point I wish to make is a simple one. Senator Wheeldon challenged my colleague Senator Young on the attitude that the rural electors would take if he put to them the point of view he put tonight by way of an interjection in opposing this amendment. Let me assure Senator Wheeldon that nothing would please me more than to go out to the rural electors of Western Australia on a platform with him. I would advocate my view that the Federal Government should get out of the probate field as quickly as possible. He could advocate his view that the Federal Government should remain in the field to deal with probate. I know who would get the votes. It would not be Senator Wheeldon. If he were to accept this proposition, he could debate the issue with me in any of the country electorates. I know who would win. I am quite sure that if Senator McLaren wishes to go out with Senator Young amongst the rural electors of South Australia and justify his stand against the abolition of Federal estate duty and if Senator Young were to justify his stand I know who would get the votes, it would not be Senator McLaren. The honourable senator can shout his head off. Let him go out with Senator Young and speak with a forked tongue in South Australia. We will see who gets the votes; it will not be Senator McLaren.
– - Order! Senator McLaren will cease interjecting.
– I do not mind. The honourable senator can scream his head off as much as he likes. It does not make any difference to me, I do not believe the Senate can accept the argument that because committees are meeting and investigating we are not entitled to express an opinion. I reply to Senator Wheeldon’s reply to Senator Young’s interjection because I stand by my vote. It is not the first time that I have voted on this matter. I hope that it will be the last time because I hope that after the elections the Federal Government will take the steps which this Senate, with the exception of the ALP, wishes it to take.
– I rise to support Senator Negus’s amendment. I hope that honourable senators will come back to the issue before the Senate. It is that hardship is imposed by probate duties on some citizens of Australia in the event of an untimely death. That is all honourable senators are asked to debate. Senator Negus has moved this amendment in all seriousness and the Australian Labor Party supports him. Surely that is not unusual because we are the humanitarian Party. There are honourable senators who sit opposite who hold a contrary view. But that is not the case with honourable senators on this side of the Senate. What has been concerning past debates? I do not think what has been said is of great moment with the exception that Senator Byrne accused us indirectly of some sort of deceitfulness. That is not correct. What we said last Thursday night was that the Senate had established this Committee and referred to it for investigation the subject of death duties. We were very sincere in subscribing to the view that the Committee should examine this matter. Apparently, the Senate was of that view because it accepted the proposition. That is the first matter with which I wish to deal.
The second matter is that the Australian Democratic Labor Party on at least 3 occasions has moved some pious motion for the adoption of some pious resolution that the Senate expresses an opinion that is not worth anything in an administrative sense. I want honourable senators to listen to the amendment moved by the Australian Labor Party last Wednesday night, 11th October 1972. These are the precise words:
Delete all words after ‘Senate’, and insert: is of the opinion that the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations should bring down its report on “the effects of Estate and like duties on the public revenues and the economic circumstances of individuals and communities, and the social consequences of such duties” at an early date’.
Let me trace what happened as a result of that. The Chairman of that Committee, notwithstanding the fact that its inquiries were almost complete, came into the Senate and denied his own Committee. Could anything be more wrong than that? He then said - I remind the Senate of this - as he held up a bundle of papers: ‘Here is the evidence to support the case that we should support the DLP’. I challenged him. I said: ‘Where is the evidence? What page? Tell us all about it’. He said: Tt is all there’. But he does not do anything about it. Senator Byrne now interjects. I repeat that his motion was nothing but a pious effort to try to take away from the Committee, as its Chairman did, any value that the Committee had. But we said that the Senate should await the decision of the Committee. I remind the people of Australia that this is an all party committee composed of honourable senators of the Australian Labor Party, the Liberal Party, the Country Party and others. In all probability the Committee would have presented a unanimous recommendation and that in all probability the Senate would have adopted any recommendations it made.
– You would have dissented from the report as you have done before.
– Of course I would have dissented if I felt that the Committee’s recommendations were wrong. Surely I have a right to do that. Surely any member of a committee has a right to dissent as long as he is honest enough to express his honest views. But I suggest that some honourable senators have not any honest views on some matters and would rather hide behind a majority recommendation than come out and express their views as they see a situation. That is begging the question. The Senate set up a committee. The Australian Labor Party in conscience said that we should do nothing about this issue of estate duty until such time as that Committee in which we have expressed our confidence brought in a report. But members of the Government and members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party did not have sufficient confidence in that Standing Committee to accept that it will bring forward an honest report.
– You voted against this before the Standing Committee was set up or ever thought of.
– We did nothing of the kind.
– You voted against it.
– What we voted against was a pious resolution that commenced with the phrase ‘in the opinion of the Senate’ which, in the vernacular of these people with whom I associate, is not worth a drink of water. Mr Chairman, let us not beg the question. Senator Negus has moved an amendment which seeks to relieve the hardship imposed on people by estate duties. That is the issue. Govern; ment members said: ‘We will not wait for any Standing Committee to bring forward any recommendations. We will make our own decision on these matters. We reject the call by the Australian Labor Party to wait for the report of the Standing Committee.’ Now Government members say that we should not do anything about this matter because the suggestion is that this chamber should look at the matter subsequent to receiving the report of that Standing Committee. Senator Byrne piously has said: ‘We will bring in a Bill in the new Parliament to correct this matter’.
– Senator Rae said that too.
- Senator Rae also said that on a previous occasion. I have heard these things said on so many occasions that I say that what is sought are pious resolutions. Let us stick to the facts of life. The facts of life are, as Senator Negus has said, that difficulties are experienced by some people in meeting death duties. Id view of the earlier decision of the Government parties and the DLP not to wait for the report of the Standing Committee let us determine whether we have the courage to see if difficulties are being experienced by people in our community and let us vote on that issue alone. Government senators have decided that they should do that.
Senator Negus has moved his amendment. Let us find out now who will support people who are in distress. Let us find out whether Senator Sim, who on some previous occasion said: T shall vote for the Australian Labor Party amendment when it does such and such’, will support us now. If the Australian Labor Party robbed a bank, would the honourable senator wish to come with us to rob that bank? That demonstrates the absurdity of what the honourable senator has said. Senator Sim should return to Singapore, where he might find his level and, being thousands of miles away from this Commonwealth, be able to describe people as ‘Manchester Jews’. I hope that the Committee will support Senator Negus, as Senator Murphy has indicated our Party will. I believe that if honourable senators opposite do not do so they are saying that any person in the Commonwealth who does suffer hardship through death duties is not worthy of support. I put it on that plane.
– 1 rise for a few moments to comment on the histrionics that we have witnessed from Senator Milliner. I believe that the expression ‘humanitarian’ coming from the Opposition is quite dishonest, because this form of taxation was introduced by the Australian Labor Party. It was introduced for a specific reason, that is, to redistribute the wealth of those people who would be affected by this form of taxation. This measure discriminated against a very small section of the Australian people. In the last 23 years, the wealth of Australia has grown to the degree where moderate estates in today’s terms are now affected by this tax. This fact has been recognised by the Government in the Bill that is now before the Committee. The Government has seen fit to recognise that there are people with modest estates who are affected in this way.
Last week, Government senators in support of the Australian Democratic Labor Party gave a clear and concise warning or instruction to the Government that it should look at the question of estate duties with the object of abolishing them completely at the first possible opportunity. But the Opposition very conveniently voted against that proposal. I believe that the action of the Opposition tonight is a demonstration of the double standards of the Australian Labor Party in that it is supporting this amendment fully to try to gain some electoral appeal. I support what Senator Withers and Senator Byrne said earlier; our aim here should be the complete abolition of estate duty.
– It might take a long time.
– I have always supported the principles that have been expounded by Senator Negus. I commend him for the genuine feelings which motivate him and which have led to this amendment being moved by him. But I do suggest that the Committee ought to look clearly and the Opposition should consider carefully the comp’ete abolition of this tax which was introduced by the Australian Labor Party. I leave my remarks at that and suggest that we should devote our attention to attaining that end.
– The Committee is debating the Estate Duty Assessment Bill 1972 and any member of the Committee is entitled to move amendments to that Bill. Senator Negus has availed himself of the opportunity to draw the attention of the Committe to the areas of hardship that result from the provisions of this legislation which has been on the statute book since 1914. The Senate had an opportunity a week or so ago to determine a policy in respect of estate duty and it did so. But I put it to the Committee that the decision reached in the Senate was a pious, sanctimonious decision of little relevance to the problems of estate duty. The Senate was expressing an opinion.
The legislation now before the Senate can be returned to the House of Representatives with a request from the Senate, and it can become law provided it receives majority support. The Government is endeavouring together with its allies, the members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party, to make this issue a political football. Clearly the issue of death duties has become a political football. This is not the motivation behind the amendment moved by Senator Negus or of those of us who are availing themselves of this opportunity to vote for a sectional approach to the problems associated with death duties.
A year ago, the Senate recognised that this was an area of government finance which required examination, lt referred the matter of estate and like duties and their consequences to a Senate Standing Committee. The members of that Committee have toiled assiduously in undertaking that task in the succeeding 12 months. We are not in a position to make firm recommendations to the Parliament because we have not been able to complete our inquiries or our investigations and to come to any conclusions. 1 refrained from entering the debate because I believed that it was the responsibility of members of the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations to adopt a non-partisan attitude in respect of the matters before it, as it had not completed its inquiries. In the Party room I succeeded in prevailing upon my colleagues not to make a determination in respect of estate duties until such time as the matter had been examined properly. 1 find the attitude of Government speakers hypocritical and sanctimonious. For the last 23 years they have had the opportunity to rectify the problems associated with estate duty. As late as the 1972-73 Budget they had the opportunity to rectify this matter in the Party room. If the 26 members of the Government parties in this place were not able to convince the other 60 members of their Party in the Party room then they lacked the logic and the argument to convince the Government that in the current Budget it should have abolished estate duties.
The Government reacted to the unfavourable political climate that it is now experiencing and increased the maximum rate of exemption from $20,000 to $40,000 in order to take a small step along the path of reform of this legislation. It has become abundantly clear to anybody who has been studying this subject that it was not the intention of the framers of the legislation in 1914 that the kind of people who have been paying the bulk of estate duty should be the people who have been called upon to make the contributions that they make. I am sure that that position is so in respect to the State governments. The very wealthy have had resort to company lawyers and accountants and to the legal brains of this community, who have waxed fat during the past 20 to 30 years and who have advised their clients how to avoid their responsibility, while the Government sat stil] and took advantage of the inflationary period in order to bring in, from those sections of the community, which hitherto had not been involved in the payment of the duty, the extra money that it wanted.
– Why did you not support the amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Bill?
– Because I am a member of a committee that is examining the matter. Until it makes its recommendations we will not be party to the blatant political opportunism that has been characteristic of the attitude of the honourable senator and his Party during the past month or so in relation to the Budget and all associated matters. If honourable senators opposite had convictions about the problems associated with estate duty their job was to rectify the problems in the Party room, and not in the Senate at this late stage. Being associated with a motion expressing an opinion does not influence me in any way, and I am sure that it does not influence the Government. The evidence that has been given before the Standing Committee does not endorse the decision made by the Senate in relation to the amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Bill.
– That is your interpretation. I did not hear anything to the contrary, and I am a member of the Committee.
– We are concerned with an abundance of attitudes and an abundance of evidence which shows that large numbers of people, particularly those in the rural areas, are affected by the inflationary situation and the problems of inflated valuations to which Senator Withers drew attention. Obviously these matters would cause the Standing Committee a great amount of concern and receive much consideration before the Committee made a determination. The Committee should be aware that if the Commonwealth should opt out of the field in the process of time, that will not solve the problems of the people to whom Senator Negus’s amendment refers, because the States, which collect the greatest proportion of death duties, will still be in the field. The $70m annually that the Commonwealth collects is a very small sum when compared with the large and important sums that death duties under the various State Acts bring to State revenues. About 25 per cent of State revenues comes from that field. Unless there is an agreement between the Commonwealth and the States about this matter, clearly, if the Commonwealth opted out of the field and left it to the States, the States could increase the amount of duty which they impose, and the people about whom we are concerned - the people suffering hardship - would have little or no relief.
The position of the Labor Party is clearly defined, lt is not prepared to act until the evidence that has been given to the Standing Committee has been evaluated and the Committee is able to make recommendations to the Senate. That Committee was set up unanimously a year or so ago by the Senate. It has heard evidence from accountants, lawyers, economists, university specialists in this field and ordinary people. It has not yet been able to make a recommendation. Therefore the Labor Party has not been prepared to make a determination on this matter, having regard to the fact that both the Commonwealth and the States are important ingredients in the solution to the whole problem of estate duty. We make no apologies for supporting the amendment moved by Senator Negus. We suggest that those honourable senators opposite who have spoken in the debate have had their opportunity over the years to solve the problems. The Treasurer (Mr Snedden), in making the Budget Speech in the House of Representatives, drew attention to the area of grave taxation anomalies. Because of those anomalies, 600,000 people were taken outside the taxation schedules. According to honourable senators opposite who have spoken in the debate, he could have taken the next step and recommended the complete abolition of death duties if the Government were sincere in this matter. I suggest that there is no sincerity on the part of the Government. There is certainly no sincerity on the part of the DLP members in relation to this matter. They have had opportunities to submit motions for the abolition of death duties in the years that they have been members of the Senate. The Labor Party’s attitude is that it will examine the evidence that will be placed before the Standing Committee in 1973, and it will reach a determination which will be in the interests of the Australian people.
Senator BYRNE (Queensland) (9.18>- I speak again in this debate because it is obvious that on this issue the Australian Labor Party Opposition has to stand and be counted. So far we have had the presentation of one alibi from the Labor Party. That alibi is that this matter has been referred to a standing committee of the Senate. The justification for opposing the amendment to the motion for the second reading of the. Bill and for opposing similar amendments that have been moved in the Senate is that the matter stands referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations. That is the case of the Opposition. Let us take part of the. chronology of the matter. The matter which is before the Standing Committee is:
The effects of estate and like duties on the public revenues and the economic circumstances of individuals and communities, and the social consequences of such duties.
That matter was referred to the Standing Committee by resolution of the Senate on 7th October 1971. The notice of motion seeking to refer that matter to the Standing Committee was moved in the Senate on 18th August 1971. That was the first time that the matter of referral to a committee was raised in the Senate. In 1970 I moved a specific amendment.
– That was an amendment to an amendment that I had moved.
– That is so. This was a specific amendment presented with respect to the Estate Duty Assessment Bill On that occasion Senator Wilkinson moved an amendment - I say that in fairnessto Senator Wilkinson - the last part of which read:
Obviously, what the Australian Labor Party had in mind was merely the ameloration of the Act and not its repeal.
– Will the honourable senator tell us what he is reading from and the page number?
– I am reading from the Senate Journals, volume I, 1970, page 105. The total amendment moved by Senator Wilkinson included: ‘that the Bill is inadequate as it fails to recognise the extension of liability for and the burden of Federal and State death duties’ and soandso and ‘the particularly crucial situation of the rural sector. . . . ‘ The honourable senator then went on to speak of amendments to ameliorate the operation of the Act. I am paraphrasing what he said. I think I am paraphrasing it very fairly; it is quite a long amendment.
– Read it.
– I will read it if the honourable senator thinks it should be read; but I have paraphased it. very fairly. We then moved an amendment to the effect-
– Paraphrase this.
– This is a very short one.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMANOrder! Order! Honourable senators, I know that all of you, including the Leaders on both sides of the table in front of me, are desirous of hearing the debate. Could the honourable senator who is on bis feet please be heard in reasonable silence.
– Thank you, Mr Temporary Chairman. This was the amendment which I moved on behalf of the Democratic Labor Party: but the Senate expresses the view that the Government should consider as soon as possible the complete elimination of Federal estate duty.
That was a simple, clear amendment and it is the same amendment as that now presented to this chamber on this Bill.
– What has this to do with the amendment?
– I am saying that, long before the Australian Labor Party thought of referring this subject to the Standing Committee, this specific motion by way of amendment was put, and it was opposed tooth and nail and by resolution by every member of the Opposition. Later Senator Prowse moved a similar amendment - again, if I am correct in what I say, before any reference was made to the Standing Committee - and that proposition was completely opposed by the Australian Labor Party. On all occasions members of the Australian Labor Party have set their faces against elimination of estate duty by specific resolution which is on the record of this chamber. That is the undeniable fact. Therefore, to present now the reason why they oppose it as being that the subject stands referred to a Senate standing committee is obviously to present an alibi to avoid having again to justify their stand of being against the elimination of the duty. No words, no qualifications, no subterfuges can conceal that fact. I do not propose to proceed further, beyond making the point that the alibi presented cannot stand up. It is confuted completely by the chronology of events. The Australian Labor Party has taken its consistent stand against the elimination of estate duty and is merely using now the fact that the matter is referred to a Senate standing committee as an alibi to justify this implacable opposition to elimination. The Democratic Labor Party stands, as it has always stood, strongly for elimination. We again propound that proposition.
– This has been an interesting debate and perhaps has produced the cogent reason why the Committee ought to support the amendment which has been moved by Senator Negus. We have, I think, generally around this chamber an evolving view, to put it in neutral terms, that the estate duty legislation needs drastic reform. Some honourable senators take the view that estate duty ought to be abolished entirely and some that there could be a case for it which needs examination; but, in any event, because of inflationary effects, because of the catastrophic effect of a tax which can fall unexpectedly - a tax against which it is very difficult to p!an because of the sudden changes which occur in the valuation of estates - and because very great hardship could be caused to estates, there ought to be some kind of alteration of the law. I do not think anyone has dissented from the view that the law needs thorough examination and overhaul, and perhaps at the Federal level, as suggested by some honourable senators, there should be a vacation of the field.
The viewpoint has been put, and Senator Byrne referred to it, that on an earlier occasion there was a motion with respect to the Estate Assessment Duty Bill 1970. That was a motion that the Bill be read a second time. Senator Wilkinson moved an amendment which related to some of these matters, particularly the effect on small estates in the rural sector and in the industrial and commercial sector and the effect of inflation on the amounts of duties. That amendment was carried, the original question was agreed to, and the Bill was read a second time. At the third reading stage on that occasion, Senator Byrne moved an amendment expressing a view that there should be complete elimination of Federal estate duty as soon as possible. The important observation about those 2 proposals is that neither of them was actually operative.
Today Senator Negus has said that he wants to have an amendment moved to the Bill itself, nol to the motion that the Bill be read a second time. The Senate has carried the latter motion. A Bill is now being considered in the Committee stage and the clauses of the Bill are under consideration. If we make an amendment to these clauses and if that amendment is agreed to by the House of Representatives, there will be a change in the law. That was not proposed on those other occasions. This is the stage, as the late Senator Cohen used to say, for the verb: This is the time when action can be taken, and it is our view that there is a strong case for the amendment moved by Senator Negus, because it is apparent that the Government will not abolish Federal estate duty. That is so because this very Bill, whilst designed to ameliorate some of its effects, will pre serve the system. There is no proposal from any quarter for a measure to remove Federal estate duty.
– When 5 Ministers join in a resolution to remove it, surely that must have some effect.
– The 5 Ministers who may have joined in the resolution, which was a non-operative resolution, are nevertheless supporting here a proposal which preserves Federal estate duty. That is the measure before the chamber - to ameliorate but to preserve. It is apparent that whatever reform may occur will not occur for some time. It is common ground, 1 think, with the exception of Senator Webster, that hardship is caused to people by the operation of estate duty. I think there is a very strong case for saying that hardship ought to be open to relief in the same way as there are relieving provisions in the Income Tax Act. Senator Cotton has said that there will not be very many cases. That is no answer. If there are a few cases, then perhaps there should be less hesitation in agreeing to it. Senator Cotton has said that many applicants will be disappointed. Perhaps, their applications, although rejected, will have the value of bringing home to those who have to deal with them the necessity for alterations of the law to remove that hardship which is not relieved by these provisions. We think this is a reasonable case..
Excuses are always made for not taking action. Some honourable senators say that they will support us if it is proposed to abolish estate duty altogether, but because it is merely proposed to relieve a hardship, which must be established in a proper way before a tribunal under the proposed amendment, they are saying that they will not support it. We think this is a reasonable case which should commend itself to all honourable senators and that the hardship should be relieved. Now is the time when action can be taken. It does not serve any purpose if someone says that he has moved or supported all sorts of general or pious resolutions on other occasions and will do so in future; here is an occasion when we can take positive action to bring about an alteration in the law. I ask the Committee to accept the proposal advanced by Senator Negus and to agree to it.
– I shall not delay the Committee for very long. 1 suppose that people who happen to be listening to this debate will not be under any illusion that an election is coming on shortly and that what they have been listening to tonight have been the preliminaries of the election campaign. In assessing the attitude of the Australian Labor Party we must go back to the very honest statement made by a very honest man, Senator Wilkinson, who led for the Opposition in this debate. He said: ‘Estate duty was originally introduced by the Australian Labor Party because of its philosophy. Over the years the situation has changed, but our philosophy’ - that is the philosophy of the Australian Labor Party - ‘has not changed.’ For this reason Opposition senators are in a rather invidious position tonight when, for electioneering purposes, they are posing as the friends of those who may suffer from estate duty.
I do not desire to deal at very great length with this matter because we have had exactly the same kind of position before on a number of occasions when propositions have been advanced in this chamber. I recall one instance in regard to assistance to be given to aged people in homes for the aged, and things of that sort. Members of the Opposition have expressed great concern about these matters and on occasions have even voted with us to amend a Bill in the way that it is attempting to do so tonight. However, I think everybody should understand that if this amendment is carried it does not follow that it necessarily becomes law. Senator Murphy said, very rightly, that it will become law only if it is then carried by the House of Representatives. So all that we are doing tonight is not altering the law but making a recommendation to the House of Representatives where the Government has the majority. We make a recommendation to the House of Representatives that it should accept this amendment. I have seen this kind of thing happen before. In the House of Representatives the Government simply says that it has the majority and it will not accept the amendment from the Senate. Then the Government points out that it cannot accept the Bill in that form and that if the Senate persists in the amendment the Bill will be held up and the people will not receive the ameliorations which are proposed in those clauses of the Bill.
– That is something to consider in the future.
– In normal circumstances we could do that, if we had plenty of time ahead of us, but the sittings of the Senate will end next week or the week after for the election. In those circumstances we would be faced with the situation that, if we delayed this Bill, other proposals in the Bill which will be of advantage to people in regard to estate duties will not come into effect and might be held over for months.
– Senator, you know that is not a possibility.
– Senator Cavanagh says that it is not a possibility, but I have seen it happen. We have supported an amendment for the amelioration of a Bill and the Australian Labor Party has voted with us, but then when the Government has stood firm and said that the Bill would not come into existence and other good provisions of the legislation would be lost, I have seen the Australian Labor Party come into this place and vote for the Bill as it stood because it was afraid to accept the responsibility of losing the good things in the Bill. So all the . electioneering speeches do not obscure the main facts of the Bill
There are valuable provisions in the Bill to improve the situation in regard to estate duties. If we delay the passage of the Bill we will be faced with the situation of the Government saying that the people will lose the whole Bill. This has happened on so many occasions. On those occasions the Australian Labor Party has consistently turned round and allowed the Bill to go through. I am rather sorry that this matter has been the occasion for a straight-out electioneering embarrassment exercise, I know that in their hearts members of the Australian Labor Party do not believe in the amendment because, as was said by Senator Wilkinson who led for the Australian Labor Party on this Bill, estate duty was originally introduced by the Australian Labor Party because of its philosophy. He added that Labor Party philosophy had not changed.
– 1 have S handkerchiefs here, all sopped up with water because of the crocodile tears that have been shed by Senator McManus and honourable senators opposite.
– You have been wiping eyes from a long way off.
– I would have to because the disease is there, a disease which comes from the Democratic Labor Party - the disease of hypocrisy and of tricking the people of this country in relation to what they really believe in. I invite honourable senators to consider the history of probate.
– Yes, look at it. Your Party introduced it.
– Let us look at the history.
– Do you believe in abolition?
– Let us look at the history. Last week Government supporters moved and carried a pious resolution about the abolition of the tax, but this week they have a chance to achieve this by an amendment and they are running like dingoes from the opportunity to do the very thing that they voted to achieve last week.
– Order! There are too many interjections. Senator Poyser can make his own speech. He needs help neither from my right nor from my left. The honourable senator is entitled to be heard in reasonable silence.
– I appreciate the protection that you are tyring to give me, Mr Temporary Chairman, but I have always been able to handle people of this kind. The records show quite clearly the real desires of Government supporters in relation to the abolition of probate. The Government has had opportunities from 1914 to 1970 when the Bill has come before the Parliament for amendment, but it has done nothing.
– What a lot of rubbish.
– Here is the record. Look at it. Here is the history. Does the honourable senator want me to read it chapter and verse?
– Yes, read it.
– I am prepared to make it available to the honourable senator. The Estate Duty Assessment Act came before the Parliament for amendment in 1914, 1916, 1928, 1940, 1942 and 1947. There were 3 years of Labor Government, and for the rest of the time until 1970 a Libera] Government has had an opportunity to do something for the people it represents - the millionaires - but it has done nothing. Last week Government supporters decided that they would support a resolution that in the opinion of the Senate this action should be taken, but one week later when they had the opportunity to do something, what happened? We have heard the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) tell the mover of the amendment that he would be better off withdrawing the amendment. He said that although the Government agreed in principle with this kind of thing, this was not the time to do it, that the time was not prudent.
– It is not time.
– Apparently not, for that The Minister said that the Government suggested that the amendment be withdrawn and perhaps next week - or next year, or the year after - the Government will give the matter consideration. Then we have members of the DLP getting up and saying that they do not support this amendment.
– When the DLP got here it soon stirred things up.
– Yes. All they stirred was the can - the can of hate. The position is that an opportunity was given today for members of the DLP to put up or shut up because last week they put up a pious resolution that estate duties should be abolished. This week they had the opportunity to do so and they did not accept the challenge. Do honourable senators know why? It was because they do not believe in their own conscience; they are after votes.
Senator Webster is the classical example in this Parliament of someone talking about things that should happen - talking against the Government day after day in relation to the legislation that the Government is proposing. In all the years I have been here I have never seen Senator Webster put his mouth where bis money is, walk across the chamber and oppose the Government. Do honourable senators know why he will not do this? It is because he has to vote for the Government in order to get a guarantee of No. 2 place on its ticket the next time he stands for preselection for the Senate team. If he does not get the No. 2 position on the ticket he is dead.
– Whom are you talking about?
– I am talking about Senator Webster because he gets the opportunity once in 6 years-
– Will you mention my name so that the people may hear it?
– He gets the opportunity once in 6 years to stand for election to represent his completely insignificant party in Victoria. The only way in which he can get here is to kowtow to the Liberal Party. He talks against the Liberal Party but votes with it so that he will be assured of the No. 2 position. We saw today in the debate on this Bill the very example of what the honourable senator has been going. The late Harold Holt had to leave this Parliament and go down to protect the honourable senator’s interests in Victoria before the executive so that the honourable senator would get the No. 2 position in the Senate team.
– - You are brilliant.
– I know the whole story.
– Order! Come back to the Bill.
– I know the whole story of how the honourable senator got his pre-selection on the last occasion.
– Order! Can we come back to the Bill, please?
– I thought I was talking to the Bill, Mr Temporary Chairman.
– You could have fooled me.
– When I heard Senator Webster talking this afternoon so strongly against this legislation and so sympathetically in regard to the mover of the amendment and to abolition of this duty I thought that he might have changed his mind. But he is going to vote for the legis lation when a vote is taken - be is going to have 2 bob each way. This is the person who represents the Country Party and who is last in the alphabet.
It shames this Parliament to see someone so hypocritical in his attitude to the policies that he represents. Senator Webster goes out into the areas of his electorate and says to people: ‘This is what I said in Parliament’, but never shows them how he voted. This is another example of the actions of Senator Webster. He talks about voting for the Government on this legislation yet he is opposed to what the Government has put forward. So we have a situation of complete hypocrisy in relation to this legislation. He has had the opportunity to support an amendment that would give some people in the community who are in a position of hardship some kind of relief.
– And you do not believe in the abolition, do you?
– Does the honourable senator? He had a chance-
– My word I do.
- Senator Webster had a chance to move an amendment to abolish estate duty this very day. He had the chance to do this very thing on behalf of the farmers he purports to represent. Did he move that amendment?
– Do not spend all of your speech on me. Devote it to the Bill.
– I am devoting my remarks to the Bill because Senator Webster is supporting the retention of something he does not believe in. This is what he will do.
– Do you think buses should be retained in Geelong?
– I do not know because I am not so parochial as the honourable member would be in relation to trying to retain a hen on his farm. The honourable senator might believe the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) when he said today that there will be only 12 million eggs produced in this country - that you have to have one chook to produce that one egg! There is a very old saying, you know, of the bookmakers: No steak, no gravy; put up or shut up’. I am putting Senator Webster in this position today; he is an abolitionist. The legislation before us exempts more people from the payment of estate duty. However, estate duty is still continued. Senator Webster had the opportunity today to move for the abolition of this duty. He did not. He spoke against the duty but he will vote for the legislation. He will stand up to be counted. He will go round the countryside of Victoria and say: ‘This is my speech; this is what 1 said’, but he will not say how he voted. This is exactly what he will do. His whole action is completely hypocritical. What he has said today will be completely hypocritical unless he supports the amendment of Senator Negus to give at least some relief to the people who will be in hardship. If he does not do this, he will be condemned forever.
– I never realised until tonight that hypocrisy was a ribald matter for discussion such as has gone on in this chamber tonight. The tragedy of the Senate is that whenever any humanitarian project is mooted in this place, time and time again during the 10 years I have been here a social benefit which could be given to the people has been defeated by the jealousies of the Australian Democratic Labor Party and the Australian Labor Party.
– We are voting for it.
– All right, just let me finish my speech. I am pointing out that time and time again-
– I thought you had a locum at Devonport.
– Order! Senator Poyser was heard in reasonable silence. Might I ask for the same courtesy to be extended to Senator Turnbull. I ask that this courtesy be extended by those on my right as well as those on my left.
– What I was doing in Devonport is solely my own business and is no concern of any honourable senator.
– Is it a good business?
– Yes, it is a good business and at least it is an honest business. If I happen to be away from this chamber and do not vote it is because I see the futility of voting on some measures when we have the stupidity of 2 parties voting against each other in the belief that one can gain a little bit of credit against the other one. Both parties are equally to blame. If the Labor Party moves something the Democratic Labor Party will oppose it. and vice versa. Both parties are to blame.
– You are not here enough to know that.
-I am here enough to know what goes on. This is what has happened time and time again. Tonight I would not have spoken except for the continuation of this hypocrisy. Senator McManus, for whom I have great affection, made a speech whichI thought was the most hypocritical speech I have heard.
– What, me?
– First of all he said that this is an electioneering matter. Senator Negus is not standing for election. If any man could bemarked for sincerity in regard to his subject - and this is his subject-
– I never referred to Senator Negus.
– I do not care. But Senator Negus moved an amendment and he did not do so for electioneering purposes. He believes in it. All these other honourable senators believe in this but they are too scared to vote for it. Senator McManus also said that the Australian Democratic Labor Party is not going to support the amendment because there are other factors in the legislation which will be held up. That is not so. There are another 10 days in this session.I have seen a Bill whipped through here in 10 minutes.
– In 3 minutes.
– I am not talking about the Bill in relation to salaries. But I have seen a Bill passed through here in relation to Australian Capital Territory regulations.It did not take the Government long to introduce that Bill when, on the previous day, it found that it had lost certain power. Any of the items which will be held up if we carry this amendment can be rectified in the next week. There is no problem there. Then Senator McManus went on - this hurt me - to point out that the Australian Labor Party, when it finds that certain aspects of a Bill will be defeated if it keeps up its opposition, turns round the next time the Bill comes into this chamber and votes for it. Let me remind honourable senators that 2 years ago when 1 moved 2 amendments, which the Democratic Labor Party supported, in relation to the National Health Bill, the next day the DLP voted against those amendments for the very reason which Senator McManus says the Labor Party is now adopting. If that is not hypocrisy, what is? Could we have a bit of sincerity in this matter?
Do we or do we not believe in this measure? Do we believe that hardship will be caused? If we do we will vote for the amendment. Do we believe that some people may make a claim and be disappointed? Everyone claims deductions in relation to income tax and they are often disappointed. But that does not mean that we do not allow these things. For heaven’s sake, let us have a bit of sincerity. This is a humane factor which affects people, especially Australian Country Party supporters. The ribald laughter which comes from the benches around me amazes me because these people are affected more than anyone else. They are the people who face the greatest hardship.
– Abolish it.
– All right, abolish it. Honourable senators can do that if they want to. They talk with their tongue in their cheek all the damn time. Get up and abolish it. There is no reason why the honourable senator should not. He has been in the chamber for so long and he gets up and makes sniggering little remarks all the time - snigger, snigger, snigger - that we have to abolish it. Well, abolish k. The Government can do that if it wants to. If it thinks that the Labor Party will not support it that will not matter because it will have the DLP on side and even the independent honourable senators might support it. But I ask the Government to stop this damn hypocrisy it goes on with. I say to the Government that it is time that we stopped all this rot in regard to humanitarian matters which face this chamber. It is time that we got together and did something for the people and not what is best for our Party so that we can be one up on the other Party.
– I desire to say a few words. I have long had an interest in probate duty. Since my earliest childhood I have always hoped that the day would come when the Commonwealth would have a legitimate claim of about 8500,000 against me for probate duty. That day has never arrived but I am hoping that it will occur some time. Firstly, let me say that I disagree that the Senate should subjugate itself to a Committee. I do not think that because a committee is inquiring into this matter the Senate should hesitate to do what the elected members of the Senate think is right. We have been reminded by the Australia Democratic Labor Party that some sections of the Senate believe in the total abolition of probate duty. In a previous debate Senator Wilkinson referred to the reasons for the introduction of estate duty by the Labor Party in 1974. 1 do not know whether there has been a review of Party policy since then. But I say definitely and I make no apology for this - that personally I am not in favour of the abolition of probate duty. Therefore honourable senators will never receive my support for its abolition. I think that anyone who has amassed a fortune by exploiting our economy, our land or perhaps other human beings has a responsibility to pay back to the nation a portion of what he has amassed over the period and not deprive those who have not had an opportunity to pay probate duty. Therefore I and I think my Party are opposed to the total abolition of this duty.
We are now faced with the position that we cannot achieve total abolition, whether this should be so or not. The attitude of myself and my Party could be changed if a committee inquiring into the matter found substantial evidence which would justify its total abolition. If such a committee found there was justification for total abolition we would be hard pressed to maintain the attitude that it should not be abolished. But tonight we are faced with the position that there is not going to be total abolition. There are benefits in this Bill which will provide relief from taxation and which the Government and the Australian Labor Party support. But accepting the position that there will not be total abolition, we have heard, mostly from Senator Negus, about the hardship which is created from time to time to an individual. I do not think honourable senators on the Government side are concerned when they realise there is not going to be total abolition because they will never benefit from this amendment. Their wealth is such that in after-life they will not be concerned and their dependants will not come into the category of hardship.
– The honourable senator is not facing the facts.
– I happen to know the honourable senator’s resources and this applies to him. I know that he will not be concerned with hardship and that the beneficiaries under his will will not have to make application under this amendment if it becomes law. But in relation to this matter we have heard much about primary producers. We have been told that because of probate duty it has been necessary to sell the whole or portion of a farm or to sell so much of the farm that the remainder is not a viable proposition. But we must recognise that there is not going to be total abolition. So when it can be established that hardship exists the Government has the choice of saying whether it will establish machinery to relieve the beneficiary under a will from extreme hardship such as selling portion of his property. Or is the Government going to inflict or continue to impose this hardship upon an individual? That is the question which has to be decided. The Government has to face up to the facts. Ultimately it has to decide what should be done and whether it will do what it has accused Labor of failing to do, which we admit.
The Government is faced with the position that under this system there is individual hardship. Cases have been quoted where hardship has occurred in the past. Under this amendment opportunity is given to the Government to grant exemption from hardship when that would necessitate the selling of a property or portion of a property. The Government has to decide this matter tonight. Whether this is electioneering or whether it is a seeking of votes, a humanitarian principle is involved. Passing this amendment will have beneficial results in the electorate according to the views held by the electors in relation to this matter.
It is all right to talk about hypocrisy and what we have done in the past. We, are faced with ons position today and it is not a question of benefiting a friend; it is a question of benefiting someone that we do not know. It is a question of establishing that hardship exists and that the imposition of death duties would cause further hardship. The hardship has to result to the widow or widower or to the child of the deceased. It is not just hardship; it is serious hardship. It would not matter to rae if the Commonwealth were after that $500,000 that I mentioned earlier because. I can assure honourable senators that none of my relatives will leave such a sum to me. This provision would not exempt me. It is aimed at helping the. widow, the widower or the child in cases of hardship - for. instance, a child who cannot inherit an estate in the countryside and have a working property because of probate duties. It is aimed at giving such a person some relief to carry on the occupation of his parents and to work their property.
Those are the people that the Government is being asked to help tonight. It is being asked to give, relief to that sort of individual. Other individuals may have to make some sort of sacrifice. They may have to give up some of the luxuries. For instance, they may have to sell the Mercedes owned by their parents in order to pay probate. The amendment applies only to people who face serious hardship because of the imposition of probate, duties.
I ask honourable senators on the Government side to remember that position. Perhaps it is hypothetical. We have heard that very few would be affected but somewhere in this wide continent of Australia there may be someone who would face extreme hardship - a distressed widow, a widower or a child of the. deceased, in meeting the requirements of this Act. Perhaps there would be serious hardship. Senator Negus has suggested machinery whereby we can relieve such individuals so that the Commonwealth does not become a grabbing machine aimed at dispossessing a person of his parents’ property. Senator Negus’s amendment will provide machinery to give that person some relief and permit him to carry on the occupation of his parents or carry on with the running of his parents’ property. What votes are involved
In this? What Party differences are involved? Does it matter what parties did in the past? The question that we have to ask ourselves, as senators elect, is this: What justice is in it?
– What justice is in it?
– That is the question that senators elect have to decide. I do not know the purpose of the interjection by Senator Dame Nancy Buttfield but I ask honourable senators to consider it. Is there any justice in forcing a person to sell property or to forgo other benefits under a will merely so that the Commonwealth gets its pound of flesh? This creates hardship. Anyone who ls interested in the depressed sections of our community, no matter what Party they arc in or what votes are involved in this issue, has to vote for this amendment.
– I have listened with a great deal of interest to this discussion tonight, both prior to the dinner adjournment and since. I was particularly interested in the comments of Senator Cavanagh because he was the first Opposition senator to spell out clearly that his Party is opposed to the abolition of estate duties.
– I said the same thing.
– 1 must confess that 1 did not hear Senator Wilkinson’s speech. However I heard Senator Cavanagh spell that out very clearly tonight. I have heard many other speakers tonight but they did not state that view clearly as Senator Cavanagh did. I have always admired Senator Cavanagh for his honesty. Quite a deal of heat and emotion has been displayed in this debate tonight and there are many differing views about the approaches to be made to the whole problem of estate duties. 1 want to make it clear, as I said in a debate last week, that from the time I first came to the Senate, and ever since, I have been one of those people who have supported abolition of estate duties. I have seen on many occasions that it is not the big man who is hurt by these duties. The big man is so well off that he is able to arrange his estate in such a way, by means of forming companies and so on, that he is able to avoid estate duties. It is the smaller man who is hit every time. It is the dependant of the smaller man who is hit, be he on the land or in the urban areas - not the big man, because 9 times out of 10 the big man has ways of avoidance. So it is the little man to whom I have always looked with great sympathy and therefore I have always supported abolition of probate duties.
Senator Gietzelt and other speakers said tonight that the Government has had plenty of opportunity in the past to abolish estate duties. He pointed the finger at honourable senators in this chamber tonight and said that they had done nothing about this. On the occasions when this matter has come up in the Senate during my short time in this place I have not been alone because honourable senators from both parties supporting the Government have crossed the floor and supported amendments moved by the Democratic Labor Party. I refer to Senator Prowse and other Government supporters who have crossed the floor.
The Opposition has said that no influence has been exerted upon the Government. I point out that when we debated this matter last week not a few senators from the Government side crossed the floor but the whole of the Government side gave a clear indication that it supported the abolition of probate duties. Opposition senators stand and say in this place that we on this side have done nothing and that we have had no effect; that those who have crossed the floor in the past have had no effect. I remind them that last week all honourable senators on the Government side as well as members of the Democratic Labor Party and the 3 independent senators stuck together in support of the policy of abolition of estate duties. That was a change from the situation of some 5 years ago when a few senators from the Government side crossed the floor. The Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton), who is leading the Government side in this debate, did not simply cross the floor; he spelt out very clearly and concisely in his opening remarks last week that there was no doubt where he stood. Having listened to other honourable senators from the Government side support that policy leading towards abolition of estate duties, the whole Government side en masse, together with the Democratic Labor Party representatives and the independent senators, moved together.
Have any members of the Australian Labor Party ever crossed the floor on any occasion to show clearly where they stood on this issue? On no occasion have they done so. I had not been long in this place when on one occasion I threw out a challenge on this issue to Opposition senators and asked them what they stood for. I thought that their words were ringing hollowly. On that occasion not one of them would cross the floor in support of an amendment moved by Senator Byrne. That is why tonight I commended Senator Cavanagh for his words when he spelt out very clearly where the Australian Labor Party stands on the abolition of estate duties. If on any occasion Senator McLaren would like to accompany me to the rural areas of South Australia to discuss the abolition of estate duties, I would be only too pleased to go with him. I make my policy and where I stand very clear. I support the complete abolition. I will go to the rural areas or anywhere he likes. I invite him to go with me and he can oppose abolition.
I have great respect for Senator Negus, the integrity and honesty with which he has approached this whole subject and the way he has brought his amendments into this place. I appreciate that before dinner Senator Negus, when he sought clarification of the situation, said: ‘Because I can see the point of view of other honourable senators in relation to this matter, I am prepared to withdraw most of my amendments’. I respect him for that. I commend him for what he has put forward. I cannot support him in what he has proposed in this amendment, because I support the remarks of Senator Byrne. Senator Byrne spelt it out very clearly that we cannot adopt a half way house attitude. My policy has always been to support the abolition of estate duties. We cannot go to a half way house on this issue. I will stick to what I have stood for ever since I came into this place and before I came here, and that is the complete and utter abolition of estate duties.
Again I would like to refer to the fact that a comment was passed tonight, and perhaps the finger was pointed towards Senator Cotton - a Minister for whom I have a high regard - that Senator Cotton was the man who made suggestions that Senator Negus should withdraw his amendments. I want to clarify this situation. In all sincerity let me state that this afternoon Senator Devitt, a conscientious member of a committee doing a job on this subject, was the first to rise in his place and point out the reasons why he would like to see the amendments withdrawn. He said that this matter was the subject of a reference to a Senate committee and that the committee was dealing with it. He said that he felt it should be left on this basis rather than that the Senate should make a decision on the matter. When it is suggested in this place that Senator Cotton was the initiator of the withdrawal of these amendments, I want to clear this point up. It was not Senator Cotton; it was Senator Devitt. I am not casting any aspersions on Senator Devitt. He did this sincerely as a member of a committee which he believes will come down with a fair and honest report when it has finished its inquiries.
This debate is dealing with people or, more importantly, with the dependants of people. As I said the other night, the desire of most Australians during their working lives is to work to make sure that when they leave this good earth their dependants will have security. This is another reason why I am so critical of the fact that we have estate duties which tend to whittle away much of the goodwill and security that the parent wishes to leave for a child or that a husband wishes to leave for his spouse. So I hope that when we get into further discussions on the amendments in this Committee we can deal with them on a rational basis and perhaps leave some of the emotion out of the discussions, because this to me is one of the most important issues this chamber will ever discuss.
– I endeavoured to rise on a number of occasions, but could not get the call, while Senator McManus was in the chamber. I regret that now I have the call he is absent. I want to say where I stand. I am supporting Senator Negus in his amendment which proposes the introduction of a new clause which will deal with cases of hardship. In doing that, I now want to put the record straight as to what I said last Wednesday on this matter of estate duty, because we are on the air and because Senator McManus misquoted me also on the air and exactly the same criticism has been made in a Melbourne newspaper. I want to put the whole matter straight because it applies to this particular issue. Senator McManus, reading from Hansard, said that I had said: . . estate duty was introduced by the Australian Labor Party because of its philosophy. . . . Over the years, the situation has changed . . . our philosophy has not changed . . .
He paid me the tribute of saying that he considered I was honest enough to express an honest opinion. But the point is that he did not read all that I said. With your approval, Mr Temporary Chairman, I will read the paragraph from which he quoted, including all the words and not only those quoted by Senator McManus. I said:
As was rightly said by only one member of the Government, estate duty was introduced by the Austraiian Labor Party because of its philosophy. It must be remembered that, at the time when this duty was introduced, the value of properties was nothing like the value of properties of similar size and condition today. Over the years, the situation has changed. Although our philosophy has not changed, out attitude to the depth to which estate duty should operate has had to be amended.
I believe this puts an entirely different complexion on what I was quoted as saying last Wednesday. What I was saying in moving the amendment which I moved at that time was that we really needed to support a decision which had already been reached by the Senate - namely, that we would submit this whole matter to a standing committee - and that I was waiting for the report of that committee and wanted it to be presented at an early date. What we are doing now, in considering this amendment moved by Senator Negus, is an entirely different matter. The amendment is not asking for the report. It is asking that in the legislation which is now being passed here be inserted a new clause which will deal with cases of hardship as they come forward. That is all I wanted to say in order to put the record straight and to express my support for the amendment.
– I want to add a few words in support of the contributions to the debate made by my colleagues. First of all, I feel that I should take Senator Turnbull to task. He made a very emotional speech about alleged political organisations behind the statements previously made by the Australian Labor Party and the Democratic Labor Party. I say to Senator Turnbull: Let us get our facts straight. It is not so many months ago that he joined the Australia Party and announced himself to be the representative of the Australia Party in this chamber. At the termination of 9 months he said that either the Party or he had failed vo conceive; so he left the Party. Perhaps he was on the pill. When he was joined here by 2 Independent representatives, he announced that they would be his party, but it is significant that he is seldom here to lead them. When he is not here it is remarkable that they mostly vote with the Government, and when they are not here and he is here he mostly votes with the Government; so it is all very confusing.
– Sheer and utter rot.
– 1 did not interject on you.
– Why not?
– I did not think you said anything sensible enough. On 2 occasions this year Senator Turnbull visited the Stale which he represents, and on both occasions he got a mention in the social column as having visited his State. I do not think we can place an awful lot of credence on any of the things he said here tonight, in spile of the fact that he rained crocodile tears over his colleague next to him.
Let us get back to the basis of the amendment to this Bill which the Labor Party is supporting. Senator Cavanagh, Senator Wilkinson and others of my colleagues have spelt out our policy pretty clearly. I cannot really go along with Senator Young, who has now disappeared. No doubt he will come back shortly.
– He has left on business.
– That is right. He has gone to count his money. Let us be factual about this matter. Senator Young was one of the first to admit that the rich people in the community have all sorts of subterfuges whereby they can conserve their estates, probably under various legal disguises, so that their estates, or at least a large proportion of them, are passed on to their dependants. It is true that the working man cannot do this. I think it was Senator Cavanagh who said a few moments ago that he is not worried about his estate. I am not worried about my estate either. Most honourable senators on this side of the chamber would not pay estate duty if they died tomorrow. Senator Little, who interjects, is a capitalist as well as a politician. A while ago Senator Webster
– He is asleep.
– No, he is not. He is wide awake. He is awake with his eyes closed. A while ago Senator Poyser mentioned that Senator Webster intended to participate m this debate on one side publicly and on the other side he would vote with the Government because he needs his second place on the pre-selection ticket in Victoria. Of course, it is possible now that Sir Henry Bolte has gone to live with his racehorses that Senator Webster will not need to put up the same massive organisation as he has in past years to retain his seat, Whatever happens it is true, as Senator Poyser pointed out, that he has no intention whatever of voting for the amendment that the ALP is supporting this evening. The amendment moved by Senator Wilkinson on Wednesday, 11th October 1972 read:
Delete all words after ‘Senate’, and insert: ‘is of the opinion that the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations should bring down its report on “the effects of Estate and like duties on the public revenues and the economic circumstances of individuals and communities, and the social consequences of such duties” at an early date’.
The Government members decided that they would support an expression of opinion. It was not even a principle. It was an expression of opinion that the abolition of all death duties ought to take place. We saw them scurrying across the Senate chamber in the divisions because they thought that there was some political mileage in the matter. They had no intention under any circumstances of voting for the abolition of death duties. But because this is an election year, because Sir William Big Ears and all of the people behind him are struggling, they decided there was some political mileage in this and they crossed the Senate floor.
– They were huffing and puffing.
– Yes. Like the fox, they will finish up in the same hot pot of soup.
– Keep to the facts.
– My facts are quite good. They are much better than those put across by the Liberal Party. The ALP has always maintained that those with the wealth ought to be able to pay some of the expenses of the less privileged people in the community. It does not matter whether this is in the field of estate duties, personal taxes or any other field of taxation. Every one of us owes something to the less privileged people in the community. There is a moral and legal responsibility on every Australian to see not only that he and his family live in comfort but also that every other member of the community lives in comfort. I challenge every member of the Government parties, the independent senators and the members of the noisy little Democratic Labor Party to vote in support of this amendment.
– We are not only noisy but also effective.
– You make a rattle like an empty drum. I challenge them to vote in support of this amendment if they are fair dinkum. Otherwise, their action the other night when they crossed the chamber in support of an expression of opinion in favour of the abolition of death duties was nothing but an empty move and a political expedient in the hope that somebody would take notice of it. It did draw suitable headlines the next day mostly beside the funeral notices and the comic strips. Let us see how fair dinkum they are when the vote is taken on this amendment tonight.
– I wish to have a second slice of the cake by speaking to this matter again. 1 am delighted to hear Senator Keeffe say that very few honourable senators on his side of the chamber will pay death duties. My experience has been that those who pay death duties generally have acquired an estate as a result of 2 things - hard work and thrift. Evidently they do not exist on the honourable senator’s side of the chamber. Senator Keeffe has enjoyed himself in his usual method of not really talking about the matter before he chamber, it is very easy to sneer at honourable senators on the other side of the chamber. It is very easy to chuck a bit of muck around the place. But let us talk about what Senator Negus is trying to do. The paper originally circulated by Senator Negus. I think last week, was much easier to follow than this form which I think we all admit is rather difficult to understand. With all respect to the Parliamentary Draftsman, I had a greater knowledge of what Senator Negus was attempting to do when [ saw his first statement than I have from wading through what is contained on these pages 3 and 4.
I have a great deal of sympathy for Senator Negus. What he is saying, in effect, is that we should import into the Estate Duty Assessment Bill the same provisions as are in the Income Tax Assessment Act relating to hardship. I think there is an obligation on Senator Negus to explain to us why these provisions were originally imported into the Income Tax Assessment Act. I would be grateful if the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) could give me some indication of the philosophy which underlay the idea of putting that provision into the Income Tax Assessment Act. At a guess, I would say that there would be very few taxpayers who would not have some 40 opportunities to pay an annual income tax assessment. Possibly there would be 50 opportunities within one’s lifetime. Assuming that one’s working life is between the ages of 20 and 65 years this gives one 45 opportunities to pay income tax. It is hardly likely that there will be 45 cases of hardship within that period.
– Once is enough in the case of death duties.
– Wait a minute. It is only reasonable that somewhere at some time within those 45 annual payments a person may run into a year of difficulty. I suppose that the Commissioner or the Taxation Board of Review may say: ‘We will waive the tax for that year because we do not want to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. We do not want to bankrupt this person this year because we can get another 30 years of tax out of him. If we kill him off this year we have lost another 30 years of tax which are in front of him’. I do not know whether that was the philosophical reason why this provision was originally inserted into the Act. I think that there is a vast difference between an income tax act and a death duties act. In the case of income tax, there are at least 40 opportunities of collecting it. Death duties are a oncer. This is one of those unfortunate things. We die only once. Some politicians die more than once.
– -Speak for yourself.
– 1 am now in my second existence in this chamber. My reincarnation is better than when I was here before. When talking about these things one wants to look at them in a little more depth. One of the problems involved is what is meant by serious hardship. It is all very well to use that phrase. It is a nice resounding phrase to include in an Act of Parliament, if no attempt is made to spell out what it means. How is this phrase to be interpreted by the 3 worthy gentlemen mentioned? I refer to the Secretary of the Treasury, the Comptroller-General of Customs and Excise and the Commissioner of Taxation. What in relation to death duties is a ‘serious hardship’?
– That is the phrase used in the National Service Act with respect to conscientious objection.
– There one is dealing with a live person. I have appeared on a number of occasions on behalf of people who have made application on the ground of serious hardship, and serious hardship can be shown.
– In respect of what? Under the National Service Act?
– Yes. I have appeared for people who have applied for national service deferment on the ground of serious hardship. One can show that serious hardship can result from national service to either the applicant or the family unit especially in a farming partnership. One can show that serious hardship would occur if a reasonable opportunity was not available for the applicant to have his national service deferred. I am not talking about exemptions; I am talking about deferments. They are 2 different things.
– No. We are talking about the phrase ‘serious hardship’.
– Serious hardship can be pinpointed under the National Service Act. But what is serious hardship in the case of a widow? ls serious hardship the fact that she cannot pay the duty at all? Does the serious hardship arise because of a peculiar valuation of one of the assets of an estate? What is serious hardship? I submit that this amendment should go further and spell out some criteria as to what constitutes serious hardship. I have heard Senator Cavanagh and others, especially those who have been infected by the enthusiasm of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, say that criteria should be spelt out. The discretion that this amendment seeks to reside in the people whom I have mentioned is an awful one. 1 would have thought that this provision was far too discretionary. On what criteria is serious hardship to be based?
– All things are relative.
– No, they are not. lt is all very well to say that, but I ask: What is serious hardship? Do honourable senators opposite say that only the whole of an estate is taken and that an estate is not administered in bankruptcy? What is serious hardship?
– There are 3 independent judges.
– We are not talking here about deferment of duty. We are talking about the non-payment of duty. There is a vast difference. To refer to the provisions of the National Service Act is completely irrelevant because serious hardship under that Act leads to deferment and not to exemption. In this amendment, we talk about serious hardship leading to exemp tion and not to deferment. I have heard all these stories about serious hardship but I wonder how valid they are. I took the trouble some 6 months ago to speak personally to the Commissioner of Probate Duties in Western Australia. He informed me that in the 35 years in which he has been engaged in administering the collection of death duties in Western Australia, not once to his knowledge - and I use that qualification - has legal process ever been issued to collect death duties owing to the State. There may have been cases of which he has no knowledge. But he informed me that, to his knowledge, no case has occurred. In my experience - I think that I have had a reasonable amount of experience in this field - people receive a sympathetic deal and a sympathetic hearing in respect of their problems relating to death duties. Let us make up our minds on this matter. If we wish to retain death duties we will cause hardships. Let us not fiddle about trying to fix those hardships. Let us remove the tax. This is the nitty gritty problem which members of the Opposition will not face up to.
– You should have thought of that last Wednesday.
– Do not try to get away with that sort of nonsense. When the chips were down in this place, honourable senators opposite voted for the retention of death duties. Senator Wilkinson believes in death duties and he does not run away from that belief. Senator Cavanagh had enough courage to rise tonight and to say that he does not know exactly what his Party’s philosophy is at the moment in respect of death duties but he personally believes that there is an argument in favour of death duties. He was honest enough to say that. I think that Senator Milliner also said that the other night; he believes in death duties. This is the great difference between our attitudes.
Once, there may have been an argument in favour of a tax on capital assets when income tax was a penny in the £ 1. But today when income tax ranges up to 68c in the $1, the community is a completely different sociological and economic unit on which to impose death duties. I can understand why in the past death duties were imposed. This tax is not something new. It has been around since the days of William the Conqueror. I forget what the various
Imposts were then but they included such things as heriot. When a man died, the lord of the manor took one third of his estate. Why did he do that? He did so because there was no personal income tax. This was a fair and reasonable lax when there was no income tax. But the moment income tax was introduced, there was no longer a reason why part of the estate of a deceased person should be lost to death duties. That is what we on this side argue. That is what Opposition members will not accept. They want to tax the earnings of a person in that person’s lifetime and then to slice off a piece of that person’s capita! on the death of that person.
– So does your Party. So does your Government. You have been doing it for 23 years.
– The honourable senator may talk as he wishes. The trouble is that he is imprisoned within his own narrow Party dogma. No Opposition senator has the ability to make up his own mind. Look at the display that we had in the Committee before the sitting was suspended this evening. Prior to that suspension the Opposition could not inform us how its members would vote on this amendment. We could have told Opposition members. They had to go off and obtain instructions from outside. What a Party to belong to. Yet honourable senators opposite have the cheek to interject in the way in which they do. They are imprisoned in their own abyssmal dogma. They ae determined that no person who works hard and has exercised thrift shall benefit by his actions. They want to penalise such persons.
– Why do you not convince your Treasurer of that?
– Because members of the Opposition do not believe in hard work and thrift - it is a disease - they want to take earnings off a person in that person’s lifetime through income tax and then to slice off another portion on the death of that person. I do not believe in hitting a man twice. Opposition members wish to take as much as they can. They do not like their attitudes being exposed. Honourable senators opposite thought that they had the election in the bag. The reason why they are so sour tonight is that the sands of time are running out on them and they can see-
– I rise to take a point of order. I know that the debate has been pretty loose. But the honourable senator is referring to the sands of time, the election and all sorts of things. An amendment in most definite terms is before the Committee. It seeks to amend the Bill on the question of hardship caused by death duties. May 1 suggest that the honourable senator returns to the area of the amendment?
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Prowse)Order! The point of order has substance. The debate has strayed from the subject matter of the amendment. The debate has been permitted to be a very wide ranging general discussion. But, as Senator Willesee reminds us, there is an area beyond which at the Committee stage the debate should not go. I suggest to the honourable senator that he should try to narrow the scope of his remarks.
– I apologise to you, Mr Chairman, and to the Committee. I apologise to Opposition members also for flicking them on the raw. I can well understand their embarrassment. I will conclude as I would have concluded long ago had I not been enticed by useless and irrelevant interjections of which 1 should have taken no notice. 1 believe in the abolition of death duties, full stop - without qualification, without hesitation and without awaiting the results of investigations by any committees. I believe this irrespective of what the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) may think, irrespective of what the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) may think and irrespective of what my Party may think.I can stand in my place and say that. I challenge any member of the Opposition to rise in his place and to do the same.
– It had not been my intention to enter this debate until Senator Withers from Western Australia rose. If Senator Withers believes in the abolition of estate and probate duties, the Party which he represents - it has always been the major Party in the coalition since the Government came to office in 1949 - has had nearly 23 years to implement that which Senator Withers says he and his Party stands for. The Bill imposes estate duty.
– lt does not. It reduces estate duty.
– It is still an imposition. My friend Senator Withers said that it reduces estate duly. True, it reduces estate duty, but it certainly does not abolish estate duty. If Senator Withers were sincere in his stand in favour of the abolition of estate duty he would support the amendment moved by Senator Negus because it says that once a board consisting of 3 eminent citizens determines that serious hardship does exist the board may release the administrator, or other person liable to pay the duty, wholly. I take it that that means abolition of the duty. If Senator Withers stands for abolition of the duty he would support the amendment. The amendment continues ‘or if not wholly then in part’. Therefore what Senator Withers has been talking about for the previous 10 or IS minutes has been a lot of sheer malarkey.
Estate duty and probate duty are taxes which cause not only serious hardship but extreme hardship. The imposition of the tax has continued because of the failure of the Government to do anything to control inflation. The higher the inflation, the greater the hardship on a greater number of people.
– Abolish the tax.
Senator DOUGLAS MCCLELLANDYou have had 23 years to abolish the tax. So do not talk to me about what should happen when you have had 23 years in which to do it.
– Do you think that it should be abolished?
– I do not think that it should be abolished completely. I think many people have made a fortune because no capital gains tax has been imposed by the Government.
– Do you believe in capital gains?
– I certainly believe in an easing of the duty.
– Do you believe in capital gains?
Senator DOUGLAS MCCLELLANDYou have made your speech. I am making mine. We have shown that for 23 years you have had the opportunity to implement your platform. You have not done so. This Bill does not. Give someone else a say. One of the great problems which causes not only serious hardship but extreme hardship has been caused because of the failure of the Government to control inflation. Costs and prices have risen astronomically. The value of land and land prices have increased out of all proportion. Therefore the value of estates has increased substantially. There has been no corresponding relief from the payment of estate duty and probate duty. The battlers in the community - the people about whom the Government cares very little - have been caught up in the inflationary spiral because the Government has failed to move with the times.
Let me cite a case. About 12 months ago a battling farmer in the Wagga area who had bought a place for about £5,000 in 1950 died. When he died his estate was valued at $72,000 for probate purposes. I have forgotten the figure that his estate had to pay by way of estate duty and probate duty. From recollection, I think it was about $15,000 or $16,000. It was at a time of extreme rural hardship, of depressed prices and of a poor economy but of uncontrolled inflation - all the direct responsibility of the Government. The estate was asked to find $15,000. His widow was lucky to have 1,500 cents. That was the hardship imposed on the widow of that very fine Australian. That is only one case. If there had been a relief of hardship provision in the principal Act she would have been relieved of the burden imposed upon her. I go further. Because the value of the estate was such a large amount the woman was not entitled to receive a widow’s pension. That is why Senator Negus is on the right track when he seeks to insert in the Act a relief of hardship provision. If members of the Liberal Party do not propose to support the amendment-
– And they do not.
Senator DOUGLAS MCCLELLANDAnd they do not. Certainly if the Country Party is carrying out its written policy all members who sit in hillbilly corner ought to be supporting the amendment. I have a copy of the 1972 policy of the Australian Country Party. Page 36 of that policy, under the heading ‘Taxation’, states that the Country Party supports the application of taxation at the lowest level compatible with the financing of national obligations, etc. Among other things it supports the application of taxation concessions to minimise the incidence of death duties so as to avoid the necessity for the forced sale of family property where the estate is left to the wife and children of the testator.
– A hardship.
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLANDA serious hardship.
– No mention of abolition.
– No mention of abolition, no mention of relieving hardship on the widow or the family of the testator where death duty is imposed without there being recourse to anything else; merely a mention of minimising the estate duty. 1 certainly support the amendment moved by my colleague Senator Wilkinsonlast week to the motion for the second reading of the Bill. He pointed out that the Senate had already referred to a standing committee an inquiry into the effects of estate and like duties on the public. I believe that that report should be presented to Parliament as soon as possible, that when it is presented it should be looked at by the Government and that its recommendations should be adhered to. In the meantime the proposition contained in the amendment moved by Senator Negus is, we believe, a genuine and sympathetic attempt to relieve those persons who are in need as a result of the failure of the Government to control inflation and to carry out a plank of its policy about which we heard from Senator Withers - namely, the abolition of death and probate duties or estate duty. Therefore I believe that the amendment is in the interests of a section of the Australian community which is finding this burden a serious and intolerable hardship. I believe that the amendment moved by Senator Negus is worthy of support.
– in reply - I suggest that the Committee has debated this subject for long enough. I thank all honourable senators who have spoken in the debate, whatever their opinion is because it is their own opinion, I hope, and not a party opinion. I sincerely thank members of the Australian Labor Party for supporting the amendment. I do not say that they are doing so from a political point of view. I feel that they may gradually be having a change of heart.I sympathise with Senator Devitt and all other members of the Standing Committee because I feel that perhaps we should have waited for the Committee’s report to be presented. The Committee expected its report to come before the Sen- ate before the end of September, but that has not happened and it seems that the Committee will have to go into recess on 2nd December when the Parliament is dissolved, and probably 3 or 4 months will pass before the Committee can present its findings. In the meantimepeople can be hurt. I had hoped that the members of the Country Party and of the Liberal Party who have said that they will not support the amendment might have had a change of heart as a result of the debate. All I can do now is ask them to vote as they believe they should vote since the amendment can help people in distress. Surely it is not much to ask honourable senators to vote truly in order to help people in distress. Mr Chairman, I move:
That the question be now put.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Original question put:
That the proposed new clause 3a (Senator Negus’s amendment) be inserted in theBill.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator E. W. Prowse)
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause 4 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cotton) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 26 September (vide page 1185), 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.
Consideration resumed from 26 September (vide page 1185), 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 amendment or debate.
– Order! In accordance with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I wish to raise a matter that has been of some concern to me all day and for the last few days. I refer to the arrest and subsequent gaoling today of Mrs Jean McLean, Secretary of the Save Our Sons Movement in Victoria. I understand that Mrs McLean was arrested by the police at her home at about 2 o’clock this afternoon for refusing to pay a fine imposed on her some time ago for handing out pamphlets in defiance of the National Service Act.
– Hear, hear!
– I heard Senator Webster saying ‘Hear, hear’. God bless him! In my opinion there is no law under which it is justifiable to gaol a person of the moral character and fibre of Mrs McLean. In addition to the work that Mrs McLean has done over the years to make young men of this nation aware of their rights under the National Service Act, quite recently she was responsible for the release of a statement calling for an end to the blatant bombing of women and children in North Vietnam. This statement was signed by prominent Australians, including the Reverend Professor R. Anderson, Dr Max Charlesworth of the Melbourne University, the Hon. Don Dunstan, Premier of South Australia, and Mr Clive Holding, M.L.A., Leader of the Opposition in Victoria. Throughout Australia thousands of people such as Mrs McLean have been the moral conscience of this nation during the whole of the tragic and continuing episode of Vietnam and Indo-China generally. Her action in releasing this statement within the last few days was highlighted by a statement released by Senator Edward Kennedy on 9th October this year when he said, as a result of testimony given by Major-General John Pauly, Vice-Director for Operations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at a hearing by the United States Senate Sub-Committee on Refugees:
It is apparent that at the highest levels of our Government - where the decisions for the massive bombing and shelling of North Vietnam are made - there is no regular procedure for observing and monitoring the damage being done to civilian populated areas.
Interestingly enough, in the ‘Age’ of the same day a French correspondent, writing from North Vietnam, pointed out that in one province of North Vietnam alone the number of air strikes had reached a point where there was one air strike for every 85 people in the community. The same situation applies in the Central Intelligence Agency war in Thailand where the Plain of Jars, in the vernacular of ex-President Johnson of the United States, has been bombed back into the stone age. It is little wonder that people such as Mrs McLean
Stand up in moral indignation in Australia and still are prepared to defy the National Service Act and the Government because of its attitude on Vietnam. As I have said already, in her part of Victoria Mrs McLean has been one of the few people responsible for drawing to the attention of the Australian people the horrors and futility of the Vietnam war. Quite frankly I believe that her action and similar action by other people has caused the Government to reconsider its Vietnam commitment and, consequently, possibly has saved at least 500 young Australian lives in that conflict. To incarcerate a young mother of 2 for her continuing interest and action on behalf of the anti-war movement is an affront not only to myself but also to thousands of others throughout Australia. Therefor I call upon the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) to take the action necessary for her immediate release.
– I support the remarks made by Senator Primmer and appeal to the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) to use a humanitarian approach to this case. I understand that Mrs Jean McLean was gaoled this afternoon in Melbourne for an offence which although contrary to the law is not contrary to Mrs McLean’s conscience or to the conscience of other people in Australia.
– You can knock that part off.
– Or of other people in Australia. It has been clearly established in recent Gallup Polls in relation to the Vietnam War that more than 60 per cent of the people of this country oppose the Government’s policy in this regard. Yet the Government is putting a young mother with children into gaol because she has dared to hand out pamphlets expressing Opposition to the Government’s policy. I am not violently attacking the Government on this issue; I am appealing to the good sense and the humanitarian instincts that the Attorney-General may have in relation to this matter. I ask him to show some leniency and to use his good offices to see that this good lady is released from gaol immediately. Honourable senators may recall that Mrs Jean McLean was one of the people who were gaoled at Fairlea in Victoria for a similar offence and that sub- sequently it was found in a court hearing in relation to Mr George Crawford that her imprisonment was completely illegal. The court decided in that case that the original decision by which Mrs Jean McLean and 3 other mothers were gaoled in Fairlea prison in Victoria was completely illegal. No compensation has been paid and no apology has been made to the 4 courageous women who preferred to be gaoled on a matter of principle rather than pay the fines.
We have another situation at the moment. The Government, which has succumbed to or agreed with public opinion in this country regarding the withdrawal of all troops from Vietnam other than certain specialists, who should also be withdrawn
– That is because we have the Corns on the run.
– What is the honourable senator saying? He lies back in his seat and is mumbling.
– That is because we have the Corns on the run at Kontum, Pleiku, Da Nang and Quang Tri.
– Which way are they running - forwards or backwards?
– Back to North Vietnam.
– Apparently Senator Hannan believes that the Australian troops should be still in Vietnam destroying these terrible people of Vietnam - these women, children and old people - and that we should be gaoling all the people in Australia who oppose this principle. If this is the honourable senator’s view he is entitled to have it. The stage has been reached where diplomatic missions in Hanoi are being bombed. Does the honourable senator agree with this also? If he does he should say so.
I am making a very low key appeal to the Attorney-General to show some sympathy to a woman of great principle, a woman who has fought sincerely and honestly against a situation in which, she believes, Australia should never have been placed, a situation in which more than 60 per cent of the people of Australia believe we should never have been placed.
– That is not right.
– It is right.
– The only thing that is right about this is the honourable senator’s politics - they are extremely right. I do not want to be inveigled into a situation in which we get angry about this. I am asking the Minister to show some decency and compassion and to use his good offices to ensure that the offence that the courts believe has been committed should not be pursued to the extent that a mother is sent to gaol a second time. We must remember that the first time she was sent to gaol the incarceration was illegal. Subsequently George Crawford was able to prove conclusively in his trial that the first charges made against the 4 women who were gaoled in Fairlea Prison were unconstitutional and that the women should never have been sent to prison. I do not want to pursue this matter any further other than to ask the Attorney-General-
– Are you for George?
– What did the honourable senator say?
– 1 just want to know whether you are for George?
– If he has another one he will not be able to talk at all. Please do not invite him. 1 am asking the Attorney-General to use his good offices to see that the letter of the law, which he believes should always be followed, will not be followed on this occasion for the compassionate reasons I have outlined and the fact that the issue on which Mrs McLean has been gaoled has been resolved by the decision of the people of Australia and by the decision of the Government to withdraw the troops from Vietnam. I ask the Attorney-General to give some credit to a very courageous person who has stood up and been counted on issues in which she very sincerely, conscientiously and firmly believes.
– I will not delay the Senate very long except to associate myself with Senator Primmer’s plea to the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) for a review of the very harsh treatment of Jean McLean, whom I know io be a person of very strong and firm opinions in relation to the things that she believes are right, I know that over the last 8 years she and I have agreed that Australia has been involved in a tragedy for this country and for humanity. I believe that history will prove conclusively that the Government’s policy, the policy of the United States and the way in which the South East Asia Treaty Organisation was involved in the war in Vietnam will reflect very badly on the judgment of those who were associated with the decisions in relation te it. Jean McLean consistently has used whatever energies and abilities she has to try in her own way to persuade the Government and the people of Australia that wo were on the wrong track and had the wrong policy. I believe that the law that has sent her to gaol because of her convictions and her conscientious objection to the Government’s policy is far too harsh.
I ask the Attorney-General to use any clemency he can show or any discretion he has to allow this mother of 2 young children to be released from gaol.
– I suppose one should not be surprised that the spokesmen for a political party which is prepared to put up as a candidate in the coming elections a man who is not prepared to face the courts in order to determine whether or not the offence which he proclaims he is guilty of, is in fact one that he is guilty of, adopt the attitude which they have adopted tonight. Let us examine the facts about Mrs McLean.
She was prosecuted in March of this year for an offence which was alleged to have occurred last year. She went before the courts of this land. She . was given a fair trial, she was convicted, and she was fined. She has chosen - her choice - not to pay that fine. We have a law which is time honoured in Victoria that if a person does not pay the fine which is imposed against him, then the prosecutor may take the person to the court and seek a warrant for that person’s commitment to prison because the fine is not paid. In short, another opportunity is given to the person to pay the fine.
A warrant was issued earlier this month against Mrs McLean on the basis that if she did not pay the fine she was to be committed to gaol. In the short time that I have had to get some information I understand that the period of gaol is 6 days for the non-payment of the fine. Of course, she has refused to pay a fine of $30. Because of that she has been committed to gaol for 6 days.
The simple point is that the law of this land is being enforced in accordance with the precepts which this Parliament acknowledges and in accordance with the general procedures which I think the people of Australia would not have changed. But, of course, the revelation which we have from the Australian Labor Party - a further revelation - is that the law will be enforced against those whom the Labor Party desires to enforce it against but it should not be enforced against the friends of the Labor Party.
Mrs McLean is an acknowledged, prominent member of this notorious Victorian Labor Party and she, and a lot of other people like Mr Barry Johnston, are persons who the Government believes should have the law enforced against them. The Australian Labor Party is not prepared to have the law enforced against them. This, of course, is a pretence of the Labor Party because that Parly has in its platform, for the gullible public to read and for the gullible public to assume is the policy of the Labor Party, that the Attorney-General shall prosecute and shall investigate all offences against Commonwealth law and ensure that the law-breakers are brought before the, courts. That is what the platform of the Labor Party says. That is for public consumption. But the record of the Labor Party and the statements of its spokesmen here tonight indicate that that sort of policy is not the policy which the Labor Party follows.
One thing that the people of Australia realise is that the Government does take the view and the stand that the Jaw is to be enforced. No-one is in any doubt about where the Government stands. The Labor Party speaks with one voice for its friends and another voice for those who are not its friends. It is a far far call from the days of John Curtin who said that he would not make the Labor Party a nonlaw observing Party. If he passed laws against the bankers and the chambers of manufactures he expected that thoselaws would be enforced. If the Labor Party ever becomes the government of this country - Heaven help Australia if this should occur - it would expect that the laws which it passed would be obeyed by the people upon whom those laws impacted. Wouid the Labor Party concede to anybody who objected to a law which it had passed the right, in conscience, to object to that law? Of course it would not because it has indicated in its internal dealings that it is the most ruthless and authoritarian Party in this country. It will deal with the people of Australia as it deals with its own people who happen to step out of line.
This nonsense which the Labor Party talks about conscience being some justification for not obeying a law is revealed to be nothing more than a cheap political argument. Conscience is cheapened by the way in which the Labor Party uses it. Senator Primmer when he started, if I heard him right, indicated that no law should gaol a person of the calibre of Mrs McLean, a person who has gone out of her way- (Opposition senators interjecting) -
– Order! Senator Poyser, you made your speech. Now please remain silent.
– I am indebted to you, Mr President. May I make a comment?
SenatorO’Byrne - Gaol everyone who distributes pamphlets.
– May I say again, Mr President, that I am indebted to you. Your intervention, I am sure, was prompted by the bear garden which honourable senators opposite were attempting to make of the Senate.
– I take a point of order against the Attorney-General. It is a long established tradition of this Senate that when representations are made to a Minister by an honourable senator the Minister usually replies to the subject matter. Of course in this case Senator Greenwood is indulging in a general political discourse unrelated to the simple request made by 2 honourable senators. Mr President, I ask you to request the Attorney-General to confine his remarks.
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order but I concede that the Minister has not addressed himself to the plea made by the 2 honourable senators who introduced this matter. I add that he has been provoked by at least 2 honourable senators into being discursive.
– Well, he started it.
– He has provoked us, too.
– Order! I am quite convinced that if the Attorney-General is given a hearing he will reply to the subject matter of the debate.
– The way in which members of the Labor Party behaved in this chamber tonight when 1 rose to speak, that is by attempting to drown out my words, reveals that they are conscious of their vulnerability because of what I categorise as a specious plea. It is a specious plea because Mrs McLean went out of her way to defy the law. She has been given ample opportunity to pay a fine which I am informed she can well afford to pay. She prefers to go to gaol in order to make her point in some way. It may be that one of the points she wants to make is to give some vehicle for her colleagues in the Labor Party to use this forum to express their opposition not only to the National Service Act but also to the United States and the alliance which Australia has with the United States. What was the plea which we had from the Labor Party as to why this lady should be dealt with differently? The simple plea was that she is opposed to the Vietnam war. As Senator Primmer has said, she is opposed to what is called the killing of people from the American side. That is said on her part to be a plea in conscience. I say that a cheap political trick is being exercised, because it represents the selective approach of the Labor Party to this issue.
I have been in this chamber and have heard members of the Labor Party speak about the Vietnam war on many occasions. I have yet to hear the Labor Party say one word of criticism about the slaughter and the assassination by the Vietcong and North Vietnamese. I have yet to hear the Labor Party come out on the record and condemn the terror which has been imposed on South Vietnam by the North Vietnamese. I have yet to hear the Labor Party come out and condemn the murder in which the North Vietnamese and Vietcong have engaged. I have yet to hear the official Labor Party - apart from one solitary voice for one or two days in the other place - come out and condemn the aggression of the North Vietnamese in Laos, Cambodia and South Vietnam. We must recognise that after the invasion took place in Cambodia and Laos the North Vietnamese from Hanoi said: ‘Now it is the war of the Indo-Chinese people’. That is the way in which the North Vietnamese expanded this war. Now openly and clearly there is aggression into South Vietnam.
The viewpoint of the Government on this is abundantly clear, and it has never departed from it. It will condemn aggression from whatever source it comes. But of course the Labor Party by its record has indicated that the only aggression it is prepared to condemn at all times is aggression, as it would see it, from America. The fact is that it is not aggression from the United States. It is a defence of a country which is being invaded and which is subject to aggression. (Opposition senators interjecting) -
– For the Labor Party and its spokesmen to make a plea in favour of a Vietcong-North Vietnamese victory-
– I raise a point of order.
– What is the point of order?
– My point of order - and I am not apologising to the Minister - is that previously, Mr President, you gave a ruling that the Minister should stick to the subject matter.
– What is the point of order?
– The point of order is that the Minister is continually saying the Labor Party did this or that. In this Senate tonight 2 honourable senators raised their points of view which were not associated with the Labor Party at all. They expressed their individual thoughts. I suggest that the Minister should be required to observe your ruling.
– Order! I have to make it perfectly clear, and I intend to make it perfectly clear, that honourable senators at this juncture and at this time of night are totally disobedient to the Standing Orders of the Senate which state that all interjections are highly disorderly. Senator Milliner has been interjecting and Senator Poyser has been interjecting.
Senator Milliner - I have been interjecting?
– Order! Do not argue with me. Senator Devitt has been interjecting too. I will not tolerate any further interjections.
– It appears that a few home truths are hurting in places where I hope they do hurt. I can only say that the facts speak for themselves. It is a pity that the Australian people do not have a greater opportunity than they have at the present time to see the way in which members of the Australian Labor Party behave in this chamber. Not only is their conduct in this place disrespectful of all authority and law and order; but also they are disrespectful and disdainful of Australia’s national interests. I only say in conclusion that I have heard the plea. I know something about this case and the record of Mrs McLean. I know the way in which on many occasions she has proclaimed her defiance of the National Service Act. If she has not been technically guilty of the offence under the Crimes Act of inciting others to disobey the National Service Act, she has indicated her approval of conduct which amounts to regarding the National Service Act as an Act which ought to be repealed and that she would like to see, as her conduct indicates, that people disobey the provisions of that Act. Of course she has been fined in the past. She has been fined on this occasion and has been given every opportunity to pay that fine. I believe that the law should be upheld. If she is not prepared to pay that fine she should go to gaol if a warrant has been issued, and a warrant has been issued.
I can only say, because I have heard this kind of thing from the Australian Labor Party on many occasions, that if we were not to take this action the Government would be regarded as being in some way frightened to take action because it feared the consequences. The fact is that I have given instructions that if fines are imposed for breaches of section 7A of the Crimes Act those fines are to be collected, and if the fines are not paid the appropriate steps are to be. taken to have people committed to gaol by the courts. Having taken that view and knowing something of Mrs McLean’s background, I regard the plea made as specious and I reject it.
- Mr President-
- Senator Hannan, you heard me make some observations about interjections and I would be grateful if you would resist the temptation to interject.
- Mr President, I think I might need some protection from Senator Hannan in view of his present state.
– I have dealt with Senator Hannan.
– When you asked earlier whether anyone else wanted to speak about this matter I did not think that the plea justified more honourable senators entering the debate, because it was an honest plea for the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) to give sympathetic consideration to the release of a woman who is now in gaol. If the Minister had replied by merely indicating that he was not prepared to give such co” -‘.deration to this woman I think that would have ended the matter. We know that the Minister did not have the compassion in his heart to permit him to extend some clemency to this individual. However, the AttorneyGeneral adopted his usual attitude of going into a tirade and saying many untruths about the Australian Labor Party and its association with the question of national service. I do noi think anyone says that law breakers should go free. The AttorneyGeneral took the opportunity to argue about the right of an Attorney-General and to say that the responsibility of the Attorney-General is the protection of the individual and prosecution of breaches of the law when it is the public interest to do so.
The point is that the Attorney-General does not exercise his authority to prosecute on all occasions. There are very few occasions when prosecutions under section 7A of the Crimes Act are not instituted against women who give out pamphlets in breach of that section. However it is forgotten that while this woman was giving out a pamphlet urging defiance of the National Service Act most politicians on this side of the Parliament - both in this chamber and in the other chamber - had their names appended to an advertisement in the ‘Australian’, which was published throughout Australia, asking for the same thing as Mrs Jean McLean was asking for in the pamphlets that she was giving out in Melbourne. The Minister did not have the courage to take action against those politicians.
It is known that selective prosecutions were instituted against people who refused to undertake national service under the National Service Act. The Minister sees fitto prosecute a defenceless woman for giving out pamphlets to passers-by but he cannot find sufficient evidence to prosecute persons in the Yugoslav community or members of the Ustashi for placing bombs in front of shops in a main street of a capital city in Australia. That illustrates the honesty of the Minister. The Minister has the right to prosecute but he refuses to prosecute when in his opinion it is not in the public interest to do so. He must remember that even Nelson, in his glory, put his blind eye to the orders at times and we must remember the tradition of British law making. Possibly breaches of the law have established the law under which we operate today. Some of the laws of the Commonwealth are not enforced because it is not in the public interest to enforce them. A government only has the right to make laws for the people. We must remember that it is government by the people, for the people. When a Gallup poll reveals that 60 per cent of the public are opposed to a law that law should not be on the statute book. The Government has placed an obligation on a judge or a jury, whatever the composition of the court, to inflict a penalty for a breach of a law that should not be on our statute, book. Possibly there would be no complaint about its being on the statute book if it were not enforced.
It is agreed that in the case in question there was a breach of section 7a of the
Crimes Act and I think it would be agreed that such a breach should be prosecuted when it relates to seeking non-compliance with a Federal law. But when that Federal law is a law which is not supported by the Australian community it is questionable whether there should be prosecution for a breach of it by persons seeking non-compliance of it. A plea was made tonight by 2 honourable senators from Victoria who know the particular woman concerned. They said that whether or not there was a breach of the law this woman was acting in accordance with her conscience. They said that for some 3 years she had had great conscientious beliefs about this matter and she was prepared to go to gaol rather than act contrary to her conscientious beliefs.
– Is there any humanity in the law?
– As Senator James McClelland asks: ls there any humanity in the law? There are mitigating circumstances to be considered. This plea tonight was not made for political advantage. It was made on behalf of someone who has a conscientious objection to a particular Act, who demonstrated her objection to that Act. Further considerations were raised in that plea. This person is a woman and while a woman has no right to dodge her obligations a different attitude should be taken to gaoling a woman because of something relating to the National Service Act than to gaoling a man. A third point to be considered is that this woman is a mother with a family.
– She was easier to catch.
– As Senator Devitt said, she was also easier to cati.li. The Attorney-General has no compassion. This matter has not affected him tj the extent that he would promise to inquire into it. Instead he raised his old hatreds. He said that in some way this woman apparently was associated with the Australian Labor Party. That was the viciousness of the Minister coming out, not against Mrs McLean but against the threat to the survival of his Party in this Parliament. Then we heard him refer to Barry Johnson and to the Labor Party’s criticisms of the activities and brutalities of the American and Australian . forces in Vietnam and not the brutality of the Vietcong.
The Australian Labor Party might not have brought up the brutality of the Vietcong but there was no need for us to be the spokesmen on such questions. The Minister linked all these things together, not for the purpose of giving consideration to a plea but in order to condemn the Australian Labor Party and those honourable senators who had the audacity to stand in this place and ask him to consider a plea made on behalf of this woman. In conclusion I ask the Minister to consider this plea.
It is admitted that this woman was in breach of the law. It is acknowledged that she was fined and had the opportunity to find the money to pay the fine. I do not know, but I would accept the word of the Minister that she possibly had the financial capability to pay the fine. But it would be anathema to her whole outlook, belief and conscience to do that. While she is prepared to serve the gaol sentence, with all the hardship to her family and the like, we are supporting her cause of making a sacrifice in the manner of a heroine on this question. But does it not have some effect on the consciences of us as lawmakers who are forcing a woman, in following her conscientious belief, to go to gaol for her loyalty to that conscientious belief? Despite the inability of the Attorney-General, when he thinks of the National Service Act, to think rationally on compassionate grounds, I ask him whether in the cold comfort and calm of the night he will reconsider this question and say whether it is in the public interest to keep this woman in gaol. Would it be an injury to the enforcement of law and order if she were let out of gaol tomorrow?
Senator WHEELDON (Western Australia) 1 1 1 .42) - The most ironic, not to say sickening, aspect of the address of the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) to us tonight has been his quotation of John Curtin as a supporter of the sort of law and order which the Attorney-General advocates. It may well be recollected that John Curtin himself was prosecuted and convicted for his activities in opposition to conscription during the First World War. That was a conflict, particularly the conscription which was introduced by the government of that day, which in the minds of a great many people was similar to what has been opposed by many people in
Australia in the Vietnam war. One could well imagine that, far from quoting or admiring John Curtin, had the AttorneyGeneral been alive and resident in Australia at that time his contribution to the First World War would have been the same as his contribution to the Vietnam war; he would have been advocating the conviction and gaoling of John Curtin in the same way as he has been advocating the conviction and gaoling of Australians who have opposed the Vietnam war.
How does he show his understanding of law and order to us tonight? A request was made to him, in the most temperate terms, firstly by Senator Primmer. I see that he finds this amusing, but I challenge anybody to refer to Hansard and find anything other than the utmost temperance in the request that was made to him tonight by Senator Primmer and Senator Poyser. They asked for the release of a woman who has been gaoled for the non-payment of a fine which was imposed because of her breach of the Crimes Act. One point which I believe was important and which was made by Senator Poyser - I know nothing of the facts of this case - was that she had previously been convicted and gaoled for the commission of an offence and that subsequently it was found by the appropriate court that she had been gaoled improperly on that occasion. I know nothing of these circumstances. The Attorney-General shakes his head apparently indicating that this is not so. He treated with contempt the request made to him tonight for some leniency for a woman who is not gaining any advantage. She is not a candidate for high office or any other office, but a woman who has strong convictions and who has been gaoled. The AttorneyGeneral may well say that a person ought to be gaoled when there has been a breach of the law. But an appeal was made for clemency, and his answer to an appeal for clemency shows the sort of law and order that he understands. It shows the way in which he believes that he personally ought to fight the Vietnam war when all he can do is sneer at senators who asked the question, sneer at the woman who is in gaol and sneer at everybody in Australia who has been opposed to the Vietnam war.
Seeing that the Attorney-General has brought us back again on to this well worn path of law and order, it is rather interesting that we should examine his own record on this subject. If I were advising the Attorney-General on how to conduct his campaign in the forthcoming election, I would suggest to him that the less he says about law and order the better it will be for his Party, because we have seen something of the record of this Government on law and order. We have seen the way in which it treats people such as Mrs McLean and we can compare it with the way in which it treats the friends of the Rhodesian Government. We can compare it with the way in which it treats one of the most notorious murderous groups of emigres in the whole world - the Croatian Revolutionary Brotherhood. The AttorneyGeneral is very strong on law and order when it comes to a woman who has signed an advertisement and refused to pay her fine. With heroism he goes into action as if he imagined he were up with Senator Hannan leading an attack on the Vietcong. With what elan, with what dash, with what military precision he marches in to see that Mrs McLean is sent to gaol for 6 days.
But when there had been a clear breach of the law by persons who call themselves members of the Rhodesian Information Centre and who were distributing material supporting an illegal regime in Rhodesia, what did he and his colleague, the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp), say? They said they were not going to do anything at all about that breach. We know why they were not going to do anything about it. They are friends of the Rhodesian Government and friends of the minority regime in South Africa which, as Judith Todd has said, if there had been a Conservative government in office in England at the time of its establishment instead of a rather nervous Labour government, would have been removed by force. They are friends of those people and enemies of those Australian people, who now constitute a majority in this country, who are opposed to the Vietnam war.
Is this not their same attitude to the members of the Croatian Revolutionary Brotherhood or the Ustasha as they are properly known? How does the AttorneyGeneral deal with the group? Because ‘Ustasha’ is not their official name which appears on some document, and because the name which they give themselves is the Croatian Revolutionary Brotherhood and the name Ustasha is something of a nickname, the Attorney-General says that there is no such thing as the Ustasha; that it does not exist. If the Attorney-General was as interested in law and order as he tells us he is, there would have been daily reports or at least weekly reports on the progress of the investigations relating to the recent bombing in Sydney. But does the Attorney-General care about the bombing in Sydney? The Attorney-General does not care about the bombing in Sydney and the Attorney-General does not speak about the bombing in Sydney because he knows full well that the people who were responsible for that bombing are sympathetic to and associated with his Party. The AttorneyGeneral, when he was a back bencher, spoke, as he has done since he has been in the Ministry, night after night about the Vietnam Moratorium Campaign, about the shocking goings on in Melbourne with people marching up and down the streets and sitting down, about how the whole fabric of our society was threatened and about how he would pull out all the slops to prevent these people from sitting down and carrying banners. But what does he have to say about the Ustasha? What does he have to say about the bombings that have occurred recently? What does he have to say about threats of violence? He has nothing to say. If it were not the Croatian Revolutionary Brotherhood that Ls involved but if, for example, some Spanish republican exiles were demonstrating in this way against the Franco Government, can one imagine how much Senator Greenwood would have to say then? He would be talking morning, noon and night about these terrorists. But there is silence from him about the Croatian Revolutionary Brotherhood in the same way as there has been silence from him and a complete refusal to take action in relation to a breach of the law by the Rhodesian Information Centre, which was advocating the policies of an illegal government which, by virtue of our solemn agreements with the United Nations, were contrary to the law of this country. 1 do not think there is any point in pursuing any question with Senator Greenwood on the grounds of humanity, because he has contempt for people such as Mrs McLean. They have not sought his road to advancement inlife. The road that they have followed has been one of making some sacrifice and of being prepared to go to gaol on a question of principle. This is something which Senator Greenwood would be unable to understand, and it would be pointless to try to explain it to him. My reason for speaking tonight is to see whether, even with this small group that we have here tonight, it can be established that when Senator Greenwood talks about law and order he talks about the most ruthless prosecution in which he can engage against any person who commits even a minor breach of the law or who, even if he has not committed a breach of the law, is opposed to the Vietnam war and supports the policy of the Australian Labor Party. Even on a question of bombing or importing illicit material, if the matter concerns people associated with the Liberal Party such as the friends of Rhodesia or the Croatian Revolutionary Brotherhood, we can expect no action whatever from the Attorney-General. I prophesy to you, Mr President, that this election will have come and gone and there will have been no prosecution of persons responsible for the bombing outrages in Sydney; there will have been no statement by the Attorney-General; there will have been no effort to mobilise the forces of the Commonwealth to see that these people are prosecuted and to see that this sort of thing is prevented from happening in the future.I make that prediction now. I am confident that this gloomy prediction will be fulfilled.
– I am very concerned that Senator Greenwood, with the lack of self discipline that he displayed this evening and his clear exhibition of fanaticism, is the principallaw officer of the Commonwealth. Unfortunately, while he was speaking J came to the conclusion that it is not Mrs McLean, who has just been gaoled, and people such as her that Australia has to be concerned about. Australia has to be very concerned if Senator Greenwood continues after the next federal election to occupy the exalted position that he presently occupies. Not only did Senator Greenwood attack and besmirch the woman who has been gaoled because she has a clear, conscientious belief but also he doubted the sincerity and integrity of 2 colleagues in the Senate, colleagues who stand for principles, who rose to defend the integrity of Mrs McLean and to plead for compassion on the part of the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Greenwood). All the Attorney-General did was to throw egg in their faces. I am very concerned that when members of the Senate rise to make a plea on behalf of an Australian citizen who has suffered the wrath of this Government they are criticised in the manner in which they have been criticised this evening by Senator Greenwood.
Senator Greenwood says that Mrs McLean broke a law because she handed out a pamphlet asking people to defy the National Service Act and that in his mind that is an offence against the security of this Commonwealth and therefore she has to be dealt with. I wonder how many other hundreds of thousands of people have committed the same offence but have not been dealt with by the Attorney-General. He took action in this regard in the first instance after she committed an alleged offence - to use his term. After she was brought to trial, convicted and fined - to use his term - she chose not to pay the fine. He says that if persons do not pay their fines a prosecutor may take them to court and seek their committal. The wording was not’shall take a person to court’ but is ‘may take a person to court’. I suggest that because Mrs McLean has been an active member of the Save Our Sons movement for years someone in the AttorneyGeneral’s Department decided that the word ‘may’ will in her circumstances become the word ‘shall’ and that she shall be prosecuted to the limit to which the law will take the matter.
Frankly, I regard the situation as scandalous. I wonder whether the AttorneyGeneral is prepared to take this action merely in order to try to obtain some cheap political capital out of it. After Senator Primmer and Senator Poyser had spoken, his opening remark on this matter was that it was not surprising that members of the Australian Labor Party who had a candidate running for a scat in Victoria at the forthcoming Federal election who was In defiance of the National Service Act should be raising this matter. I wonder what his colleague, the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) would have to say about his statements tonight. Mr Chipp at least gave Mr Johnson credit for having the courage of his convictions. I would have thought that this evening Senator Greenwood would have done the same in regard to Mrs McLean rather than say cheaply and nastily that she has gone to gaol not only to give the ALP a voice in the Parliament against the National Service Act but also so that the whole question of the American alliance, the ANZUS Pact, Vietnam and things of this nature can be raised in the Parliament just prior to the holding of a Federal election.
If it is not too late, I plead with the Attorney-General to show some compassion in this matter, at least to give Mrs McLean credit for having the courage of her convictions, and at least recognise that she is the mother of young Australian children and allow her to go home to those young Australian children rather than suffer indignity under a law which, as Senator Cavanagh says, is not upheld by some 60 per cent of the Australian people. 1 dare say that one of the reasons why Mr Chipp was prepared to give credit to Barry
Johnson for the courage of his convictions is that it is being realised by this Government that if it had to fight an election on the issue of conscription alone it would be annihilated overwhelmingly at the polls. I plead with the Attorney-General to give sympathetic consideration to the very genuine and sincere representations that were made this evening by my colleagues Senator Primmer and Senator Poyser. I ask him to accept that their representations were made in all sincerity and not, as he says, for cheap political capital.
Senator PRIMMER (Victoria) - I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable senator claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. In his reply Senator Greenwood said that I had claimed freedom from the law for Mrs McLean. I did no such thing. I said that in my opinion no law could justify the gaoling of people such as Mrs McLean because of their activity in the anti-war field. That was the field in which I claimed some relief for her.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.59 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice:
Senator GREENWOOD- The PostmasterGeneral has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice:
Senator GREENWOOD- The PostmasterGeneral has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Attorney-
General, upon notice:
Senator GREENWOOD - The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
(Question No. 2315)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
Senator GREENWOOD - The Minister for Immigration has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Three research assistants have been assisting Professor Wilson. They are: -
The date of completion will depend largely on how quickly data from the 1971 Census, and required in connection with the study, can be made available. In the meantime reports on individual sections of the project are being forwarded, as completed, to the Department of Immigration. Professor Wilson expects to have completed most of the research by the end of 1973 and to submit his final report early in 1974.
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
Senator GREENWOOD- The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
Senator COTTON - The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Australia signed and ratified the Tokyo Convention. Ratification was effected after the necessary legislation - the Civil Aviation (Offenders on International Aircraft) Act 1970 - to give the force of law in Australia to the provisions of the Tokyo Convention had been adopted.
The Government has also approved the ratification of the Hague Convention which was signed on15th June 1971. The Hague Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft provides for effective legal measures being taken to deter acts of unlawful seizure of aircraft (hijacking) through the co-operation of nations throughout the world. Legislation is now finalised and introduced in this session of Parliament. The purpose of this legislation is to approve Australia’s ratification and to give the provisions of the Convention the force of law in Australia. Once this has been passed, action can be taken immediately to ratify the Convention.
The Montreal Convention for Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation deals with acts of sabotage or other acts directed against civil aviation. Action is at present being taken to sign this Convention as an indication of the Government’s intent to ratify it at the earliest possible moment after the necessary enabling legislation has been adopted by Parliament to approve ratification and to bring our domestic law into line with the international requirements set out in the Convention.
(Question No. 2432)
Sen torWILLESEE asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
Has Australia ratified the 1963 Tokyo Convention and the 1971 Montreal Convention relating to offences on aircraft, including the hijacking of aircraft.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice:
Senator GREENWOOD - The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
Senator GREENWOOD- The Minister for Immigration has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
After a comprehensive examination of the longitudinal type study of migrants being conducted in Canada and after consultation with the Commonwealth Statistician and the Immigration Planning Council, it was decided that a crosssectional survey wouldbe more appropriate to Australian conditions.
For our policy planning needs, a cross-sectional survey will achieve for all practical purposes the aims of the longitudinal survey first contemplated.
Additionally, it can be handled more easily within the resources available and give much quicker results.
For the above reasons a cross-sectional survey was developed.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answers to the honourable senator’s questions:
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 18 October 1972, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1972/19721018_senate_27_s54/>.