27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 589 citizens of the Commonwealth:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senatein Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
That the Australian Education Council’s Report on the Survey into Educational Needs has established serious deficiencies in the State’s education services.
That these can be summarised as a lack of suitable classroom accommodation, teacher shortage, oversized classes, inadequate equipment and facilities.
That the additional sum of one thousand four hundred and forty three million dollars is required over the next five years by the States of these needs.
That without massive additional Federal finance the State School system will face disintegration and with it the Nation.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Parliament will take immediate steps to ensure that finance from the Commonwealth will be given to the States for their public education services which provide schooling for seventy-eight per cent of Australia’s children.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
SenatorHANNAN - I present the following petition from 24 citizens of the Commonwealth:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectively sheweth:
That surveys have shown that a substantial percentage of children in Australia have learning disabilities, and therefore require suitable remedial education.
That remedial services for these children in Australian Pre-School and State Primary, Secondary and Technical schools are seriously impoverished by lack of funds.
That shortages of School Medical Officers, clinical and educational psychologists, child psychiatrists, speech therapists, social workers and remedial teachers are causing frustration, unhappiness and emotional instability for large numbers of individual children and their families.
That in many cases there is a correlation between educational failure and juvenile delinquency, with a resultant economic loss to the community.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled will take immediate action to provide sufficient funds for the States to finance the setting up and maintenance throughout Australia of:
Special training courses for experienced teachers in remedial education for children with learning disabilities, at all levels. (Preschool, infant, primary, secondary and technical).
Fully-equipped multi-disciplinary regional resource centres.
Special training facilities for child psychiatrists, clinical and educational psychologists (and development of graduate programmes designed to produce an adequate number of highly qualified diagnosticians in all areas of learning disabilities).
Multi-disciplinary research into all aspects of learning disabilities.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
-I direct my question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. Does the Australian Broadcasting Commission intend to eliminate almost all topical political items from Canberra on a television show known as “This Day Tonight’? Will the show in future consist of localised State programmes instead of the present MelbourneSydneyCanberra linkup? If these changes are intended, who made the decision and what is the Government’s attitude on the matter?
– I think the position has been made clear by the PostmasterGeneral and by me on his behalf in this chamber from time to time. The Australian Broadcasting Commission is an independent autonomous commission with the responsibility for determining what programmes shall be shown over the national broadcasting and television systems. The questions asked by Senator Willesee are questions which the Commission itself has to determine. Providing the programmes come within the scope of adequate and comprehensive programmes the Government will not, and has indicated that it will not take any action whatsoever. Having said that as background to the particular question the honourable senator has asked, I am unable to say what the Australian Broadcasting Commission is proposing to do. I noted that there are speculative comments in the newspapers this morning but there has been no statement, as far as I have read, by the Commission. We have witnessed in recent weeks a host of rumours which have been floated in the newspapers, and alterations of one sort and another also have been made. Frankly, it is very difficult to know where the truth lies. Until there is a factual basis for the honourable senator’s comment 1 do not think it can be taken any further.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Has the Minister seen a Press statement in which reference was made to the spending of an additional $3m on timber sleepers for use on Commonwealth Railways projects? Has he also noted that reference was made to a report by W. D. Scott and Co., a firm of management consultants, on unemployment in Western Australia and South Australia? Did he notice that if the whole timber industry closed in the Manjimup area about 200 people would lose their jobs, and that unemployment in the Spencer Gulf towns of Port Pirie, Port Augusta and Whyalla in South Australia is approaching 1,000? Bearing in mind the considerable economic and technical arguments in favour of concrete sleepers and the social implications related to the more critical unemployment situation in the Spencer Gulf area of South Australia, will the Government give favourable consideration to reviewing the decision on concrete sleepers so that Commonwealth Railways might use these sleepers on all future railway projects?
– I have not seen the material to which the honourable senator refers. I would be very glad if he would let me have it so that I can give it to the responsible Minister who, without doubt, will take into account in deciding what he should do.
– My question, which I direct to the Minister representing the
Minister for Shipping and Transport, follows upon the question asked by Senator Jessop on the use of concrete sleepers on the Trans-Australian railway.I ask the Minister: Will he take up with the Minister for Shipping and Transport, who has announced that concrete sleepers will not be used on the Trans-Australian railway, the proposal that because of the unemployment in Port Pirie particularly consideration might be given to having some quota of the sleeper requirement for that railway supplied in concrete as this would assist also in utilising the unused machinery capacity now available in South Australia?
– Yes, I certainly will.
– Is the Minister representing the Postmaster-General aware of plans for the Postmaster-General’s Department to commence construction of a new mail exchange in Hobart in 1976? Is the Minister also aware that the present building is totally inadequate and unsuitable for its present purposes and that persons working there are very discontented with their conditions? Further, is he aware of the grave unemployment situation in the Hobart area and that the commencment of the new building without further delay would be of great benefit to the Hobart area? Will the Minister give serious consideration to this proposal and ensure that plans for construction are advanced accordingly?
– I am not aware of the many details involved in the honourable senator’s question. I suggest that he put his question on the notice paper. Even though the Parliament will have risen, I imagine some answer will be provided for him.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. It deals with a question rightly asked by Senator Sim earlier this week as to why French champagne is being served on international flights by our flag carrier, Qantas Airways Ltd, to the exclusion of the Australian vintages of this wine. Will the Minister dismiss with the disdain it deserves the unfair, unfounded, outmoded and snobbishly biased comment of the Qantas wine consultant, Mr Len Evans, which was reported yesterday in the ‘Australian’ in these terms:
There is absolutely no comparison between champagne and what Australia passes as it.
Is the Minister aware that, in international competition in places such as Montpellier and Lubjhana, Australia’s wines have gained many coveted awards ahead of the various wines of the Old World? In view of the expressed desire of the Minister to have Qantas the acme of perfection in all aspects of air travel, will he ensure that Australian wines, including our champagne, will always be available on Qantas flights even though the French do not like our calling our champagne by that name, and even though some Australians like to kowtow to the French attitude in this matter?
– I indicated a little while ago that, on the very rare occasions when somebody buys champagne for me 1 cannot tell the difference.
– How about reciprocating?
– We just cannot afford it on’ our rate of pay. What the honourable senator has said is substantially correct. I would expect the flag carrier to be able to offer people who travel on that airline a proper assortment of all Australian wines, including champagne, regardless of what the French might think about their right to use that name. It is a fine thing if this is done, and I understand that it is done. I hope that Qantas continues to do it. What the wine consultant for Qantas has to say ls something that is exclusive to him. I do not share his view nor do I think it is a very good comment to have made. I understand that other international airlines follow a similar practice. I understand that Pan-American Airlines makes a point of ensuring that on its flights it carries American champagne. I remember the president of American Airlines telling me when that company commenced operations to and from Australia that he had made it mandatory that Australian beer be served on board its aircraft. I supported him most strongly in his attitude.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport been drawn to the announcement that trading in the shares of David Shearer Ltd, farm machinery manufacturers of Mannum in South Australia, was suspended by the Adelaide Stock Exchange on Tuesday? Is he aware that on 18th September the company was placed in the hands of a receiver by the Bank of Adelaide and that the receiver subsequently sold the business to Horwood Bagshaw Ltd as a going concern? Is he also aware that it was the imposition of wheat quotas which led to the commencement of the financial difficulties of David Shearer Ltd and that in an endeavour to overcome this problem the company diversified into many other types of foundry work, part of which was tha manufacture of component parts for concrete sleepers?
– Order! The honourable senator must not give information.
– I now ask tha Minister: In view of the facts that I have outlined, together with the cost factor, will the Government withhold the letting of any contract for timber sleepers for the Trans-Australian Railway until after the Federal election, to allow for further consideration of the whole matter?
– I have long been a fan of the Shearer company. I remember the Shearer stump jump plough and later its Majestic big disc plough. The company produced some fine machinery for the farmers and land developers of this country. I take my hat off to the company. I am sorry to hear of the vicissitudes which it has been through. I can say no more than that I will direct to the responsible Minister all that the the honourable senator has told me about the company.
– My question is directed to you, Mr President. Are you aware that at page 6991 of today’s Senate notice paper there is listed under the Leading ‘Joint Committees of the Parliament’ the Joint Select Committee on Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Legislation? Does that listing on the notice paper mean that the Committee is extant? If so, can it convene to consider further the subject matter of its reference?
– I will not answer the question at present because the matter is involved in a reference to the Standing Orders Committee, which will meet at 9 a.m. tomorrow. The decisions taken by the Committee at that stage will have relevance to the question that the honourable senator has asked me. I would be grateful if he would accept my postponing answering it until some time tomorrow.
– Does not the Leader of the Government in the Senate feel that, as a result of the complex problems that arise from Britain’s entry into the European Common Market and the White Paper produced by Mr Carr, our representation in London is jeopardised by the failure to make a speedy appointment of a person to succeed Sir Alexander Downer?
– The appointment of a replacement for Sir Alexander Downer, who served Australia so faithfully and well as the Australian High Commissioner in London, is traditionally the perogative of the Prime Minister. My understanding is that the Prime Minister made a Press statement on the matter yesterday. Some sections of the Press said that he tabled a document in Parliament. I do not know whether he did, but he did make a Press statement on this matter yesterday. I think that I should see to it that a copy of the Press statement is given to all honourable senators before I respond to a question on the matter. When Senator Devitt has examined the Press statement he. may want to consider asking a subsequent question.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. Is it a fact that in the last financial year the Commonwealth’s contribution to doctors’ fees increased by $37m to $132.6m, following the decision to increase the fees for the second time in 18 months? As the Commonwealth is such a large contributor to doctors’ incomes through its subsidising of fees, should it not follow that Commonwealth should determine the common fee level and insist that the doctors charge accordingly or, as an alternative, introduce a participating doctors’ scheme for the national health service?
– I do not intend to query or re-examine at the moment the figures quoted by the honourable senator. I would have to check them. It is true that an increase was given in 1971 which normally would have carried on over a 2-year cycle, that a subsequent Budget resulted in a significant increase being given to medical practitioners in relation to the pensioner medical service, and that an increase of 6 per cent was given to general practitioners following the Mason report. I shall give the figures for New South Wales, which come readily to mind. The fee for surgery visits went up from $3.80 to $4 and by 40c to $5.45 for home visits. Across the board it represented an Australia-wide increase of 20c for general practitioner surgery consultations and 40c for home visits.
As I said on Tuesday in response to questions asked by Senator Murphy and Senator Willesee, there is an arrangement for a common fee procedure. Today I will be putting down the figures up to 30th June, which are not of any great significance when compared to the previous 3-monthly cycle. The figures up to the end of June will not show the impact of the 1st July increase. It will be approximately the end of the year before we will be able to make a judgment on that. When we have those figures we will be in a better position to examine and evaluate the application of the common fee. The application of the common fee in States other than New South Wales has been quite good. It has not been good in the general practitioner area in New South Wales. That is a fact of life. When we have a look at the September figures and assess the impact of the increase from 1st July, if those figures are not satisfactory the Government - as I said the other day any government would have to do the same - will have to look at what procedures it will adopt in the future. It would be quite wrong to canvass that position in advance.
Reference has been made to participation. I regard participation in itself as the ultimate sanction. Let nobody imagine that there are no real problems in the concept of participation. But we will have to face up to it if that is necessary. I am hoping, and the Government is hoping, that as a result of the increase given on 1st July there will be a significant and quite impressive improvement in the figures for the September quarter.
– My question, which is directed to the Attorney-General, relates to the 2 recent Sydney court cases concerning Yugoslav terrorists and statements made by the New South Wales Police and the victim of a bomb blast in Sydney. Did the Attorney-General note the police allegations that the 4 men who had been charged were members of the Croatian terrorist movement called the United Croats of West Germany and that one of the men was president of the movement in Sydney and Australia? Is he aware that all 4 men had been before courts on other occasions on charges of extreme violence? Can the Attorney-General tell the Senate the extent to which the involvement of Commonwealth policy has included investigations of possible breaches of the Commonwealth Crimes Act by Croatian terrorists?
– I can only regret the use of the expressions ‘Croatian terrorists’ and ‘Yugoslav terrorists* which Senator Gietzelt has used. The persons who have been charged have been charged with specific offences. I should have thought that something more than what they have been charged with would have been required before the use of the word terrorists’ would be a fair appellation. Whatever might be the background of these people, and I am not able to make any statement with regard to that, I feel that the use of the word ‘terrorists’ in this context without adequate material to back it creates an unfortunate feeling among the migrant communities which are in effect being accused. With regard to each of the matters to which Senator Gietzelt referred, I can assure him that I have received full reports from Commonwealth agencies concerning the charges made and the persons involved. Because there are matters still pending before the courts, I do not propose to say anything further.
– I direct a question to the Attorney-General in his capacity as Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. It raises the matter referred to earlier by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Senator Willesee. I refer to the reported decision that the management of the Australian Broadcasting Commission is intending to break down the ‘This Day Tonight’ programme into State programmes, effectively minimising the Federal political content of those programmes and, consistently with that, is failing so far to re-engage Messrs Peach and Carleton although their contracts are due to expire. In view of the obligation of the Commission under section 66 of the Broadcasting and Television Act to broadcast daily from all national stations regular sessions not only of news but also of other information, would the Minister convey to the PostmasterGeneral the request that he table a statement in the Parliament giving the details of the decision made by the management of the Commission and the reasons for that decision, this being not a matter of mere daily management but a matter which affects the general carrying out of the duties of the Commission and which is referred to in its annual report?
– As I said earlier, as far as I am aware, the matters upon which Senator Murphy’s question are based are matters of Press reporting and to that extent speculation. I am not aware of any statement having been made by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Therefore, it seems to me to be imprudent to make any comment of the description which he asks me to make. I can understand the concern on the part of members of the Opposition that the political content of the ‘This Day Tonight’ programme should not be lessened because, after all, they must assume that they derive some advantage from the political content of it. One can understand the way in which they would like to retain it. As I have said, these are matters for the Commission. I will convey the honourable senator’s question to the Postmaster-General.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Has his attention been drawn to a reported statement by Mr John Young, the managing director of a leading executives’ placement agency, that 30,000 executives are unemployed in Australia and that they would not be registered as unemployed for reasons related to their occupation? As it appears clear that unemployed executives face serious re-employment problems and related disabilities and that these would tend to flow into other sectors of the community, which would not be good, will he take up this matter with the Minister for Labour and National Service to see whether some specialised employment service could be made available to them?
– I preface my question which is directed to the Minister for Health by saying that no doubt he has seen recent reports by the co-discoverer of the diabetic drug insulin that there is a shortage of the drug in some countries. Is there any danger of a shortage of insulin in Australia? If so, what action is being taken to overcome the shortage?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI can say quite clearly that there is no shortage of insulin in Australia. Indeed, the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories are exporting insulin products to the United Kingdom and South East Asian countries.
– A few moments ago I asked the Attorney-General a question. I claim to have been misrepresented. I would like to set the record straight because I was quoting from a newspaper report in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ headed ‘Croats terrorists, police say’. Under the dateline of Thursday it states:
Police alleged that 4 men charged in Redfern Court today were members of the Croatian terrorist movement United Croats of West Germany.
I should like the Attorney-General to appreciate that it was not my terminology; it was the terminology of the New South Wales Police.
– I wish to make the observation that honourable senators do themselves less than justice and put themselves in offence against the Standing Orders when they quote from a newspaper.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs enlighten me and other honourable senators whether the Press report of our response to the Yugoslav Government concerning the issue to which Senator Gietzelt has referred is a full report or, alternatively can honourable senators be given a copy of the full text of the report that was submitted to the Yugoslav Government?
– The answer to the first question is no, and the answer to the second question is yes.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Health, refers to the success of the team of Tasmanian research scientists in relation to studies of heart disease, upon which the Minister has made some observations.In view of the comment of the Tasmanian scientist that the fat which contributes to heart attacks is produced in large quantities in times of stress and that the age group affected is becoming younger, I ask the Minister whether he is aware of the large number of organisations, churches, voluntary workers and lifeline establishments that are working in this field of mental health, endeavouring to assist people to deal with the problem of stress. Will the Government initiate a research project into this field of mental health as it is related to the areas on which the Tasmanian research scientists have placed emphasis and provide greater assistance to the voluntary bodies?
– I gave an answer to a question originally posed by Senator Primmer which dealt very fully with this question of the Tasmanian research. That answer is now in Hansard. As to the further question which Senator Davidson asked, there is significant research going on across the board in the field to which he refers. I should like to have my answer consolidated in order to give a full answer. I will see that that is done and I hope that by tomorrow - which I still hope will be the last day of sitting - an answer will be put down with some formality in relation to this question.
– I direct a question to the Attorney-General. I refer to my question No. 2216 on the notice paper regarding the amount of money paid by the Commonwealth for the conduct of litigation involving the amalgamation of unions to form the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union. In the Minister’s answer, which was given on 19th October, he said that no amount has yet been paid by the Commonwealth in respect of these proceedings. I ask: Is the Commonwealth liable for any legal fees or does it feel that it should make an ex gratia payment in regard to the proceedings and, if so, what is the amount of the liability?
– My recollection is that the answer to the honourable senator’s question, which had been on the notice paper for some time, was given within the last 2 or 3 weeks. At that time the position was that no money bad been paid by the Commonwealth to the persons who had financial assistance granted to them in connection with the amalgamation of the engineering unions. As I understand it, the money still has not been paid, but applications have been made and we are seeking information as to what were the actual costs incurred, with a view to determining what the appropriate amount of financial assistance should be. In short, the acknowledgement that some assistance will be provided is clear, but no money has yet been paid.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise aware of newspaper reports that a decision is expected within the next few days regarding applications to his Department for concessions of duty on the supply of steel pipe by a Japanese consortium of companies to the Australian Gas light Co? As this contract has been referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Industry and Trade, can the Minister assure the Senate that it will be fully informed before the implementation of any such decision?
What machinery, if any, exists, for Parliament to disallow any decision with which it disagrees?
– This is an important question, and immediately after question time I will direct it to the Department and see whether an answer can be provided before we rise this week.
– Has the Minister for Health received a letter from the Australian Sports Medicine Association conveying a statement issued by the Federal Council meeting at Adelaide on 20th October 1972 appealing to the Federal Government to follow the example of many nations throughout the world by establishing a Ministry of Recreation and Sport and upgrading the Commonwealth National Fitness Council? The Minister is aware that ever since I entered this Senate I have advocated such measures. Now that they have the support of such an august body as the Australian Sports Medicine Association, will the Minister tell the Senate what action he intends to take in this regard in the near future?
– 1 would need to refresh my memory in relation to the correspondence, and I point out that 1 now receive about 9,000 letters a year. However, I have the same interest as the honourable senator in this question of national fitness. In fact, at the time for the tabling of papers today I will table the annual report of the National Fitness Council of Australia. I certainly will take up the point which the honourable senator has raised about the correspondence and, if 1 can respond to that tomorrow, I will do so.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. How can the Government describe the slight fall in the September unemployment figures as significant when the seasonally adjusted figure fell only from 120,053 to 118,288 - a total reduction of 1,765 or a percentage reduction of 0.04? Does this mean that the Government regards this level of unemployment as acceptable, when in fact there are now 24,640 more people out of work than there were last September - the highest level for September in 10 years? Also, how can the Government radiate optimism when the number of Australians on unemployment relief- 47,153 - is nearly twice that at the same time last year?
– The significant aspect of the figures is that the decline in unemployment during September 1972 was double the decline in the previous September.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. Can the Minister inform the Senate of the actual charges for medical consultations for ex-servicemen with repatriation entitlements at the professional rooms of general practitioners or specialists? Are these charges to the Repatriation Department a standard 20 per cent less than the normal common fees?
– I think there is a need for some reexamination of the question because in relation to repatriation there is a tremendous area in which the Repatriation Department’s medical services are provided by practitioners who are engaged on a special basis through the Repatriation Department. One would need to go to that Department to see what are the arrangements that it has with those practitioners. It will require liaison between my Department and the Repatriation Department and, provided the magnitude of the question is not completely overbearing, I will put it in hand and raise it with the 1 departments to see whether an answer, if it cannot be made available while we are sitting, can be supplied subsequently to the honourable senator.
– Is it desired to postpone or rearrange the business of the Senate?
Motion (by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders he suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition moving a motion relating to the order of business on the notice paper.
– I move:
That at 8 p.m. this day, intervening business be postponed until after consideration of General Business, Order of the Day No. 18.
The motion relates to the Commonwealth Electoral Bill 1972 which is to provide voting rights for 18-year-olds.
– For the reasons I have given on the 2 previous sitting days we oppose the motion.
That the motion (Senator Murphy’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided.
Ayes . . . . . . 23
Noes . . . . . . 26
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Pursuant to section 6 of the National Fitness Act 1941, I present the annual report on national fitness activities for the year ended 31st December 1971.
– Pursuant to section 36 of the Canned Fruits Export Marketing Act 1963-1970, I present the 46th annual report of the Australian Canned Fruits Board for the year ended 31st December 1971, together with financial statements and the report of the AuditorGeneral on those statements.
– Pursuant to section 50b of the War Service Homes Act 1918-1971, I present the annual report of the Director of War Service Homes for the year ended 30th June 1972. An interim report was presented to the Senate on 14th September 1972.
– For the information of honourable senators I lay on the table a statement by the Minister for the Interior (Mr Hunt) outlining proposals for the transfer of a range of functions to the Northern Territory Legislature and Executive.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the official report of the Australian Parliamentary Delegation to the United States of America and Mexico.
– Pursuant to section11 of the Commonwealth Police Act 1957-66, I present the annual report of the Commissioner of Police on the operation of the Commonwealth Police Force and summary of its activities for the year ended 30th June 1972.
Senator GREENWOOD (Victoria-
Attorney-General) Pursuant to section 314 of the Bankruptcy Act 1966-1970,I present the 5th annual report on the operation of the Act for the year ended 30th June 1972. I am unable to provide honourable senators with printed copies of the report as these have not been received from the printer. However, I shall make copies available as soon as possible. In the meantime, for the convenience of honourable senators, I have furnished a copy of the report to the Principal Librarian, Legislative Reference Service in the Parliament Library.
– On behalf of the Joint Committee on Public Accounts I present the 141st and 142nd reports of the Committee. I have a statement and seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The statement read as follows) -
Honourable senators will recall that on 28th September I tabled the 140th report which relates to expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer for the financial year 1971-72. The 141st report which 1 am tabling today relates to expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund for that year and covers the remaining items included in the Committee’s annual examination of the expenditure results of departments. The 142nd report relates to the Treasury minute on the Committee’s 124th report which dealt with expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund for 1969- 70. In examining expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund each year, the Committee seeks to ascertain whether or not the principles relating to the formulation of estimates have been adopted by Departments. These principles, which are included in Treasury direction 16/9, have been set out in chapter 1 of the 141st report.
For many years the Committee has paid particular attention to the estimates and related expenditure of departments. As a poor standard of estimating has wide ramifications, the Committee has concerned itself not only with excess expenditure charged to the Advance to the Treasurer, but also with the over-provision of funds. The Committee has made it clear that such over-provisions are undesirable, misleading and perhaps unfair to other departments whose financial needs might not have been satisfied. At the same time, the Committee has emphasised that it does not regard the total expenditure of available funds under a particular appropriation item an an objective to be sought without regard to other important considerations. Indeed, undue emphasis on the need to match expenditure and available funds can give rise to unnecessary and uneconomic expenditure and can result in the distortion of administrative practices. In this regard the Committee has, on previous occasions, criticised departments that have accelerated payments in order to prevent an appropriation from lapsing.
As this and previous reports relating to expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund show, there are explanations for expenditure variations from the estimates which are acceptable to the Committee. In this report, however, the Committee has also found evidence of the need for greater care in the formulation of estimates. In addition, misunderstandings between departments; errors arising from the misinterpretation of information; clerical errors and administrative delays in the placing of orders have contributed to shortfalls in expenditure and to reduced levels of efficiency in administration. The evidence also shows cases where failures have occurred in the observance of Treasury regulations and directions. Attention has been drawn to all of these administrative inadequacies where they have arisen.
In connection with the 142nd report the Committee has found it necessary to make observations in relation to 3 matters, the details of which are set out in chapter 3 of the report. One of these matters - the Bellenden Ker project - has caused the Department of the Treasury to comment that the approach suggested by the Committee would be contrary to the principle of estimating which the Committee has endorsed in the past. The principle involved states that each individual estimate in the Budget Estimates should be a realistic assessment of the sum expected to be spent having regard to the information available to the Department at the time of preparation.
The Committee recognises that the formulation of estimates is, in large part, a matter of judgment, in which opinions may vary. In view of the information evidently available to the Department of Works when it formulated its estimates for 1969- 70, the Committee felt, as a matter of opinion, that in the case of the Bellenden Ker project, the Department might well have deferred its request for funds. It does not appear to the Committee, however, that the difference in view which it holds with the Department of Works on this matter represents an approach by the Committee contrary to the principle of estimating adopted in the past.
– I commend the reports to honourable senators.
Ordered that the reports be printed.
– I present the report of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory on proposals for variations in the plan of the layout of the city of Canberra and its environs, 51st series, and move:
That the report be printed.
I present also a report of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory on references relating to, firstly, State and municipal costs and revenues in the Austraiian Capital Territory and, secondly, aspects of a statutory authority to administer education in the Australian Capital Territory. The report explains the reasons why the Committee was unable to complete its inquiries.
Ordered that the reports be printed.
– I present the report from the Standing Committee on Social Environment relating to the proposed construction of a Post Office tower on Black Mountain in the Australian Capital Territory.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I seek leave to move a motion.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
That the Senate take note of the paper.
This is the second occasion on which the Standing Committee on Social Environment has reported on a matter originally brought to the Senate by way of petition. In this instance the Senate, on 13th October 1971, referred to the Committee for its information a petition relating to the proposed construction of a Post Office tower on Black Mountain in the Australian Capital Territory. The whole question raised in this petition is naturally of interest to a Committee with environmental responsibilities. This Standing Committee has had a period of considerable activity since it received this reference, as is shown by the variety of reports that it has presented in the last 12 months. Nevertheless, shortly after receiving the reference the Committee inspected the site of the proposed tower on Black Mountain.
As a result of preliminary inquiries which were directed to the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) and the PostmasterGeneral (Sir Alan Hulme) at an early stage of our consideration of the petition, we were made aware that the project was to be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works. We were advised that we would be provided by the Department of Works and the PostmasterGeneral’s Department with copies of the detailed evidence to be prepared by them for submission to the joint Committee. An assurance was also given that persons wishing to give evidence on the environmental aspects would be welcomed by that Committee. The Senate Committee considered it appropriate at that stage to defer further action until the promised submissions had been made available to it, and in due course these were received and circulated to all members of the Committee.
After the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works had held its hearings in June and presented its report to both Houses of the Parliament in August, this Committee received copies of the report and of the evidence on which it was based. In this Committee’s view the issues were thoroughly canvassed before the joint Committee, and further inquiry would need some explicit justification. A careful and objective examination of all the evidence, together with a further inspection of the Black Mountain site by this Committee, has not revealed any consideration which, in the Committee’s opinion, could constitute adequate justification for a course of action which would seem to be fundamentally a duplication of the examination already made by the joint Commitee.
This view is taken with a recognition of the complete independence of the Senate Committee in determining its own course of action. It had no obligation to accept the report of the joint Committee and could have conducted its own inquiry had it so desired. A responsible Committee having reported to the Parliament, the House of Representatives has discharged its statutory role in the matter by resolving that it is expedient to carry out the proposed work.
In all the circumstances, the judgment of the Standing Committee on Social Environment is that duplication of the inquiry already held would be a superfluous and unproductive exercise and that the matter is best left to the determination of the Parliament in accordance with its view of the report of the joint Committee.
– Conscious of the timetable which the Senate faces, my remarks will be relatively brief. At the same time, speaking on behalf of Senator Keeffe and myself, our attitude is crystal clear. We believe that in this situation we can say, in the words of Marshal Petain in World War II: They shall not pass’. I direct those remarks to the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme). We sincerely believe that the concept of park land gazettal in the Australian Capital Territory should mean something. In 1970 the Minister for the Interior had the Black Mountain area gazetted as park land. It is quite untrue, as some people claim, that the Standing Committee on Social Environment would have been duplicating the functions of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works. I want to say a few words in support of our minority report. If we look at past battles and those that have been won - Senator Gietzelt would agree with me in this respect - we find that in
New South Wales some of the conservationists dug their toes in over a certain proposal relating to the Heathcote State Park and the Postmaster-General’s Department came up with alternative plans for the route of cables.
I am aware of the strong feelings that my colleague, Senator Keeffe, holds on this issue. We commend to the Senate the minority report which traces the history of parkland acquisition and indicates that, if a real attempt were made by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to assist conservation, as it implied in evidence to the Public Works Committee, it would certainly have come up with other plans. The battle does not concern the Black Mountain area only. It will concern the plans for the Mount Kelly region. We feel that it is time for a public utility such as the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to be consistent and sincere and to prepare alternative plans. It is on that basis that I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I bring up a report from the Joint Committee on Publications relating to departmental publishing activities, together with extracts from the minutes of proceedings. I have a statement relating to the report. I ask for leave for that statement to be incorporated in Hansard.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The statement read as follows) -
Following the completion of its inquiry into the distribution and pricing of Parliamentary publications late last year, the Joint Committee on Publications, having power to initiate its own inquiries within its general terms of reference, decided to Investigate the publishing operations of Government departments. In undertaking this task the Joint Committee has been carrying out its important responsibility of conducting a continuing Parliamentary review of the Commonwealth’s printing and publishing arrangements. Initially, the Committee requested- written submissions from 7 departments which were selected as being representative of a wide range of Commonwealth publishing operations. These departments were External Territories, Immigration, Interior, Labour and National Service, National Development, Trade and Industry and the Treasury. The departments were requested to supply information about their printing and publishing arrangements and to explain such matters as distribution and pricing. Later, the Committee requested and obtained similar information from certain statutory authorities responsible to the Ministers of several of these departments. Witnesses representing the 7 departments, several statutory authorities and the Australian Government Publishing Service were called and examined.
From the written submissions and the evidence heard the Committee built up a comprehensive knowledge and appreciation of departmental printing and publishing. A number of problems and issues emerged which were common to the departments investigated. The Committee found that most departments experienced production problems, mainly delays, early in the establishment of the Australian Government Publishing Service in 1970. But the Committee is satisfied that these early problems, which were mainly due to initial inadequate staffing and other developmental difficulties, now have largely been resolved. The Committee found a wide variation of distribution policies between the departments examined resulting from differing objectives of their publishing policies: Some departments issue purely promotional materia:! which must be distributed free, whilst other departments produce publications for more specialised or restricted audiences. The Committee noted that these latter publications whilst placed on sale also have free distribution lists, in some cases quite substantial ones. It appeared to the Committee that a uniform or rigid distribution policy applying to all departments would be impracticable. But the Committee has recommended that all departments conduct continuous research into their free distribution programmes with a view to ensuring that wastage is minimised.
The Committee found that the AGPS pricing formula’ for publications did not appear to be applied in all cases. The Committee has recommended that the AGPS pricing formula of 3 times run-on cost be applied uniformly to all departmental publications, except in special cases, such as maps. The Committee found widely differing arrangements for the printing of material for overseas distribution. The Department of Immigration has centralised its overseas printing in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom; the Department of Trade and Industry arranges its overseas printing in all continents; while the Australian News and Information Bureau has its printing for overseas distribution done mainly in Australia. Whilst each department gave apparent good reasons for the particular publishing arrangements adopted, nonetheless, the Committee noted differences of opinion about the advantages and disadvantages of printing in Australia those publications intended for overseas distribution. The Committee has recommended that AGPS undertake an in-depth investigation of the overall question of overseas printing with a view to reaching a consistent Government policy of favouring printing in Australia except where special circumstances make it advantageous to Australia’s interest to do otherwise.
The Committee heard evidence from some departments that the Treasury prescribed rules for the letting of contracts to printers other than the Commonwealth and State government printers, were unduly restrictive and a hindrance. The Committee has recommended that the Treasury contractual regulations be revised with a view to raising the cost barriers governing quotations and calling tenders. This inquiry has fulfilled the need for parliamentary scrutiny and oversight of t Commonwealth’s printing and publishing arrangements
– I move:
I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave - On 16th August, 1 informed the Senate of the progress which had been made by the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence into its current reference on Japan, and advised that, ‘if at all possible’, a full report would be presented during the present Parliamentary session. The Committee has recently reviewed the progress made on the drafting of the report - which, I am happy to say, is considerable - before deciding whether it could be brought to a stage which would do justice to the subject and be suitable for presentation. In view of the importance of the subject to Australia, we decided that a well considered report of some quality would be more desirable than one hastily concluded. I therefore inform the Senate that it is now not our intention to table the report during this present period of sittings, but that a report will be available for presentation when the Parliament next sits.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Estate Duty Assessment Bill 1972.
Gift Duty Bill 1972.
Gift Duty Assessment Bill 1972.
– by leave - I wish to inform honourable senators that Mr J. Q. Ewens, C.M.G., C.B.E., will cease to hold the office of First Parliamentary Counsel under the Parliamentary Counsel Act 1970-1971 on his attaining the age of 65 years on 17th November, 1972. His Excellency the Governor-General has today appointed Mr C. K. Comans, O.B.E., who at present holds office as one of the two Second Parliamentary Counsel, to be the First Parliamentary Counsel, and Mr G. K.. Kolts, who at present holds office under the Public Service Act as a First Assistant Parliamentary Counsel, to be a Second Parliamentary Counsel in consequence of the vacancy resulting from Mr Coman’s appointment as the First Parliamentary Counsel. These appointments will take effect on 18th November, 1972. Mr B. C. Quayle, O.B.E., will continue in office as the other Second Parliamentary Counsel and has been appointed by His Excellency to act in the office of First Parliamentary Counsel when Mr Comans is on leave. The office of First Parliamentary Counsel is not an office of “the Parliament, but is so closely associated with the work of the Parliament that I think it appropriate for me to review briefly Mr Ewen’s services to the Commonwealth and to the Parliament in particular.
Mr Ewens’s career has been one of great length as well as great distinction. After a distinguished course at the University of Adelaide, where he was awarded a Stow prize for exceptional merit in the law course, he was admitted as a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court of South Australia and joined the Commonwealth Public Service as a legal assistant in the Attorney-General’s Department in 1933. He became Assistant Parliamentary Draftsman in 1945 and Principal Assistant Parliamentary Draftsman in 1948 and has been in charge of the legislative drafting work of the Commonwealth since his appointment as Parliamentary Draftsman in 1949. He has on many occasions acted as Solicitor-General and Secretary to the Attorney-General’s Department. Mr Ewens has been a member of a number of important committees concerned with the revision of Commonwealth laws, including the Bankruptcy Law Review Committee, the Patent Law Review Committee and the Trade Marks Law Review Committee. He has attended meetings of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General almost since the inception of that Committee and has done extremely valuable work in that connection. He was the leader of the Australian delegation to the conference of the International Union for the Protection of Industrial Property held in Lisbon in 1958.
The extent of Mr Ewens’s service to the Commonwealth may be better appreciated when it is realised that he has served under no fewer than 10 Attorneys-General as well as a number of Acting AttorneysGeneral. Mr Ewens has had the satisfaction of- seeing the status and importance of the work to which he has devoted so much of his life recognised by the establishment, in 1970, of the Office of Parliamentary Counsel as a statutory organisation. He has maintained the standard of legislative drafting in the Commonwealth at a very high level in spite of the fact that he, and the draftsmen for whose work he has been responsible, have often had to work under circumstances of great pressure and to cope with the growing complexity that has been inevitable in legislation in some areas and the great expansion that has taken place over the years in matters that are the subject of Commonwealth legislation. Throughout the period of his career in Canberra, Mr Ewens has been closely associated with university activities. He was a member of the Council of the Canberra University College from 1948- 1960 and has been a member of the Council of the Australian National University since the incorporation of the Canberra University College with the Australian National University in 1960. He was recently reappointed to that Council for a period of 3 years. Her Majesty has recognised Mr Ewens’s services by making him a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1959 and a companion of the Order of St Michael and St George in 1971.
I am sure that I speak on behalf of all honourable senators as well as myself in expressing to Mr Ewens appreciation of his distinguished service. I am also sure that I speak for all of us in wishing him a long and happy retirement, in which, no doubt, opportunities will arise for the further exercise of his skills and the employment of his experience.
– by leave - We join with the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) in expressing, on behalf of the Parliament, our appreciation of the long and distinguished service which Mr Ewens has given to the Commonwealth of Australia and to the Parliament in particular.
He has shown dedication and enthusiasm in an area which calls for painstaking effort and which is not as glamorous as some other areas. I am sure that all honourable senators would wish him a long and happy retirment
The Opposition welcomes the statement which has been made by the AttorneyGeneral on the other appointments. We are aware of the careers of these officers. I think we have been fortunate to have come in to some close contact with them. I for one, and I am sure everyone here was pleased to see that these fine officers will be promoted to the positions which they will hold after the retirment of Mr Ewens. I understand that it is necessary for appointments to be made to these positions, some of which have been long established and some of which have been not so long established. We welcome the appointments.
I now pass on to say something about the subject of appointments in general. I am reminded of this by the announcement of these appointments. However much we welcome these appointments, we on this side of the chamber think, certainly in respect of the new posts which have been created in various spheres in the Commonwealth and in respect of other principal offices of the Commonwealth which may fall vacant, that it would not be consonant with the proper operation of the democratic process if those posts and vacancies were to be filled subsequent to the dissolution of the House of Representatives and prior to the coming into being of a new government, whatever its political complexion may be. I had intended to say this in any event in relation to appointments in general. Having said that, I repeat that we on this side of the chamber approve of and welcome the appointments which have been made and announced today by the Attorney-General.
– by leave - I join with the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) in expressing to Mr Ewens, on behalf of the Australian Democratic Labor Party, appreciation of the contribution he has made to the operation of the parliamentary institution in this country. Mr Ewens conducted the affairs of his branch and of his department over a long period with great personal distinction and extraordinary value to the community. He moved into his position at a time of developing complexity of legal situations, both constitutional and international. It was a challenge to our parliamentary draftsment - Mr Ewens in particular - that so many international conventions and other matters of international agreement had to be translated properly, adequately and fruitfully into Australian law. We have often had occasion in the past few years to consider legislation of this kind which must have taxed even the high level of ingenuity, expertise and drafting skill of the team headed by Mr Ewens. The Parliament is indebted to him and his colleagues for the contribution they have made to the presentation and enactment of this legislation.
We are inclined to think of a parliamentary draftsman only in relation to the work he does that is immediately associated with the presentation of Bills. But it goes far beyond that. There is the constant ongoing task of revising and consolidating statutes, regulations and ordinances. There is a continuing burden of work and constant pressure. We often wonder how the members of the staff of the office of the Parliamentary Counsel are able to sustain the unending demands that are imposed upon them. We also welcomed the elevation of the status of this branch to a department and the new designation, Office of Parliamentary Counsel. A new relationship has resulted in connection with this Parliament and with the administration generally.
We welcome the appointment of Mr Comans and Mr Kolts to higher positions. We know their work. We have had the benefit of it. We know that they will carry on with the same dedication, and no doubt the same distinction, as that which characterised the work and contribution of Mr Ewens. On behalf of the Australian Democratic Labor Party I convey to Mr Ewens our deep apreciation of his work as a parliamentary officer and, in a Party sense, personally for the assistance that he and his staff have given to us and to the Parliament through his long and distinguished career. We wish him every happiness in his retirement. We hope that his skill will not be lost but that in other fields he will still continue to participate in the work of which he now possesses such magnificent knowledge and in which he has still so much to contribute.
– On 24 October Senator Georges and Senator Davidson referred to the procedure of the Estimates Committees. I was invited to rule on a matter of the order of questions as between members and non-members of the Committees. This is an important matter and one upon which it is most desirable that there should be uniformity as between the 5 Estimates Committees. I propose to refer the matter to the Standing Orders Committee for consideration. The Senate may expect a report before the next meeting of the Estimates Committees in 1973.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) read a first time.
(11.11)- I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to appropriate the amounts required for expenditure in 1972-73 from the Consolidated Revenue Fund other than those amounts provided by special appropriations and the Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1972-73. The amounts sought for each department are shownin detail in the second Schedule to the Bill, the sum of these appropriations being $3,242,044,000. This Bill seeks an authorisation of $1,924,254,000, the balance of $1,31 7,790,000 having already been authorised under the Supply Act (No. 1) 1972- 73.
The expenditure proposals of the Government were outlined in the Budget speech and the Schedule to this Bill is the same as that contained in the document Particulars of Proposed Expenditure for the Service of the Year Ending 30th June 1973’ which was referred on 14th September to the Senate Estimates Committees for examination and report. I commend the bill to honourable senators.
– The Opposition outlined its views in speaking to the motion which it moved to add certain words to the motion that the Senate take note of the Budget papers. In the debate that followed it made known its views on the errors of omission and commission committed by the Government in the Budget. They may be taken as applying to this Bill. There is no need to repeat those observations at this stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative-
Bill read a second time.
Motion (by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) agreed to:
That consideration of Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1972-73 in Committee be made an order of the day for a later hour of the day.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) read a first time.
(11.15)- I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to provide for expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund in 1972-73 on: The construction of public works and buildings; the acquisition of sites and buildings; advances and loans; items of plant and equipment which are clearly definable as capital expenditure; grants to the States under section 96 of the Constitution; and new policies not authorised by special legislation.
Details of the amounts sought by each department are shown in the Second Schedule to the Bill, the sum of these appropriations being $861,386,000. Of this $370,594,000 was authorised by the Supply Act (No. 2) 1972-73; the balance of $490,792,000 being authorised by this Bill.
The main features of the proposed expenditure were outlined in the Budget Speech. The Schedule to the Bill is the same as that contained in the document Particulars of Proposed Provision for Certain Expenditure in Respect of the Year
Ending 30th June 1973’ which was referred on 14th September to the Senate Estimates Committees for examination and report. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
– The grounds of our opposition to the matters contained in this measure have already been expressed in the earlier debate on the Budget Papers and it is not necessary to repeat them now.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Motion (by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) agreed to:
That consideration of Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1972-73 in Committee be made an order of the day for a later hour this day.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cotton) read a first time.
– I move:
I suggest to my honourable colleagues that in order to save the time of the Senate my second reading speech might be incorporated in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
Recently I advised the Senate of decisions reached by the Government on several major matters of civil aviation policy. This Bill is designed to give effect to some of those decisions, namely, the extension of the Government’s 2-airline policy and the obligations placed on the major airlines as a pre-requisite to that extension. The main provision of the Bill approves the new Airlines Agreement between the Commonwealth, Ansett Transport Industries Ltd, and the Australian National Airlines Commission, a copy of which is attached as the Schedule to the Bill. This agreement was executed by the airline parties on 20th October and by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon), on behalf of the Commonwealth, on 21st October. It does not become effective, of course, unless and until it is approved by the Parliament.
The present agreements on which the 2- airline competitive system is based are due to expire on 18th November 1977. The new agreement extends those agreements, and the 3 together will be known as the 1952-1972 Airlines Agreement. The Commonwealth or the company may determine the 1952-1972 Airlines Agreement by giving at least 5 years notice of termination after 31st December 1977, any determination by the Commonwealth requiring the consent of both Houses of the Parliament. It will be seen that paragraphs 5 to 9 of the 1972 agreement are undertakings by the company and the Commission regarding parallel scheduling of air services, the maintenance of rural air services, the promotion of lower air fares for tourist travel, the stimulation of airfreight, and the restriction of flights in curfew periods. Paragraph 10 acknowledges that the Commonwealth may facilitate the provisions of specialist freight and passenger services by operators other than the 2 major airlines within the framework of an economic 2- airline system, and paragraph 11 requires Ansett Transport Industries to furnish for presentation to the Parliament separate financial details relating to its airline activities. Paragraph 12 is a recognition by the airlines that the Commonwealth is entitled to recover the costs of civil aviation facilities. These are the matters which the Government said it would require the airlines to accept if the 2-airlines system was to be extended, and it is gratifying to see that the parties have been able to reach satisfactory agreement on them. It was the original intention of the Government to include in this legislation provisions designed to protect the position of the Commonwealth in the event of the private enterprise airline having a certain degree of overseas ownership or control. It has been concluded that this aspect can best be covered by separate legislation - perhaps by means of legislation relating to industry generally rather than specifically to the airline industry.
In announcing the Government’s decision to extend the 2-airline policy, mention was made of the additional routes and opportunities to be given to the Government’s own airline, Trans-Australia Airlines. As soon as applications for licences are received and departmental operational requirements are met, authorisations will be issued for TAA to commence services on the Perth-Port Hedland-Darwin route, the Darwin-Gove route, and the CairnsWeipaThursday Island route. In order to remove any doubts that may exist regarding TAA’s powers to implement the Government’s decisions, certain changes in the Australian National Airlines Act may be desirable, but the limited time available has precluded the drawing up of the necessary amending legislation. It is the intention of this Government, therefore, to introduce in the first sittings of the new Parliament a Bill amending the Act so that there is no question about TAA having the powers enabling it to engage in activities closely related to airline operation and to give effect to the Government’s decisions. This Bill, together with the 1972 Airlines Agreement, is another milestone in the development of Australia’s outstanding airline system. We can be proud of the safety record, the growth, and the stability of our airline industry, and I am confident that these characteristics will continue beyond 1977 with the encouragement and the guidelines established by the new agreement. 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 Colton) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Again I suggest that in order to save time I might incorporate my second reading speech in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
This Bill is presented for the purpose of amending the Australian National Airlines Act 1945-1970 in certain material respects. Section 17 (7.) of the Act now provides that salaries of officers of the Australian National Airlines Commission, other than the General Manager, which are above $5,000 per annum are subject to the approval of the Minister for Civil Aviation. This salary limit was adopted in 1959 and is clearly inappropriate in present-day circumstances in view of the substantial increases in wage levels which have occurred since that date. In addition, it creates problems in dealing expeditiously with industrial matters affecting the numerous staff on awards when the salaries concerned are above this level. It is more appropriate that ministerial control should be exercised only in relation to the Commission’s executives. The present salary of a Level 1 executive is $13,766 per annum, and the amount specified in the Bill approximates this salary level. In addition, provision is made so that the figure can be amended by regulation without the necessity to amend the Act every time the relevant salaries are increased. Section 31 of the Act authorises the Commission, with the approval of the Treasurer, to borrow such moneys as the Minister for Civil Aviation certifies are necessary for the Commission to meet its obligations or discharge its functions under the Act. Sub-section (5.) places a limit of $6m on the borrowings which may be outstanding at any time.
A similar provision was removed from the Australian Coastal Shipping Act in 1966, and there does not appear to be any compelling reason why the Airlines Commission should continue to be placed in the present restricted situation. If the limitation were removed Parliament would still have control over the funds available to the Commission through the normal budgetary processes and borrowings, other than from the Government, would be subject to the approval of the Treasurer and the Minister. Also, the Commission is required to present its accounts and report annually to the Parliament, which provides a further avenue of parliamentary super vision. Removal of the borrowing limitation would also facilitate the change of the Commission’s accounting arrangements in relation to its superannuation schemes, to which the Treasurer referred in his Budget Speech and which was mentioned in my recent statement outlining Government decisions on civil aviation. In the light of all these considerations it is proposed that section 31 (5.) should be repealed.
Pursuant to section 32 (1.) of the Act, the Minister for Civil Aviation, with the concurrence of the Treasurer and after consultation with the Airlines Commission, is required to determine a dividend target for the Commission for each financial year. The Commission is to be notified of this determination not later than one month before the commencement of the year. Obviously, the Minister and the Treasurer, in considering the matters to be taken into account in determining the dividend target as set out in section 33 (2.) of the Act, should have available to them the latest possible information, and a budget submitted by the Commission in May is regarded as being the most appropriate basis on which to perform this task. In these circumstances, there is little time left before the determination has to be made; that is, by the end of May. It is intended, therefore, to remove the provision requiring the giving of one month’s notice and at the same time to repeal section 32 (b) (ii) which becomes redundant with the change of the superannuation accounting arrangements.
Section 37A of the Act sets out the requirements to be met by the Commission if it self-insures itself against certain risks. It provides for the maintenance of a prescribed account, and sets out the items to be charged against, or credited to, this account. It also requires the Commission to keep invested in Commonwealth securities an amount equal to the surplus in the account. It has been found that the items relating to the prescribed account now specified are not sufficiently precise. Also the surplus in the account, which really represents the profit on self insurance transactions, is not available to the Commission and the Commonwealth for any other purpose under any circumstances. The amendments proposed correct these defects. Section 37a (7.), which relates ‘o the period up to 1964 and is now redundant, is also to be repealed.
Section 65 provides that the Commission may require any person injured in an accident on its services to be examined by a doctor nominated by the Commission. If any person fails to undergo such an examination, no damages are recoverable from the Commission in respect of the injury unless the failure to undergo the examination was reasonable in the circumstances, or the Commission was not prejudiced in its defence. These provisions do not exist under general law and consequently plaintiffs against the Commission have a special penalty imposed on them which could act unfairly against some persons. There is no reason why the Commission should be placed in this preferred position and, accordingly, it is considered desirable that the section should be repealed. 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 firsttime.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I suggest again that it may help if the second reading speech can be incorporated in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
This Bill is designed to amend the Pollution of the Sea by Oil Act 1960-1965. The principal Act gave effect to the provisions of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution of the Sea by Oil 1954, as amended in 1962, and the present Bill results from further amendments adopted by the Assembly of the InterGovernmental Maritime Consultative Organisation, of which Australia is a Council member, during its Sixth Session in October 1969.
Pollution of the sea by oil is a problem of increasing concern and, whilst not interfering with the principal aims of the original legislation, the amendments now to be implemented represent a significant step towards the ultimate target of completely eliminating all pollution of the sea by oil. Whereas at present, beyond a certain distance from land, significant discharge of oil can take place, the proposed amendments limit the discharge of oil to waters more than 50 miles from the nearest land, and then only at the low rate of 60 litres per mile. Within 50 miles discharge may be permitted at the same rate, but only in the very dilute mixture of 100 parts or less per million, and an obligation is written into the amendment that the discharge shall be as far from land as possible. Another change features a more comprehensive form of oil record book for the recording of details on the use of ship’s tanks.
A potential deficiency in these amendments, as far as Australia is concerned, is that oil, although at a very small rate of flow, could be discharged near the Great Barrier Reef, as parts of the Reef are more than 50 miles from the nearest land as defined in the Convention. It was on this account that the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon) put through another amendment at the Seventh Assembly of the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organisation in October 1971 which will have the practical effect, for the purposes only of this Convention, of making the Great Barrier Reef a part of the coastline. On past experience it will be another 2 years before sufficient countries have ratified this amendment to make it part of the Convention. Further amending legislation will be introduced at the appropriate time.
In addition to the foregoing the opportunity provided by this Bill has been taken to increase the level of maximum penalties. Existing fines no longer reflect the very serious results of oil pollution and the measure of the proposed increases has been determined in consultation with the States, which have agreed to impose similar penalties under complementary State legislation. It is hoped that these increased fines will create a real deterrent to the wilful or negligent polluter.
Article VI of the Convention provides that penalties for unlawful discharges outside territorial waters shall not be less than penalties imposed for similar discharges into such territorial waters. As the various State Acts which implement the terms of the Convention will also be amended to introduce the agreed increases in penalties, tt is necesary, in the terms of Article VI of the Convention, that the Federal Act, which will apply to Australian ships in any waters, be in operation before, or concurrently with, the complementary State Acts.
The Convention amendments will not acquire international validity until twothirds of the number of countries which accepted the original Convention have signified their acceptance. As only 9 of the necessary 31 countries have so far accepted, operation of the relevant sections of the resulting Act will have to be effected by proclamation when sufficient acceptances have been notified. However, those sections providing for increased penalties will come into operation on the day on which the amending Act receives the royal assent. I commend the B<11 to the Senate.
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:
I suggest, for the convenience of my colleagues, that the second reading speech be incorporated in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The speech read as follows) -
Honourable senators are very much aware of the dangers of pollution of the sea by oil. I believe there is no necessity to enlarge on these, and likewise no need to demonstrate the necessity for preparedness to combat pollutions. We progressively take every possible action to prevent pollutions occurring, but the danger is always present. We are therefore in the process of setting up stockpiles of dispersant material and equipment around our extensive coastline. A stockpile is being set up at each capital city and at Darwin, and, because of the long coastlines of Queensland and Western Australia, at Cairns and Port Hedland as well.
Each stockpile will be sufficient to deal with a fairly significant oil spill. For massive spills, the national plan provides for the rapid consolidation of several, or all, of the stockpiles to the scene of the action. In aggregate, the stockpiles will supply an action for the period necessary for the chemical industry to produce replacement stock. The stockpiles will be available to the authority, Commonwealth or State, agreed under the national plan as having primary responsibility for a particular spill. The whole plan, however, is based on cooperative action between authorities, and ignores any nice points of legal sovereignty. All of this, of course, has a cost. We can regard the cost as having 2 components; firstly, the standing charges - interest, amortisation and so on - and, secondly, operating costs which cannot be recovered from the actual polluter, usually because the ship was not identified. This component should be fairly small, because in the case of really significant pollutions we will almost always identify the vessel responsible.
With one national plan and one set of stockpiles, it is logical, as we have agreed with the States, to raise one charge for covering the costs. The Commonwealth will put up the capital - about $lm - will administer the scheme and, as this Bill proposes, raise one levy on the shipping industry. In cash accounting, the revenue will go to Consolidated Revenue, but notional commercial accounts will be kept We will know with precision the amount of the standing charges. We will not know in advance the amount of unrecovered operating costs. Experience will allow forward estimating, but as the plan continues, the notional accounts will be reviewed periodically. Obviously enough, if experience is good, there will be a notional surplus which would cause us to consider reducing the rate of levy.
The main point I want to make clear to the Senate is that this levy is not designed as a general revenue measure. It is intended to cover the costs of maintaining the stockpiles and of operations against oil spills where recovery from the polluter proves to be impossible. Over a period, the notional accounts will be required to balance exactly with neither surplus nor deficit. There is a widely accepted principle which is pithily expressed in the words: The polluter pays’. It is a good principle, but in this case we have extended it a little to make the potential polluter pay. Preparedness for fighting pollutions will, as I have said, take a capital expenditure of about $lm, which naturally attracts standing charges. If we wait for an actual pollution before recovering part of those charges we could - and, indeed, I would hope we would - wait quite a time. In the meantime, those charges would be to the cost of the community. We do not see that as acceptable; so this Bill provides that the shipping industry, which is made up of potential polluters, will pay those standing charges.
Equally, unrecovered operating costs will be shared across the industry. It is true that those ships which in a given case did not cause pollution will be helping to pay for the vessel which did, but there is nothing novel in that as a principle. The actual rate of levy will be small. I expect it will be set initially at less than 2c per net registered ton per quarter - in other words, at less than 8 per cent of the present rate of light dues. As will be seen from the Bill, small ships, and ships which in a quarter had little potential for causing pollution, will be exempt. In brief, this Bill seeks to cover the costs attaching to a national preparedness for combating pollution of the sea by oil from ships. It is a straightforward, uncomplicated and fundamentally essentia] measure. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
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.
I suggest again that the second reading speech be incorporated in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The speech read as follows) -
This Bill, which is complementary to the Pollution of the Sea by Oil (Shipping Levy) Bill that has just been introduced, provides for the collection of the levy imposed on certain ships carrying oil. The Bill reproduces as closely as possible the conditions under which light dues are collected under the lighthouses Act and Regulations, thereby ensuring that periodic payments of light dues and the levy for any particular ship will be effected at the one time. The administrative advantages inherent in such an arrangement will be obvious to honourable senators. Ancillary provisions, such as the powers of a collector to enforce payment of the levy, are also similar to the relevant provisions in respect of light dues.I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
– On behalf of the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon), I table a document a copy of which has been supplied to the Leader for the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy). The document relates to powers over and protection offered to witnesses who appear before parliamentary committees.
I seek leave to incorporate a statement which was made in the other place by the Prime Minister.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The statement read as follows) -
The paper I have just tabled has been prepared by the 2 chief law officers of the Crown, the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) and the Solicitor-General. It is entitled ‘Powers Over and Protection Offered to Witnesses Before Parliamentary Committees’. In May 1971, at a time of great public interest in the subject, I requested the Attorney-General to prepare a paper on the parliamentary committee system which would give particular attention to the constitutional position and the provision of guidelines for the protection of witnesses. The comprehensive paper I have just tabled was prepared by the Attorney in collaboration with the Solicitor-General.
Its purpose is to discuss the power of inquiry of committees appointed by Houses of the Parliament, and the rights and duties of witnesses appearing before those committees. The paper also considers whether there are any additional steps which might be taken to safeguard the interests of witnesses and of persons named in evidence before the committees. The Government has not yet had an opportunity to consider the position as disclosed by the paper or the suggestions made for possible changes. However, in view of the great importance of the subject, the Government has decided that the paper should now be tabled, so that it can be studied by members of the Parliament and the public. As I conclude, I want to express to the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General my appreciation, which I am sure will be shared by all who read the paper, of the comprehensiveness of the paper and of the very considerable amount of time, effort, skill and learning which has gone into its preparation.
Consideration resumed from 25 October (vide page 1963), on the motion: ‘That Clause 38 stand as printed’ and on the amendment moved thereto by Senator Wilkinson.
Senator Wilkinson’s amendment:
Clause 38, Sub-clause (1.), after paragraph (o) insert the following new paragraph: (oa) to formulate a detailed plan for operation by the Corporation, of a scheme to acquire and/or market the Australian wool clip and to report this plan to the Parliament within 6 months of the commencement of this Act; and
– When the Committee was interrupted last night I was replying to an amendment which had been moved by Senator Wilkinson on behalf of the Opposition to clause 38(l.)(o). The Opposition wants to insert a further paragraph which reads: (oa) to formulate a detailed plan for operation by the Corporation, of a scheme to acquire and/or market the Australian wool clip and to report this plan to the Parliament within 6 months of the commencement of this Act; and.
In reply to Senator Wilksinson’s comments I informed the Committee that under clause 38(l.)(o) of the Wool Industry Bill the Australian Wool Corporation is specifically empowered to inquire into and report on the methods of marketing the Australian wool clip. I went on to point out to the Committee that, as I mentioned in my second reading speech on the Bill, the Government will be looking to the Corporation to investigate the whole question of wool marketing and to prepare a detailed plan for a compulsory acquisition scheme clearly defined in all respects. I then said that providing a satisfactory and acceptable plan can be devised the Government is prepared to develop the necessary legislation in conjunction with the States. In regard to bringing back a prepared report of the plan within 6 months I pointed out that I was quite sure that the Corporation would give high priority to the preparation of a detailed acquisition plan. I went on to say that the Government considered, however, that it would not be proper to impose an arbitrary time limit on the Corporation to complete its task. I said that to do so would be to impose an undesirable condition on the Corporation which could hamper its investigations into this important matter and adversely affect the quality of its report.
I reminded the Committee that when this Bill was given Royal Assent a corporation would need to be formed which would be an amalgamation of the present Australian Wool Board and Australian Wool Commission. I thought that many of the men in those 2 bodies would have similar jobs in the new Corporation. There would be some men who would have to take up new positions. Of course, there would be the appointment of members to the Corporation itself. The Corporation would not only have to deal with the amalgamation but also it would have to continue with the wool selling schedules for the remainder of the wool selling season. At the same time it would have to continue its flexible reserve price scheme. I pointed out that I believe that that would be a major task. In addition, under clause 38(l.)(o) the corporation is to conduct an inquiry into the methods of marketing the Australian wool clip. If the corporation is to do what the Opposition is asking it to do, it will have to finalise a plan within 4 months or so because it will have to present it to the Minister for Primary Industry and to the Australian Wool Industry Conference before presenting it to Parliament. The Opposition is asking the Corporation to undertake a pretty impossible task if that is all to be done within 6 months.
– Also the Opposition does not want the members to be appointed until after the next election.
– 1 made reference to that in my reply. It must be recognised that a cumpulsory acquisition scheme embracing the total Australian wool clip can be implemented only through Commonwealth and State complementary legislation and that appropriate legislation can be drafted and considered only when a detailed plan for wool acquisition has been developed. So far - 1 made this point last night - no one has produced a detailed plan for the compulsory acquisition of the total Australian wool clip. I know it has been bandied about by the industry that all the information for the drawing up of an acquisition scheme is already in the hands of the Australian Wool Board and the Australian Wool Commission, but this is not so. I agree that there was a post Joint Organisation scheme in 1951, but that was not an acquisition proposal and dealt only with a fixed floor price scheme. Granted there was the Wool Marketing Committee of Inquiry, known as the Philp inquiry, in 1962, but that did not deal with a detailed plan for an acquisition scheme. Granted the Wool Board report of 1964-65 did submit certain proposals or suggest that there should be a wool acquisition scheme but, again, it did not submit any detailed plan for acquisition. I recognise that in 1965 proposals were put forward on which there was a referendum, but that also was not for an acquisition scheme; it was for a fixed reserve price scheme. At the request of the industry the Australian Wool Commission today is operating a flexible reserve price scheme at auction. So the details that have to be spelt out in an acquisition scheme have still to be put forward by someone. At the present time they are not available to the industry.
Senator Primmer in his reply last night said that these details are easy to determine and would take no time to finalise. But let us look at some of the issues that have to be covered in the preparation of a plan for a compulsory acquisition scheme which would embrace the whole of the Australian wool clip. At what point is the wool to be acquired first of all by the Corporation? There has been considerable argument about this. As I said to Senator Wilkinson last night, the Farmers Union of Western Australia Incorporated is suggesting that wool be acquired at the shed door on each producers’ property. However, there are other people who have other ideas on that. How will the wool be delivered to the Corporation? ft is all very well for those who sell through the auction sales because usually when this wool is sent for auction it is delivered direct to the brokers’ stores. But what happens to the woo! that is sold privately?
As Senator Wilkinson knows, well over 20 per cent of the wool clip in Western Australia is sold privately. Where is that wool to be delivered? What will bc the future role of the brokers, private traders and other commercial interests? No one has decided these points. What conditions are to apply for the registration of these interests to act as agents for the Corporation? The industry in its report has not made any detailed suggestions about this. What is to be the basis of appraising and valuing wool under an acquisition scheme? There has been no mention of that. To what extent will objective measurement be used in the evaluation of wool? Much has been said about objective measurement but no details have been given of the part that it will play in an acquisition scheme.
Most important of all, how are growers to be paid? ls there to be a single payment or a first payment followed by a final payment? What provision should there be for the arbitration of disputes over the appraisal and valuation of a grower’s clip? Although certain suggestions have been put forward there have been no decisions. What are to be the handling procedures in the stores? What amounts are to be deducted from grower’s accounts for handling, selling and so on? All these matters have to be decided. What methods are to be used in the disposal of the wool? Is it to be by auction? Is it to be by open tender? Is it to be by negotiated price? Is it to be at quoted prices, in other words, through an appraisement scheme? How are contracts for handling and transport operators to be arranged? Who will do this and how will it work? What is to be the stock holding policy of the Corporation? We had the situation late last season where the Australian Wool Commission held up to 930,000 bales. Its holding now is well down on this figure. How much is the Corporation to hold? How would the capital requirements for a total acquisition scheme be raised and how much would be needed? What should be the credit arrangements for the sale of wool? These are some of the matters which the Corporation members will have to look at and are the subjects on which the Corporation will be expected to provide detailed answers in its report to this Parliament.
Going back to what I said earlier, in view of the time that will elapse before assent is given to this Bill and the Corporation members are appointed; in view of the time lapse between their appointment and their taking up their respective positions; the time needed for the amalgamation of the Wool Board and the Wool Commission; the operation of the remainder of the wool sales and the flexible reserve price scheme; the investigation of those matters I have mentioned; the production of a report and its presentation to the Minister, to the Australian Wool
Industry Conference and finally to this Parliament; it would be asking too much of the Corporation to finalise its report within 6 months. I believe that it would not have time to produce the kind of report that the industry wants. All these matters have to evolve gradually. As I said when replying to the second reading debate, for the first time in its history the industry is in a position where it can see some stability in the future. If the Parliament allows the Corporation’s inquiries to develop naturally after its establishment, the Corporation will be able to work towards the situation that we all want and will have an acquisition scheme in operation. Therefore, I must oppose this amendment.
– I think we have talked about this Bill for long enough. We spent a couple of hours debating this question last night and I think that any reiteration of the arguments that I put forward would only bring the same reply from the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman) as I have already received. I think that the Minister very ably posed the questions which would be before the Corporation in making its inquiries. That is the sort of thing I would have anticipated the Corporation would do. I think the questions are very relevant but they are not questions which concern us at the moment except as the Minister pointed out, they would take some time to resolve. I am not concerned about whether they take some time but I think we could have a report within a reasonable time. That is where we disagree. I think that within 6 months the Corporation, in a report covering that period, could give a very good indication of the progress made.
Like the Minister, I did not stop thinking about this Bill when the Senate adjourned at 11 p.m. last night. I worried about our different approaches to it. I know that the Minister is just as concerned as I am about the wool industry. He is looking honestly at the industry as he and the Government see it, and I am looking honestly at the industry as I and many on the Opposition side see it. It seems to boil down to a fundamental point of view. I believe that this Bill gives a considerable amount of protection to the auction system, and also that the Government is prepared to accept the auction system as being the most reasonable way of disposing of the wool clip. I admit that for many years the auction system has been a very good means of moving our wool from the producer to the miller but latterly wool buyers have discovered ways of manipulating the auction system to their advantage and to the disadvantage of the producers. I believe that the auction system has gone far enough.
That is the main reason I am opposing this measure and asking the Committee to accept our amendment requesting inquiry into and urgent report on an acquisition scheme. I and many on my side believe that the auction system is not the sole way of disposing of wool. I do not expect the Minister to reply to the opinion I have expressed because he already has stated his position clearly. I think that the matter should be put to the vote.
– I do not wish to delay the Committee unduly, but during the course of my remarks last night when I mentioned the Australian Labor Party’s policy on acquisition some queries came from the Government side of the chamber about our plan. The Minister for Air (Senator DrakeBrockman) said that the ALP had no plan for the wool industry. Our shadow Minister for Primary Industry, Dr Patterson, issued a Press statement on this matter on 25th May 1972 which was widely publicised in the Press throughout Australia and among our primary industries especially those associated with the wool industry. I have spoken to many people in the wool industry who have agreed with our policy. For the information not only of the Senate but also of the public I take this opportunity to read our policy on the statutory authority and acquisition onto the Hansard record. It is as follows:
The following clauses provide an answer to what the Minister said about how we would finance an acquisition scheme, or how the Corporation would finance it if the amendments moved on behalf of the Labor Party were carried. These things are clearly set out in our policy as follows:
It can be clearly seen that the ALP has a constructive policy for the wool industry and, as I have said, it has been publicised throughout the length and breadth of Australia. Senator Wilkinson, in moving the amendments on behalf of the ALP, indicated our desire to try to improve this legislation. We are trying to write into it some of the things for which the wool industry has asked. They also are part and parcel of the policy of the Australian Country Party. I refer particularly to the acquisition of the. wool clip. In one of its recent pamphlets the Country Party set out as one of its main objectives, that the Party is to be a power base in Parliament to fight for country interests. Surely then the Country Party should support this amendment because it is here to look after the interests of primary producers. I am convinced that if we do not write this amendment into this Bill it will be a long time before this legislation comes back into the Parliament and before we can implement the policy on which the ALP and the Country Party agree. I say that because a statement along those lines was made last week at the Wagin show by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair). One of the points of the Country Party policy - it is similar to that of the ALP - is that it believes in orderly marketing of all primary products in order that more of the final sale price gets back to the producer. That is what the ALP has always stood for - that the middle man should be cut out and prevented from taking the cream off primary products. That is why we moved to have the words ‘or otherwise” inserted in clause 38 of the Bill and not have the wool industry restricted to the auction system. That amendment was rejected. I hope that members of tha Country Party, in their wisdom, will support this amendment which was put so ably by Senator Wilkinson who is leading for the Opposition in this debate.
– I wish to raise one matter concerning a clause of the Bill. Senator McLaren has just referred to Country Party attitude. He attempted to say on a number of occasions that the policy of the Australian Labor Party appears similar in some repects to that of the Country Party. The Country Party opposes this amendment which basically requires the presentation of a report within 6 months. It is demonstrated to be fallacious. Honourable senators who are engaged in the investigation of important matters through Senate Committees know that it is impossible to set a deadline for a report to be presented to this chamber. This has been demonstrated in the past. I was involved in the inquiry conducted by the Senate Select Committee on Off-Shore Petroleum Resources. It took some 4 years to complete. Senator O’Byrne knows that there was good reason why the investigation took so long.
In the last 2 or 3 days in this chamber chairman of the Senate committees have reported to the Senate that they regret they cannot bring final reports forward and have suggested that their committees be allowed a longer lime in which to complete their reports. Undoubtedly the same situation will arise in respect of the presentation of a report on the biggest industry in Australia. It is ridiculous for honourable senators, perhaps with little knowledge of this particular industry, to make the comments that we have heard from the previous speaker. I say ‘with little knowledge’ advisedly and I hope that honourable senators opposite do not take offence. It was a member of the Labour Party, Dr Patterson, who indicated that a conference held in Tasmania had absolutely no competence in this field. The conference to which he referred was the recent meeting of the Australian Labor Party Federal Executive held in Launceston. Dr Patterson is one of the Opposition’s leading spokesmen on primary production. Senator McLaren, who is trying to interject, knows this. Dr Patterson said in Tasmania that the conference held absolutely no competence to declare policy in relation to primary industry.
– That is not true. Who said this, Senator Webster?
- Dr Patterson said it. This matter has raised some dissension. I agree that Dr Patterson has some competence and I fully support the comments that he made in Tasmania. The honourable member Who spoke before me in this debate read out a list of the Australian Labor Party’s policies in relation to this Bill. I think that what the Labor Party really believes is expressed more concisely in one comment but, of course, it has not publicised that too widely. What the Labor Party believes in relation to every industry is the socialisation of production, distribution and exchange. When the average wool grower studies what socialisation of production means to him, he will find that it means that the Government will have control of his farm unit. His control will be eliminated. I think it would be more appropriate for Senator McLaren to expound his views along those 2 lines. I think I am really declaring what Labor Party policy is. I have expressed concisely Labor Party policy, which is the first thing which should be noted. In the course of the Committee debate, I wish to raise one matter which is removed from the ambit of this amendment. I will discuss it at the appropriate time.
– I am sorry that this debate has evolved in the way that it has this morning. Senator Wilkinson has given a clear indication that we on this side of the chamber do not wish to debate this amendment further to any great extent. But Senator Webster has made provocative statements. He is noted for these provocative statements which in substance have no basis whatsoever. Senator Webster is ashamed of his own Party’s policy on woo! acquisition. He has to justify that policy by making outrageous statements in the Committee about other political parties. Hu criticises the amendment but says, in effect, that the amendment is all right for a period of 6 months only. If the principle of the amendment is sound, surely, in the interests of the people who he is supposed to represent, Senator Webster would have moved a further amendment to provide for a period of 12 months or 18 months instead of 6 months.
– Would you have accepted that?
– In all probability we would have accepted the proposition if the argument had been a sound one. The Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman) this morning advanced a number of propositions why the proposal of the acquisition of the wool clip was not acceptable to the Government. The Minister has put to the Senate a number of propositions that will need investigation. Surely, the Minister and his colleagues have had long enough to do this. The Government should have brought forward positive proposals on it and should not need to come into this chamber to make excuses for the inactivity of the Government in this direction. After all is said and done, honourable senators opposite would say that Sir William Gunn is an authority in the wool industry. I have heard honourable senators opposite say this on more than one occasion. Sir William Gunn and his colleagues have said for years that there should be acquisition of the wool clip. The Opposition must be in good company on this occasion as our view is similar to that.
– But what sort of acquisition do you want introduced?
– It is for the Government to bring forward the policy on what sort of job should be done on the acquisition. It is a matter for Sir William Gunn who is one of the Government’s main supporters to tell it these things, lt is not for the Opposition to tell the Government. We have indicated what our policy is on this matter. But the Government just cannot brush our policy aside because of what somebody may have said at Launceston or anywhere else. The fact remains - and honourable senators opposite know it - that Dr Rex Patterson is accepted in all country areas as being the leading authority on rural matters.
– Ha, Ha!
– Senator Sim laughs. I wonder whether Senator Sim has ever been asked to become a member of the World Bank. This is what happened to Dr Patterson. I wonder whether any of us here - I do not include Senator Sim only - would offer to give up a position in the Public Service which attracts at the present time a salary of twice the amount that Dr Patterson is receiving. Surely that indicates to honourable senators that Dr Patterson has far greater ability than any honourable senator opposite. Dr Patterson would most certainly have far greater ability than Senator Little, the Collins Street woolgrower. He most certainly has greater ability in that direction than I would ever have. The Government will not accept the advice of its own authorities, including Sir William Gunn, so how can it be expected to accept any advice from the Parliament. I return to what I said last night. This Parliament is being bypassed in this most important issue. The proposition which has been advanced by Senator Wilkinson has the ingredients to bring back to the Parliament what is regarded as a most important principle so that the Parliament itself can determine whether this action is in the interests of wool growers and, indeed, the people of Australia. I am sorry that I have spoken again in this debate. I had no intention of doing so but when honourable senators opposite ridicule experts in this field, such as Dr Patterson, I wonder just where this Committee is heading. Senator Maunsell is now offering advice to Senator Webster. Senator Maunsell had better give him some advice as he is abysmally ignorant of the proposition as it stands at the present time.
– I say to Senator Milliner that it is just as well that I am a patient man. I say to Senator Wilkinson, who is leading the debate for the Opposition, that I think he has put a pretty fair case. I think he and I are on very similar ground, up to one point, and that is on the report having to be presented within 6 months. Senator Milliner talked about Parliament being bypassed. I say to Senator Wilkinson and Senator Milliner that when the Act is proclaimed the Australian Wool Board and the Australian Wool Commission will be wound up. A report will be presented to Parliament by each organisation for this financial year up to the date on which those 2 organisations are wound up. Each financial year these organisations have presented reports to Parliament. The reports will be for that part of the financial year from 1st July to the date on which they cease operating and will give an outline of their operations. A report will be presented after the end of the financial year by the Australian Wool Corporation outlining its operations from the time it commences operations until the end of the financial year. That report will be presented in a similar manner to reports which have been presented previously by the Australian Wool Board and the Australian Wool Commission.
How is Parliament being bypassed? There are only 8 months, at the outside, in the remainder of the financial year, and the Corporation will be presenting a report on its activities in the 7 or 8 months, depending on when the Act is proclaimed and when the Corporation begins to operate. So Parliament will be getting a report in about 6 months time. It will not be a final report on an acquisition scheme, but it will be a report on the operations of the Corporation in the remainder of this financial year. No doubt the Corporation will say what it has done during that time. I think we have met the situation by pro viding for that report to be presented. I agree with Senator Wilkinson that there is no further need to discuss the amendment. I think the Government, the Democratic Labor Party and the Opposition know where they stand. I suggest that we move to a vote on the amendment.
– When I spoke a few minutes ago I said to the Committee that I did not intend to take too much of its time. I sympathise with the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockrnan). I know that he wants to get this Bill through. Unfortunately, after I spoke - I thought I spoke in a quite rational manner in answering some of the things that were said last night - a Country Party senator who was not present during the debate last night challenged senators on this side, particularly myself. He saw fit to quote part of the Australian Labor Party’s policy on socialism. I will put the record straight again, as I had to do last night during the adjournment debate. I quote that part of the Labor Party’s platform which is headed ‘Objective’. It reads:
The democratic socialisation of industry, production, distribution and exchange - to the extent necessary to eliminate exploitation and other antisocial features in those Melds - in accordance with the principles of action, methods and progressive reforms set out in this platform.
Many honourable senators on the Government side often quote from this platform, so they must have read it. It ill behoves a person such as Senator Webster to quote a minute part of that platform.
The other thing that disturbed me was that he had the audacity to say that senator’s on this side of the chamber know nothing about the wool industry. He was referring to me in that context because I had spoken immediately before him. I remind Senator Webster that I know more about the wool industry than he will ever know. I was engaged in the pastoral industry as a shed hand and as a shearer from 1935 to 1961. I have shorn more sheep than Senator Webster has seen - and in every State. If Senator Webster and Senator Sim like to carry their challenges a little further, I am prepared to take on either of them at any time at yarding sheep from the paddock, getting them into the shed and going through each phase of the pastoral industry until the wool is put in the bale and taken out the shed door. If they can shear any number of sheep quicker than I can, I will donate $100 to their campaign fund. That is the challenge I throw out. Senators on this side know more about the wool industry than they do. We speak for all sides of the industry, not just from the standpoint of the wool grower who sells the wool. We speak from the standpoint of the people in the industry without whom the wool grower could not exist - the people who work the pastoral properties, the people who shear the sheep and the people who class the wool. We know more about the industry than do those people opposite who own sheep and sell wool for a living.
-I again ask the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman) - as far as I am aware he has not answered the question, which I asked last night - whether he will give an assurance that the Government will not act in haste and appoint the heads of the proposed Australian Wool Corporation prior to the Federal election on 2nd December. Would the Minister be prepared to answer that question?
– The answer is no.
That the words proposed to be Inserted (Senator Wilkinson’s amendment) be inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator Prowse)
Majority .. ..4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 39 agreed to.
Without limiting the generality of sub-section (4.) of section 20 of this Act, the powers of the Corporation include the power to -
– To this clause I shall be moving the last amendment which has been circulated in my name and which deals with the powers of the Corporation. Those powers are set out in paragraphs (a), (b), (c), (d), (e), (f) and (g) of the clause. The powers are comprehensive, but they do not authorise the Corporation to operate, if required, as an authority handling the acquisition of the Australian wool clip. It can do anything bar that. Without going into lengthy argument about this proposition, which involves simply adding a further power to the power of the Corporation, I move:
The inclusion of this provision in the legislation would not mean that the Corporation would be bound to implement an acquisition scheme. It would be empowered to do so only if, as a result of the report to the Parliament of an inquiry which will be held by it into the advisability of an approved acquisition marketing scheme being put into effect, the Corporation wished to carry out such a scheme. I hope the Senate appreciates the full implications of the acceptance of this amendment, I repeat that it would not bind the
Corporation to do anything at ail at this stage but would only authorise it to act in the event of an inquiry bringing down a report that it would be advantageous to the wool industry to do so.
– I rise to second the amendment moved by Senator Wilkinson. In supporting it I wish to say that from the Australian Labor Party’s point of view, as 1 said last night, any teeth that can be put into this Bill can only be of benefit to the wool industry. I believe that this is an attempt to put some teeth into it. In debates over the last 12 or 15 months and in questions I have suggested that the price of wool tends to peak just prior to a federal election. Anyone who goes back and searches through the Hansard record will find that the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman), who represents in this chamber the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair), has tended to disagree with my suggestion. With that in mind I had a table prepared on this subject by the Legislative Reference Service of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library. The purpose of the exercise was to prove or disprove my theory that wool prices tended to peak just prior to a federal election.
I have in front of me a table which combines an index of wool prices since 1951. with the corresponding dates of Australian federal elections. The index was calculated for each Sydney auction series, using 33 wool types which are a representative cross-section of the Australian clip as a whole. Clean on-the-floor prices were computed for each of these types from the completed catalogue details. The average is related to the corresponding average figure for the 1946-47 season as the base. The source of the information is given as ‘Australian wool sales statistics: analysis of Australian wool sold at auction in Australia in 1970-71’. I am not sure whether printing facilities would enable the graph which was prepared to be incorporated in the Hansard record. If they would, I shall seek permission to have the graph incorporated in Hansard. The graph shows that, with the exception of the House of Representatives election in 1969, the price of wool comparatively speaking either peaked just prior to an election or was on the way up at the time of an election. Mr Chair man, if it is possible to do so, I seek permission to incorporate the graph in Hansard.
– Is it a onepage graph?
– I would like to interpose at this stage with regard to the incorporation of the graph in Hansard. It has been ruled in the past that the Printing Office equipment is not geared to the printing of graphs of that sort in the daily edition of Hansard. In the past it has been ruled as not being practicable for graphs to be incorporated in Hansard.
– Very well; 1 will run through it rather quickly. The graph gives the position between 1951 and 1970. As I have said, the 1969 federal election was the only election time when the price of wool was going down. I have used the word ‘comparatively’. Of course the biggest peak of all was in 1951. The price of wool peaked just prior to the election in 1951. It was on the down on the day of the election. The same situation applied in 1954, 1955, 1958 and 1961, when the House of Representatives and Senate elections were conjoint, and at the 1963 House of Representatives election, the 1964 Senate election, the 1966 House of Representatives election, and the 1967 Senate election. As I said, prices were on the downgrade at the time of the 1969 House of Representatives election, but they peaked just prior to the 1970 Senate election. If Senator Hannan was present he would be able to confirm that, at the declaration of the poll in Melbourne after the 1970 Senate election, I happened to mention that I had this theory about wool prices. During that declaration of the poll he took me to task. I now have the pleasure of showing him that I was right. It is for these reasons that we of the Australian Labor Party believe that some kind of reform is necessary in the wool industry to take these tremendous rises and falls out of the market and also to prevent the buyers and brokers of this country using the price of wool to buy votes for the Liberal and Country Parties at every Federal election.
– The members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party have looked at the amendment which it is suggested be made to clause 40. We cannot seem to place it in its proper context in this category because this clause deals with the powers of the Corporation, lt seems to us that it is more intended - this is particularly so from what Senator Wilkinson said - to be a matter of inquiry rather than of actual operation. He has suggested that nothing would or could be done. As 1 see it, we have already dealt with what are the functions of the Corporation. Amonst those functions is outlined quite clearly in subclause (o) that the Corporation will: . . inquire into (whether alone or in cooperation with other authorities and organisations), . . .
That is the subclause with which we have just dealt, lt is suggested now that we place amongst the Corporation’s powers an added power that does not appear in thi Bill at the moment to make arrangements for the operation of an approved marketing scheme to acquire and/or market the Australian wool clip. If the Corporation were to make arrangements for the formation of an approved plan, that may be something and would carry with it a connotation that it would inquire and set out the general information as to what was available. But this clause is in regard to the operation of the scheme. It means in actual, practical effect that the Corporation is given the power to start the scheme going, and put it into actual operation. The amendment states that it is to be an approved marketing scheme. It does not define by whom it is to be approved.
I noticed that Senator Milliner’s hackles rose immediately when he read the amendment because he is already frightened that some of these things will not be referred back to the Parliament. I do not see anything in the amendment to suggest whether this has to he approved by Parliament, the Australian Woolgrowers’ and Graziers’ Council or any other body before the Corporation starts to make arrangements for the operation of whatever is to be approved. Because of this confusion alone, we do not see that the amendment adds any specific possibilities to the Bill. We feel that the power that the Corporation has as one of its functions under the clause that has been carried already - to inquire and to report back - gives it sufficient power at the moment to do the job of devising a logical, practical and acceptable scheme for the wool growers and for the States that must formulate a co-operative action towards any movement of this character. But to give the Corporation tha power to make arrangements for tha operation of an approved scheme without stating even by whom it would be approved is to us rather to confuse than to clarify the provisions of the Bill.
We think that the powers that the Corporation is granted in clause 40 of this proposed Act of Parliament are very wide powers to do almost anything in the interests of the objectives that have already been granted to it. They include the power to buy wool, to sell wool, to lease or purchase the property, to employ labour, to demolish or remove buildings and many other powers. All that is practical and logical. But to add a subclause such as that contained in the amendment at the end of the clause does not seem to us to be very practical. We wish to indicate that we could not support the amendment.
– Before the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman) replies, perhaps I might answer the matter raised by Senator Little. Perhaps the Minister can then reply to both of us at the same time. If Senator Little reads the amendment again he will see that the sub-clause that we are attempting to amend in clause 38 deals with the functions of the Corporation in relation to wool marketing.
– I pointed that out.
– I do not know whether the honourable senator actually understood that it dealt with functions. Clause 40 deals with the specific powers of the Corporation. The note alongside the clause says:
Specific powers of Corporation in relation to wool marketing.
If we look at the powers we see, as I said in introducing my amendment, that there are these ones to inspect and appraise wool, to buy wool at auction or otherwise, to sell wool the property of the Corporation and other powers included in subclauses (a) to (g). These are the powers that the Corporation is being given. To these we have suggested that there should also be added the power to make arrangements for the operation of an approved marketing scheme to acquire wool. Senator
Little asks what authority there will be for the Corporation to make the decision. I thought that I explained this quite sensibly in my reference to the results of the inquiry that will be made by the Corporation. Then we will determine whether or not we want an acquisition scheme. At this point when the decision has been reached by the Government - not by the Corporation because it only submits a report - the Corporation could then move ahead under the terms of our amendment and make arrangements for the operation of an approved acquisition scheme. I think that with that explanation the Minister will see just what it was that we were aiming at.
– I say in reply to Senator Primmer that if what he says is a fact I think we should have more Federal elections or that the wool growers would be glad to see more Federal elections. This amendment moved by the Australian Labor Party is consequential to the amendment with which we have just previously dealt.
– It is not.
– It is in my book. As Senator Little says, under clause 38(l.)(o) the Corporation has all sorts of powers to investigate, and make recommendations in regard to other matters.
– It has not got the power to act.
– I will come to this. In my second reading speech I tried to make it clear that under the Constitution the Commonwealth alone cannot legislate for compulsory acquisition of the wool clip. To grant the Corporation the power compulsorily to acquire the wool clip we would need the consent and complementary legislation of the States. If the word ‘acquisition’ were written into this clause 40, what would it mean?
It would not mean anything because under clause 38 (1.) (o) the Corporation can already investigate and recommend an acquisition scheme. I hope that it will do so. Then it takes that recommendation to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) and at the same time to the Australian Wool Industry Conference. The Australian Wool Industry Conference will examine it and if it is acceptable to the Conference it will then indicate this to the Minister. The Minister will then put the plan before the Australian Agricultural Council where the Minister for Primary Industry and all the State Ministers for agriculture will examine it. If it is acceptable to them the Commonwealth will draw up legislation and the States will by that time, through their respective Ministers, promise complementary legislation. That is how there would be an acquisition scheme.
But if the word ‘acquisition’ were written into this clause it would be ineffective because the Commonwealth just has not got the power to acquire. So it would be meaningless. It could give an indication to the Corporation. But 1 am sure that those members who are appointed to it will read very carefully the debates both in another place and in the Senate and study what members of Parliament have had to say. They should then obtain a clear indication that an acquisition scheme is required. I must come back to what was said in the second reading speech. It is that under the Constitution the Commonwealth does not have the power to acquire the clip compulsorily unless it has the consent and complementary legislation of the States.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Wilkinson’s amendment) be added.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator Prowse)
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of Bill - by leave - taken as a whole.
– I want to refer to one matter in this Bill which has caused me concern. Clause 89 of the Bill reads:
Where a member, or a deputy of a member, of the Corporation or of the Authority, or a member of a committee established under this Act, is also a member of, or is a candidate for election to, the Parliament of the Commonwealth or of a State, he shall not be paid any remuneration or allowances provided for by this Act, but shall be reimbursed such expenses as he reasonably incurs as a member, or as the deputy of a member, of the Corporation or of the Authority or as a member of the committee, as the case may be.
Does this visualise that politicians can be appointed as members of the Australian Wool Corporation? I think there was some suggestion that the Corporation could be rigged. Possibly this question should have been raised under clause 8. The Corporation is to consist of 9 members, of whom 4 will represent the wool growers. The Chairman is to be appointed by the Minister, one other member is to be appointed by the Government and 3 other members are appointed by the Minister. As I say, 4 members will represent wool growers, but the Government will keep control of the Corporation because it will appoint the Chairman and 4 other members. Under clause 89 we can see some possibility of a politically dominated Corporation. It could be dominated by politicians in order to bring it under Government control, in which case it will not, of necessity, be an independent organisation. Is it intended, under clause 89, to appoint politicians to the Corporation?
– Under clause 89 it is possible for a member of Parliament–
– What about exmembers?
– They would not be members of Parliament. It is possible for a member of Parliament to be appointed to the Corporation, but it is unlikely. A similar clause is in the Australian Wool Commission Act and the Australian Wool Board Act and, as honourable senators know, this Bill provides for the amalgamation of those 2 bodies into the Australian Wool Corporation. A clause similar to clause 89 is in all legislation applying to statutory bodies, so there is nothing unusual about it.
– I rise to make a few comments on clause 89 rather than to make them at the third reading stage. I refer to a remark which the Minister made last night. Referring to me he said:
Quite obviously the honourable senator wants the membership of the Corporation to be rigged.
I think that perhaps the Minister said that in the heat of the moment. I really do not think he thought that I wanted the Corporation to be rigged. He went on to say:
Quite obviously he does not want the wool industry to get on. Quite obviously he does not want the Corporation to do the job which the industry hopes it will do.
I think that the Minister, on reflection or on reading Hansard, will see that right throughout the course of my remarks I was expressing the concern of the industry as well as of myself at the fact that the Minister had power to appoint the greatest number of members of the Corporation. Under one clause the Corporation itself has power to appoint 3 members. The opinion I was expressing was the opinion of the industry itself that the Minister may appoint these members before the 1972 general election and then, should there be a change of government, there would be no way except by expiration of time - in one instance, 5 years; and in another, 3 years - by which those members could be replaced by the new government. This was the concern which I was expressing on behalf of the industry and the members of the Opposition. I hope that the Minister, on reflecting on these remarks, will not believe that I wanted the Corporation to be stacked. That was not my thought at all.
– If Senator McLaren thinks that I have damaged him in any way, I apologise to him. All I am concerned about is the fact that a large proportion of the industry is asking for the implementation of an acquisition scheme as soon as possible. The Government believes that, it having set up the Corporation, this scheme can evolve.I think the industry would be very sceptical of this Government holding up the appointment of the members of the Corporation, which would mean holding up the examination of a marketing plan.I think that we, as a government and as a Parliament, would be criticised for doing such a thing. That is the part of the honourable senator’s comments to which I objected.
Remainder of Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator DrakeBrockman) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 17th October (vide page 1573), on motion by Senator Drake-Brockman:
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.
Sitting suspended from 12.44 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from 18 October (vide page 1606), on motion by Senator DrakeBrockman:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The States Grants (Fruit-growing Reconstruction) Bill and the Apple and Pear Stabilization Bill relate to the canned fruit industry and the apple and pear industry. The 2 Bills are more or less com plementary. In the other place they were debated together and, at the Committee stage, taken separately. Perhaps it might be convenient if we follow the same practice here?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senatot Prowse) - Is leave granted? There being no objection I will allow that course to be followed.
– I will deal first with the States Grants (Fruit-growing Reconstruction) Bill which relates to an agreement between the Commonwealth and one or more of the States in respect of a scheme to provide assistance to persons engaged in fruit growing. In the parlance of the industry this Bill is called the treepull Bill. It brings into full focus the tragedy of the apple and pear industry which is fighting a doomed rearguard action. This is a makeshift measure, which, if pursued, inevitably will end in the total collapse of the industry. The industry is bearing the full brunt of inflation, high shipping costs, vagaries of sterling devaluation, strong competition from South Africa which was advantaged as a result of the sterling devaluation, quite strong competition from New Zealand and, of course, a loss of previous markets as a result of the European Economic Community arrangements. Not only that, but the future seems even more desperate because of the effects that will come when Britain enters the Common Market.
I think most people realise that in the industry there has been a long decline over a number of years. The situation is now becoming quite clear. I am speaking for Tasmanian orchardists who, year by year, have seen their industry become less and less viable. This tree-pull scheme is a negative approach in that over the years these farmers have produced a product which is world renowned. When we speak of Tasmania we speak of apples. Also we have been able to produce very high quality pears. But apples are by far the most important sector of our orchard industry. It is felt in Tasmania - as it is in other States to which I will refer later - that this scheme does nothing to get to the basic cause of the problems. I mentioned inflation. The orchardists seem to be at the tail end of the inflationary process. They have no redress along the line whereas some other people have gained from inflation. Many people have made fortunes through inflation. Many profitable industries in other categories over the years have been bought out on the inflated price level. Unfortunately the profits have been syphoned off overseas. These people must be thankful for inflation. But the orchardist is one of the worst sufferers because of the costs involved - through inflated prices - for his sprays, equipment and other requirements for the production of fruit. Part 1 of the Schedule of the Bill provides the conditions and eligibility for assistance, lt states: l.l A fruit-growing industry will qualify for financial assistance under the Scheme -
This means that the orchard has to be in full production with mature trees. This part of the schedule also provides:
The condition in that sub-paragraph is that there is a chronic over-supply of the commodity. We live in an area of Asia and, geographically, we must more and more direct our thinking to this area. Our future economically as well as in other ways is irrevocably tied up with the future of Asia. As has been quoted so often, in this area there are over 1,000 million people. Many of them are underfed, undernourished and in need of a better balanced diet. It seems incongruous that we are embarking on such a negative policy, that we have to pull down and reduce the provision of something which has been considered an important part of man’s diet. The conditions attached to the schedule for eligibility show that a grower must be predominantly a horticulturist who is in severe financial difficulties and who intends to clear-fell his orchard and leave the fruit growing industry. This is a rather ambiguous condition because ‘severe financial difficulties’ means that a man is financially bankrupt or in such a condition that he will not be able to carry on in the industry and he intends to clear-fell his orchard and leave the fruitgrowing industry altogether.
From my reading of the Bill there does not seem to be any specific line of demarcation as to what this really means. If there is to be a means test, what is the financial level at which a man will be classified as being in severe financial difficulties? If he is in severe financial difficulties, why would he want to clear-fell his orchard, leave the fruit growing industry and move into another primary industry? After all, the nature of the soil chosen for orcharding has limitations and is not readily adaptable to many forms of pastoral production. It would appear that a grower who is in severe financial difficulties and intends to clear-fell his orchard and leave the fruit growing industry, would be eligible for assistance within the terms of this very important requirement.
The Bill further states that a grower will be eligible to apply for assistance if the Authority is satisfied that he does not have adequate resources, unless he receives assistance, to withstand the short term effects on his economic viability of removing trees. He is eligible also if a surplus of the horticultural commodity - apples or pears - is threatening the long term viability of his property, and if in the opinion of the Authority the enterprise has sound prospects of long term commercial viability after removal of the surplus trees, taking into account other potential use of the land. This is a very difficult provision to interpret in view of the particular nature of orchard land. Somewhere there has to be an economic genius or an agricultural officer of tremendous wisdom who can make the decision on whether any farmland has sound prospects of long term commercial viability after the removal of surplus trees.
I have wilh me a communication from the Apple and Pear Growers Federation of Tasmania. The Federation puts up quite a strong case for a Tasmanian fruit industry authority. Knowing the nature of the industry very thoroughly, and understanding it very well, the Federation has said that because of the need for urgent action there will have to be widespread grubbing of orchards at the conclusion of the present harvest. It estimated that as a result production in the 1973 season would be reduced to 70 per cent of its present volume and in 1974 to no more than 50 per cent of its present volume. The Federation’s great worry is that, with these greatly reduced quantities, servicing of industry requirements will be more difficult economically and there could be serious problems in arranging satisfactory shipping programmes. The Apple and Pear Growers Federation is alarmed that governments are going to all lengths to assist other new industries at a time when Tasmania is faced with the loss of one of its biggest and, in the past, best agricultural industries.
The Federation points out, as I have said before, the economic circumstances and competitive conditions overseas make it imperative to establish an Authority if fruit growing is to continue as a major industry in Tasmania and if Tasmanian growers are to have any chance of competing satisfactorily with New Zealand and South Africa on overseas markets. The Federation believes that this is only the first step in a long process. The setting up of this authority is considered to be essential so that the industry can be properly assessed and all possible efforts can be made to get the industry into the Japanese and other Asian markets. The Federation believes that, despite the problems involved in the apple and pear industry, there is an urgent need for special consideration over and above the present measures that are being introduced - that is, loans and stabilisation schemes and the present tree pull scheme - and that this Authority should be responsible for the export of all apples. It believes that without the Authority, the Tasmanian industry would not be able to survive, lt is of interest that in this morning’s Melbourne ‘Sun’ under the heading Angry growers left waiting’ an article stated:
The Rural Finance Commission office at Shepparton opened for business as usual yesterday.
But later in the morning a deputation of angry orchardists found the staff had all gone.
The growers met outside the State Government offices in Wellford Street at 10 a.m. and were advised by Federal . . . candidate Mr John Riordan about the tree pull scheme.
Later, the growers decided to visit the RFC office on the first floor of the State building, but the caretaker stopped them.
I am quoting this report because the growers are very angry about this scheme. The report continues:
The growers, many of them soldier settlers from the Invergordon area and migrants from Shepparton properties, are annoyed over offers made by the Commission under the tree pull scheme.
Growers were first told that they would be given $500 an acre to pull out fruit trees to halt overproduction.
Applicants have been offered as low as $100 per acre.
Soldier-settler growers have been told that any compensation they get must be returned to the Soldier Settlers Commission as payment off their properties.
Of 122 applicants only one so far has accepted the Commission’s offer.
This is an illustration of the feeling towards this legislation throughout the whole of this industry because of the fear that only disappointment, frustration and heartache lies in front of the people engaged in it. I move:
It is the Opposition’s view, having mentioned that there will be many anomalies and difficulties to iron out in this scheme, some of which are already noticeable, that the 12 months period will not be sufficient. I admit that there are provisions in the Bill whereby reviews can be made. Clause 16 (1.) of the Schedule to the Bill provides:
The operation of the Scheme in relation to all of the States will be reviewed from time to time as appropriate by the Commonwealth and the States in the light of experience in its administration.
A period of 12 months is insufficient for all the assessments to be made in an exercise as far reaching and as final as the grubbing out of an orchard which has taken so long to mature and having regard to all the care and the basic investment involved, and because of the various fertilisers, the pruning, and the spraying that have been necessary. Therefore we feel that further time should be made available to see whether this scheme will work, whether it will be of advantage to the growers and so that all the difficulties can be ironed out in the process.
The details of the scheme were outlined in the second reading speech of the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman).
They were fairly widely debated in another place and I think it is sufficient for us to draw attention to the desperate plight of the apple and pear industry in Tasmania as well as to the great difficulties obtaining in South Australia in regard to citrus fruits. However the citrus fruit industry is not so much concerned as is the apple and pear industry and the canned fruits industry.
It was announced this morning that there is to be further devaluation of sterling. This will add another straw to the already staggering load on the back of the apple and pear industry. The devaluation of the South African rand against sterling of approximately 12.4 per cent in November 1971, when the Australian dollar was divorced from its traditional ties with sterling and revalued at approximately 8 per cent against the United States dollar, has given the South African industry a most significant price advantage against Australia in the market place. This morning’s decision by Britain to allow another sterling devaluation will compound the problem of the industry and reduce it to a level of almost complete despair. The whole position is very fluid.
The apple and pear industry has built up a tradition throughout the world. As I said earlier, if we speak of Tasmania, we speak of apples, lt is an industry in which our people have taken great pride. I can leave it to honourable senators from Victoria to speak of the great fruit industry that has been built up in that State and the great credit that the growers have brought to Australia because of the quality of the fruit they have exported.
This Bill is only an improvisation. Theri is nothing positive in it to give viability to this great industry. As requested in our amendment, we. think that more time should be allowed. A lot more humanitarianism and sympathy should be shown to these people who feel that the compensation is insufficient and that their future prospects in any alternative section of agriculture are not too bright either. We hope that the Government will see fit to extend the period of time in which this scheme is to operate. We hope that the people chosen to make the valuations will consider not only the straight out value of the fruit trees but also the hard work, the sweat and the toil that these great people have put into this industry and have built up. Now through no fault of their own they are finding that all their work is going for nought. I support the amendment.
– The alleged purpose of this Bill is to alleviate the adverse circumstances in which growers in the apple, pear and peach industries of Australia find themselves at the moment. I use the word ‘alleged’ because I see nothing in the Bill which will contribute to the alleviation of their circumstances. We of the Democratic Labor Party appreciate that the Bill is the result of agreement between the States and the Commonwealth and that any deviation from it would probably lead to a renegotiation with the States before anything could be done. There seems little possibility that this Bill in itself will offer any relief to anybody. It represents probably the greatest deception that the people in the industry have ever had practised against them. The Government gave them some hope when hope had practically gone; but in fact the hopes built up as a result of promises outlined in this legislation have been taken away because of the way in which the terms of the Bill are to be applied.
We would have no hesitation in throwing this Bill out if we thought that by doing so we could achieve anything. However there could be the accidental possibility that it could benefit one person. Wo recognise that nobody is forced to place himself in the position in which he will be placed if this Bill becomes the law of the Commonwealth. Those who would be injured by being involved in the scheme can avoid it by not making application. For that reason alone we adopt the attitude that we will not oppose the second reading of the Bill but that, like the Australian Labor Party, we will move some amendments expressing in no uncertain terms the shortcomings of the Bill and the points in it which we believe should be renegotiated with the States to achieve the stated objective, set out by the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman) in his second reading speech, of the people concerned in this industry being re-employed so that they can use their resources.
Paragraph 2.2 of Part ll of the Schedule, headed ‘Assistance’, provides:
The maximum rate of assistance will be S500 per acre for canning peaches and canning pears and $350 per acre for fresh apples and fresh pears.
That is completely misleading. Nobody in the industry would be likely to make an application for such sums under the terms of the Bill. If they had sufficient equipment to make their orchard a viable prospect they would reduce immediately the amount of compensation that would be payable to them under the terms of this Bill to far less than the figures stated therein. The figures are purely illusory ones that mean nothing at all other than a false hope. This has caused many producers not to spray their orchards, to prune their orchards or to fertilise their orchards because they dream that the circumstances outlined in that clause of the Bill may be circumstances which would be applicable to them. Upon application, producers in the State which I represent - the State of Victoria - are receiving replies from the Rural Finance Settlement Commission that show quite clearly that those figures are completely misleading and that practically nobody will be eligible to benefit to the extent provided for in the Bill.
The general situation seems to be that instead of the growers receiving $500 an acre for the destruction of trees - in many instances they have taken 10 years to reach potential commercial production and it will be 6 years before they again produce anything - they will receive on average $100 per acre, and not $500 an acre at all. I wish to quote from the reply received by one person who did not understand the provisions of this Bill and who made an application under the proposed scheme. 1 quote in part the correspondence that he received:
The Commission now offers you as compensation an amount of S3, 390 for the removal of 33.3 acres of peaches.
One does not need to be a mathematical genius to work out that that payment in respect of his trees represents $100 an acre and not $500 an acre. That letter continues:
The Compensation in your case has been determined having regard to the overall value of your assets and the requirement of the proposed legisla tion that the Commission apply a means test before determining the final amount that can be offered.
I interpolate that the payment of $3,390 is subject to a further condition. The letter states:
This figure of $3,390 will be conditional upon you surrendering your 30 shares in Kyabram, 63 shares in Ardmona and 89 shares in Iiic Shepparton Preservng Companies to the Commission.
For the information of honourable senators, those shares are valued at the moment for the purpose of probate at $3 each. There is nothing in the Bill to suggest that conditions of that sort will be applied.
The grower in question does not need to surrender those shares to the Commission. If he wishes, he can keep them or sell them to somebody else. In that event, the compensation of $3,390 will be reduced because the Commission wilt maintain that his assets are greater than they appeared to be or greater than the valuation on which the assessment has been made for compensation purposes. I would have thought that if these conditions were to apply at least some inkling would have drifted through to the industry itself to indicate that the assistance which was to be offered and which was so widely publicised would be along those lines and not along the lines which deceived some growers into not preparing their orchards at all for production this year.
Those growers who relied heavily upon the scheme because their situations were the most desperate are the ones who will be most harshly hit by this legislation. It is not surprising that an angry gathering of growers engaged in the industry was held in Shepparton yesterday at which further information was sought because the full impact of the application of this scheme still has not yet reached the majority of growers. I suggest to the Government that if it was not aware of how State authorities would interpret the terms of the Bill and the agreement, the Commonwealth as the authority to administer the legislation should put into operation the provisions which I have read to the Senate.
The person to whom the correspondence that 1 have just quoted was sent is in no position to accept what he has been offered. His property is heavily in debt.
Many of the properties in the areas involved were financed through the war service land settlement scheme. In many circumstances, the property owners owe more than has been offered to them to pull out their trees. Virtually, they would be required to abandon their properties and be left with nothing at all. The object of the scheme is to reduce productivity and over-production in order to reduce the production to a level to meet the needs of the available markets that exist at this time.
Another provision - I believe it is a wrong provision - in this Bill is that in order to obtain any incentive to pull his trees an orchardist must be engaged full time in the industry, and have no interests in other industries. In this field there are many people who are mainly sustained by other rural activities, for example dairying, and have a small proportion of their land allotted to the growing of these fruits, more or less as a sideline or as a profitable hobby, if we may describe it as that. Those growers are offered nothing at all to pull their trees. They are not eligible to enter into the scheme in any way whatsoever and they must remain as producers in the industry.
The whole objective of the Bill itself is to devise a scheme that will reduce the productivity in the area involved and make the industry a viable proposition for those who are interested in it. Yet there is no attempt to offer some compensation to those who are not dependent on the orchards for their total sustenance. No provision is made for growers to leave the industry with some reasonable compensation for what they have invested in it. The part-time growers who are not dependent upon their orchards at all can aggravate the circumstances of the industry, including over-production, whereas thi; man who is totally dependent upon fruit is offered payment that will in no way compensate him for moving out to leave those who remain in a viable position. Taking an extreme example, one could almost see all of the part-timers remaining, all of the orchardists gone and there existing an inefficient and incompetent industry unable even to meet the demands from abroad, if the scheme in itself were successful.
Even if the rates which are being offered under this scheme by agreement with the States to get people to pull their trees had been acceptable, the scheme is based on a wrong principle. The principle should have been initially to get rid of those who were engaged in the industry on a part-time basis and who already had expertise in some other type of production such as dairying. Instead of that, we have a scheme under which the expert orchardist will be required to learn completely all facets of another type of industry if he is to expect even reasonable compensation for the pulling of his trees and abandonment of the industry to those who remain in it.
As I have said, reluctantly we will not oppose the second reading of this Bill because maybe somebody who has not approached us will benefit from its provisions. Everybody who has approached us certainly is on the receiving end of the worst provisions of this scheme. There are newspaper reports today of one person who has actually accepted the offers that have been made by the Government. Whether he has been driven to such a state of desperation that he intends to abandon everything and get out of the industry anyway I am not in a position to say. Our amendment reads:
At end of motion add: ‘, but the Senate is of the opinion that
consideration should be given by the Government to extending eligibility, for compensation to rural producers who are merely supplementing other inadequate rural income by apple and pear production but whose production is helping to create or aggravate the current overproduction of apples and pears;
(a) that the test ot eligibility should be “financial hardship” not . financial difficulties” as recited in 1.3 (a) of the Schedule, (b) that there should be a specification of the term “adequate resources” in monetary terms that should not be excessively low; and
that the Commonwealth approach the States with a view to a renegotiation of the Agreement to embody the principles sci out herein.’
We accept and support the amendment that has been moved by the Opposition, as it implies a valid criticism of the Bill and would provide an amelioration of its provisions as to time. We agree wholeheartedly with the Opposition that the dates set out in the Schedule are far too restrictive. The
Opposition, in its amendment, is conscious of the need only to express opinions on the matter. The legislation is the result of a Commonwealth-State agreement, and any successful attempt to alter it without consultation with the States must mean the end of the legislation.
I believe that the whole matter has been bungled by the governments concerned, particularly the Commonwealth Government. I agree with the sentiments expressed by Senator O’Byrne when he drew attention to the fact that today the world lacks food for its inhabitants. Australia has been through a phase in which it has limited wheat production and has discouraged - and is still discouraging - maximum production of dairy products. Yet today throughout the world there is a market for dairy products in excess of what the dairy industry is producing. At the appropriate time I will have plenty to say about the restrictions that have been forced upon the Victorian dairy industry, allegedly in the interests of marketing, when every day the industry is knocking back overseas customers who wish to buy Australian dairy products, particularly Victorian dairy products, that are not now being produced because of government enactment. The philosophy that Australia, because of a set of circumstances in an industry such as this and because of changed circumstances in its traditional markets - the markets of Great Britain and Europe in particular, due to the circumstances associated with Britain’s entry into the European Common Market - should abandon all hope and think merely in terms of destroying its present industries is entirely wrong.
Vast new markets are opening up to this country. We may have to be more adaptable. I Have spoken on this matter previously. I think that what we need at a governmental and departmental level is perhaps a little imagination as well as practical common sense. Throughout Asia, due to our assistance and the assistance of other countries, the economies of many of the so-called emerging nations are changing just as rapidly as our trading circumstances in Europe are changing because of Britain’s entry into the Common Market. Those nations can afford to trade more internationally and they are developing huge export complexes which are run under most efficient circumstances and which we cannot expect to match at this point of time because they are starting off with a clean sheet in the building of entirely new industries. It is a challenge to our footwear industry and many other industries. We are not getting the reciprocal trade in primary industries that we could very well expect. There are very cogent reasons for this. I do not believe that a pear grower at Shepparton can hie off to Asia and find out precisely what he needs to do to meet the challenge of the new markets that are ready and waiting for the taking, but I believe that the Commonwealth Government has the responsibility to do so. Through its trade commissioners, it is trying to discharge its responsibility, to some extent.
Although the legislation has the purpose of destroying our capacity to produce the traditional fruits that were popular in the very worthwhile European markets which we have established in the century or so of our history and development, there is no attempt by the Commonwealth to have a team of experts offer, as well as compensation for pulling out some trees which would seem to be redundant because we cannot sell the product, money to enable growers to plant other trees which will produce fruit that will be popular in the Asian markets. Because of pressure of circumstances at the moment, no fruit grower from Shepparton could go to Asia and study the Asian markets. As a politician who has been sent on various missions to Asian countries, I have purchased fruits in the local markets in places such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Bangkok. There is an enormous demand for litchis and longarms. The only time we come in contact with those fruits in this country is when we see cans of them or when we see them in Chinese restaurants. In terms of our currency, they sell at prices in excess of the prices at which we are selling our pears, peaches and apples. Asian people not only want to buy them but have the money to buy them. They are frustrated in the off seasons because those fruits are not available to them fresh. Yet our seasons are the opposite. If we developed the industries here, when the local fruits were not fresh on the markets in Asia, Australian orchards could supply the fresh fruits to the Asian markets. Can we expect the Shepparton pear grower suddenly to know what is involved? I do not know what is involved. I have bought litchis in the market places in Asia. But I do not know how long the trees take to bear profitably; nor do I know the climatic circumstances required, although 1 am assured by Asians that the trees will flourish and will produce excellently in this country. I understand that we do produce a few Iitchis, but not in commercial quantities and certainly not for export.
The Democratic Labor Party offers to the Government these ideas: Would it not be logical for the Commonwealth Government, if it is prepared to foot the bill of some millions of dollars to help the fruit growers - it is not the §60m that the Commonwealth puts aside in respect of wheat or wool or anything like that, and that is a very contentious matter with the fruit growers - to provide a sum of money to enable them to get the necessary information and advice as to whether and, if so, where and how there are possibilities for the growing of even the limited range of fruits which I, as an ordinary individual, can walk around the market places of Asia and observe the people buying and enjoying and which I know are the most popular fruits? The people there do not buy our pears. We may think that because we have developed a palate for pears we have only to sell them the idea of liking pears and they will buy pears. But we cannot sell people a new habit. These are the fruits that the people there like. I admit that I like them, too. I do not see any reason why there could not be a big home market for them. If we study the background of our country we find that very little or nothing at all was here when the white settlers came, lt was only natural that, when they developed orchards and when they grew the new grasses that were necessary as pastures for cattle and other stock, they should use ideas from their homelands and trade on and cater for those markets.
But now we are faced with the challenge of an entirely different set of circumstances. But there are insufficient people in Australia and its immediate vicinity who have a liking for those items for which the demand is dwindling. Therefore, we will have to develop new ideas and concepts.
Before the Government even entertained the idea of pulling out trees it should have set in motion machinery which would offer to those people who are being told to seek an alternative a reasonable alternative to which they could aspire with some hope for the future. It may well be that some of the larger orchardists can afford to get rid of a percentage of their fruit trees and even carry them for 5 or 10 years in the hope of the development of a new market, but the smaller ones could not. It should not be left to individuals, as it is at present, to find alternative markets. I believe that one individual in Australia is at present exporting to Asia a type of pear which is becoming popular in Asia but which was not previously known of there. The leaving of it to an individual to do so will not be enough to cope with the emergency facing this country.
At the moment we are going through a very dangerous period of laissez-faire. We negotiated with the United Kingdom a postponement of some of the worst things that could happen to us as a result of her entering into the European Economic Community and just sat back in the traces. We have obtained precious years of breathing space. We should be utilising them to the fullest extent. What are we doing instead? We are introducing legislation which has as its sole purpose and objective the buying out of people engaged in fruit production. In doing so we are not offering reasonable compensation.
No consideration has been given to the prospect of the production of an alternative crop. There are alternative crops for which there is a demand. Inside 10 years, if we are successful in helping to assist the emerging nations, the demand for these alternative crops will grow enormously It could well be that in 20 years time, if a little imagination and vision is shown, Australia may be exporting, in terms of tons, three or four times more in litchis than we are hopeful of exporting in apples and pears. But one has to start somewhere and it cannot be left to an individual to do the starting because too much expertise is required. Only the Commonwealth Government would be in a position to provide that expertise. Perhaps what I am saying is only a wild dream. Perhaps it may not be possible to do so. But there seems to be a prima facie case for saying that this is worthy of consideration.
So many things have been said to me about this legislation by the fruit growers in the area to which I have referred. They are now finding out that the provisions of the Schedule to the Bill are almost nonsensical. Their complaints have been mainly about the provisions referred to in the amendment that has been circulated in my name. Part 1.1 (a) of the Schedule refers to the grower who is predominantly a hor.ticulturalist who is in severe financial difficulties and intends to clear-fell his orchard. What are ‘severe financial difficulties’? I understand ‘financial difficulties’ to be the stage one gets to when one is doubtful about whether one can pay not one’s overdraft but the interest on it. I understand ‘severe financial difficulties’ to be when one has no hope at all. Do growers have to be in that position before they can be helped to reconstruct their industry? If they are in that position what is the good of helping them as they are done - they are finished. 1 believe that the word severe’ must have been inadvertently included. it will be the State authorities who will be interpreting these provisions. 1 quoted a letter from the Rural Finance Corporation of Victoria to a hardy grower who had the temerity to apply for assistance. He thought so much of the reply he received that he immediately despatched it to me. He did not want it any more. He has no intention whatsoever of availing himself of what has been offered. The Schedule goes on to refer to a grower who does not have adequate resources to withstand the short term effects on his economic viability of removing the trees without assistance. I have suggested in the amendment I have circulated that there should be a specification of the term ‘adequate resources’ in monetary terms. I have done so because the authorities in the various States can place a different interpretation upon the legislation. By ‘authority’ 1 mean that body in a State which has responsibility for the administration of these things. I have already seen 2 letters on this aspect. One said: ‘If you have property to the value of 810,000 you are out’ and the other referred to a figure of Si 5,000. Both letters happened to come from the one State.
Apparently one fellow inadvertently included his tractor as a part of his assets. That may have made the difference in the evaluation.
The Democratic Labor Party has never been so disappointed with a piece of legislation as it has been with this Bill, ft has never seen a piece of legislation that it has felt would be so ineffective in achieving the objective it set out to achieve - that is, of getting rid of some trees of a particular character in areas of over production - than this Bill. The only other matter I want to mention is about the fact that if applications made in accordance with the Bill as it now stands are rejected by a State authority the people whose applications are rejected have recourse to appeal to the same State authority as the one which rejected their applications. That is wrong. In principle there should be the right of appeal to an independent tribunal which has not already considered such an application. If a person whose application has been rejected wants to appeal against the rejection there should be some provision whereby he can appeal to a body other than which rejected his application. That is especially so in the case of a person who seeks to get what he thinks is a reasonable amount to compensate him for having to sacrifice the way of life which has been his way of life for many years. 1 do not believe that it is necessary for me to say any more in support >f the amendment I have circulated. I have had no thoughts at all as to whether my amendment should be tacked on to the amendment moved by the official Opposition or whether it should be given precedence over it. 1 do not think it matters very much. Paragraphs (2) and (3) of my proposed amendment deal with similar matters to those contained in the amendment of the Opposition. It would probably be better if we were to agree among ourselves as to what practice should be adopted. 1 would need some guidance as to how to achieve my aim. Perhaps paragraph (1) of my proposed amendment should be the first part of an amendment combining the terms of the Opposition’s amendment and the terms of my proposed amendment. The second part of my proposed amendment and the whole of the Opposition’s amendment deal with provisions which are already contained in the present Bill, whereas the first part of my proposed amendment deals with something which has been completely overlooked by the Government but which is in accordance with the principles it has laid down about people who are engaged in the part time production of apples and pears and who have other means of income. 1 have no doubt that it will be possible to organise an amendment on acceptable lines before it is necessary to take a vote on this legislation. On behalf of the Australian Democratic Labor Party, 1 move the amendment which has been circulated in my name.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - You may not move an amendment at this stage, Senator Little, but you may foreshadow an amendment.
– 1 foreshadow the amendment which has been circulated in my name.
– The importance of this legislation can be gauged from the fact that the last 2 speakers in the debate took just on an hour between them to express their views on it. 1 should imagine that the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman), who is responsible for the passage of this legislation through this chamber, would not be very unhappy if a supporter of the Government were to take the same amount of time, i see that he in nodding his head in agreement. However, I would point out that this legislation is of great importance. I was somewhat disheartened to hear the previous speaker, Senator Little, being so critical of the measure. It prompts one to attempt to take each phrase and stage of the criticism that he made and perhaps give another attitude to the measure. I am inclined to agree with Senator Little in regard to the plight in which we have found ourselves in a number of primary industries over past years. It seems ridiculous to a basically sensible person that we should talk about pulling out fruit trees in Australia, lt seems ridiculous in regard to the dairying industry when we talk about placing quotas on production. That is what has taken place and is likely to take place in the future. It is ridiculous to hear about our having to quota and restrict the growing of wheat in this country. But apparently that has had to be done.
Yet. on the other hand, member* of Parliament will have pointed out to them in literature that throughout the world people are undernourished. I think that that is the word that is used in the flood of literature that we have had. We have been told that there are millions of star-, ing people in the world. We have some degree of consciousness on this point but .e are talking about restricting the growing of food in Australia. One would envisage that Australia could perhaps become a storehouse for the world not only by the provision of greater storage facilities for ourselves in all these areas but also by encouraging the United Nations to consider establishing more adequate reserve.x >f food in countries that are capable of producing economically and efficiently for distribution to those countries which are less fortunate in regard to food reserves. Again, one would be inclined to agree with Senator Little when we hear that currently there are areas in the world - for instance, in Papua Ne* Guinea - where it is said that some people are starving. It is surprising because it would not be imagined that that situation would be reached in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. But surely there is a wonderful opportunity for disposing of some of the surpluses that we have in Australia.
However, to accept the comments of Senator Little is to accept the imputation that there is nobody in Australia with any intelligence in the management of this industry. It must be said that new ideas are put forward today. For instance, while I am attracted to the thought that there is a growing and a great market in South East Asia - I know that Senator Little has had current contact with that area and may speak quite well of it - 1 am convinced that the various boards, private industries and co-operative canneries that are involved in production have some expertise in looking at these markets. I think that they would see an opportunity if it were there. In fact, I think that the figures can demonstrate that those who are in charge of our industries have been able to dispose of increasing production over the past years and have now come to a stage in which propositions have been put to the Government. The producers have found a federal government which is receptive to the ideas that they are putting forward. On this point I have pleasure in agreeing with the legislation that has been introduced for the wellbeing of fruitgrowing in Australia.
I might have commenced my comments on this Bill with a survey of this industry but perhaps it is not warranted in this closing stage of the Parliament. But there are one or two points that 1 would like to mention. The industry of which we speak is primarily an export industry. To that extent, approximately 70 per cent of the total production of the industry goes to export markets. It is interesting to note that from the late 1950s into the early 1960s sales of these products kept pace with rapidly expanding production, lt is interesting to note also that sales increased from 3 million basic cartons to 8.5m basic cartons in the year 1968. Can it be said that the marketers of this line of canned goods were not alert to opportunities? Was not there a great increase in production in Australia over those years? The men who were in charge of the industry were able to take advantage of that and expand the market. 1 note that in the annual report of the Australian Canning Fruitgrowers’ Association it is stated:
Prior to 1963, ninety per cent of the Australian trade was with tariff preference countries such as the United Kingdom and Canada, with the U.K. being the largest volumewise and the most remunerative. In 1968 these markets accounted for only 65 per cent of Australian exports, but were in fact greater in volume than in 1963.
Up to J967, the Market Development Scheme, introduced in 1963, had been adequate for the Industry’s requirements and had in fact been the me;ins of developing new export markets. However, in 1967, with the great upsurge in world production and the increased competition particularly from the United States and South Africa, the situation changed dramatically for Australia. . . . ] refer honourable senators to some of the information set out on page 8 of that report. These problems are basic ones beyond the control of the Australian producer. This is the point that we have to realise in Australia. We have to realise that there must be a federal government in Australia that is alert to the problems of the primary producer and which will act immediately in their support, no matter which area may be concerned. Over the years I have been a member of the Senate 1 have seen a climate of political influence in the Federal Government which is ever alert to the problems of primary production. On every occasion the proper demands of an industry have been given full support. Certainly, that is emphasised in regard to this matter. The problems of devaluation and preclusion from markets together with the fact that overseas countries will be willing to undercut markets for their own purposes and take our trade cannot be accounted for by Australia overnight. The Government, for its part, has attended very carefully to this industry.
I note that some of the actions that have been taken by the Federal Government to assist the industry are by no means slight. In one paper that came before me that summarised some of these problems I noted that in support of this industry the Commonwealth Government had provided in the vicinity of SI 3.3m for devaluation compensation; $3m towards stabilisation arrangements for apples, pears and dried fruits: and $6.4m for advances to certain canneries. Again, that is a matter which was argued in this place not very long ago. I think it was during the sittings of the. Senate at this time last year that we were told of a person, new to Australia, who was unable to get his fruit into a cannery because it was not able to process it. He had to produce a rifle. The poor fellow was distraught over the fact that he could not dispose of the fruit at the time. I believe that the Federal Government has been very alert to the enormous problems of this industry. It is unfair to suggest that in drafting its scheme it has not been alert to what is required by the industry. The Minister for Air (Senator DrakeBrockman) said in his second reading speech:
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 over-supply problem in that section of the horticultural industry.
The object of this Bill is basically to provide for the expenditure of S4.6m - $2.3m on canning fruits and S2.3m on fresh, apples and pears - to enable those sections of the fruit growing industry to remove surplus trees and to readjust to changing world marketing situations, although there are early indications that, at least as far as canning fruits are concerned, the operation of the scheme provided under the Bill has not worked out as well as the industry might have wished. But the Bill does provide for this amount of money to be made available for the purpose of removing surplus fruit production, and it is hoped that the money will be fully expended by the time the project is completed.
Difficulty has been experienced in implementing the scheme because of the necessity to include a means test as a way of establishing eligibility for participation in the scheme. The argument advanced by the 2 previous speakers was not put on the basis that there should be no means test. I suggest we all agree that there should be some means test. I think that the argument extends to the degree to which the means test should be applied. I think that Senator Little, who has had some business experience in the past, would know that it is quite difficult to establish the financial situation of any trader and then to decide whether he is in financial difficulties. In many industries we have seen men whose production was quite large and who had substantial assets behind them, but because their liquid situation was rather poor at a certain time they could rightly say: ‘Our financial position is difficult at the present time and we believe that we should be helped’.
The question is what one suggests should be the basis of the means test. I say to the previous speaker that one would find some argument no matter which basis was struck. The Government has seen fi! to introduce a means test because the industry and the States were not prepared to contribute more than a nominal amount towards the funds required for the scheme. I am advised, too, that fruit growers generally were not in a situation to contribute financially to the scheme. But one grower association indicated that, if it had become necessary for growers to contribute in order to achieve a satisfactory scheme, it would have been prepared to reconsider the position. Perhaps it is unfortunate that the industry, if it had the opportunity to reconsider the position, did not take advantage of that opportunity.
This basic scheme ;s seen by the industry as one of several reconstruction and assistance measures which are necessary to help the industry overcome its present production and marketing difficulties. The objective of the industry is to have assistance provided to enable tha; production of canning fruits in fresh apples and pears, which is surplus to present and future forecast market requirements, to be removed in an orderly fashion, lt is hoped that as the growers’ applications are dealt with, a certain amount of flexibility in discretion will be used by the State administering authorities in interpreting the means test in order to ensure that the fundamental objectives of the scheme can be fulfilled.
It is worth pointing out that an important feature of the Bill is clause 16(2.) in the Schedule to the Bill. No previous speaker has mentioned this. That clause provides that a review of the scheme shall be carried out early in February 1973 which, of course, is only a few months away. I think it will be important to ensure that any difficulties experienced in the administration of the scheme are reviewed and amendments effected so that the objectives of the scheme can be fulfilled. I know that one disappointing aspect of the scheme to many growers is the fact that growers with apricot trees are not eligible for assistance under this scheme. I suggest that that area of fruit growing certainly needs to be considered in any review.
Reference has been made to the requirements of the Bill in regard to the means test and the administration of the scheme. I do not find the wording in the Bill quite so harsh as Senator Little did. In the Schedule to the Bill we find that a grower will be eligible to apply for assistance under the scheme if the Authority is satisfied that the number of trees which the grower has, of the kind that qualifies for assistance, constitutes a commercial operation. I think it is appropriate that it should constitute a commercial operation. I think it will usually be found that those growers who have a commercial operation are the ones who have access to the canneries or to the co-operative canneries. It is usually those backyard or part time producers who have no access through which to dispose of their fruit. The Schedule goes on to say - and I think that the terms are reasonable:
I think that both of those points are well made in the Schedule. The grower needs to be predominantly a horticulturist. It does not say that he is not to have access to some other means of income; it says that because of his situation he is adjudged to be in severe financial difficulties. I think that the public generally would say that that is the class of individual whom we should aim to assist.
If 1 had time it would be my wish to discuss many aspects of this measure because it is of immense importance to the State of Victoria. I acknowledge, as does Sen alor Little, the great part that Victoria plays in the fruit growing industry. The annual report of the Australian Canning Fruitgrowers Association, on page 3, gives production figures under the following headings: Canned apricots, canned peaches, canned pears, canned two-fruits, canned fruit cocktail and canned fruit salad. In 1972 Victoria produced 6,188,309 cartons. The next Stale in terms of production was New South Wales which produced 3.503,023 cartons. South Australia produced 1,737,256 cartons and all the other States together produced 79,512 cartons. I acknowledge the attitude which Victorian senators must take in regard to this matter because it is of immense importance to the constituents in that State. But again I believe that the comments made by the 2 previous speakers and the amendments which they hope the Senate will carry are not in the best interests of the Bill. The Bill has been carefully considered by those who have advised the Commonwealth in this matter, and I think that the Bill should stand.
– I do not propose to speak at length on this legislation, but I feel that it would be wrong if further criticism of the Government for its failure in this field were not voiced. It would be taken, if there were no. criticism, that everybody accepts that the Government has acted as responsibly as it should have. Personally I do not think it has. If honourable senators will reflect for a moment on comments that have been passed in Australia, they will recall having heard of other countries which have had an over-supply of food and have dumped it, burnt it or disposed of it by some other method. Australians have been horrified that this has been the attitude of the governments of those countries. I recall that the European Common Market countries had to abandon some crops that had been grown and that people were horrified that, while others throughout the world were starving, governments which were not sufficiently conscious of their responsibility to people in general were abandoning an over-supply of a commodity which had occurred in their countries.
We Australians will find ourselves in the same position, and we will find that we are being reported in the London Press as having decided that since we have overproduction of luscious fruit we intend to pull up fruit trees so that we shall not have further over-supply. Goodness me, Mr Deputy President, you would know, from your own experience, of institutions in Australia which would love to get hold of some of this fruit which we propose to deny to the people of this country. It is useless for any Government senator to say that the Government has acted responsibly in bringing down this legislation. The Government has known for some time that it would be faced with this situation, and I say with respect that it has done very little about it except to wring its hands and perhaps wait for something to happen. Well, something did not happen. The Government has not chased the markets that were available to it, or at least it has not indicated to us that it has done so.
The second reading speech of the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman), as Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, shows that this scheme will cost the people of Australia $4.6m. That in itself is not a bad figure for wasteful expenditure so that we shall not be able to produce fruit. Surely this should be regarded as criminal. The second reading speech also gives the cost to the Government of trying to bolster up the industry instead of, as was suggested earlier, seeing whether it can secure markets overseas.
The Minister, in his second reading speech, said this of the S4.6m of which I have already spoken:
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 fruit growing.
So, all in all, about S30m has been contributed and now we are faced with the situation that that $3 Om has been absolutely wasted. With respect, 1 say that the Government has failed. Even if it may not have been able to find export markets, surely there are in Australia people who would welcome any of this fruit being made available to them.
The Government stands condemned for adopting such a negative and defeatist attitude to a problem which has been well known to it over the years. I recall seeing a television programme) - it may have been This Day Tonight’ or ‘Four Corners’some 3 years ago on which gruit growers made the Government aware of their problems. That was 3 years ago, but nothing has been done, with the exception that last year the Government advanced to, I think, the Victorian Government a loan of $6.4m to assist canneries in Victoria. I do not know whether Senator Webster just criticised that action; I hope he did not. However, I believe it should be placed on record now that this Senate did not oppose that legislation but supported it. I may have misinterpreted Senator Webster’s comment, but I believe he said that the Senate opposed that legislation.
Surely when the Government, with all the resources it has at its disposal, is aware that some people will experience difficulties it should go out after markets to ensure that the product which is available is sold; or, as 1 repeat, if it is not sold on export markets, surely it could be made available to good Australians. How can we be certain that in 2 years time we will not be short of the very product we are now destroying? Nobody can say that 2 years hence there will not be a shortage of this fruit. If there is a shortage, we will not be able to cater for it because we will have destroyed the very trees on which we should be relying for production. This situation reminds me very much of a letter which a United States senator received from one of his constituents, lt read as follows:
OM Ben Smithers just showed me the cheque the Government sent him for not raising hogs. It was for $1,000, because he was not going to raise the 50 hogs he raised last year. Now, Senator, I’ve never been in the hog line myself, having concentrated on beef cattle. It seems I would do better. 1 propose to follow Old Ben’s example and not raise hogs next year. Which kind of hogs would it be best not to raise from the Government’s point of view? I got a preference for not raising Berkshires but I’d just as soon not raise Razorbacks if you think that’s best.
I’d like to start out not raising, say, 500 hogs next year because I’ve got the space to do it and that would mean I could earn $10,000 to which you could add another $1,500 because if I’m not raising that many hogs I won’t need to grow feed for them.
If all goes well next year I guess we could expand the whole operation and maybe old Ben and me could go into partnership not raising a whole lot of things for profit. Oh, by the way, would it be against the national interest if I was to raise, say, 6 hogs just for the family to eat?
That is a situation that is developing in Australia. I appreciate that it would be regarded as cynicism for any person to say: ‘It is better if I do not produce anything, because then I will be paid something; whereas, if I produce something, I will not be paid anything at all’. That would be a cynical attitude, I agree; nevertheless, it is indicative of the feelings of some people. I repeat that people in Australia over the years have expressed keen disappointment and disgust that food has been produced and then wantonly destroyed because of alleged over-production. The Government is doing it in another way on this occasion; it is paying people money to destroy the trees on which the fruit would grow. It is the same experiment but with a slightly different angle to it. In the years to come posterity will judge whether any government which has reached this peculiar and unfortunate position was irresponsible. On that note I say that this Government has been irresponsible in allowing the situation to reach the point it is at today.
– If it were not for the hard, cold fact that this Senate must adjourn by some time late on Wednesday night because of a general election which no-one can stop I could take my whole hour of allotted time to refute some of the well meant but false arguments put by Senator Milliner. All I say in relation to the speech made by Senator Milliner is that I do not believe it fair either to the Australian fruit growers or to the Federal and State governments to infer that over the years money spent in assisting the fruit industry is money wasted. Even if the honourable senator opposes the limiting of production by pulling out the trees it is palpably wrong to say that growers are being paid to reduce production. They are being paid to diversify and reconstruct. We hope that there will be production of other primary produce in place of fruit where it has been proved and agreed to by the growers - they are the people with the bank balances who are worrying - that under the conditions governing today in the world markets now available they are unable to produce the fruit for the return they are obtaining on the Australian market.
But I leave that matter only because of time. I am going to limit my time to allow other debates to ensue tonight. I want to correct what I believe is an error made by a Tasmanian colleague in another place, the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie). He is always well informed and sincere in his approach to the fruit industry. My attention has been drawn to an opinion expressed by Mr Duthie about the shipping of the Tasmanian fruit crop. The Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman) in a previous debate today told us how people, interested in implementing Government legislation, read Hansard and how they are often guided by factors put forward by honourable senators and honourable members in Hansard. Therefore I want to express my view and correct the statement which was made by Mr Duthie in the House of Representatives. As recorded in the House of Representatives Hansard of 17th October at page 2648 Mr Duthie stated:
Fifthly, we need better arrangements in the United Kingdom for the disposal and sale of our fruit. As 60 per cent of our fruit is marketed in the London area our fruit should go to London. Instead our fruit ships are being directed to Liverpool and to Hull at odd times and fruit has to be brought from these cities to London some times at 12c a bushel extra. This cost is loaded on to the English consumer’s price. This is a disastrous system.
The inference is that we should ship all our fruit through the port of London and save costs, thereby making it a better proposition. Having had my attention drawn to this matter I discussed it with my friend and colleague Senator Rae who thought the Bill was going to come to come on last night when 1 had a deputation to receive. I thought that he was going to make this correction or explanation of what is our considered view after further research. I have had help in my research from my colleague Senator Rae. We believe that the statement made by Mr Duthie needs some clarification. We acknowledge that the last season’s arrival dates of ships at the ports of Liverpool and Hull were somewhat closer together than desirable. A number of other market and cost factors are important.
The recent history of shipping fruit to the United Kingdom from Tasmania has been one of endeavouring to arrange for a system which is the most efficient and provides the greatest returns to growers. Shipping through the ports of Cardiff and London as well as Liverpool and Hull has been tried. Some of the important considerations include not only the question of port charges, the nearness of the market and transport costs from the port to the market, but also the question of surcharges imposed by some shipping companies in respect to the use of the port of London, the speed of discharge and port handling, and also the availability of experienced and efficient land transport from the port to the market - something which J do not believe is not available at all ports.
Other important questions for consideration include the arrival date of the ships from Tasmania in relation to each other and in relation to the ships from South Africa and our other competitors Western Australia and New Zealand. Both South Africa and Western Australia have the advantage of being able to have more fruit arrive on the British market earlier than Tasmania. Accordingly, it is necessary for Tasmania to be able to direct its land transport distribution in Britain to the best available market at the time of the arrival of the fruit and not necessarily dump its fruit on a perhaps already saturated London market. Added to that are other considerations such as the appropriate market for different varieties of fruit. I am assured that different areas of Britain have very clear preferences for particular varieties of apples, and trade tests have proved this.
Anyone would suggest that many lessons have been learnt by the consortium or corporation known as Tasfruit during the last season. It is realised by this consortium that further improvements can be made, but it is misleading to state the case baldly in the terras used by Mr Duthie. Mr Duthie said that 60 per cent of the Tasmanian fruit is marketed in London. However, that may be so in a particular year but if adopted as an absolute practice, it may also result in lower prices being obtained if the London market is already flooded with other countries’ fruit. This is the point which has to be watched when one talks about ports to which fruit is shipped. Mr Duthie also said that the system of shipping through Liverpool and Hull was disastrous because it cost up to 12c a bushel for land transport from those ports to London. He asserted that Tasfruit should be shipping through the Port of London.
What he failed to say was that various efficiencies in the port of Liverpool, together with the comprehensive shipping and transport plan organised by Mersey Docks and Harbours Board, and the others associated with it, has resulted in a number of savings to the fruit shippers. For instance, the port charges in the port of Liverpool are now 3.5c a bushel less than those of the port of London. London has a poor record as most of us know for turnround speed and has a history of industrial and other troubles which I am informed have resulted in a shipping company surcharge of 10c a bushel being imposed on fruit shipped from other ports to London. Accordingly, the cost to land fruit at London is 13.5c a bushel higher than that for Liverpool.
When one bears in mind the need for flexibility of distribution and the need for speed in unloading and for land transport to be immediately available, to get to the best markets at the particular time, then the preference by the Tasmanian corpora tion, Tasfruit, for the port of Liverpool for the distribution of the fruit is readily understood. They are some of the considerations which should be borne in mind when people are arranging the shipping of Tasmanian fruit in the future. I realise that the problem is complex but, with the lessons which were learnt last season, it is to be hoped that the price obtained next season will be better and that costs will be contained.
In giving support to the Bill I do not intend to refer at length to the amendments. A fashion has developed in the Senate of Opposition parties moving addendas or so-called amendments to the Bill at the second reading stage. I classify these motions as well-intentioned significations of the point of view of the party which moves them. In other words, they are getting on the record in brief terms aspects of their policy on the legislation being dealt with. What is said on those occasions can be taken by the Government as a guide to the points of view it should consider. In this case I do not believe the amendments add anything of help to the fruit industry. I do not go along with all of Senator Little’s very harsh criticism of the legislation. The legislation can do good, and I sincerely hope that it does. I differ slightly with Senator Webster who said that the fruit industry was important to Victoria. I say the fruit industry is important to Australia because it is important to Tasmania.
^1 support the amendment moved by Senator O’Byrne. Even though the Opposition is supporting the Bill it is not in any way in total agreement with it. It appears to me that this Government over recent years has developed a mania and an addiction for quotas and production restraints in every field of primary industry. Senator Little mentioned what happened in the dairying industry 2i years ago when the Government called for a 3.5 per cent cut in production. Six months later the industry was looking for every gallon of milk it could get. Today as a result of Government policies we are importing cheese from New Zealand. I understand that the dairying industries of other countries which followed Australia’s pattern at that time - South Africa is one of them - are in a rather difficult position today because they declined to store commodities at a time when they were plentiful against the day when they would not be plentiful. It seems to me that this Government has never learnt the old farming adage that every good farmer in times of plenty stores against that inevitable year which he knows is around the corner when there will be a short fall. This Government has not learnt this technique in relation to our primary industries.
Senator Little went on to point out that he believed there were markets for some of our commodities in Asia. I remind him that one of the reasons we are not selling some of our primary products, including fruit, in some parts of Asia is the attitude of the Democratic Labor Party to the cold war, American policy, the ‘all the way with LBJ’ policy, and its backing to the hilt of this Government’s policy on Vietnam. To the best of my knowledge, unless the situation has changed in recent months, there is not one trade commissioner from Australia in the whole of the socialist bloc of countries. There was a trade commission in Australia from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics some few weeks ago and the suggestion was made in one newspaper at the time that it may well be that the people of eastern Russia will be looking to Australian commodities such as canned and other fruit to be imported into Russia via Vladivostock. Why the Government should be pulling fruit trees before this market is fully explored I am at a loss to know. The fact is that Vladivostock is as close to Sydney as it is to Moscow and it appears to me that shipping charges from Sydney to Vladivostock would probably be much cheaper than the train freight charges from western Russia to that area. So it would seem that Australian industry, whether it be the fruit industry or any other, should gain a freight advantage. If there are markets there we should capitalise on them.
This plan to compensate fruit growers for pulling trees is like so many other plans that this Government has come up with to reconstruct primary industries in recent years. With the application of the means test which inevitably is included in the back of the Bill, the whole scheme virtually boils down to nothing. One has to be broke with the backside out of one’s trousers and with shoes that badly need heeling and soling before one can meet the necessary financial requirements to obtain anything under the scheme. Let us look at what will happen even if one does get it. What will this compensation be worth? By the time one put a bulldozer in to clear the trees - I suppose if one could get any sort of bulldozer for less than $20 an hour one would not be doing too badly - and by the time one cleared the trees and burnt them or carted them off the property and recultivated the land, what would be left of the compensation? Furthermore, what does one do having done that? What does a fruit grower who has some, small acreage of land - small compared with the size of other holdings - do with his land? He cannot go into dairying or put sheep or cattle on it, so where does he turn? I do not know what the answer is.
There are 2 conflicting opinions about tree pull applications lodged so far. One newspaper report says that 2 Victorian fruit growers have accepted offers of loans while another newspaper says that only one has done so. So there is a 100 per cent discrepancy there. This would appear to be one of the reasons why fruit growers are not accepting this plan. They are not accepting it, firstly, because of the paucity of the plan and its inherent restrictions and, secondly, because they are saying to themselves: ‘What the hell will I do with my land if 1 pull my trees’. This is a halfhearted measure. It is another measure which has been pushed through this House late in the session because the Government is hoping to attract some votes in hard-hit areas throughout the Commonwealth. I hope that there will be elected a Labor government which will put trade commissioners into those parts of the world where 1 am sure there are markets and so bring our fruit industry and our other primary industries back into the stable condition they once were in.
– I thank honourable senators for their contributions. There is no doubt from the debate that there is very serious worry about what is happening in the fruit industry, and it is only right that concern should be expressed. Just to take a brief glance at the situation, the supply and demand for fruit in 1971-72 resulted in the production of some 203,900 tons of peaches and pears. Of this quantity something like 159,300 tons were packed during the 1971-72 season. Allowing for the carry over from 1970-71, it is estimated that the sales of this fruit will be about 133,500 tons and that there will be 108,300 tons carried over into 1972. These figures show that there is a crisis because the carry over of stocks was slightly more than half the production in the season just passed.
It has been rather interesting to listen to the debate and hear honourable senators say that it is the Government’s fault that this is happening, Senator Primmer said that he did not know how to overcome the problem but thai what the Government is trying to do is no good whatsoever. I remind the Senate that in my second reading speechI mentioned the fact that the measures proposed in this Bill had been evolved partly from recommendations made in November 1971 by the Australian Apple and Pear Board. The Board has a vital interest in the industry. It comprises representatives of most sections of the Industry. Surely it would have good advice to give to the Government, and it as been the Government’s policy over many years to listen to the advice of the industry. I think the Government has a very good record for taking notice of advice offered by the industry. The Government also had recommendations in January 1972 from the Canned Deciduous Fruits Industry Advisory Committee which is made up of all sections of the industry - packers, manufacturers, producers, and so on - that a tree removal scheme as a means of dealing with the over supply problem in the canned peaches and pears section of the horticultural industry be implemented.
Not only were those recommendations made by 2 federal bodies; there were also a number of meetings attended by representatives from the Commonwealth and the States and, whenever appropriate, industry representatives. Those meetings were held during the first half of this year to consider the proposals made by the industry bodies. One element was common to both proposals - an across the board compensation scheme for the removal of surplus fruit trees. The industry claimed that this would provide a long term solution to the over supply problem. The industry representatives believed that the main beneficiaries would be fruit growers whose trees had not been removed and who would remain in a viable industry. Yet the compensation assistance would enable those wishing to leave the industry to do so with a reasonable prospect of establishing themselves again without leaving neglected orchards, unsatisfied creditors, and with insurmountable debts and burdens around their necks.
This was an effort by the industry to put to the Commonwealth Government what it thought should be done. The Commonwealth’s view was that the Commonwealth, the States and the industry should provide a proportion of the necessary funds to implement such a scheme. At a meeting of State and Commonwealth Ministers to consider a tree pull compensation scheme, it became apparent that neither the industry nor the States were prepared to make a contribution to the funds at more than a nominal level. The Commonwealth, having obtained this information, decided to reexamine its position. It then made an offer to the States on a broader base - a fruit growing reconstruction scheme which would be an extension of the existing reconstruction scheme.
I remind the Senate that under the reconstruction scheme as we know it at present, the Commonwealth made $100m available to the States over a period of 4 years. It told the States that it would review the situation and that review was made recently in Sydney. The Commonwealth Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) and the. State Ministers for Agriculture met. The States said that they wanted more money and the Commonwealth said that instead of making $100m available to them over a period of 4 years, it would make it available over a period of 2 years and, in addition, would provide a further$1 8m. Therefore under the reconstruction scheme the States have received $1 18m to spend over 2 years, and that money is available, to the people with whom we are dealing. Now the Commonwealth is making additional money available to the States to help people who cannot get money under the reconstruction scheme.
Surely the Commonwealth should get some reward for that effort to assist this industry. The basis of the scheme is to assist fruit growers either to reconstruct their farms or to leave the industry. Reconstruction is dealt with in paragraph 1.3(b) of the. Schedule, and leaving the industry is dealt with in paragraph 1.3 (a). As I have already pointed out, this is additional assistance. This scheme will be operated not by the Commonwealth, as some honourable senators have said, but by State organisations or authorities appointed by the States.
This scheme is just starting after protracted discussion between the Commonwealth, the States and the industry to get it started. The Commonwealth has promised a review of the situation after the. scheme gets into operation so that everyone will know what they are talking about because they will have had some experience of the scheme, by that time. The Commonwealth has told the States that this review is to be held not later than February.
I believe that it is too late to go back now. It is too late to amend this Hill because it would have to go back to the States and to the industry for reconsideration. It is too late because if there are to be protracted discussions again this harvest will be over before the legislation can be brought in. Therefore it will be no assistance to the people whom we are trying to help. This Bill is an attempt to bring production into line with the available economic markets. I have heard Opposition senators ask why we do not go out and look for markets; why we do not sell here, and why we do not sell there. Let us consider the situation. Two of our largest markets have been in the United Kingdom and Germany. Those 2 markets are under threat because the United Kingdom is going into the European Economic Community. They are also under threat from South Africa which has an advantage over Australia because of its cheaper labour costs. South Africa has an advantage over Australia in respect of lower freight rates. It derives benefit from a much more efficient and much more flexible shipping service to transport its goods to its markets. We must consider the entry of Argentina into world markets. Australia has considered Argentina in the past on the basis that it has been required to sell under a quota on the British market. I understand that it will not continue to be subjected to that restriction. Senator O’Byrne said that because of the way in which the fruit growing industry was going we could see drastic reductions in production with levels reduced to 70 per cent of current production in 1973 and to 50 per cent of current production in 1974. The honourable senator suggested that we should look for further markets. I do not know whether he named Japan.
– The Japanese market has been the subject of strong representations with a view to exporting fruit to Japan. I do not know whether honourable senators realise that Japan already is a major fruit producer. It produces approximately 80 million bushels of apples each year. The further problem that confronts us is that Japan is free of the codling moth and the fruit fly. Japan will not accept fruit unless a guarantee is given that it comes from a country free of those 2 pests. That is a problem that we face.
There are other Asian markets at which we might look and in respect of which strong representations have been made over the years. They again have similar prohibitions which would be exercised in respect of the importation of Australian fruit. If the problem is not related to insect pests, it may be concerned with foreign exchange. The task of setting out to sell our products on new markets is not as easy as one may think. But I remind the Senate that representations are made by the Government and the industry all the time in an endeavour to make further sales of fruit products.
Senator Primmer said that we should try to sell our fruit in Russia. Many efforts have been made to trade with eastern Russia but here again we face obstacles. Russia wishes to barter products that we do not want. It has offered prices which are far too low even to meet the cost of freighting the fruit to the USSR. Surely honourable senators opposite would not ask producers to accept that type of situation. The last point that I wish to make is in respect of the reference made by Senator Little to the assistance that has been given to the wheat industry and the wool industry. He mentioned an amount of $60m. Considerable assistance has been given to the fruit industry. As mentioned in the second reading speech $13. 8m has been given to the fruit industry in the way of revaluation compensation. A further $2.6m has been provided in stabilisation arrangements and $6.4m has been given in advances to assist certain canneries. This makes a total of $22.8m in direct payouts to the industry.
SenatorLittle - The context in which I made that remark was that not the same means test was applied to those industries. That was the context in which I made the criticism.
– A means test was applied to the emergency assistance totalling $30m provided to the Wool industry. It is not true to say what the honourable senator said.
– A number complained, in the same way as some fruit growers are complaining, that they could not obtain that assistance.
– I repeat that a large number of fruit growers are eligible under the reconstruction scheme to obtain assistance. The Government is now making available further assistance to those people who do not qualify under the reconstruction scheme. Every assistance is being given to try to do something about this situation, which is a real one. I know that from the questions I had in the course of the last fruit season, from honourable senators representing various States particularly with respect to the Shepparton and Leeton canneries. The problem still exists. The Government is taking further action now. Senator Little foreshadowed an amendment that he wishes to put before the Senate. I do not think that I should comment on that amendment. I shall not comment on the Opposition’s amendments until suchtime as they are raised in the later stages.
Senator LITTLE (Victoria) - I ask for leave to move an amendment to the amendment that has been moved by Senator O’Byrne. I do so on the basis of an agree- ment with the Opposition to adopt this procedure.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Order! Is leave granted?
– We agree to that procedure. An arrangement has been made to this effect.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT - There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I do not propose to speak to my motion. I move:
That the amendment be amended to read:
At end of motion add: ‘, but the Senate is of the opinion
that the Schedule should make provision for (a) applications to be accepted up to 30th June 1974, and (b) assistance to be paid for trees removed up to 31st October 1974;
(a) that the test of eligibility should be “financial hardship” not “severe financial difficulties” as recited in 1.3(a) of the Schedule, and (b) that there should be a specification of the term “adequate resources” in monetary terms that should not be excessively low;
that the Commonwealth approach the States with a view to a renegotiation of the Agreement to embody the principles set out herein; and
that consideration should be given by the Government to extending eligibility for compensation to rural producers who are merely supplementing other inadequate rural income by apples and pear production but whose producttion is helping to create or aggravate the current overproduction of apples and pears.’
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Does the Senate agree to proceed to a consideration of the motion moved by Senator Little seeking to amend the amendment? There being no objection, we will follow that course.
Amendment to Senator O’Byrne’s proposed amendment agreed to.
Question put -
That the amendment (Senator O’Byrne’s), as amended, be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 18 October (vide page 1607), on motion by Senator DrakeBrockman:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 3, section 11 of the Apple and Pear Stabilization Act 1971 is amended -
by inserting in sub-section (2.), after the word ‘payment’, the words ‘, not being a stabilization payment in respect of fruit picked during the season referred to in the next succeeding subsection,’; and (b) by inserting after that subsection the following sub-section: (2a.) The rate of a stabilization payment in respect of fruit picked during the season that commenced on the first day of October, One thousand nine hundred and seventy-one, shall not exceed an amount per reputed bushel, or part of a reputed bushel, in each container of fruit equal to-
Eighty cents; or
a number of cents equal to the product of 80 and 4,905,000 divided by a number equal to the number of reputed bushels of fruit picked during that season that -
is exported on consignment during that season; and
is sold after exportation and before the end of that season, whichever is the lesser amount.’.
– I move:
Proposed sub-section (2a.) reads: (2a.) The rate of a stabilization payment in respect offruit picked during the season that commenced on the first day of October, One thousand nine hundred and seventy-one, shall not exceed an amount per reputed bushel, or part of a reputed bushel, in each container of fruit equal to-
a number of cents equal to the product of 80 and 4,900,000 divided by a number equal to the number of reputed bushels of fruit picked during that season that -
Our amendment seeks to have incorporated in the legislation provision for a review to be made of the ceiling in the light of circumstances that arise. It seeks to give flexibility. I think the amendment is self explanatory.I hope that it will receive the support of the Committee.
– I point out to Senator O’Byrne that although the scheme is in only the second year of a 5-year term the Government has already carried out a review of stabilisation payments. As a matter of course the Government carries out a continuing review of all of its stabilisation schemes. It should be remembered, too that the industry is continually talking to the Minister for Primary Industry about these matters. I do not think it is necessary to have provision for a review to be undertaken specifically written into the legislation. As I have said, it is something which the Government does automatically over the years of operation of the scheme. I recognise the point that Senator O’Byrne is getting at. We saw an example of this only this year. I think the legislation should be left as it is. For that reason, I cannot support the amendment.
That the words proposed to be added (Senator O’Byrne’s amendment) be added.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator Prowse)
Majority .. ..6
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Drake-
Brockman) read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) read a first time.
(4.45) - I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I ask the indulgence of the Senate to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
– I remind honourable senators while the second reading speech is being distributed that it involves 11 pages. The Leader of the Government in the Senate has asked for leave to have it incorporated in Hansard. Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The speech read as follows) -
This Bill makes provision for the control of foreign take-overs of companies. On 26th September last the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) made a statement in the House of Representatives concerning overseas investment in Australia. This statement was read to the Senate the following day by the Minister for Air. In the statement the Prime Minister announced the Government’s intention to legislate for the control of foreign take-overs it considers would be against the national interest.
In outlining the measures that would operate under the legislation the Prime Minister indicated that decisions on whether particular take-overs would be against the national interest would be taken by the Government. The Prime Minister added that in making its decisions the Government would be assisted by an independent authority established under the legislation. This authority would analyse and report to the Government on takeover proposals which the Government judged warranted further investigation as to whether they would be against the national interest.
The Prime Minister indicated that the proposed measures for the control of foreign take-overs would apply from 27th September 1972 and that they would embrace take-over proposals then current. Pending the establishment of the proposed independent authority the Prime Minister said that there would be interim arrangements under which departmental machinery would be used for consideration of particular take-overs on the basis of the announced criteria. This departmental machinery has been established and is functioning.
A special group of officers has been appointed specifically for the purpose of examining the national interest aspects of particular take-over proposals. This group is located in the Department of the Prime
Minister and Cabinet but it comprises officers from several other departments and is under the direction of a very senior officer who has been seconded from the Department of Trade and Industry. The reports of the group are considered by very senior representatives of several departments before being referred to the Government for decision.
The administrative arrangements for the examination of particular foreign takeovers are an important step in the implementation of the Government’s policy which was announced on 26th September. That policy recognises that we are not as dependent on others as formerly and that Australians have rights at stake in foreign take-overs in the ownership and control of Australian industry. But we also recognise that the interests of the Australian investors should not be prejudiced except when the overriding interest of the nation requires it.
The administrative machinery alone is not sufficient. If it is to be fully effective that machinery must have backing in the law. A decision that a particular foreign take-over should not proceed must be, one that, if necessary, is enforceable in a court. On the other hand, the parties to foreign take-over proposals are entitled to know with certainty where they stand. The law should make their position clear too.
The Bill I now present will give immediate legal backing to the proposals that were announced on 26th September insofar as those proposals relate to foreign takeovers of companies. The Bill will ensure the effectiveness of the Government’s control of the take-overs. It will also provide clear and precise procedures for the business world. And parties involved in or contemplating take-over proposals will know just what steps they should take to remove uncertainties. The Bill does not at this stage establish the proposed independent authority. That will be provided for in a further Bill, which will be introduced next year and will necessarily take some time to prepare.
It is proper to note that the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control yesterday put down an important report m the Senate on this matter. In the considerations of a Bill to be introduced next year, examination will very properly be made of the report of that Committee and its recommendations. In the meantime it is desirable that the effectiveness of the, control being exercised under the departmental machinery should be ensured. The present Bill will do this.
The powers under the Bill to prevent foreign take-overs that are against the national interest will be exercisable by the Government, acting through the Minister administering the Act. This is in accord with the proposals announced on 26th September. In exercising these powers, however, the Government will in practice act on advice from the departmental officials I have mentioned.
The present Bill applies to foreign takeovers of companies, and these comprise most of the take-overs within the proposals of 26th September 1972. Certain other types of take-overs are not covered by the Bill. These take-overs will continue to be controlled administratively under the departmental machinery. They will be provided for in the Bill to be introduced next year.
The Senate can be assured that the Government will not hesitate to use its powers to the full to ensure compliance with the controls. The Bill will apply to proposals for foreign take-overs of trading or financial corporations formed within the Commonwealth and also of bodies incorporated in a Territory of the Commonwealth other than Papua New Guinea. Holding companies of such bodies are also covered. The Bill is not confined to companies of any particular size. But the Government does not propose, except in special circumstances, to apply the legislation to takeovers of companies unless their assets exceed $lm.
Two main powers are provided in the Bill. One will enable the Minister to make an order prohibiting a particular foreign take-over proposal, whatever its form, from being implemented if the Minister is satisfied that it would be contrary to the national interest. The other main power will enable the Minister to limit the beneficial interests that a particular foreign interest or associated group of interests may have in a specified company.
This power will be available to ensure that the prohibition of one particular takeover proposal is not avoided by resort to some alternative proposal which would achieve the same ultimate effect. It will also be available if foreign control of an Australian company has been achieved since 26th September 1972 without prior notification of the proposal to the Government.
The question whether a take-over proposal will result in control of a company passing from Australian to foreign hands will be a matter for separate consideration in the circumstances of each case. The question in each case will be whether there is a passing of effective control. In general such control will be treated as passing if, as a result of the take-over, 15 per cent or more of the voting power would be controlled by a single foreign interest or associated group of interests. A similar position will apply if in the aggregate 40 per cent or more of the voting power is controlled by foreign interests. These percentages will not be a conclusive indication of foreign control.
If the Minister is satisfied that having regard to all the circumstances an acquisition would not give a significant degree of foreign control over the conduct of the company in question, the powers of the Bill will not apply. The question whether a particular take-over would be against the national interest will be a matter for decision by the Government. That is where the responsibility should rest.
In discharging this responsibility the Government will apply the criteria that were outlined in the Prime Minister’s statement on 26th September 1972. In that statement the Prime Minister indicated that a take-over may be treated as against the national interest if the company concerned is considered by the Government to be an economically strategic industry leader; or to be so large that the take-over would significantly affect the relative balance of Australian ownership and control of the industry concerned.
The criteria to be applied to other foreign takeovers were also indicated. The first criterion is whether, against the background of existing circumstances in the industry concerned, the take-over would lead, either directly or indirectly, to net economic benefits in relation to such matters as production, prices, quality and range of products and services, and efficiency and technological change which would be sufficient to justify the increased degree of foreign control of the particular industry that would result from the takeover.
If the proposed take-over is judged to be not against the national interest on this basis, the following additional criteria will also be taken into account: Whether, after the take-over, the firm concerned could be expected to follow practices consistent with Australia’s interest in matters such as exports, imports, local processing of materials produced, research and development, and industrial relations, including employee protection. And whether the take-over would have adverse effects on the Government’s defence objectives, environmental protection, or regional development.
In making judgments as to whether particular foreign take-overs would be against the national interest on any of the foregoing grounds, due weight will be given to 3 other matters. One is the extent of Australian participation in ownership and management that would remain after the takeover; another is interests of shareholders of the company subject to the take-over; the third is the attitude of its board of directors.
The Government’s consideration of takeover proposals will normally be in 2 stages. The first stage will involve preliminary consideration to see whether a detailed investigation is warranted. This preliminary consideration will have to be completed within one month from the date that the proposal is notified to the Minister.
The Bill does not formally require all foreign take-overs to be notified. But its effect will be to cause all take-overs within the ambit of the Act to be notified. This will be because the Government will have the right to make orders to reverse takeovers that have proceeded without prior notification. If a conclusion is reached that further investigation of a particular proposal is desirable, the Minister will have power to issue an interim order prohibiting implementation of the proposal for such period not exceeding 3 months as is necessary for the further consideration to be given to it.
If no order is made in respect of a takeover proposal within a period of one month from notification, it will be free to proceed. In addition, the Minister will be able in appropriate cases to grant clearance certificates in respect of take-over proposals notified to him. A breach of any of the orders I have mentioned will be an offence punishable by a heavy penalty.
In addition a Supreme Court will have power, on . application by the Minister, to make further orders against a person who commits such an offence. The Court will be able in such circumstances to restrain the exercise of voting rights, direct payments to be withheld, direct the sale of shares, and make desirable ancillary orders. In exercising these powers, however, the Court will be required to satisfy itself, as far as it reasonably can do so, that any order it proposes to make will not unfairly prejudice any person. The Court’s powers are limited where the breach in question was due to inadvertence and excusable.
Orders made by the Minister under the proposed Act will have to be published in the Gazette. Parliament will also be informed of the making of orders as soon as it is practicable to do so. Some will come into operation on the date of their publication. Others will operate as from a later date specified in the order.
If the provisions I have outlined are to operate effectively it goes without saying that the Government will need to be able to obtain any relevant information and documents. In particular, information as to the persons who have beneficial interests in shares held by nominees will be needed. The Bill recognises this need and accordingly empowers the Minister to requisition relevant information and documents by notices in writing.
Mr President, this Bill is a major step in the implementation of the Government’s decisions which were announced on 26th September. The Bill will ensure the effectiveness of our decision to prevent foreign take-overs of Australian companies where they are against the national interest. It will do this in a way that has due regard to all relevant interests and - most importantly - keeps uncertainty to the minimum. In due course a further Bill which will provide amongst other things for the estab lishment of the independent authority will be introduced. With this in mind the operation of the present Bill will cease on 31st December 1973. In the meantime this Bill will ensure that the interim arrangements function smoothly and effectively. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 18 October (vide page 1607), on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– It will not take us very long to deal with the Nitrogenous Fertlizers Subsidy Bill 1972. I think that we can appreciate the fact that this legislation which I think has been in operation since 1966 has been of considerable benefit to the farming community. This Bill will extend the operation of the present Act which would cease on the last day of this month to 31st December 1974. The reason why this odd sort of time interval has been arranged is to bring it into line with the expiry date for the Phohsphate Fertilizers Bounty Act. Both Acts will then cease at the same time. As was mentioned by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) in the second reading speech, the opportunity is also taken in this Bill to convert the values to metric measure. The proposed date of conversion is 1st July 1973. This Bill will retain the same subsidy of $80 per ton or, converting it into metric measurements, it will be $78.74 per tonne. Another feature of the Bill is that it will enable the importers also to obtain a subsidy whether or not they are users. The present Act applies only to producers who are users. The Opposition finds nothing to object to in this Bill. We will support it.
(4.47) - I thank Senator Wilkinson and the Opposition for their co-operation in the passage of the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I wish to say a few words on the Bill in Committee to raise one matter only. As has been said already, we on this side of the chamber have no intention to oppose this Bill. I notice that under the subsidy that has been devised over the years the amount of nitrogenous fertiliser in Australia has increased in tons of elemental nitrogen from 121,000 tons to 138,000 tons. Those of us who have been engaged in primary industry and who have had the need or desire to use nitrogenous fertilisers realise the huge benefits that accrue. It requires a certain amount of fairly reasonable land husbandry in that it can be very wasteful fertiliser unless it is applied in exactly the right amounts at exactly the right times and in exactly the right conditions. On one or two occasions 1 have been caught by applying nitrogenous fertiliser and then waiting for rain that did not come. As a consequence of this -
- (Senator Lawrie) - Senator Primer, you are now making a second reading speech. To which clause are you referring?
– I cannot refer to any particular clause. I ask you, Mr Temporary Chairman, to allow me to raise a word of warning about the use of nitrogenous fertilisers and what has developed in one country overseas or what they fear–
– I believe that you should have done this on the motion that the Bill be now read a second time.
– I intercede to suggest that I appreciate we might have proceeded a little quickly. I have no real objection to the honourable senator raising this one point.
– I thank the Leader of the Government in the Senate and the Temporary Chairman. In America, a country where nitrogenous fertilisers have been used rather extensively, there is now a growing fear that as a result of the heavy applications of nitrogenous fertilisers the nitrate levels in the drinking water supplies of that country are a cause for concern. This is especially so in the State of Illinois where lengthy surveys and investigations have been undertaken.
I wish to refer to a section of a paper entitled ‘Industry and Business” of 10th January 1972. It states that there is a real fear in regard to the over-use of nitrogenous fertilisers and the consequent seepage of it from fields into streams, lakes and underground water sources. That is the stage the position had reached in the State of Illinois in January of this year. The State was contemplating legislation to cut down on the amount of nitrogenous fertiliser used, particularly on soils on slopes of over 5 per cent. While I do not think that in Australia we have reached this degree of application of nitrogenous fertiliser - I trust that we will not -I hope that every user of this fertiliser will have some concern for the ecology and environment in which they live and try to balance out the capacity of the good earth to absorb these residues of nitrogenous fertiliser and not continue with their application for application’s sake.
I hope that the farming community generally will try to evolve methods of farm husbandry that will allow it to produce the same quantity of produce with less nitrogen. I know that in some areas the usage of nitrogenous fertilisers for crops has reached rather high levels. I am not in a position to say whether the State of Ilinois has gone on with the measures it contemplated. I rise to issue a word of warning that unless the farming community matches this matter they may find themselves in a war with ecologists, environmentalists and other people generally and be prevented some day from using this immensely valuable fertiliser.
(4.54) - I wish to respond to the remarks of the honourable senator. I would like to push on with this matter with your cooperation, Mr Temporary Chairman. I can say that the point the honourable senator has made will be brought to the attention of the appropriate authorities. I think that it will be more in the ecology and environmental field. However, having regard to all the factors I can say that the levels of use of these fertilisers in Australia are much lower than the levels of use in the United
States of America. The honourable senator’s point has some validity and I think that in the long term it would need to be looked at. To a degree, it becomes a matter of personal judgment. I will see that this point that has been raised by Senator Primmer is referred to the appropriate department.
– I wish to raise a point very quickly. This is not a great problem so far as the Bill is concerned. During the process of change over in the application of the metric system we will be in some difficulty. This will not occur in 2 years time when we have converted to all metric operation. But how do we differentiate between $80 per ton and $78.74 per tonne?
– I am told that you pronounce the words the same.
– You pronounce ton’ and ‘tonne’ the same?
– This is the awkward part, unless when you pronounce the word you emphasise the ‘e’ That is why I spelt the word when I mentioned it previously. It makes the position a little confusing and it could work to the detriment of a buyer. He could buy a commodity at a different price per ton. From the actual phraseology he would not know that there was a different quantity. This is the point which disturbs me.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSON (New South Wales - Minister for Health) (4.56) -I promise that I will bring the point raised by Senator Wilkinson to the attention of the Department.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 18 October (vide page 1608), on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 5 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
-I refer to the Schedule to the Bill. I move:
The effect of the amendment would be to delete item 18 from the Schedule to the Bill. That would result in the excise on wine being removed entirely from the legislation. That is consistent with what was stated by me on behalf of the Australian Labor Party on 3rd November 1970 during the debate on the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1970-71. At page 2026 of Hansard of that date I am reported to have stated:
That is the duty on wine. I continued:
I pledge that the Australian Labor Party when elected to office - which will be at the next Federal election–
How much clearer it is that what I stated then is about to come true - led by Mr Whitlam will repeal the excise on the wine industry. I. say that after consultation with Mr Whitlam and the wine industry of Australia. The Australian wine industry may take it that the ALP is pledged to the repeal of this excise. Let it be known that the provision which has been made for permanent officers to operate in this field will be necessary for only a very short time. The wine industry does not deserve this burden and it will be removed at the earliest opportunity.
– Would you be good enough to explain the significance of the amendment? I do not have the principal Act or the original Schedule before me. What is the effect of reducing the duty?
– Item 18 in the Schedule to the Bill states:
Omit from sub-item (A) of item 16 “$0.55 per litre”, insert “$0.495 per litre”.
Then it refers to items 19 and 20. The effect of the amendment would be to delete the excise on wine altogether.
– Why would that be? I cannot quite follow it. Perhaps you would be good enough to explain it to me.
– Item 16 in the principal Act, which imposes the excise on wine, will be deleted.
– This is in complete contradiction with the Budget because you are going to take revenue of the order of$6m from the Budget.
– That does not worry Senator Murphy.
– Not in the slightest does it worry me. I thank Senator Webster for the interjection. When it is a question of justice and a question of carrying out the pledges made by my Party, I indicate, as 1 did previously, that we act consistently, and we are moving to remove this excise altogether from the wine industry. At the time when the excise was imposed the wine industry was doing very well. On the occasion when the excise was imposed we pointed out that the Government was foolish to impose the excise on an industry which was doing extremely well. The Government seemed to select the one industry which was prospering. We then predicted that the effect of the imposition of the excise would be to bring about difficulties in the wine industry, and that proved to be only too true. The Government made an error, and that error has been conceded by the right honourable member who was responsible for the commission of the error. I refer to a newspaper article which contains a report of the remarks made very recently by Mr Gorton. The article states:
He madeit clear that there were two major reasons for his visit - one based on his desire to support Mr Giles in seeking re-election and the other to discuss matters of national importance.
Mr Gorton spoke very favourably of Mr Giles’ work as a member of the Government and as a representative of his constituents . . .
The article states that Mr Gorton then said:
I have a confession to make. I was the man who brought in the wine tax, but am now prepared to admit that it was a mistake and have made this clear in my recent statements in the House.
That is a very generous confession of error on the part of the right honourable gentleman who introduced the measure. We warned him at the time that it was an error, and we consider that it is still an error.
The temporary improvement in the wine industry, which I understand has occurred very recently, should not be used as an excuse to maintain an impost on the industry - an impost which brought the industry into difficulty and which ought to be removed at the earliest opportunity. This excise is a burden on the industry and it ought to be removed. I know that various honourable senators, including some on the Government side, have said that they are not in favour of it. Now they have an opportunity to vote for the removal of that excise. This is the time when they can vote and their votes will be effective enough to require reconsideration of this measure by the House of Representatives. If those honourable senators on the Government side want to put their votes where they have indicated they have some sympathy, now is their opportunity. Had they done it before, there would have been a great saving of disruption to the efficient operation of the wine industry. The distress that was caused to the industry by this impost was unnecessary, and it ought to be removed now.
Therefore I ask the Committee to agree to this proposal that the excise be entirely removed. I say to the Committee that, if it is not removed now, then if, as we confidently expect, a Labor government is elected on 2nd December, we will remove the excise and it will not be replaced by any substitute in the shape of sales tax or any impost of that nature. The excise, as I said on 3rd November 1970, will be removed. The pledge that I gave then on behalf of the Australian Labor Party after consultation with the Leader of the Party, Mr Whitlam, will be carried out. I see no reason why the industry should have to wait until then for the removal of the tax which, as has been admitted by Mr Gorton who was responsible for its introduction, was introduced in error. That is something to which he confesses. I ask the Committee to support this proposition and to delete the wine excise from the legislation of this country.
(5.7)- I rise to–
– I want to second the amendment.
- (Senator Lawrie) - Order! It does not require seconding.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI rise to respond to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy). This will not prevent Senator McLaren from speaking subsequently, if he wants to, as I am not closing the debate. What I have to say will not take long. Senator Murphy in fact is proposing an alteration to the Budget; he is moving that the revenue produced under the Budget be reduced by about $6.9m. The request, as proposed by the Leader of the Opposition, appears a little technical in its presentation, but what it means is the complete removal of the excise on wine. We have had an excise on wine in one form or another for the last 30 years. When I recall the period of 30 years ago and who was in government then, I wonder about the situation. But the fact is that we have had revenue, in some form or other, under the Budget each year for the last 30 years as a result of excise on wine.
This proposition, I am inclined to think, althoughI do not want to be discourteous to the Leader of the Opposition, has some of the overtones of something that has happened before in this place in relation to wine. In truth, the Budget Papers themselves, which we have already passed in terms of the first and second readings and which we shall deal with tonight after 8 o’clock in Committee, provide for income from excise on wine of the order of $6. 9m. I enjoy my wine in moderation as much as anybody does, but the fact is that Senator Murphy has pitched his request to something that happened before in relation to the variation of the excise on wine which was introduced in May of this year.
I want the message to go over loud and clear, without all the verbiage of the request. All this request does is to seek to take from revenue all the revenue derived from excise on wine. That is what it means, and for that reason the Government cannot support it. It is a request that would go to the other place, if carried; but this cuts across my understanding of what has preceded it in the Budget debate because it is in fact a move to alter the revenue produced under the Budget.
Therefore we should resist it. There has been movement in the wine industry. We have had debates on wine which have been argued with great force by both sides, but we have never debated a proposition for the complete removal of the excise on wine. In this climate, therefore, we must resist the request.
-I rise to support the request which has been made by Senator Murphy. The Opposition has consisently opposed the excise on wine since its introduction in the 1970 Budget.
– It was not introduced then; it was introduced 30 years ago.
– Not this particular one. As Senator Murphy has pointed out, the Labor Party is pledged to bring about its complete abolition. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) has said that we have used this avenue to seek to abolish the wine excise. In fact, this is the first opportunity we have had by way of legislation since its introduction in 1970. This is the first Bill dealing with the wine excise to be brought down following the imposition of the wine excise. It is a validating measure. I have raised this matter many times since I became a member of the Senate because many approaches have been made to me by people in the wine grape growing industry, particularly in the upper river districts of South Australia which are in close proximity to my home. As Senator Murphy has pointed out, the former Prime Minister, Mr Gorton, admitted at a Liberal and Country League dinner in Renmark a few weeks ago that he had imposed this excise, and he also admitted that it was a mistake.
– It is not rubbish at all. It is in print. We have a copy of it.
– It came in 40 years ago.
– If Senator Webster says that what the former Prime Minister Mr Gorton said is rubbish, then either Senator Webster is telling an untruth or the former Prime Minister is telling an untruth - because the words I am using are Mr Gorton’s, not mine. The Leader of the Government said that this is a Budget measure and that the request will interfere with the appropriations which have been made to the tune of S6.9m. I will refer later to the effect that will have, because in the relevant estimates committee I took the opportunity to ask officers of the Treasury what would be the effect on the Budget if in fact the policy of another party, which has been enunciated, was carried out. I will refer to that later. I think it is necessary to trace briefly the history of this matter. 1 introduced it during a dried fruits stabilisation Bill. I was taken to task by one of my South Australian colleagues for bringing the wine excise into the debate but that was the first opportunity I had. I introduced it solely because the Minister for Primary Industry had tied the Dried Fruits (Stabilization) Bill to the wine excise and I referred to it. I built upon that. 1 said that honourable senators from South Australia on the Government side had never voted against the Bill. Senator Laucke, by way of interjection, pointed out quite forcibly that he had opposed it and voted against it. I have checked the Hansard and I am unable to find that Senator Laucke has, in fact, ever voted in this Chamber against the imposition of the wine excise.
– I have always opposed it, as the honourable senator knows.
– The honourable senator has opposed it, I will admit. In 1970 when it was introduced he opposed it. He spoke most vigorously against it. Like members of the Australian Labor Party he sounded a very strong warning in relation to the effect this excise would have on the wine industry in South Australia.
– Senator McLaren will not destroy the credibility of Senator Laucke in South Australia. He can try as hard as he likes. Senator Laucke has so much credibility that he is all right so Senator McLaren should not indulge in personalities. Let him get back to his policy speech.
– When I am allowed to continue my remarks - the vote was taken on the motion which was moved by my colleague. Senator Drury, that the House of Representatives be requested to leave out the proposed amendment to item 16. This is what Senator Murphy is doing today. On that occasion when the vote was taken Senator Laucke was absent. He was paired, as was Senator Davidson and Senator Dame Nancy Buttfield who are also from South Australia. If those honourable senators had been genuine in what they had said in South Australia and in this Parliament, even if they were absent from Canberra they could have said to the Whip that they were opposed to the measure and they did not want to be paired on that occasion. The result of the vote in relation to Senator Drury’s amendment was ayes 22 and noes 24 so it was defeated by 2 votes. Had those 3 South Australian senators not been paired this measure would never have got onto the statute books.
Another matter which is of great importance to people in South Australia was mentioned by Senator Murphy just recently when he referred to the meeting at Renmark when the ex-Prime Minister, Mr John Gorton, referred to the wonderful work the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) had done in the past to try to have the wine excise removed. We know quite well that Mr Giles has a motion on the notice paper from way back. As a matter of fact, he put it on the notice paper on 25th November 1971. It calls for the repeal of the wine excise. That motion is still on the notice paper. When this Bill was being debated in the other place Mr Giles did not make any move to put his motion into operation. On many occasions in the other place members of the Australian Labor Party have taken steps to have this motion brought on for debate. I had some research carried out by the Parliamentary Library Legislative Research Service to provide details of voting on Excise Tariff Proposals (No. 1) 1972 to amend the wine excise. It makes very interesting reading. Reference is made to the motion which Mr Giles has on the notice paper and which, as I have said, still remains there. Mr Grassby endeavoured to force Mr Giles’ hand and to make him stand up and be counted in relation to what he had said in the electorate and what he has done here.
Some 12 months ago there was a difference of opinion between myself and Senator Laucke when I said thai South Australian members of the Government said one thing in the electorate and acted in a different fashion in Parliament. What I have said is borne out by the debates which have taken place here. What has taken place here and in the other place is very strong evidence. On every occasion when an endeavour has been made by the Labor Party to bring this motion forward and to have Mr Giles stand up and be counted he has voted against his own motion. Senator Murphy pointed out the actions taken by the ex-Prime Minister, Mr Gorton. Mr Gorton admitted that he made a mistake but he too, when the vote was taken, voted against the abolition of the wine excise. The details of the votes which took place in the other place show that the first motion was moved by Mr Grassby on 21st March 1972. The question that the question be put was supported by the Government and opposed by the Opposition. It was resolved in the affirmative, the result being ayes 57 and noes 51. So the Government opposed that motion. This was immediately followed by the motion that the suspension of Standing Orders be agreed to. That motion was lost 51 to 57.
On neither of these divisions does the name of Mr Giles appear. Hansard does not show him as being paired and he was not one of the tellers. Votes and proceedings show that Mr Giles was present in the House at some time during the day. The vote on the motion was taken at about 9.25 p.m. Here we have a situation where a South Australian member of the Government goes out to the public at large and to people who have been suffering because of this wine excise and says that he is doing all that he can to have it abolished. Yet when he is put to the test he does the very opposite in this Parliament. Mr Grassby, in moving for the suspension of Standing Orders said of Mr Giles: he gave an undertaking at a public meeting on wine excise held in Berri on 21st January that he would divide with the Opposition on his motion against the tax and bring as many honourable members from his side with him as he could.
That speech is recorded in Hansard. I was at that meeting at Berri on that occasion as was the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair). I heard Mr Giles make that statement in public. Yet when he comes into this Parliament and has an opportunity to do what he told the wine grape growers he would do, he does the very opposite. On 25th May 1972, the day the Excise Tariff Proposals (No. 1) was introduced, but before its introduction, Mr Grassby moved for the suspension of Standing Orders so that the wine excise motion could be debated. On the motion of the Minister for Primary Industry the question that the question be put was put and resolved in the affirmative, 60 votes to 54. The question that the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders be agreed to was put and negatived, ayes 53 and noes 60. In each case Mr Giles voted with the Government. Later that day the Excise Tariff Proposals (No. 1) were introduced. Mr Grassby moved as an amendment that all words after ‘that’ where it first occurred should be omitted so that that following words could be inserted in place thereof: ‘The Schedule to the Excise Tariff 1921-71 be amended by omitting all the excise on wine’. The motion was lost. Mr Giles voted with the Government to defeat the amendment.
Today I wanted to prove to this Senate how insincere South Australian members of the Government have been ever since this wine excise was imposed. They have said one thing in the electorate and they have done another thing when they have had to stand up to be counted in this place. I also refer to another matter which is connected with this. I shall quote from a publication of the Liberal-Country League. This is a reply to a resolution which was passed at the annual general meeting of delegates held between 6th and 7th August 1971. The resolution which was carried was that the Federal Government wine tax be abolished immediately. The LCL in South Australia was so concerned that the. resolution came to the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) but it has never been acted upon. But to go a little further, we find that on 15th September this ye.ar the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Anthony, when he opened a Country Party seminar at Kapunda referred to Mr Matt Mathieson as being tremendous. Mr Matt Mathieson is the secretary of the Country Party. Mr Anthony, in part of his address, went on to state:
Mr President, there is shortly to be a Federal election. The Country Party has nominated 2 fine candidates for the electorates of Wakefield and Angas, Mac Shannon and John Fetch. These 2 men will go out on the hustings and will be presenting the Country Party’s policies and attitudes.
Shortly after that the Country Party published the first of its election campaign pamphlets. On the front of the pamphlet is a photo of the Minister for Primary Industry and John Petch, the endorsed Country Party candidate, and the pamphlet sets out part of the Country Party’s policy and attitudes. In part of the pamphlet it says in quite clear terms that the policy of ‘the abolition of the wine excise in its entirety.’ Senator Murphy’s request is the acid test for South Australian Liberal Party senators and members. It puts members of the Country Party to the acid test on whether they agree with what Mr Anthony and Mr Petch said in this pamphlet. They cannot have it both ways. They have either to support Senator Murphy’s request or oppose it. If they are sincere, as I believe they should be and have been, they will say that they are. opposed to this tax and will support Senator Murphy’s request so that it will be carried and the people of South Australia can rejoice that the wine excise has been abolished for all time.
– I support what the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) and Senator McLaren have said. This debate brings back the arguments which followed the 1970 Budget of the former Prime Minister, Mr Gorton,. Honourable senators will recall that prior to that Budget the wine industry and many spokesmen on both sides of this Senate claimed that the industry was in bad shape although it was showing some profitable tendencies. That Budget imposed an excise of 50c a gallon on wine. This was greatly resented and there was great concern in the industry, particularly in South Australia, with the result that following the Budget many representations were made to South Australian senators on both sides of this chamber. All I can say in reply to Senator Laucke’s comments is that frequently on that occasion he got up in the Senate, like other honourable senators, and complained about the proposed duty. We were against it then because we thought it would impede the development of an industry which in the future would be not only profitable but also stable. Of course it is a matter for the judgment of each Government senator as to what he should do about voting on Senator Murphy’s request.
I agree with Senator Murphy and Senator McLaren that we now have an opportunity to make a decision which will indicate to the industry that we are against the impost and that it should not have been struck in the first place. Its removal certainly would affect the Commonwealth’s revenue. The estimate of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) is that it will amount to something like S6m. But the responsibility surely is on the Government for doing something in the first place which a former Prime Minister now states was a mistake. As Senator Murphy has stated, as recently as 5th October 1972 when speaking at Renmark - the ‘Murray Pioneer’ carried his remarks - the former Prime Minister said:
I have a confession to make. I was the man who brought in the wine tax but am now prepared to admit that it was a mistake and have made this clear in my recent statements in the House.
As Senator McLaren has pointed out, candidates for the coalition parties in that area are now saying that they are in favour of the abolition of the excise duty. Honourable senators opposite cannot have it both ways.
This matter certainly raises a great financial problem but it is not the Opposition’s fault if the Government decides to introduce this legislation before the Estimates have been dealt with by the Senate. It is its own decision to bring in legislation and its imposition of some financial burden is not the responsibility of the Opposition. Surely the Government knew that the Opposition would take the first opportunity to do something about it in a positive way. All I wish to say in conclusion is that it is a matter of record that members of the coalition parties in the Senate and in the other place have regularly said that they are against the duty. They take some pride in saying that their efforts have helped to reduce it, but they still campaign for its abolition. Senator Murphy now is doing what he said he would do. On 3rd November 1970 he gave a very clear indication to the Government, the Senate and the people of Australia of what was proposed when he said: 1 say that after consultation with Mr Whitlam and the wine industry of Australia. The Australian wine industry may take it that the ALP is pledged to the repeal of this excise.
Briefly that is the issue and it is now the responsibility of those who claim that they are against it to decide which way they should vote.
– I would like briefly to indicate my attitude on the matter before the Senate. It is well known that I am opposed to the wine excise and have always been opposed to it. However, this measure is part of the Budget and I support the Government’s Budget. Therefore I will not be drawn by the naivety of the suggestion that at this point I should support the request proposed by Senator Murphy. I can assure the Senate that I will continue my advocacy for the removal of the excise, but this is not the occasion for such action on my part as a Government supporter. I feel that the Government has brought down a budget which is really good for the nation and I will support the Government on this matter.
Senator MURPHY (New South Wales - Leader of the Opposition (5.31) - Senator Laucke is in favour of the abolition of the excise but he will do nothing about it. The fact is that the excise is imposed as part of a budgetary scheme and it can be removed from the Budget. It can be removed at any time. What Senator Laucke has said is an excuse for doing nothing. The Budget Papers embrace the whole of public activities and the administration of the entire community. If that were the attitude that one took on every occasion one would not support anything that was not brought in by the Government because in some way every measure is related to the Budget. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) a pretty shrewd gentleman, says: ‘Yes, this is not a bad idea but it is part of the Budget of the Government and the Appropriation Bills have been introduced. If you do this it will run counter to what is in them’. That is not the position at all. First of all, the Appropriation Bills that have been introduced have not been passed. We still have to deal with them in Committee this evening. It would not matter if they had been passed because they deal not with revenue but with expenditure. They deal with how money will be expended.
The suggestion that we could not expend any money if this $6. 9m were not raised is a lot of nonsense. We know what the Budget is; it is a broad programme for how money will be raised and how it will be spent. We know that in some areas there might be losses through the operations of a public utility or that there might be a rise in income taxes or a drop of $1 00m or so for some reason or other. That has nothing to do with the real problem of whether this excise should be removed. Now is the chance to do it and with one stroke the Senate can say that it will not accept this measure, send the appropriate request to the other place and so set in operation the legislative process to remove this excise entirely from the statute book. I am not speaking now in a private capacity. I moved this motion not simply as a private senator but in my official capacity on behalf of the Parliamentary Australian Labor Party. The attitude which has been taken by the Party after solemn consideration is that it should move in the Senate to delete the excise entirely from the statute book in an endeavour to carry out what I had previously pledged that we would do.
On 3rd November 1970 and, prior to that on 19th October, I pledged that an endeavour would be made in this Senate to prevent that excise being imposed at all. A motion was moved on that occasion by Senator Drury on the behalf of the Australian Labor Party that item 16 of the measure which had then been introduced be deleted. Again honourable senators from the Government benches said: ‘We do not approve of it but we will vote for it’. Senator Laucke, along with the others, voted for it. This is what has been happening in this Parliament. Honourable senators opposite have been out in the country saying to the wine industry that they do not approve of the excise and will do everything they can to remove it, but when they have the opportunity to vote for its removal they will no do so.
– Do you think that the reduction in the excise happened of its own volition or do you think it may have been due to the influence and work, in a practical way, of those who are opposed to it? You are playing politics; that is all you are doing.
– Of course this is politics. Everything which affects the growth of industry - the decisions taken on tariffs, on excise duties, on income tax and on various other measures - is politics. What is this all about but politics? What we are concerned about are the policies which will govern this country, policies which will affect industry, society and the lives of individuals. Why are we here for except politics? This is politics. We are saying that the removal of this excise from the statute book is a proper implementation of policy. Senator Laucke says that he does not think this excise should be on the statute book and that he does not like it but he will not take the most effective action of all. He and his colleagues will not walk across the chamber and vote with me and my colleagues to do what they think is right. They will not do so despite all their vaunted talk about how independent they are, and how they exercise their independent judgment and do what is right. He says that it is right to remove this excise but he is not prepared to vote to remove it. He is like his colleagues in the other House. Their independence is a sham. These men stand here and say that they believe that the excise should be removed from the statute book; that it is wrong for it to be there. The honourable senator claims that he is independent but he will nol cross the floor to vote in accordance with what he thinks is the correct judgment on the matter.
We of the Australian Labor Parly have been ardent advocates for the removal of this excise. The honourable member for Riverina, Mr Grassby, and other Labor men who sit in the other place, together with members of the Australian Labor Party in this Senate who represent South Australia, have pressed for this action. They are prepared not only to argue for it throughout Australia; they are prepared also to vote for it in this Parliament. I ask honourable senators who want to see the end of this tax to vote for this amendment. If it is not carried now I pledge that the Australian Labor Party, in the new government, will remove this tax from the statute book.
That the House of Representatives be requested to leave out the words proposed to be left out (Senator Morpheas amendment).
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator Prowse)
Majority .. .. 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
– The question now is: ‘That the Schedule be passed without requests’.
– We of the Australian Labor Party have made our attitude clear. In order to reinforce our opposition to the inclusion in the Schedule of any excise on wine, even though limited, we will vote against the motion on the voices only. We feel it is no longer necessary to divide the Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 18 October (vide page 1608), 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 reported from Committee without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) proposed :
That the Bill be new read a third time.
– This is the Excise Tariff Validation Bill 1972 and as the proposal of the Opposition to delete wine excise entirely from the subsequent legislation was defeated there was no point in endeavouring to oppose or to alter the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 5.46 to 8 p.m.
– I lay on the table of the Senate a statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) in the House of Representatives today. It is headed ‘Defence Forces Retirement Benefits’. I ask for leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
I am now able to inform the House of the outcome of the Government’s consideration of the report of the Joint Select Committee on Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Legislation tabled in the House on 18th May 1972 by the Chairman of the Committee, the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess). Honourable members will recall that the Committee was formed in September 1970. It quickly embarked on a wide-ranging inquiry in the course of which it received 459 written submissions from individuals, departments and organisations and heard evidence from 65 witnesses in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory. The main recommendation of the Committee was the introduction of a completely new scheme to replace the existing pre-1959 and post-1959 DFRB schemes. The DFRB scheme has now been in existence for 24 years. It commenced in 1948 after an inquiry by an inter-depart mental committee under the chairmanship of the honourable J. J. Dedman, then Minister for Defence.
The original scheme, which had much in common with the Commonwealth superannuation scheme, proved to be very inflexible in operation and in 1957 a committee chaired by Sir John Allison was appointed to renew it. The result was the establishment in 1959 of a new and quite different type of scheme to apply to future members. This is the scheme now known as the post-1959 scheme. Existing members were not transferred on to the new basis: Instead, special arrangements were made that preserved for them their accrued rights and established a basis for them to contribute for additional benefits as they arose. These arrangements, which were significantly modified in 1965 to permit members to limit their contributions, are now known as the pre-1959 scheme. The pre-1959 scheme is most complex and has attracted a great deal of criticism. About 12,000 of the present DFRB membership of around 80,000 still contribute on this basis and the great majority of present pensioners were pre-1969 members. The pre-1959 element of the DFRB fund is, however, in a most buoyant position. The report of the Commonwealth Actuary on his fourth quinquennial’ investigation, which the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) received from the DFRB Board earlier this week, discloses that on the basis of the DFRB scheme continuing in its present form, and I emphasise that proviso, there was an available surplus of $ 14.9m as at 30th June 1969 in respect of around 19,000 pre-1959 contributors and pensioners. The post- 1959 element of the fund, on the other hand, was approximately in balance, there being a small deficiency of little importance in actuarial terms. The Treasurer will table the reports of the Actuary and the DFRB Board on the fourth quinquennial investigation later today.
The post- 1959 scheme is simpler than the very complex pre-1959 scheme, but the Jess Committee concluded that it is still unnecessarily complex. It has 2 distinct parts, one covering other rank members, the other officer members. Each contributor pays throughout his service a fixed percentage rate of contribution which varies with his rank and age at entry. The percentage rates range from 4.75 per cent for entry at 15 or less to a maximum of 6 per cent for other rank members entering at age 30 or more and a maximum of 12i per cent for officers entering at age 37 or more. Only service from age 20 onwards counts for pension purposes but both officer and other rank members who enter before that age pay lower rates of contribution. The difference between the maximum contribution rates for other ranks and officers reflects the different bases on which other rank and officer pensions are assessed. The other rank pension is determined by length of service while the officer pension is determined by age at retirement, the maximum in both instances being a pension approximating 70 per cent of final pay, although the maximum tapers down to around 60 per cent for the most senior officers as in the superannuation scheme. Both the pre-1959 and post-1959 schemes are actuarially based and members’ contributions are retained in an invested fund. The earning rate of this fund has increased rapidly in recent years; the estimated earning rate for the year ended 30th June 1972 is 6.58 per cent which would be an increase of 0.24 per cent over the rate for 1970-71.
The Jess Committee recommended that the present fund be transferred to the Commonwealth, that members’ contributions in future be paid to Consolidated Revenue and that the Commonwealth guarantee the benefits provided and meet all costs not covered by members’ contributions. In the new scheme recommended by the Committee, the contribution rate would be a flat 5.5 per cent of pay for all members and the level of pensions would be determined for both officers and other ranks by length of service. All service, including service before age 20, would count for pension purposes and pensions would range from 35 per cent of final pay after 20 years’ service to 76.5 per cent of pay after 40 years. Officers, like other rank members, would be entitled to a pension on completion of 20 years’ service, but a pension reduction penalty of 5 per cent would apply for each uncompleted year of service if an officer were retired at his own request before he reached his retiring age for rank or an other rank member before the end of his engagement.
The Committee also recommended that after retirement the whole of a member’s pension be adjusted annually to maintain relativity with average weekly earnings. The Committee said that a possible method of achieving this would be to maintain the relativity of benefits to current pay for the rank held on retirement. Other recommendations include desirable extensions and improvements to provisions that exist in the present scheme. The Jess Committee was rightly concerned to seek to avoid complexities in the future operation of the DFRB scheme. For this reason, the Committee concluded that all present contributors should be compulsorily transferred to the new scheme and that they should not be offered a choice of remaining in thenpresent scheme.
The Government is attracted to the concept of a simple, comprehensible scheme as outlined by the Jess Committee, but, in a letter to the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairbairn), the Committee expressed the strong opinion that if any of the Committee’s recommendations were detrimental to any section of existing contributors special short term arrangements should be made to ensure that no detriment occurred. The Government accepted this view and on 20th September last the Minister for Defence announced that no-one would be disadvantaged by participating in the new scheme; that everybody would have a right of election to ensure that by participating he would not be disadvantaged. This inevitably raised the question whether it would be possible to make this assurance effective without introducing a third DFRB scheme to supplement the pre-1959 and post-1959 scheme. The Government has no desire to do so.
There have been strong representations on behalf of post-1959 late entrant officers. There have also been representations on behalf of those pre-1959 contributors who have taken the opportunity available to them of limiting their contributions and receiving, without increasing the level of their contributions further, the Commonwealth element of future accruing pension entitlements. The crucial point, therefore, is whether it is practicable to transfer in an equitable way the pre-1959 and post-1959 contributors to such a new scheme, without detriment to any one of them. We shall have an independent expert examination of this problem. One supplementary suggestion from the Jess Committee related to late entry officers. The number involved is significant. At 30th June 1972 there were 3516 officer members who entered at age 23 or later; 773 officers entered at age 33 or later. Because of the change in the basis for officers’ pension, to length of service in the Jess Committee scheme, many of these late entrant officers would have a lower pension entitlement. The Jess Committee in a letter to the Minister for Defence recommended that these officers, in addition to receiving the surplus of their contributions above 5i per cent of salary, should be allowed to purchase back notional service to bring the pension they would be contributing for under the Jess scheme up to the level for which they were contributing under the post-1959 scheme. This proposal is being actively investigated.
The Government like the Jess Committee is attracted to the concept of a simple, comprehensible scheme, provided it is possible to transfer the existing pre- 1959 and post-1959 contributors to the new scheme without detriment. This is strongly favoured by the Services. But if the Government’s assurance of transfer without detriment should prove to be impracticable, the Government has decided that it would instead incorporate many of the recommendations of the Jess Committee in an improved version of the post-1959 scheme to which pre-1959 contributors would be given the opportunity of transfer on an equitable basis. In any event, the following 7 specific recommendations of the Committee have been accepted by the Government:
Marriages of pensioners before age 60 will be recognised for widows’ pension purposes.
A dependent spouse of a female member or pensioner will be entitled to pension on her death.
Subject to conditions yet to be determined, de facto spouses and illegitimate children will be recognised for pension purposes.
Children’s benefits payable to students will be continued until age 25.
There will be payable to the estate of a contributor or pensioner, who dies without leaving dependants entitled to pension, an amount equal to one and one-half times his contributions less, in the case of a pensioner, any pension or other benefits received.
The tapering of the entitlements of more senior officers will be eliminated.
A retiring member will not be penalised by reason of his refusing to sign on to a reserve force.
The Government has also adopted in a modified form 6 other recommendations of the Jess Committee:
An officer will be able to retire on pension before reaching his designated retiring age on completion of 20 years’ service for DFRB purposes.
The present category structure will be eliminated. Contribution rates will be expressed as a percentage of pay for DFRB purposes and pensions as a percentage of final pay.
For members who enter at age 20, retirement pensions will range from 35 per cent of final pay at age 40 to 70 per cent at age 57 or later.
A retired member will have an unfettered right within a specified period of retirement, say 12 months, to commute up to the existing one-third of his pension, other than an invalidity pension. The amount of the commuted sum will be determined on an appropriate annuity basis.
Appropriate provision will be made for the purchase of past non-contributory service by present serving members including those members who in 1948 elected to remain on deferred pay rather than enter the DFRB scheme.
The concept of an appeals tribunal has been acepted
As I have earlier explained, the Jess Committee recommended that DFRB pensions be adjusted annually after retirement to maintain relativity with average weekly earnings and mentioned a possible method of doing this. We have concluded that the issue of post retirement pension adjustments cannot be dealt with in the DFRB context alone. In the past, DFRB pensions have been adjusted at the same time and on the same basis as Commonwealth superannuation pensions and similar adjustment principles have been applied to other Commonwealth superannuationtype pensions.
The House will recall that last year the Treasurer in his Budget Speech announced that the Government was investigating alternative methods of adjusting DFRB and superannuation pensions. We have now decided to refer this important issue to independent expert investigation. This investigation will be called upon to report on various methods of adjusting pensions for which the Commonwealth is responsible and the inter-relationships of the various schemes and how they might be affected by the various adjustment methods. Additionally, the investigation will report on the economic and financial effects of the various methods considered.
The personnel members of the Navy, Army and Air Boards have all agreed that it is premature at this stage to press for an annual updating of DFRB pensions in the light of the other schemes needing similar consideration. Children’s and orphan’s pensions in both the DFRB and superannuation schemes are expressed as fixed amounts, although there is an alternative basis for assessing orphans’ pensions. The manner of determining children’s and orphans’ pensions in the DFRB and superannuation schemes is at present under consideration and any decisions taken will be incorporated in whatever scheme emerges.
We have also given careful consideration to the Committee’s recommendation that the DFRB scheme be administered by the Department of Defence and that the Minister for Defence should be the responsible Minister. The Government is satisfied that the present arrangement of the one organisation - the office of the superannuation and DFRB Boards - servicing both the DFRB and superannuation schemes, is effective and results in significant economies through the common use of highly specialised staff and facilities. There is also a clear need for co-ordination of policy in relation to the main Commonwealth contributory superannuation schemes, namely, the DFRB scheme, the superannuation scheme, the schemes of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation and the Reserve Bank and the parliamentary and ministerial retiring allowances schemes. In the Government’s view, this is at present facilitated by one Minister, the Treasurer, having responsibilities in relation to all 6 schemes.
Another important recommendation of the Jess Committee was that the present invested fund of members’ contributions, which stood at$1 54m at 30th June 1972, be transferred to the Commonwealth and contributions of members in future be paid to Consolidated Revenue. I referred earlier to the improvement in the earning rate of the DFRB fund. An invested fund is likely in the long term to return earnings at a level that enables members’ contributions to provide greater support for benefits than would otherwise be the case. Accordingly, the DFRB fund will be retained. The Government has, however, decided that the investment powers relating to this fund and the superannuation fund should be widened so that up to 25 per cent of each fund can be invested in shares, debentures, real property, and in loans to building societies. The Government proposes also to establish an investment trust to handle the investment of the 2 funds. The Government is working towards the necessary amending legisation being ready for introduction in the autumn sittings next year. As already announced, the legislation will operate from 1st October 1972. We believe that the improvements that will be effected by the legislation will simplify the present arrangements and result in a very much better DFRB scheme.
– I move:
I ask leave to make my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I table a document relating to the application of the common fee up to 30th June 1972 and a statement associated with the document.
I ask for leave to make my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) agreed to:
That clauses 1 to 5 and the First Schedule be postponed until after consideration of the Second Schedule; and that, unless otherwise ordered, the votes in the Second Schedule be considered in the same groupings as in the Estimates Committees A, B, C, D and E.
Proposed expenditure - Department of Health, $53,598,000- passed.
Proposed expenditure, $5,699,000.
– I raise a matter which has been raised previously in this chamber, which is of concern to me and which I believe is of some concern to other members of the Parliament. I refer to the refusal of the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) to allow the use of official cars by members of the Parliament outside a 30-mile radius of the capital city in the State m which they live. I have been extremely patient in relation to this matter. I thought that the Prime Minister would accede to the request made to him in a joint submission by myself and members of the Government parties in relation to the matter. We members of the Parliament are still being treated as second class citizens in this regard. I repeat what I said during the adjournment debate one night-
– I do not want to interrupt you, but the point you are raising is related not to the proposed expenditure of the Parliament tout to the proposed expenditure of the Department of the Interior.
– I will accept the Minister’s guidance, and I will speak later.
-(Senator Lawrie) - Are there any requests? There being no requests, I declare the vote passed.
Proposed expenditure - Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, 531,039,000- passed.
Department of the Treasury
Proposed expenditure, $110,396,000.
– I relate my remarks to the proposed expenditure of $11,997,600 under division 540. I am concerned about a question that Senator Georges has raised from time to time, namely, the right of a member of the Parliament to query the action of the Commissioner of Taxation in relation to the assessment of a taxpayer. Senator Georges alleged that, as a favour, someone had the Commissioner withdraw a taxation assessment of over $2m. That allegation may or may not have validity. Senator Georges has been seeking guidance from the Parliament in order to ascertain whether the assessment was made and *hen withdrawn. If we could get this fact established we would have some basis on which to proceed. I believe that when the matter was raised at an estimates committee meeting it was ruled that it would be a breach of the Income Tax Assessment Act if the Commissioner disclosed the taxation affairs of an individual. I seriously challenge whether it would be such a breach. Each year in an annual report the Commission publishes the names of those who are in default and the taxation breaches of those individuals.
When determining a matter related to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the Senate decided that there was a responsibility on even statutory authorities to report to the Parliament on their expenditure and activities during the year. It is unquestionable that the Parliament has the right to the information. If the Parliament, by legislation, gave away this right, we would have to acknowledge that, having forfeited the right, we have no right. I submit that the Parliament has not forfeited that right. Whether we should continue to allocate money for the salaries for Taxation Office officials must be determined by the state of our knowledge as to their activities and whether they are administering the Act as the Parliament intended or as someone of importance in our political life requests them to administer it. I think the Taxation Office relies on section 16 of the Act, which states: (2.) Subject to this section, an officer shall not either directly or indirectly, except in the performance of any duty as an officer, and while he is, or after be ceases to be an officer, make a record of, or divulge or communicate to any person any such information so acquired by him.
An officer is defined in section 16(1.) as being a person who is employed by the Commonwealth in the Taxation Office and who, by reason of that employment, may obtain information. There is also a definition of ‘Commissioner’. The question arises whether an officer ‘employed by the Commonwealth’ includes the Commissioner. Sub-section (6.) of section 16 is very definite. It provides:
Any officer shall, if and when required by the Commissioner, Second Commissioner or a Deputy Commissioner to do so, make an oath or declaration . . .
There, an officer and the Commissioner are 2 entirely separate identities. An officer is responsible to the Commissioner or the Deputy Commissioner and must make an oath or affirmation if required. While this section prohibits an officer from giving information, there is nothing in it which prohibits the Commissioner or a Deputy Commissioner from giving information. I think a serious view would be taken of the matter if even the Commissioner or a Deputy Commissioner were to divulge to the public or any unathorised person information provided by a taxpayer in a return. But surely he has a responsibility to the Parliament to disclose it. A situation has arisen where someone thinks that something suspicious has been going on in regard to the taxation operations of an individual. That suspicion cannot be taken any further until evidence is produced. If a politician has any duty at all it is to see whether the laws of the land are being complied with. So I repeat the question that Senator Georges was refused permission to ask during a meeting of an Estimates Committee; Was an assessment for over $2m issued in respect of a member of a well known business firm in Sydney and subsequently withdrawn at the request of a certain political figure? If the Minister for Health wants more information - such as the names of the persons involved and so on - and I cannot supply it Senator Georges will. I stress that the Parliament has a right to this information.
(8.14) - Perhaps 1 should give the information that I have. I point out that I am not a lawyer and that I cannot interpret legislation as lawyers do. I also do not have the Income Tax Assessment Act in front of me. But I can at least give the information which was supplied to me by the Department of the Treasury adverting to the point made by Senator Cavanagh. I feel that it is really the only contribution I can make to the point which has been raised. Section 14 of the Income Tax Assessment Act imposes a duty on the Commissioner of Taxation to furnish an annual report to the Treasurer for presentation to the Parliament in which he is required to draw attention to any breaches or evasions of the Act which have come under notice. The secrecy provisions of the law prohibit disclosures by the Commissioner of information concerning the income tax affairs of any taxpayer. The restriction does not, however, apply to a disclosure made by the Commissioner in the performance of his duty - for example, in making his annual report to the Treasurer.
– What section is that?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONSection 14. I am giving an interpretive explanation of information I sought and was given on this matter. In the annual report certain criteria are adopted so as to limit the reporting of taxpayers by name to cases of breaches or evasions in which fairly substantial penalties have been imposed. With minor cases being reported, in summary form the criteria are as follows: Firstly, the taxpayer has understated his taxable income; secondly, he has not voluntarily made a true and full disclosure of the unstated taxable income; thirdly, the amount of statutory additional tax charged after any remission exceeds $500 and the total additional tax is more than 25 per cent of the tax avoided; and, fourthly, the case has reached (finality in the sense that the taxpayer has exhausted all his rights of objection and appeal.
Without exception every case involving avoidance of tax arising out of a breach or evasion is included by name in the annual report if it comes within the criteria to which I have referred. It is emphasised, however, that the only cases that are or can be reported are those where there has been a breach or evasion. Tax saving agreements or arrangements are, of course, entered into by some taxpayers to lower the incidence of tax that might otherwise be payable, but are at the same time legally valid and hence do not give rise to breaches or evasions of the Act. These may loosely be described as cases of legal tax avoidance. Because they are within the law and do not involve any understatements of taxable income or the imposition of penalties they do not fall within the classes which are required to be reported to Parliament.
– I wish to raise a procedural matter, Mr Temporary Chairman. 1 understand that we are dealing with all the estimates referred to Estimates Committee A in relation to both Appropriation Bill (No. 1) and Appropriation Bill (No. 2).
– No, that is not correct. We set out to meet the convenience of honourable senators by doing so, but then it was agreed that the Committee of the Whole should deal with the departments concerned one by one. We have already dealt with the Department of Health, the Parliament and the Prime Minister’s Department. We are now dealing with the Department of the Treasury.
– That is all right. I am not objecting to that.
(Senator Lawrie) - I think Senator Wilkinson has raised a different point. I think he wants to know whether we are taking Document A and Document B together.
– We are dealing with Document A and Document B, but we will have to take a separate vote on Document B afterwards.
– That is all right. I have asked about this because when I want to deal with the Postmaster-General’s Department I do not want to be caught up in the same manner as someone else was caught up a few moments ago. I do not want to be refused permission to ask a question.
– Do you want to ask another question, Senator Cavanagh?
– I want to follow up what I was speaking about earlier. I think the Minister for Health (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) has simply avoided the point I raised. He referred to section 14 of the Income Tax Assessment Act, which deals with the furnishing of an annual report by the Commissioner of Taxation in which he should draw attention to any breaches or evasions of the Act. I take it that the complaint to which I have referred was not considered by the Commissioner as being a breach or an evasion and that therefore he would have no power to include it in the report. That is what the Commissioner may include in the annual report. But we are not asking for the annual report of the Commissioner. What we are saying is that there is an obligation on the Commissioner as a servant of the Parliament to relate to the Parliament the activities of that Department. Section 14 of the Act has nothing to do with that. We are not querying the annual report. Previously it was claimed that there was an exemption under section 16. Section 16(1.) reads as follows:
For the purposes of this section, ‘officer’ means a person who is or has been appointed or employed by the Commonwealth or by a State, and who by reason of that appointment or employment, or in the course of that employment, may acquire or has acquired information respecting the affairs of any other person . . .
That dennes the officer. Then we find that a person who is an officer is subject to section 16 (2.) which reads:
. , an officer shall not either directly or indirectly, except in the performance of any duty as an officer, and either while he is, or after be ceases to be an officer, make a record of, or divulge or communicate to any person any such information so acquired by him.
Therefore, an officer of the Department is prohibited from giving information here by law. While there was some pretence that the definition of officer would cover the Commissioner, it is obvious that the draftsman and the Parliament had 2 separate identities in mind. The section specifies the 2 - the Commissioner and the officer. The Commissioner can insist that the officer take an oath. Therefore, there is no exemption for the Commissioner not to give that information to Parliament. He is under an obligation to give details of evasions and fraud in the annual report. He is not under obligation to communicate to the Parliament until the Parliament asks him for the information. If he is not prepared to act as a public servant and give information to the Parliament when it seeks to find out whether there has been any misapplication of the law, we must hesitate and consider seriously whether we should grant the appropriation until this information is given to the Parliament. It is information to which we are entitled. It is information that has been denied us under the pretext that the Act prohibits the giving of the information to us. The Act does not prohibit the giving of the information to the Parliament. The information should be given. It is an important question. It raises serious questions about the integrity of personalities associated with the Government of this country and we have a right to know about this. I think that there is no better time to find out than now when we are asked to approve the appropriation for the Department.
– I wish to speak on the same subject as that referred to by Senator Cavanagh. 1 was the first person who raised this matter concerning an assessment which proceeded through the various areas of appeal, disallowance and subsequent withdrawal. The question that I raised was the need for the Commissioner of Taxation to make known to this Parliament either in his report, the report of the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) or the Auditor-General’s report the reason for the withdrawal of the assessment, even if it were done in such a way that the actual taxpayer would not be named or identified. However, in this case so much has been said that the taxpayer is easily identified. Perhaps, in this way, I made it more difficult for the Treasurer and the Commissioner of Taxation to give me the information.
The point that I am making is clearly this: A reason for the withdrawal of the assessment is needed, not only by this Parliament for its information but also by other taxpayers who have been similarly assessed. The Commissioner of Taxation may have decided that this was an avoidance of tax. It seems to flow from the fact that the assessment was made and then withdrawn that there must have been some type of legal avoidance, if you like to term it in that way. Having defined within this area of assessment that there was a legal avoidance, it is necessary to let all other taxpayers know that they could be in the same situation and also could ask either for a withdrawal or for a rebate. I wish to refer to the Treasurer a book called ‘Taxation Now and in the Future’, lt includes the papers and commentaries presented at the First National Convention of the Taxation Institute of Australia, held in Canberra from 23rd to 26th May 1969. 1 refer briefly to a comment made by Professor G. S. A. Wheatcroft, Solicitor-General of the Supreme Court. He has other qualifications also. They arc lengthy and I will not repeat them. Under the heading Non-Statutory Discretions’, of which he names 3, he says this:
The third case is where the discretion in exercised in the taxpayers favour and he obviously will not appeal.
So the information does not become public knowledge. Professor Wheatcroft continues:
Such an exercise may, however, be unfair to other taxpayers who do not receive the same treatment and have no means of appealing against a decision in favour of another taxpayer. This last area is of some interest, especially in the United Kingdom.
Apparently the matter I am raising is of interest to these experts in the field of taxation. Therefore, I am asking for the Treasurer to reveal why, in this case, this assessment was made and why it was withdrawn. I think that it is a reasonable request. If the information cannot be given this time, let it be given in future. If evasion and breaches are to be declared in the report under the Act and regulations that the Minister has cited then avoidance, which is a mere breach, should also be declared, especially when large sums of money are involved. I may have done an injustice to the Commissioner of Taxation in something that I said yesterday. In my final words I want to put the record straight. In speaking on this matter I said: , . the Commissioner of Taxation at this point of time is a man of high integrity.
That was the Treasurer’s statement in a letter to me. I continued:
The Commissioner at this time may be so, but it is not denied that that may not always be the case.
There is an ambiguity in that which I want to correct. I did not mean that the Commissioner of Taxation today is a man of high integrity and may not be a man of high integrity tomorrow. What I meant by that statement was this: The Commissioner of Taxation at present is a man of high integrity. But the next Commissioner of Taxation, the Commissioner who may follow him or a Commissioner at some future date may not be. I want it to be perfectly clear that that is what I intended. I refer back–
– That is about as bad.
- Senator Webster criticises the fact that I am prepared to correct the record. Perhaps he may have preferred me to remain silent rather than correct the record. Is that what he intended?
– That would be right.
– You say that it is better to remain silent?
– That would be right in view of what you are saying.
– You rest on that assertion and let me make my explanation and at least clear my statement.
-(Senator Lawrie) - Order! Senator Georges, you will address the Chair.
– I know that it is late in the session to become involved in a debate with Senator Webster. He is already in trouble with Senator McLaren. I would like the Treasurer and the Commissioner of Taxation to consider the point that I have raised, particularly because it is very much in the public interest that large scale avoidance of tax, no matter how legal it may be, ought to be publicly declared.
(8.31) - I cannot add a great deal because, as I said earlier, I am not competent to do so and I do not think it is appropriate for us to be getting into a debate on the interpretation of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936-1971. But Senator Cavanagh has made a point about his understanding of what the Act means, as has Senator Georges, and very properly that goes into the record and very properly it will be picked up by the appropriate authorities, considered, analysed and assessed. Indeed, it will be placed under the microscope to ascertain whether there is, as Senator Cavanagh has said, some vagueness in the interpretation of the Act, particularly in relation to sections 14 and 16. I propose to read part of section 16 but I will not attempt to place an interpretation on it. Section 16 (1.) states:
For the purposes of this section, ‘officer’ means a person who is or has been appointed or employed by the Commonwealth or by a State, and who by reason of that appointment or employment, or in the course of that employment, may acquire or has acquired information respecting the affairs . . .
As I read that and as my advisers have said to me from a quick look at the matter, there is no doubt that that definition includes the Commissioner. Then subsection (5a) of section 16 states:
For the purposes of sub-sections (2.) and (5.) of this section, an officer or person shall be deemed to have communicated such information to another person in contravention of those subsections if he communicates that information to any Minister.
– That is an officer.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONAnd an officer means the Commissioner.
– That is what you say.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThat is right. I am not a lawyer, nor is Senator Cavanagh. I know that he likes to put these matters up for study. Senator Cavanagh and Senator Georges have made points in relation to their interpretation of the Act. All I can promise is to see that the points they have made are referred for study to the appropriate people associated with the Acts of Parliament.
– I can take that matter no further but I should like to add a few more points which the Minister might consider when he is seeking clarification of this question. I have never pretended to have any capabilities - at least not legal capabilities - of interpretation, and I am the first to admit my inability to give legal interpretations. But this is not a question of legal interpretations; it is a question of the plain reading of the language of the Act, which in respect of an interpretation can be made by anyone. The Minister showed his capability by referring to the definition of an ‘officer’. He said that an ‘officer’ means everyone. I agree with that because it is stated very plainly in the Act. But the Minister did not go far enough. Section 6 of the Act - the definitions section - states that the Commissioner means the Commissioner of Taxation. Then section 16(1.) of the Act states;
For the purposes of this section, ‘officer’ means a person who is or has been appointed or employed by the Commonwealth. . . and who . . . has acquired information. . .
The Commissioner also is an employee, and this section of the Act must include him unless there is some indication that Parliament never intended that. Section 16(6.) defines the Commissioner and an officer as 2 separate identities. The 2 descriptions are used in the one subsection. So obviously they are not the one person.
– Nothing is obvious when you start to read an Act of Parliament.
– No, but somehow or other there was a different draftsman when this Act was drafted. He made it very simple to understand. In section 1 6(6.) he said:
Any officer shall, if and when required by the Commissioner . . .
If they are one and the same person, an officer cannot be required to do something by someone who does not exist. In giving a definition of an officer the draftsman obviously relied on the definition of the Commissioner in section 6 of the Act, who is someone quite distinct. It would be difficult to imagine that Parliament would give away every authority for the purpose of examining the operation of the Act and the activities of the Commissioner. A Bill to provide for that would never get through the Parliament. There is the explanation - it never did.
I do not suppose that I can take it any further. If there are no statutory limitations - and the Minister may have some doubts whether there are or there are not, and 1 take it that he will get some legal interpretation of the matter - why can we not have this information? Why should it be denied to the Parliament? That is what we want to know. Is the Minister resting solely on a law which he claims prohibits the giving of this information? The Taxation Office is in such a mess that no-one can inquire into it. The Auditor-General, at page 300 of his annual report for 1971- 72, when dealing with the Department of the Treasury stated:
During the year, it was reported to my Office that a major fraud was detected in October 1971 -
This could have some relevance to the dates which Senator Georges mentioned, I do not know- in which a Taxation Officer who it would appear was not an assessor, was involved, with the manipulation of the returns of a number of taxpayers. It was also reported that approximately 85 taxpayers and $60,000 were involved. The Taxation Office expects to recover at least this amount by reassessment process.
The officer was convicted on 5 counts of forging income tax returns and 5 counts of bribery under the Crimes Act 1914-1966 and was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment.
I do not suppose that we can blame the Taxation Office other than for being lax in its operation by permitting someone who was not an assessor to manipulate returns so that he could assist 85 taxpayers - and Senator Georges referred to only one - to the extent of $60,000. Limitations are placed upon the Auditor-General inquiring into the question of whether this is correct because the Auditor-General in his report went on to say:
In my report for the year ended 30 June 1963, when reporting on a similar case, it was explained that according to an Opinion of the Acting Attorney-General, dated 11 January 1949, (attached to the Annual Report for 1947-48 of the then Auditor-General) the Auditor-General has a limited function in regard to the audit of the income tax accounts. . . .
Why has the Auditor-General a limited function in regard to the audit of the income tax accounts? The report continued:
Reference to this matter was made also by my predecessors in their Annual Reports for 1947-48 and 1953-54 . . .
So it has been continually reported upon.
The report goes on: and in 2 later years (other than 1962-63), cases have been reported of manipulations by officers of the Commonwealth Taxation Office involving expenditure from the Commonwealth Public Account by way of refunds of income tax.
So, it is just formal manipulation that is happening. To what extent is it happening? The Auditor-General’s Report goes on:
Under the present statutory provisions, read in conjunction with the Acting Attorney-General’s advising, my Office is not in a position to examine the circumstances of the recent case referred to above, nor generally, to conduct a satisfactory audit verification, in conformity with normal auditing procedures, of the expenditure of moneys from the Commonwealth Public Account on refunds of income tax, which in 1971-72, amounted to $713,532,875. From inquiries made, it would seem that this restriction of the Auditor-General does not exist in most other Commonwealth countries.
Therefore, there is continual manipulation in the Taxation Office which the Auditor-General cannot look into. Who can look into it? That is what we want to know. Can the Minister give us any information on this manipulation on behalf of 85 taxpayers, thus defrauding the Commonwealth of $60,000? I think the Parliament at least has a right to look into it.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSON (New South Wales - Minister for Health) (8.41) - Obviously, I am not in a position to give an answer now; but, as I gave an assurance before, I certainly will see that the contributions made to this Committee debate by both Senator Cavanagh and Senator Georges are drawn to the attention of the Minister without delay. I thank the members of the Committee for their co-operation.
- (Senator Lawrie) - Are there any requests? There being no requests, I declare the vote passed.
Proposed expenditure - Department of Defence, $34,720,000- passed.
Proposed expenditure - AttorneyGeneral’s Department, $26,711,000- passed.
Proposed expenditure, $81,059,000.
– I rise–
– I point out that the Committee will deal with both Document A and Document B, but we will not vote on Document B until later.
– That is the point I wanted to make. I refer to Division 870, 872 and 873 which are in Document B. Senate Estimates Committee B had considerable difficulty, as expressed in its report, in determining the correctness or otherwise of the appropriation of $288m under Division 870. On the first page of its report, Senate Estimates Committee B reported:
At the conclusion of that week an amended statement was produced - the one I have in my hand - for the use and consideration of Estimates Committee B. Estimates Committee B had a look at the estimates of receipts and expenditure under this heading and came to the conclusion which I have just quoted, namely, that there was inadequate time to go right through them. We are now in the Committee of the Whole and at this point there is an opportunity for those who are not members of Estimates Committee B to ask questions on the expenditure in order to see whether the $288m which is asked for is warranted in view of the receipts of almost$1, 000m which, it has been estimated, will accrue to the Department this year. It will be impossible for honourable senators, in this Committee of the Whole, to deal with that adequately unless they have copies of this document. To the best of my knowledge, copies of it have not been distrubuted to all honourable senators; they were distributed only to members of Estimates Committee B. The Minister can correct me if I am wrong.
– Only the Estimates Committee asked for it.
– But the Estimates Committee was acting for the Senate, I think, and therefore all members of the Senate, who must look at the whole of this expenditure, should have had copies of the statement. I think this should have been done, but as far as 1 know it has not been done. I do not see how this Committee of the Whole can adequately consider this expenditure without all honourable senators having copies of the statement. Therefore it will have to allow the expenditure to pass. However, I request that this document be made available publicly and to all members of the .Senate. I suggest also that, when we come to the consideration of the Postmaster-General’s Department’s accounts and requests for capital works expenditure and so on next year, a complete document showing the analysis of expenditure and receipts of the Department be made available to all members of the Senate. I will be interested to have the Minister’s reply on whether this will be done.
– I want to say only a few words which will follow very much the theme which has been presented here earlier this evening. I want to refer, in my capacity as Chairman of Senate Estimates Committee B, to the estimates relating to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and to paragraphs on pages 1 and 2 of the report of. Estimates Committee B. This amount of $2 8 8m, which was outlined in the explanatory notes that were provided to the Committee in the first instance, was accounted for in the space of a very few lines. One item which particularly attracted the attention of the Committee was an item described as ‘other incidentals’, the total of which was $62,257,000. The report shows that the expenditure totalled $l,276m. The Committee felt that the material before it at that stage was not adequate to enable it to carry out a comprehensive inquiry into the accounts of the Postmaster-General’s Department and the affairs of the Post Office. I repeat that the Department was requested to produce an additional amount of material and explanatory notes. As Chairman of the Committee I say with appreciation that within the week, as we requested, the Minister provided, as he said he would, documents which set out in greater detail much more helpful information. Although the Committee has said this in the report I want to place on record in the Senate tonight that the Minister responded and no doubt behind the Minister’s response was a great deal of work by officers of the Department. Nevertheless I hope th. Minister will take into account the representations which have been made during this debate and the comments which were made at the time of the Committee hearing
The Post Office is an important institution in Australia. It is a large and diverse institution which carries not only a great deal of responsibility but also an enormous amount of detailed involvement with the community, lt is concerned not only with such things as the carriage of our mail but also the things which go with that and, of course, broadcasting and other authorities. Because of this the time may well have come when the examination of these estimates should not be put in with a number of other departments for a committee to examine at the close of a fairly long period of examination. It may well be that in future the examination of the Post Office and things involved with it should be the discipline of a committee which does that alone because of the wideranging, important and comprehensive nature of the Post Office. We should acknowledge the great degree of responsibility which the Post Office and all the people who are involved with it carry. At the first presentation we were disappointed that the only detail available to us was a few lines in the explanatory notes. The Minister explained to us that the pattern followed for this year was exactly the same as that followed last year. Therefore I think we acknowledge that the Post Office presented to Senate Estimates Committee B material similar to that which it presented to our predecessor at an earlier hearing.
– That material had been accepted.
Sen-tor DAVIDSON- Yes.
– That does not make it right forever.
– No, it does not make it right forever. I think it should be pointed out that the Senate Estimates Committee system is an evolving system. Obviously as each year goes by each succeeding committee will endeavour to improve upon its examination and encourage the relevant departments to improve upon the presentation of explanatory notes.
– The honourable senator is not suggesting that there should be criticism because the Department has not done this year something which was not requested last year?
– We cannot hear.
– The Minister hay indicated that I should not suggest that the Department should be subject to criticism because it has not presented to the Senate Estimates Committee this year something which it was not requested to do last year. I think the Minister and the Department understand that in the evolving of the Senate Estimates Committees naturally there is a changing line of inquiry and, maybe, even a changing line of criticism from year to year. I hope the Minister recalls that while we quite strongly requested that, additional information should be supplied to us we pointed out that we could not. fulfil what was required of a Senate Estimates Committee unless we had additional information. When we requested additional information the Minister readily agreed to supply it to us. I have already indicated my appreciation for what he has done and, particularly because of his interjection, the work done by officers of his Department. Let me leave the matter at that now.
I make the point that I hope the Minister will take on board the feeling among the Committee dealing with this that in future examinations there should be a renewed and, indeed, quite new approach to the supply of explanatory notes because Senate Estimates Committees as they are evolving are acquiring additional skills in inquiry. Because of the important nature of the Post Office and because of the great amount of money involved I hope that as we meet next time - I reflect what Senator Wilkinson has said - there will be additional explanations to enable members of the Committee to conduct an inquiry which will be fruitful as far as the Senate Committee is concerned and most satisfying as far as the Post Office is concerned.
– I rise to repudiate what is 1 feel - I hope I do not feel it wrongly - some implied criticism of the Post Office and the Postmaster-General’s Department for the material which was initially supplied to Senate Estimates Committee B. I hope it is not a criticism which is made of the Department. If it be a criticism I think it is quite unwarranted. The Post Office has shown itself to be prepared to give to any inquiring committee of this Senate all the information which that committee wants. I feel that to suggest or imply the contrary is quite unjustified. When the Budget is presented all honourable senators are provided with a document from the Post Office which contains material on Post Office prospects and capital programme for the ensuing year. I have in my hand a document which all honourable senators recognise because we have it annually. It is called ‘Post Office Prospects and Capital Programme 1972-73’. When I say that every honourable senator has it, annually, 1 mean that we are given a copy when the Budget is brought down. It reports the items upon which the Post Office is going to spend money and the amounts which are to be spent for the ensuing year. It is a most informative document.
Also all honourable senators are supplied with the Australian Post Office Annual Report. That sets out the consolidated profit and loss statement, the services balance sheet, the source and disposition of funds during the year, the profit and loss statement, general information as to assets and the cash and bank balances and operating, maintenance and general expenses of the Post Office. AH honourable senators have a copy of this report. Of course the Post Office also supplies the financial and statistical bulletin of the Post Office which contains a mass of figures for those honourable senators who are interested. The document to which I have just referred was not available at the time when the Estimates Committee met this year. I know that that is a source of regret to officers of the Post Office. Every endeavour was made to have it available but it was unable to be printed in time. Of course this year if the committees had sat for the same time as last year the document Would have been ready in ample time for all honourable senators to examine. But that is part of the material which is made available by the Post Office to anybody who is interested in knowing something about how it spends its money, its receipts and expenditure and whether it is operating as an efficient business in the public interest. Those facts should be made clear because there is currently a campaign to which some people give credence which suggests that in some way the mysteries of the Post Office are not being revealed. All I say to anyone who wants the information is that the information is available.
When Estimates Committee B sat this year it had before it - apart from the 2 public documents which were available, namely, the ‘Post Office Prospects and Capital Programme’ for the ensuing year and the Australian Post Office annual report-a very substantial document entitled ‘Estimates of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department for Senate Estimates Committee B’ which had been supplied by the Postmaster-General’s Department. That document set out in detail the various items of expenditure of the Department. I appreciate that for the Post Office the document contained no more than appears in the appropriation statement about the lump sum payment which represents the amount which the Government provides to meet the deficit between the receipts and expenditure of the Post Office, ft is a large sum - S288m. There was nothing new in the approach which the Postmaster-General’s Department adopted in the material which it produced this year to the Senate Estimates Committee. All honourable senators will recall that the Department presented the same information this year as it presented last year and that it was accepted last year as satisfactory. The position was the same for the year 1970- 71. When the Committee indicated this year that it wanted more information the Department submitted within the week a further 35 pages of detail which it thought might be valid for parliamentary consideration. In addition to that information honourable senators have the material in the public documents to which I have referred. It is a matter essentially for the Post Office and the Postmaster-General as to what will be provided next year. I am not in a position to commit a future PostmasterGeneral on what he will provide.
– Why are you not in a position to commit the Post Office?
– I am trying to be gentle about this. On other occasions I have been assured by Senator Georges that I will be sitting on his side of the chamber next year and he will be sitting on this side. I am trying with delicate language to convey the impression that 1 cannot commit whoever will be the Postmaster-General next year. Even on the basis upon which I initially made my statement, that the present Government will still occupy those positions which to the satisfaction of the people of Australia it has occupied for 23 years, T cannot commit a future PostmasterGeneral because there will be a new Postmaster-General and his approach to this matter will be for him to decide. Everyone who looks at this sensibly will appreciate that the comments made have enormous validity attaching to them. We appreciate how much the Senate Estimates Committee gained from having before it the detailed material on the various items in the Post Office’s profit and loss account.
– The Committee acknowledged that.
– 1 agree with what Senator Davidson said; it has been acknowledged. All I am saying is that in the future the benefits will obviously commend themselves to any subsequent Minister who has to determine what material shall be provided. 1 am sure that the comments which Senator Wilkinson has persisted with over a long period will have their weight in the appropriate places. I rose on this point only to insist that if there is any implied criticism of the way in which the Postmaster-General has supplied this material, that criticism is completely unjustified Every piece of information that was sought was provided, and any further information which is sought will be provided. It is wrong to suggest, as I respectfully say to the Committee that its report suggests, that the delay in getting material and the inability to complete the Estimates Committee hearing was in any way due to the delinquency of the Post Office because the Post Office gave the information which was requested, when it was requested and within the time for which it was asked. If the Committee was not able to meet because of pressures of Senate business to give due consideration to these matters, that was not the fault of the Post Office.
– When the Estimates for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department for 1971-72 were being discussed in a Senate Estimates Committee, I invited attention to a point which concerned me. I refer to the lack of consideration that appeared to be given to rugby league in the programming and televising of sporting events. After hearing a lot of generalisations as to the reason why this was so, I was not satisfied and pursued the matter through Estimates Committee 8. I asked that the Committee be supplied with a detailed list of the expenditure by the Australian Broadcasting Commission on about 15 or 16 sports that were covered by its television programmes. This request was resisted by the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the PostmasterGeneral (Sir Alan Hulme).
– It was not resisted.
– It was resisted on the ground that the request would necessitate the divulging of confidential information that would disadvantage the Australian Broadcasting Commission in business competition with its commercial competitors. Estimates Committee B was forthright on the matter and carried a resolution that the Committee of the Whole should be supplied with the information I was seeking. The Committee of the Whole unanimously carried the resolution and recorded that when this sort of information is requested from the Australian Broadcasting Commission by any honourable senator it should be made available to the Parliament. The next move in this litany of events was that the Australian Broadcasting Commission said it seemed unfair that it should have to table confidential information which would disadvantage it in competition with its commercial competitors. This situation was considered by Estimates Committee B which referred the matter to the Senate Standing Orders Committee. That Committee decided that the Senate could seek this confidential information from any corporate body provided that it was received in camera and dealt with in camera and provided also that first of all the request for the information received the permission of the Senate. That has brought me to this point where I am still dissatisfied that the information that 1 have been seeking for 18 months is unavailable.
I did intend this evening to pursue the matter further by asking the Senate to carry a motion that the Australian Broadcasting Commission be requested to supply this information in camera. However, in view of the fact that the Senate was expected to rise tomorrow I was doubtful of the success I might have had. So 1 will leave my request and live to fight another day. I rose this evening to have permanently recorded in Hansard my view that even if I had pursued the matter I doubt whether it would have altered the existing situation. I was fortunate enough to receive from the Australian Broadcasting Commission a paper, prepared for submission to members of State and regional advisory committees, on the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s sporting department and its work. The paper was prepared by Bernard Kerr, the director of sporting. After reading submissions contained in this paper I feel perfectly sure that even if the information I sought on the broadcasting and televising of various sports had been provided in camera, it would not have contained much about the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s programme policy and would not have resulted in rugby league being given a better go than it is getting at the present time.
I want to say briefly that in this paper dealing with the policy and future of the ABC’s sporting television service it is laid down clearly that it is agreed by every country that has television that sport is one of the best subjects to televise. It may be of interest to honourable senators to know that before each major telecast a programme conference is held with the producer and commentators to brief them on the event and how it is to be covered. That is an important point. This document goes on to state:
While the ABC will continue to provide the widest coverage of sport, it will also concentrate on achieving the highest standards possible both in commentary and presentation.
That brings me to a point that I have raised continuously in this Parliament. Why is not rugby league, the dominant sport in Queensland and New South Wales, a game which is played extensively in Western Australia and the Northern Territory, given more sympathetic consideration? Why are noi replays of the rugby league match’s of the day shown in the areas I have mentioned? I think some action should be taken now 10 bring this about. I have been pursuing this matter continually. Why are the English rugby league club matches not replayed for viewers in Queensland, New South Wales, Western Australia and the Northern Territory? Most importantly of all - I have asked this question in the Senate in the last few weeks - why is not the ABC televising a very important international sporting event, namely, the rugby league world cup finals that are being played in France? I was told that the policy of the ABC is to replay on television games which are played in every State. It is of no use my standing here and being hypocritical about this. I am firmly convinced that the people responsible for sports programmes on ABC television are prejudiced against rugby league. They have refused to televise the rugby league world cup series that commences in France on Sunday, lt is being played between England, France, New Zealand and Australia, and the viewing public in this country would number millions. They have refused to do that yet at page 15 of this paper that I have this claim is proudly made:
Elaborate arrangements were made for the coverage by radio and television of the World Soccer Cup elimination series.
I have nothing against soccer or the Australian rules game favoured by the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Greenwood). I know that his nose is a little out of joint because North Adelaide, made his team bite the dust recently. 1 think Australian rules is a good game and (hat soccer is a good game but rugby league is the greatest game of all. Although the ABC has refused to televise the world cup rugby league matches to be played between 4 nations in France, with a great fanfare of trumpets it says that it televised the world cup soccer elimination series. That reads all right but let me read on. It is stated in this paper:
The Australian team played in Korea, Mozambique and Israel before the first elimination match in Australia.
Anyone with common sense surely could not compare that world cup soccer series with the world cup series to be played in France commencing this weekend. As a senator representing Queensland in this Parliament I must register again for the umpteenth time my dissatisfaction at the lack of information, consideration and explanation given to the Senate about an obvious omission or something that seems to me to be a policy of prejudice against a particular sport.
– I want to go back to square one and the explanation given by the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) of what we did or did not do at hearings of the Estimates Committees, lt is fruitless to argue about who was the guilty party. I think he will appreciate the fact that the issues which were not dealt with - had they been dealt with it would probably have saved considerable time tonight - were the allegations made by the postal unions about 2 matters. I refer, firstly, to private contracting in post offices and, secondly, the installation of telecommunications equipment. The implication is that we are feather bedding private enterprise.
I want to deal first with private contracting. 1 quote from the newsletter of the Union of Postal Clerks and Telegraphists. The union refers to areas where it thinks there is inefficiency. It refers to these matters under such headings as the delivery of parcels by private contractors, the delivery of postmen’s depot bags to their pickup points and the delivery of mail by employees of private companies. The union says that on any day of the week in Sydney between 8.45 a.m. and 10 a.m. private contractor employees can be seen disposing of piles of first class mail, sometimes registered articles and parcels, on footpaths and it is left unattended. I have checked this matter with the rank and file members of the mail branch in Sydney. The allegation is made that pretty liberal discounts are given to private firms and that they are not efficient. One of the reasons for the industrial unrest at the Redfern Mail Exchange has been that the skilled personnel of the Postmaster-General’s Department argue that when they make spot checks, although a private contractor is given substantial discounts, it is not impossible that some of the mail is wrongly addressed. In effect, the inefficiency of private enterprise is met by the taxpayers.
I am endeavouring to abbreviate my remarks as much as I can but I repeat that honourable senators did not get the opportunity, irrespective of who was to blame, to get answers to questions about this situation. The Attorney-General referred to a lot of documents that we did see. If the Postmaster-General’s Department had any concept of public relations, it would well know whether these things are true. I do not know, but the Union of Postal Clerks and Telegraphists circulated all members in relation to the inefficiency of private mail operators. While I am on this subject I would like to know what protection a person now has in regard to registered mail. I refer to a classic case. Somebody could lodge a nomination in a trade union ballot and there could be some delay in delivery. That could cost him the right to stand for office. I do not think there is any need to recapitulate what I have said because it is obvious that the document put out by the Union of Postal Clerks and Telegraphists makes a lot of very serious allegations. It claims that the mail-must-get-through syndrome has been seriously jeopardised by unskilled staff employed by private mail contractors. We should have answers to these questions.
The other matter is much more serious. I refer to an article written by Patricia Bowden which appeared in the ‘Financial Review’. It is headed Technicians seek private moves on PMG profit areas’. The article refers to the installation of telecommunications equipment and says that the specialised staff employed by the contractors comprised almost all ex-departmental employees. It went on to state that the private companies should be able to do the job cheaper because they do not have to carry the cost burden of training staff. The article refers to the bugs that occur. In effect the private companies take the cream while the Postmaster-General’s Department, a Government authority, has to do the unprofitable work.
I want to fire one final salvo at the departmental officers. The Department sent a very attractive girl to my office and that of other honourable senators to tell us about holding a call in suspense and about what could be done. I am not interested in holding calls in suspense, and I am sick and tired of the telephones that have been installed in the new wing of this Parliament House. My views are very simple. Either we get through to a subscriber when we dial, we hear the engaged signal; or the ring at the other end indicating that the subscriber is not there. But what happens then? We hear that stupid voice saying Check your directory’, or making some other stupid statement.
The Department talks about its technical advances but the telephones it has installed in the new wing of the Senate are the most inefficient we have ever had. How often do we find that in our first attempt to get a number, having dialled the digits, we get the engaged signal. On dialling the digits a second time, the same thing happens. At the third attempt, we hear this voice asking us to check our directory. With all the technical efficiency of the Department, these things happen. Does this mean that I do not know my home number or my office number that I. make an error by dialling the wrong digit? This happens very rarely. But how often does one dial directly successfully to an outside line? It may be that this matter is of such importance that it should be directed to the President. The telephone facilities in the Senate new wing are worse than they were 6 years ago. We have this stupid bugging in the sophisticated telephone service. This is not good enough. These are the matters on which we did not have an opportunity to question. 1 could continue for another hour to discuss them.
I have made 3 serious allegations. First, I wish to know whether private enterprise mail contractors are milking the Government cow through their inefficient operatives. I ask secondly in relation to the question of the installation of telecommunications whether people - be they tall poppies or persons at the lower ranks - are suddenly leaving the Postmaster-General’s
Department and becoming part of a private enterprise empire. Are they, too, milking us? Finally, I ask the technicians of the Department when we are to obtain a more efficient telephone service than that which is available now in the new wing of the Senate. It is worse than it was 6 years ago. I am beginning to wonder about the situation. It is of no use for the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Greenwood) to nod his head. I remind the Minister that he has a big staff; I have only myself. My time is just as valuable as his is. The problem in this place is that the gap between Ministers and rank and file senators is becoming wider all the time. Our services are becoming worse. Let us not run away with the idea that they are not. I conclude on this note with respect to the postal services: I do not know who manufactured these new telephones, but if it was one of the big time overseas consortiums, it has done a pretty bum job.
– I come back to the first point I made. The Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) will no doubt reply to all questions In due course. When I brought forward my first point in relation to extra information being made available to Senate Estimates Committee B I was in no way being critical of the Postmaster-General’s Department. I appreciate the fact that the Department has adopted the same procedure ever since a trust account was set up in the Post Office. I admit that the Post Office has adopted the same procedure each year ever since the inauguration of the trust account. Ever since the introduction of the trust account in the Post Office I have objected to the paucity of information that comes from the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. I am not blaming the Department. I am complaining because this provision has been allowed to appear as a one-line entry.
When the Minister said that the Estimates Committee was to consider $288m, which is a lot of money, as a one line entry 1 contended that the amount of $288m was required only because the estimated receipts of $988 were not sufficient for the total work they wanted to carry out. The Department had to ask for another $288m. If this is the case, :t is necessary for the Senate Estimates Com mittee to scrutinise the use to which the Department will put this S9S8m. That is all I am asking for.
– That information was provided.
– It has not been provided.
– That information was provided to the Estimates Committee.
– I admit that a White Paper on Post Office prospects was prepared by the Post Office and made available to the Estimates Committee. I do admit that a report was made available to the Estimates Committee. 1 also admit that 2 red documents were made available to the Estimates Committee. The titles of the documents are different; one has its title placed in the middle of the cover and the other has its title at the top of the cover. They are different.
– One of the documents was given to the Estimates Committee because you requested it.
– You are perfectly correct. I am not objecting.
– You seem to be objecting.
– I think that you, Mr Chairman, are able to understand that I am not making any complaints against the Post Office. Friends of mine working in the Post Office will appreciate that I am not complaining. This document was given to us at our request because the Estimates Committee felt that it was necessary to look at the amount of money that had been estimated as receipts for the coming year and was intended to be spent by the Department. It should be open to scrutiny.
When an amount of $ 1,000m is involved, 1 think the Estimates Committee has to look at it. The Estimates Committee should not be left to say: ‘This is beyond us; we will not look at it’. We have to look at it whether we like it or not. If it involves some hard work we still have to look at it. 1 admit that it cannot be done now but I seek an assurance from the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral that the other document containing full information be made available to the Senate in succeeding years. I see nothing wrong with that request in order to allow the Estimates Committee to have a look at the estimated receipts and estimated expenditure of the Department. I do not think that my friends in the Post Office would object to that course being followed. All I ask the Minister to say is that he will endeavour to have this done each year. I do not want to be told that the third document which was brought forward after the Estimates Committee had concluded its meetings will take the place of the original document. I do not think it contains all the information that the original document has. I seek an assurance along these lines from the Minister. If we do not get that assurance the matter will have to be taken further. I seek that assurance so that the estimates of the Post Office can be looked at realistically.
– The estimates for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department when they came before Senate Estimates Committee B for consideration did cause that Committee some concern. The Postmaster-General’s Department is an enormous one. We were not satisfied that sufficient information was put before us to enable us to discharge our responsibility which was to scrutinise the accounts of that Department adequately in terms of the responsibilities entrusted to us. I think that certain things should be said. First, the Post Office is in a unique position. It is not a Commonwealth department in the true sense. It is not a department whose estimates are presented or whose revenues and expenditures are in what we might call the traditional form. It has various commercial activities. Its vote represents the difference between revenue and expenditure. In those circumstances, the Post Office has a certain amount of independence of operation. Within those terms, the Post Office presented its estimates to the Parliament in the Appropriation Bill which then came before Estimates Committee B.
In the previous year, those estimates had come before that Committee in the same form. The Senate Committee took no action which indicated that the presentation of those estimates was inadequate. In fairness to the Post Office, it needs to be said that presuming that the Parliament accepted that the accounts of the Post Office were unique and stood in an intermediate position, and presuming that the Senate Estimates Committee was prepared to accept the presentation of those estimates in that form on a previous occasion, the Post Office may have been under a total misapprehension in respect of those estimates. Nevertheless, the Senate Estimates Committee itself to some extent was responsible for the misunderstanding because it did not query the presentation of the estimates in that form at that time.
– The point is that the form of presentation has never been questioned, until this year.
– That is what I am saying; it had never been questioned. The estimates came before Estimates Committee B in the same form on this occasion. But on this occasion Estimates Committee B did see fit to query the presentation and to ask for much more specification. The Postmaster-General’s Department was most willing to co-operate and, I think, realised that perhaps it had been operating under a misapprehension and, to some extent, may have been misled by what appeared to be the acceptance and condonation of the Senate of the presentation of the estimates in that same form in a previous year. At the request of the Committee and responding to the concern of the Committee, a specification in much more detail was presented with commendable speed. This enabled the Committee to investigate the account much more thoroughly.
There were still areas in which the Committee thought there should have been more specification. One item was referred to, I think, by Senator Davidson. That was a vote for ‘Incidental and other expenditure’, of approximately $60m. That is a very big item even when considered against the total revenue and expenditure of that Department. From recollection that amount would represent approximately the total annual vote for the Department of Immigration which is an example of the normal run of department in the Commonwealth Public Service.
When the attention of the Post Office, the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral and his officers was drawn to this fact, the immediate response of the officers was that they realised that there should be more specification, that the concern of the Committee was appreciated and that in future the matter would be looked at. Next year we can expect a very much more detailed specification of that item and of other items. While the Post Office may well have consulted the form of presentation of other departments to the estimates committees and while it may well have noted that form and perhaps taken some enlightenment and guidance from that, I do not think, in fairness to the Post Office, it is to be blamed completely because it did not do so on this occasion, in view of the condonation that the Senate had extended on a previous occasion.
The Post Office is an enormous undertaking. It stands in a peculiar administrative position in relation to the whole structure of government. But that does not in any sense give it an immunity from the same type of scrutiny as other departments attract. I think nobody is more conscious of this now than the Post Office is. I think it is salutary that the Committee has drawn attention to that fact, although not with any great strictures, because to some extent we are in pari delicto - we are equally at fault. 1 think the Post Office is conscious of that. I imagine that next year there will be no difficulty at all and that the Post Office specification of expenditure and revenue will be done in such detail that there will be jio cause for concern or complaint by any estimates committee. In those circumstances I think it is fair to say that, perhaps due to a common misunderstanding or perhaps on one side a certain lethargy and on the other side an immunity which the Post Office thought it enjoyed, the estimates were not presented in the form in which the Committee would have asked that they be presented but that that will be rectified in future.
– A number of honourable senators have spoken since 1 spoke previously, and J take this opportunity to respond. Senator McAuliffe has constantly raised the matter of whether the amount of rugby league which is televised on the national television service is sufficient. At a meeting of Estimates Committee B he asked about how the sporting codes are publicised and the criteria which are used in determining matches to be broadcast. Only today I received some general information from the Australian Broadcasting Commission which 1 passed on to the Chairman of the Committee. I was informed that Senator McAuliffe was to receive a document which sets out the organisation and work of the ABC sporting department. From what he said tonight, I gather that he has received it already.
– It only angered me more because it proved to me how evasive the Commission is.
– I respond to Senator McAuliffe’s comment. I wish that he would forgo his Queensland and his rugby league and come to Victoria and really get himself interested in Australian rules. There is no doubt that, if he did that, Australian rules would become the national code throughout Australia in no time at all. He is an ardent protagonist of rugby league. It is to his credit that he uses every opportunity to urge the cause of rugby league and to have it given greater prominence on the national broadcasting service than it is given.
The document with which he was supplied indicates the policy which the Australian Broadcasting Commission follows. For the last 14 or 15 years the Commission has adopted the policy that all worthwhile events held in Australia will be broadcast and that all stations will be kept open beyond their normal closing times to relay major events held overseas, particularly those in which Australians are playing. I do not challenge for one moment Senator McAuliffe’s ardent support of rugby league and his belief that this World Cup match which will be held somewhere in France ought to be televised, but he must concede that the vast majority of Australians do not have an interest, in rugby league. Whether or not I am correct in that assumption, he must acknowledge that somebody has to make the judgment. The ABC makes the judgment.
Senator McAuliffe knows that if he persists, argues and advocates strongly he will make his impression on the Commission, and he certainly will have great support from rugby league followers in Queensland. He is fervent in his advocacy, and one must respect the persistence with which he puts his point of view, notwithstanding that rugby league does not seem to be making much headway in this country. He may make headway with the Commission in due course. Surely he must recognise that somebody has to make the judgment. The ABC, particularly in its sporting service, does a job which is acceptable to the vast majority of Australians. We have a very wide coverage of a whole host of events. I am not suggesting for one moment that rugby league is ignored in the Commission’s televising. It is not ignored. I am not able to say whether this event in the south of France, which event I had never heard of until Senator McAuliffe mentioned it, represents a national interest which the Commission should publicise.
I turn now to what Senator Mulvihill said. As I understand his speech, there were 2 aspects that he raised. In the first place, private contractors have always been employed over a wide range of activities on behalf of the Post Office. In some areas no corresponding activity is carried out by the departmental staff - such as when new techniques are introduced - while in remaining areas the majority of work is carried out by departmental staff. There are fluctuating public demands for departmental facilities. From time to time there has arisen a shortage of skilled manpower which has prevented the departmental staff from carrying out all the installation work in the approved capital works programme. As a consequence, the assistance of the private sector must be obtained. The Department’s capability has been expanded to overcome that problem. Nevertheless, the Department has retained the benefit of having within the private sector that capacity which is able to be utilised. The use of private contract has been dictated by the scarcity of resources. It has not been dictated by economics. From studies that the Department has carried out from time to time, it is satisfied that it is not more costly to use private contract. I think that the Department must have the adaptability to determine whether it will use its own resources or private contract, according to the exigencies of a particular situation and the availability of resources.
The other aspect which Senator Mulvihill raised related to the efficiency of existing telephone services in Parliament House
The PABX system which was recently installed in Parliament House is quite obviously a most modern type of system. I do not think he would dispute that. It has some different operating features. As with all new installations, there may be teething troubles. The Post Office service advisory staff is available to assist all senators and members in dialling the digits. The officers have advised me that if Senator Mulvihill wants assistance these young ladies can help him. I can only say to Senator Mulvihill that if there are problems which to him appear to be out of the ordinary he should bring them to the attention of the Post Office, which would be only too pleased to hear his complaints and rectify any difficulties. If he has experienced problems of the magnitude he has suggested he has experienced he should contact the Post Office with a view to having it investigate the matter. I think it is unreasonable to expect a new service to operate perfectly from the moment of its inception.
– But it is not as good as the old one.
– The old one had its defects and had to be replaced. For the purpose of the type of dialing which Senator Mulvihill engaged in, the experience of the years and, doubtless, the rectification of defects which had appeared, made it a satisfactory system. I am quite sure that the same progress which made the old system satisfactory in that respect will make the new system more satisfactory.
With regard to the matters Senator Wilkinson and Senator Byrne raised, I simply say that I am not in a position to give the assurances which have been sought, but I agree that there is common sense in the views which were expressed and obviously they will commend themselves to the person who has the position of Postmaster-General next year. I thank Senator Byrne for what he has said. I think the Post Office is quite unnecessarily criticised on occasions. As to its performance with regard to the requests of the Estimates Committee, it did its best in very short time to provide what the Estimates Committee wanted. I do not believe that there should be any implication of blame or criticism on the Post Office because of th: inadequacy of the material which was available to the Estimates Committee. That inadequacy presented itself only when the Estimates Committee wanted more information than it had wanted in other years. A> soon as any request was received for information it was complied with.
– 1 want to make one or two remarks and ask one or two questions. Let me say at the outset that I was very surprised by the statement of Senator Wilkinson tonight that some additional information is made available to members of Estimates Committees which is not made available to other honourable senators. Apparently the justification for that is the fact that the Estimates Committees ask for this information to be supplied. Of course, not all honourable senators could ask for such information to be supplied to them because they would not know that it existed. This is in complete contradiction to the assurance which was given by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson on the establishment of Estimates Committees that those who were appointed members of Estimates Committees would not be placed in a more advantageous position than those who were not members or who could not attend the meetings of a particular Estimates Committee. Are the members of Estimates Committees to be treated as privileged elite? If so, we should close the Parliament and let the committees carry out its functions. No matter who asked for it, I hope that any information which is made available on future occasions on the workings of a department will be supplied to all honourable senators and not just a privileged few.
– Does the honourable senator attend Estimates Committee meetings?
– I have to put up with enough from the Attorney-General during the sittings of the Senate without being shut up with him in a confined space.
– If the honourable senator had attended such meetings he would have been given this information.
– I should have thought that I would have been given credit for more intelligence than to attend useless Estimates Committee meetings. The holding of these meetings permits me to examine the Auditor-General s report. I do that while the Estimates Committees are sitting and by doing so I find out what is wrong with some departments.
I refer now to the subject which Senator Mulvihill raised and which the AttorneyGeneral attempted to reply to concerning the letting of contracts for work by the Postmaster-General’s Department. Of course, it has been the claim of unions in much publicised documents with strong evidence in support that our Post Office is gradually coming under the control of large international organisations and firms. The Australian Post Office is an agency for the letting of contracts and the paying of the interest bill on the debt it gets into in meeting the cost of letting these contracts. We know that it is essential for the Post Office to let contracts because it has difficulty in getting skilled staff to do the work. An investigation should be conducted as to why it should have such difficulty. Why will skilled personnel work for private firms but not for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department? What is wrong with the Postmaster-General’s Department that these people elect to take employment with contracting firms and not with it? Is the Department doing enough to train its own skilled personnel? Has it got its required ratio of apprentices? Employment in the Postmaster-General’s Department is becoming less and less attractive as more and more contracts are being let to outside firms.
I ask the Attorney-General to supply information of the value of the work that has passed from employees of the Department in the last 3 years to contractors. I wish to examine the trend that is taking place in this respect. To pay for this expenditure it is necessary for the Post Office to find other avenues of income or other methods of obtaining revenue, which brings me to another subject that Senator Mulvihill raised. We now find that a message can be delivered to every householder at the cost of lc a whistle. An article in the ‘Australian Post Office News’ of October 1972, indicated that more than 270 million direct mail items posted in Australia over the past 12 months were sent out under what is termed the direct mail system. It states:
Direct mail makes up almost 10 per cent of all mail handled by the Post Office and the figure is surging ahead as more and more enterprises use it to get business, build reputations, proclaim products and services or report to the people on activities.
The article in the ‘Australian Post Office News’ of October 1972 continues:
The Post Office believes in its own product to the extent that householder direct mail was recently used to penetrate to 2.9 million addresses promoting the use of padded mailing bags and the exercise is to be repeated.
During the next 12 months the Post Office plans to mail as many as 10 million direct mail pieces outlining and highlighting a variety of ils services.
During the next 12 months the Post Office plans to mail as many as 10 million direct mail pieces outlining and highlighting a variety of its services.
That is all very well. But what effect has it had on the Australian community? I think all honourable senators have received letters from country newspapers and country businesses about this activity. The direct mail service is taking advertising from country newspapers and resulting in the closure of country news offices with the resultant consequence of” a lack of employment opportunities, a collapsing of businesses and an inability on the part of the local news to be spread around in a proper way. To people in small communities in isolated areas the local newspaper is essential. They look forward with appreciation to reading their local newspaper. But these newspapers are no longer paying propositions. [he Post Office has closed down local exchanges and installed in their place central exchanges that have been constructed by contractors and has closed down small post offices in country areas, lt is now closing down the newspaper offices in country areas. What is the Post Office contributing to communal life in outback areas at a time when there is a lot of talk about decentralisation and we are seeking to get more people to move out into country areas? Let us have some investigation of this system of ‘one cent a whistle’ for a letter as long as it is addressed to no specific person. The usual address is the householder, the businessman, the homemaker, the farmer, the teenager or the house. That is sufficient for the Post Office to deliver to every house. We need an investigation to see how essential this is for the revenue of the Post Office, compared to the services it is destroying in country commu nities. We are building up an empire for the purpose of serving big business. After all, at a job rate of ‘one cent a whistle’ we are building up big business at the cost of the destruction of small enterprises. Is it any less disastrous if the big business happens to be a Government activity? I would support the expression of Senator Mulvihill and say that there should be some restriction or that there should be a cessation of this home delivery service - this direct mail service - until such time as we see the effect that it has on country communities.
– I appreciate the good humour and the consideration given to my request when the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) made his reply. It is true that I have a passionate love for rugby league. 1 suppose that is not unreasonable because 1 am president of the Queensland Rugby League. 1 also have a warm appreciation for the other ball games. I regularly watch them and enjoy them on the television. But m.y request has now ceased to be an argument concerned with the rivalry between one type of football as against another type of football. I am in pursuit of the Australian Broadcasting Commission because rugby league is a major sport which is extensively the major sport in 2 popular States - Queensland and New South Wales - and to a lesser extent in Western Australia and the Northern Territory. Those Stales would represent more than half the population of Australia. Yet this game is not receiving consideration in ABC programming in proportion to its popularity. That is the principle involved as far as I am concerned, lt is no longer a matter of rugby league versus Australian rules or soccer or any other sport. It is a matter of a game that is popular probably with half the population of Australia but which is not receiving programming in consideration of that popularity. 1 intend to pursue the matter in this chamber at every opportunity because I am convinced that prejudice is being shown against it on account of its being a professional sport.
– I join in support of Senator McAuliffe on this matter. I am not a rugby league supporter. I am a rugby union supporter. Let me make a comparison between rugby league and rugby union. Rugby union receives a good coverage on television. Its international games are televised in every State. There does not seem to be any doubt that in regard to this sport there is sufficient coverage. But in comparison to rugby league, its attendances are small throughout the whole of the season. I cannot see any reason why consideration cannot be given to rugby league as has been asked by Senator McAuliffe. There exists a situation in which one code, pretty well the same as the other code, receives national television coverage in regard to both internal and external games.
– Rugby union is played nationally whereas rugby league is not. Is not that the position?
– Rugby union is played in a limited way in comparison to rugby league in New South Wales and Queensland. It is also played in a limited way in Victoria, in Adelaide and possibly all the States. We would accept that. It is played in all the States. Perhaps rugby league is not played in two of the States. Nevertheless, on an attendance basis rugby league is far more popular than rugby union. I make the point also that rugby league is of intense interest to those who follow rugby union. The codes are similar. Those who enjoy rugby union also enjoy rugby league. I think that what Senator McAuliffe has stated from time to time in this chamber ought to be given consideration. The suspicion remains that the decision in this area must be made in Melbourne. The Attorney-General has already indicated that his knowledge of other codes, especially the rugby codes, is exceptionally limited. If the decision is made in Victoria, perhaps consideration ought to be given, not only to Senator McAuliffe’s advocacy, but also to mine.
– I do not want unduly to recapitulate my previous remarks. But there are 2 points that were unanswered in the reply of the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood). If we accept to a degree what he says about private mail contractors fulfilling a certain role, if a contract is let and the claim is made concerning frequency of error in the addresses, do we ever claim any discount or refund from the private mail operator? I am not talking about country areas where the service would not exist if we did not have the private mail contractor. I am talking about metropolitan areas of Sydney and probably my remarks apply to metropolitan areas of Melbourne. In regard to the other point I raised about telephones, I simply say this: I know that the new installation in this building is a more sophisticated one. But I fail to see, whether 1 dial 6 digits or 8 digits - 9 times out of 10 I would not dial the wrong number - why I do not receive an engaged signal or a double ring to indicate that nobody is at home rather than all this jargon about checking my telephone directory.
I want to deal with another field, that of industrial relations. I am fortified in my remarks to a large degree by discussions I have had with a very dedicated trade union officer in the person of Des Rochfort, t, the Secretary of the New South Wales Branch of the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union. I want to refer to the byproducts of industrial unrest that followed the introduction of what is known as the Redfern mangier’ and also the backlog of discontent that could be compounded if the introduction of what is known as the Toshiba machine’ - I understand that 15 of them are to be introduced - comes about. 1 have never worked in this industry but I have worked in industries that involved extreme noise. I understand that the main claim of the postal workers at Redfern is in regard to the appalling noise. They make the allegation - this is the place to receive answers about it - that noise tests have been made but the Government has banned the release of the figures. We receive a spate of figures from the Department of Labour and National Service which give a decibel rating of noise. I think that I and the Senate are entitled to know whether the noise factor at the Redfern mail exchange is excessive. For instance, is it comparable with that experienced in a boiler shop or other heavy Industry? We should know what the decibel reading is, as should members of the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union. Without my attempting to teach the officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department industrial psychology, I say that once the facts are suppressed it gives rise to a distortion of the situation that exists. That is the first matter that I raise with the Department. 1 understand that sometime this year the Federal Secretary of the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union signed an agreement dealing with job operations at the Sydney mail exchange. Somewhere between that time and the present date I understand that these more or less machanical letter sorting machines were introduced. The point *s made that with only one unskilled machine attendant, the noise and poor working environment are matters that are worrying the workforce. I think that honourable senators will agree with me that the Sydney mail branch is a very extensive area. Somewhere along the line the federal officers of the Union made an agreement. I want to know whether the Minister believes that the destruction of mail justifies the introduction of this machine.
I do not identify either the State or federal officers of the Union in this instance. The proposition has been put to me in this way: What would be the added workforce needed to replace this machine? The figure is given as 200 mail letter sorters. The point is made as to whether the capital outlay is justified by the work done. Furthermore it is asked whether it is generally accepted in world capitals that the experiments involving the introduction of the machine at the Sydney mail branch, in the last 2 or 3 years have been all that they are cracked up to be. I emphasise again that the assertion has been made that the machines cost more to maintain than they did to purchase and install. That is a very serious statement. The workers at the Redfern Mail Exchange talk about the imposition of work bans and they say that in 1966 they accepted no retrenchment assurances and a rise in pay for coding operators as a settlement to their initial fight against automated methods. The Postmaster-General’s Department stopped recruitment and then down-classified new labour. The workers say that the result is that work is now more arduous, less skilled, and more monotonous and frustrating, and that it is compounded by dust and other features. In addition, the rosters and shifts have or are to be drastically altered.
I think the Minister will agree with me that we cannot duck these issues. I think that we are entitled to answers to these questions. In view of the publicity that has been given to these matters in various newspapers, we are entitled to answers. I shall listen with great interest to the reply which I hope the Minister will give me to these questions. If he is not able to give me a reply now, if he is able to give me a written reply within 7 days I would be pleased to have it.
– There are 2 matters here. 1 do not go further in this interesting controversy which Senator McAuliffe has raised. If one were to pursue it I suppose that we would be here all night. It is essentially a matter of judgment, and it is the Australian Broadcasting Commission which must make the judgment. I think that all of us in this chamber know that Senator McAuliffe is an ardent exponent of rugby league, and I am pretty sure that the Australian Broadcasting Commission also knows it by now.
The questions raised by Senator Mulvihill are not easy to answer. I am assured by the officers who are here with me that they are not in a position to give details at the moment, but that they will provide him with a written answer as soon as they are able to do so. But in the light of some of the comments which Senator Mulvihill made, it may be interesting to indicate the approximate breakup of expenditure between the private sector and the Government sector. The expenditure by the Post Office, as shown in the documents which were circulated to the Estimates Committee, is, I think, $l,276m. Of that $l,276m, some S986m relates to the non-private sector. Of course, some of that will be involved in payments to the Department of Works and the Department of the Interior.
But of the balance of $290m, which is the amount paid to the private sector, the breakup is quite significant. Approximately S20m is paid for the carriage of mails and, of course, a large item in that expenditure is the amount paid to the airlines for the carriage of mails by the air services. An amount of S238m represents the purchase cost of materials, about S5m represents the cost of hiring vehicles, and about $25m represents contract works in the private sector. That may be of interest to Senator Mulvihill in the light of the inquiry that he has raised. But I am assured by the officers of the Post Office who are with me in the chamber that they will examine the Hansard record of what Senator Mulvihill has said and supply him with an answer as soon as they are able to do so.
– I asked the Minister whether he could supply us with any Information as to the value of the work that has gone from the Postmaster-General’s Department’s own employees to private contractors in recent times. I asked him whether he could explain why skilled labor was not available in the Postmaster-General’s Department when it was available to private contractors. I also asked him whether some consideration could be given to this system of direct mailing and to the impact which it has had on country businesses and newspapers. Although I asked those 3 questions I was not worth a mention in the Minister’s reply. I ask him to reconsider his attitude and to give some reply to those questions.
– It is not easy to give the type of answer which Senator Cavanagh is seeking. He asks, for example, what is the value of the work which has been lost to the Post Office because of the absence of skilled technicians. Even with all the diligence in the world, I think it would be difficult to give an effective answer to that question. In regard to the other partly dependent further question which he asked as to why skilled technicians are available to the private sector but are not available to the Post Office, I think that the real answer lies in the nature of the demand which the Post Office experiences. For example, the demand for telephones is not a regular demand. The growth factor is not regular and capable of being anticipated. Therefore, in those circumstances there is not a constant demand for skilled technicians. As I understand it, because of the demand the private sector is able to provide regularity of employment, which the Post Office is not able to provide. That is one of the explanations.
I would have ventured another explanation. If people find more job satisfaction outside the Postmaster-General’s Department or the Post Office, then probably they will seek those other jobs. If one of the factors concerning job satisfaction in the Post Office is the constant industrial turmoil to which a few militant union officials in the Post Office have subjected the Post Office and Australia in recent years, the obvious explanation and answer is available to the honourable senator if he is prepared to recognise it.
– This has developed into something more now. First the Minister said that it was difficult to find a reason - and I am trying to find a reason - why there is more job satisfaction with private contractors than with the Post Office. We now find that one of the reasons is the constant industrial turmoil that occurs in the Post Office. If this is one of the reasons, we should study it to see whether the position can be rectified. The Minister must have had some knowledge when he made such a statement, which is an accusation against individuals and unions. Surely he would not make such a statement without having some knowledge. Can he tell us of the number of resignations from the Post Office in recent years as a result of industrial turmoil?
– I think that if Senator Cavanagh was prepared to co-operate with other senators and attend Senate Estimates Committees’ hearings and ask questions there, we would be able to provide him with the information, not immediately but in time for the debate in which we are presently engaged. I am not able to provide him with the information at this point of time, and I would be surprised if he reasonably expected that I could do so. If he really wants the information - and I would ask him to indicate whether he really wants it - I will arrange for the Post Office officials who are with me to endeavour to extract the information and supply it to him.
– 1 now verify that I really want the information. I plead guilty to not being co-operative in the way in which the Ministers says that other senators are co-operative. Nevertheless, I have some rights. I am concerned that the Minister should get up and make an irresponsible accusation against the unions without an iota of foundation for the statement. It is deplorable that this should happen in this chamber. The Minister assures me that what he said in his statement has happened. I want the information about it as soon as possible. I can tell him of a number of employees who have resigned from the Department for other reasons, and I can assure him that the trade union movement will check on why employees have left the Department. The further this discussion goes the more obvious it is that there is some justification for resignations. After all, trade union turmoil is only one of the reasons. When a private firm can find all the skilled labour it wants, yet the Postmaster-General’s Department - which one would think would give security of employment - cannot attract men. this suggests that there are other reasons. I have had protests from linemen in Adelaide because their jobs have beengiven to sub-contractors. These are men who want to work in the Post Office and who will put up with industrial turmoil in the Post Office. Yet one sees this insistence by the Department, which seems to be committed to overseas contracting firms.
– In view of the statement by the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) that he is not able to produce the information now, I think it would be appropriate for further consideration of the estimates for the Postmater-General’s Department to be deferred until the information is available. This would not create a precedent; we have done it on previous occasions. When information has not been available, we have deferred further consideration of the estimates concerned. I think it is a frivolous charge by the Minister to accuse Senator Cavanagh of not participating properly in the affairs of this Parliament by not being a member of one of the Estimates Committees. A number of us on this side of the chamber, and a number on the Minister’s side too, are not members of the Estimate Committees or not able to attend their hearings. It is physically impossible to do so when 2 committees are sitting at the same time and when both are discussing items about which a senator may wish to seek information.
– Did you attend any of the Estimates Committees meetings this year?
– I think it would be a good idea if Senator Greenwood battened down his brain a little and listened to us when we are trying to ask him questions. All I am endeavouring to show is that it is an unfair system. I have no opposition to the Estimates Committees systems so long as the Committees sit one at a time. But to expect senators to sit simultaneously on 2 Committees is to expect what is just physically impossible. Mr Chairman,I suggest, if I am in order in doing so, that further consideration of the estimates for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department be deferred until the information sought is available.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Prowse)Are you moving a motion in those terms?
– I will be guided by the forms of the chamber. If it is in order for me to move deferment of further consideration of these estimates, then I desire to do so.
– It is in order to move that further consideration be postponed to a latertime, if you desire to move such a motion.
– I think it is a reasonable action. It will give the Minister the opportunity to obtain the information that has been sought. It is possible, of course, that we will not be able to consider these estimates again this evening, but I assume that we will go on with consideration of the Estimates in the morning. Therefore, I move:
Question resolved in the negative.
– The Committee has decided not to accede to Senator Keeffe’s suggestion. I can only say that I can supply a little more information. I do not think it is the sort of information which Senator Keeffe is looking for.
– Your main trouble is that you suppress information; you will not make it available.
– That is the kind of irrational, irresponsible and wild allegation that comes from the most notoriously unreliable person in this chamber. Senator Keeffe says that I am trying to suppress information. That is completely untrue. There is not one piece of evidence that he can bring to support it. The Post Office is not my department, but I have with me officers who are prepared to supply me with every piece of information readily available to them as they hear the speakers from all round the chamber, and specifically from the Opposition benches, asking for information, lt is only the helplessness of Senator Keeffe which leads him to the silly conclusion tha! in some way information is being suppressed.
I can, for example, give Senator Cavanagh the information on the demand for telephones over recent years. That demand has been as follows: In 1968-69, 255.000; in 1969-70, 309,000; in 1970-71, 285,000; in 1971-72, 263,000; and in 1972-73, 289,000. lt is obvious, even to Senator Poyser who made some comment, that there is a fluctuation. Let me give figures on the growth of staff. In 1969 the staff totalled 103,666; in 1970, 107,520; in 1.971, 109.962; in 1972, 111,804; and in 1973 the number is estimated to be 114,500. The figures show that growth. When one looks at the fluctuation in telephone demand and appreciates that the needs in that area must be estimated in advance, one sees that it is difficult, if there is a severe fluctuation, to maintain sufficient work for people who need that work or, if the demand is greater than anticipated, to have the people available. That is the position as I see it, and 1 think I have conveyed accurately to the Committee the information which has been given to me by the officers.
Senator Cavanagh has asked about the level of resignations. My information is that there is no unusual level of staff resignations. Therefore I say that the whole basis upon which Senator Cavanagh has been putting up these propositions is not sustained. I repeat that if he is prepared to do so and if he is interested in the Post Office, he should go to the Estimates Committee hearings and ask these questions of the officers themselves who would give him this information, instead of continuing this stupid nonsense, with which he persists year after year, of ignoring the Estimates
Committees and coming here and pleading that in some way he has been disadvantaged.
– The Committee of the Whole is the open forum for the purposes of getting information - information that will not be given behind closed doors.
– The Estimates Committees hearings are not held behind closed doors.
– That may be true. They are held away in dungeons where nobody else can fit in or know where they are being held. To get to them the public has to pass through areas of the building which are reserved for members of the Parliament only. It is extremely difficult for the public to get to those meetings. I think there is a responsibility on honourable senators to seek information in the Committee of the Whole. The reason for setting up the Estimates Committees was to obtain more information by thorough probing of matters through officials of departments. But we think that the Committee of the Whole is the right forum in which to ask questions which should be brought to public attention and in which to elicit the information required. Assurances were given to us by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson in order to have these committees established; but every assurance given by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson has been taken away by Senator Greenwood.
– That is absolute nonsense.
– The Minister must be at a disadvantage; he carries on with some stupid method. I can judge my activities. From the dissatisfaction which exists not only on this side of the chamber but right through the chamber against the Senator I know on whose side majority opinion would come down in relation to stupid actions. Time has been wasted in this Senate by a senator who has a responsibility to get Bills through. There was an occasion when a senator was not allowed to take a Bill through the Senate although he represented the responsible Minister because of the difficulty of his getting it through. The Bill was taken over by someone else. I know who has a reputation of stupidity. I have no claim to high intelligence but I hope to God that I never sink as low as those who made the utterance against me.
From the information given we see that there has been a variation in the number of telephones. This suggests that there has been some decrease. Could the AttorneyGeneral tell us the waiting time for a telephone? There is still a long waiting list. There are still job opportunities for many more people in relation to the telephone service in every capital city in the Commonwealth if the Postmaster-General’s Department would employ them. We see that there is a slight increase in the number of men employed. How this compares with the extension of the facilities or the activities of the service I do not know. There is nothing to support the accusation which Senator Greenwood made. Everyone had finished with the estimates when Senator Greenwood’s pet hatred against the trade union movement appeared. The Minister made the statement that one of the reasons why the Postmaster-General’s Department is not attractive is the continual industrial turmoil which exists. If there is continual industrial turmoil we want to see whether we can resolve it. That was a serious accusation. In effect it was an accusation that a public department cannot carry on its normal function in the normal way because of the activities of the trade union movement. This is a serious charge against a body of trade unionists in this country. I should think that the Minister would have an abundance of information to back up his allegation against the trade union movement before he would make it. I have been trying to obtain verification of this. But I have found that if industrial turmoil does exist in the Post Office and that is why the Department cannot attract new employees it is certainly not the reason for anyone’s terminating employment because the Minister knows of no termination.
– Not much.
– Perhaps if the Minister is incapable of supplying the information the honourable senator can tell me the numbers. The Senate would be happy to receive the information from any source. I assure the honourable senator that the Minister needs some support in relation to the unfounded allegation which he has made. If Senator Hannan can help him out he will be doing a service to his colleague. An allegation has been made that this is one of the reasons why the Postmaster-General’s Department cannot attract men to its work force. When we are dealing with the estimates of another department I will say something about statements which have been made by the Minister in relation to such questions. If this is one of the reasons why we cannot attract employees to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department let us investigate it. It could be that by continual reference to industrial turmoil we are creating a psychology in people which is unfounded. It should never be created. Let the Minister support that proposition. I ask the Minister what advertising has been done by the Post Office in the last 12 months to recruit new employees to the Department. We may be able to find the number of people who have refused employment or the job opportunities which were not availed of. I know of many people who sought to obtain employment with the Post Office. It could well be that they did not have the industrial skills the Post Office demanded. Let us find out how much is involved in this. Over the last 12 months how much advertising has been carried out for employees in the Post Office and what has been the response to such advertising?
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Department of Immigration
Proposed expenditure, $68,024,000.
– I have 2 matters for the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) who in this chamber represents the Minister for Immigration (Dr Forbes). These matters have arisen since Senate Estimates Committee B dealt with the Department. The first matter relates to question No. 2503 in which I asked:
I do not know whether the people who prepared the answer were somewhat coy or naive. Frankly, I was on a fishing expedition. I do not object to the emoluments which members of the Committee receive. I wanted to know who had attended regularly and who had not. Instead of giving that information the Department answered in reverse and gave me the number of members present. There were 3 meetings in 1970 and 4 or 5 people were away. At the 2 meetings since then there have been 4 members away. When a person is appointed to this Committee 1 think he should have a good reason for not attending. I ask the Minister whether he will give me a follow-up answer. Will he name the absent members?
The other point is somewhat different. My colleague, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Willesee), received an answer to a question on notice on 12th October. He was seeking information about the effectiveness of our interpreting service. Officers of the Department know that I have always been critical of the co-operation which is often lacking in relation to State instrumentalities. I understand that the broad idea in the answer given to Senator Willesee on 1 2th October was that the Department was having consultations with the States. 1 would say that one of the main difficulties with migrants arises when they enter hospitals. Let us look at maternity hospitals. In my home State of New South Wales I have never been happy with the evasiveness of Mr Jago who is the State Minister for Health.
Last year, and particularly the year before, I raised the matter of the inadequate number of interpreters provided at public health centres. As the Minister will know I am not indicting the Department of Immigration. On the contrary, it has been very co-operative and allowed me to visit hostels. But when I went to the Villawood Hostel several years ago some of the Slav and Italian women with babies told me at that time that they felt there was a rather loose interpreting service at baby health centres. To show how peculiar the New South Wales authorities were 1 point out that when 1 raised the question they said that everything was all right. When I pursued the matter further they said that there was a nurse who could speak French. I doubt whether every Italian or Yugoslav woman of child-bearing age necessarily speaks French. 1 think the position would be the reverse. But I shall give a classic illustration. I refer to the King George V
Memorial Hospital for Mothers and Babies in Sydney. I live in an area of the Lowe electorate. A large number of Greek women live in the electorate. Mr Jago repeatedly says that everything is all right. The answer which Senator Willesee received was that the Department is having consultation with the States and they are doing a pretty good job. My argument in respect of maternity hospitals is that they are not doing a very good job. The case I have in mind concerns a Greek girl whose name I shall give the Minister later who lost a baby some 2 years ago. There were all the portents that the next birth would be a very difficult one. Living not far from my own home-
– Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate 1 formally put the question:
That the Temporary Chairman do now leave the Chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative. (The Temporary Chairman having reported accordingly).
– 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 want to refer to a matter that I have raised before in this chamber. I informed the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) outside the Senate last night that I would be raising it again this evening. The matter concerns that great religious man, Dr Nielsen. I have some substantive evidence with me and I propose to read two or three paragraphs from a book entitled ‘Praise the Lord and Pass the Contribution’, written by Alan Bestic, an Irish journalist. Mr Bestic is a gentleman well qualified in his field. He carried out a tremendous amount of research on this subject. In the preface to his book he states:
Here, indeed, is a thriving business. Those who guide it with smooth reverence can whip up enough dollars for a moon-shot - which some fundamentalists might think would be a step in the right direction - despite the fact that they bewail their poverty perpetually or perhaps because they bewail brilliantly. A few use the money to help the underprivileged. Some buy their own, personal, earthly paradise. Most put it iti stocks and shares and property and banks and watch it breed. Talk to them about hungry children or sagging slums and they will weep but seldom will they help. After a couple of millennia, they have begun timid chat about the Church’s place in the social structure; but so far there has been little action.
Let me now refer to another paragraph which occurs several chapters later in the book. I might say that what I am presenting to the Senate is factual information. At this point the journalist was interviewing a doctor of divinity who had qualified in this mushroom church and was being questioned on the law. The book states:
The law?’ he said. ‘I was forgittin’. One day this police sergeant from San Jose - I think he was one o’ my ministers - swore this charge against me for issuing degrees. I fought it and I beat it. Then thirty days later they re-opened the case and the judge, he found me guilty and gave me a 500- dollar fine and a year in jail. I appealed and it’s coming up on Thursday. What’11 happen I don’t know, but we’ll take this to the Supreme Court, if necessary.* * Sight nor sound I have not had of my Bishop since; but I’ll bet my surplice to a pint of bat’s blood that he is not a compulsory penitentiary chaplain. I asked him whether he was worried about the case.
The man being interviewed gave certain explanations. The book continues:
Why, I’ve had ‘em coming at me from all sides.’
This could refer to Dr Nielsen at the moment. It continues:
The State authorities, they’re after me. So is the F.B.I. So is the Secret Service. So is the Internal Revenue. Anyways, they can’t git at me no more about the Doctor of Divinity thing in California. I’ve opened an office in Phoenix, Arizona and I’m issuing them from there. Anyone who wants one jest has to write to ULC, Box 3528, Phoenix and enclose that little old freewill offering of $20.”
Why are the F.B.I, after you?*
Because of the draft’, he chuckled. ‘Ministers of Religion, they don’t have to do military service, if they don’t feel like it. There’s quite a few of my ministers who don’t feel like it one bit.
Then the interviewer said:
And the Internal Revenue people?’ I asked. “Why are they breathing down your neck?’
We-ell!’ he said, singing two or three syllables into the word, ‘they kinda reckon that 1 should be payin’ taxes.’
– I rise to order. Mr President, I cannot refer you to a particular standing order but I find Senator Keeffe’s statements of such absorbing interest that I would be grateful if he would speak more slowly so that I could follow him.
– I am contemplating whether I should ask the Hansard reporter to take down what Senator Keeffe is reading. There is no substance to the point of order.
– I will make the book available on loan to Hansard.
– The honourable senator may continue in what he is doing.
– The book continues:
I keep tellin’ them that I’m a non-profit makin’ religious organisation. So far they ain’t bin able to prove me wrong.’
Later on the interviewer said:
In sterling they represented between £800.000 and £.1,200,000.
Our friend, whose name I have mentioned here on several occasions in the past, has 56 ministers who were ordained by him in accordance with the terms of an ordination certificate which 1 read to the Senate the other night, amidst a lot of trials and tribulations. It is now included in Hansard. For this he is paid $5 a week by each of his 56 ministers. Honourable senators will be able to work out for themselves that he is doing very well from his ordained ministers who work under a certificate which is something like a car driver’s licence - it operates for one year at a time. If they miss a couple of payments they are removed from the ministry. In addition, this man is able to claim that the minimum subscription for a church service through the plate or through envelopes shall be $2, or whatever the figure is he likes to nominate. From the figures supplied to me he is receiving between $40,000 and $70,000 clear a year. This is why I want this individual and his organisation investigated by the Australian equivalent to the United States Internal Revenue Department, the Australian Taxation Branch.
If the Attorney-General wants written evidence I am able to obtain it for him and to furnish statutory declarations if required. This man goes further than 1 have indicated because he has a habit of collecting young girls and teaching them the affairs of the church and the affairs of worldly life at the same time. There have been several instances over the last tAO or three years where kiddies of tender teenage years have gone into his untender care. This. I suppose, is a job for the police to follow through; I believe that some complaints have been made to the police in recent days. I make this final appeal for some action to be taken by the relevant Commonwealth departments. As a final act of religious indecency, earlier this week the man concerned was able to get on to one of his ministers and persuade him to go round to a number of other ministers and tell them to write to this Parliament saying that they have never put money into a building fund. I do not know whether any letters have been received to date; 1 assume it is a little too early. 1 have no evidence of the result of the approaches to this Parliament but this action has brought about the resignation of several ministers. A number of Islanders now are determined to make a break from this infamous man and establish their own church. The misuse of funds has been on a grand scale. On a previous occasion on which I spoke on this matter I mentioned tens of thousands of dollars. I have no reason to change that figure. I hope that some action will be taken
– I rise only to say that 1 have heard Senator Keeffe speak on this subject before as I have heard him speak on many subjects before. I think it is a travesty of the rights of honourable senators to come into this place and defame a person in the way that Senator Keeffe has tonight. I do not know this man to whom he refers. 1 have seen letters he has written categorically denying other defamatory allegations made about him on an earlier occasion by Senator Keeffe. 1 have heard what Senator Keeffe has said tonight. No evidence has been brought forward to support what he had to say and 1 think that he has disclosed by his conduct tonight that not only is he a disgrace to his Party, he is a disgrace to the Senate and it is a shameful matter that we have to associate with him.
– 1 call Senator McLaren.
– I ask for a withdrawal. I have never asked for a withdrawal of anything said about myself, but the AttorneyGeneral said that Senator Keeffe is a disgrace to the Senate and those words should be withdrawn by the Minister. I ask you, Mr President, to direct accordingly.
– I think that the Attorney-General was responding in the same terms in which Senator Keeffe addressed the Senate. There is no substance in the point of order. I call Senator McLaren.
– In effect, Mr President, what you have said is that you agree with the Attorney-General.
– No, I do not, and I will not have words put into my mouth.
– I ask for a withdrawal of the remark that Senator Keeffe is a disgrace to the Senate.
– I consider that the expression by the Attorney-General was provoked by the speech by Senator Keeffe and I do not consider the point of order to be valid.
– Mr President, I take a point of order because I am personally offended by what the Attorney-General said and I am equally offended by what you said. In my view what you said was an endorsement of what the AttorneyGeneral said. I stated here tonight facts that are based on truth and I do not see why you, Mr President, or the Attorney-General ought to be protecting a thug in the community who has been stealing money from a large number of people over a long period of years. I believe that if the dignity of this Senate is to be maintained you, Mr President, ought to withdraw your statement and the Attorney-General should withdraw his statement.
– On the point of order, I refer you, Mr President, to standing order 418 which states:
No Senator shall use offensive wo ids against either Mouse of Parliament or any Member of such House. . . ,
No matter what the provocation or what the offensive words were, Senator Keeffe is a member of the Senate. That standing order also states:
The effect of your ruling is that to say that a member of this House is a disgrace to the House is not offensive. I do not think that that should be accepted or tolerated. I do not want to move a motion of dissent from your ruling; I just ask that you reflect on your ruling. I recognise that Senator Greenwood has been under some pressure tonight. I recognise that one in his frame of mind could well take exception to some of the remarks that were made but to say that a senator is a disgrace to the House and then for the House to permit it to be said without withdrawal, requires the House to take other action to see that anyone who is a disgrace to the House is not a member of the House. I suggest, in our cool calm comments, that the reference to Senator Keeffe being a disgrace to the House should be withdrawn in accordance with standing order 418.
– Mr President, I point out that you did give a ruling on the point raised by Senator Poyser. I think a completely new dimension has now been brought in because although Senator Poyser was pointing out what he considered were, shall we say, unparliamentary words used by Senator Greenwood, the position now is vastly different because Senator Keeffe, the man involved, has told us that he. was personally offended at the words that were used. I think that your first ruling, given in a general form, does not apply to Senator Keeffe. I think you are faced with a different situation.
– I think that is right.
– I also point out that you have an unusual debate on your hands on the motion that the Senate do now adjourn. There is a very clear ruling - in fact it was a specific motion of this House - which allows irrelevant debate to take place on this motion. When I first came to this place it sounded strange to move, that the Senate do now adjourn and to then start talking about all sorts of things but I traced it back and found the reason for it. As you pointed out the other day, this is the grievance day of the Senate. Without canvassing what Senator Keeffe said, the. fact is that he considers he has a grievance in this regard. Senator Greenwood has pointed out that he is unable to assist him because he has heard it before. Evidently he. has investigated it - I do not know - and is unable to assist. I put those points to you, Mr President. The general ruling and the general principle on this matter has always been that if there is any doubt, if someone feels personally offended, it assists the dignity of this House if the person who makes the accusation withdraws it.
– I understand your point of view, Senator Willesee, but the issue now is that my ruling has been canvassed and therefore I must submit myself to the will of the Senate.
– -May I speak again on this point? I put to you that I do not think your ruling is being canvassed. 1 think you gave a ruling on the point of order raised by Senator Poyser which related to a general situation. The second point is vastly different and is much more personal because Senator Keeffe claims that he is personally offended. Senator Poyser was not personally offended because it was not said about him but he might have been generally offended. I believe that your first ruling has not been challenged. 1 put it to you that you have not yet ruled on Senator Keeffe.
– Mr President, you ruled on the point or order raised by Senator Poyser. Having ruled, your ruling cannot be canvassed unless someone wants to move a motion of dissent from your ruling. I think that Senator Willesee has a point when he says that Senator Keeffe then rose and took a personal point of order.
– But it is the same objection.
– I think that that is a fine point. I think that when the President ruled on the point of order raised by Senator Poyser and said that it was not upheld, we should have carried on with the debate and Senator McLaren should have spoken, the President having given him the call. But then Senator Keefe intervened and raised a point of order from his own personal point of view. Perhaps this does inject a new element into the situation. I think that the sooner we can clean this up and let Senator McLaren and other honourable senators speak and then get home, the better for all of us.
– I call Senator McLaren.
– I want a ruling on my point of order. Someone is sitting in the chamber who apparently is a disgrace to the chamber.
– lt is up to the Attorney-General.
– But he will not withdraw unless he is asked. Unless he is prepared to do so and unless you are prepared to ask him to do so, very reluctantly 1 must move dissent from your ruling.
– How do you feel about it, Senator Greenwood? On reflection do you still stick to your point of view?
- Mr President, if you direct me to withdraw I shall withdraw, but I must say that I have sat here and seen this chamber used and abused because there is privilege attaching to what people say in this chamber about other people and I believe that privilege is a tremendously heavy responsibility. If you ask me to withdraw I shall, but what I heard in my opinion made Senator Keeffe a disgrace to this Senate.
– Order! I think, Senator Greenwood, that we have got most of the steam out of ourselves. I cannot discuss the matter any further. I think that in the interests of all honourable senators who sit here perhaps you might consider your course if I ask you to withdraw.
Sen-tor Greenwood - Mr President, if you rule and direct me to withdraw I shall respect your ruling unreservedly.
– I would be grateful if you would withdraw your remark, Senator Greenwood.
– If that is to be regarded as a direction to withdraw, I withdraw, but I say that my feeling is strong because tonight I have heard a misuse of the privilege of this chamber.
– I rise to take a point or order. Senator Greenwood knows full well that once he has withdrawn he should leave it at that. He is aware that he cannot withdraw and then equivocate.
– Order! The practice of the Senate is quite clear, as the learned Clerk has reminded me. Once a withdrawal is made, the matter is not to be referred to any more. I call Senator McLaren.
– Mr President, I rise on the motion for the adjournment tonight to bring to the attention of the Senate a matter which is causing grave concern among the residents of Darwin and in particular the residents of the Darwin suburb of Fannie Bay. The matter to which I refer is the proposed Palmerston arterial road to be constructed at an estimated cost of approximately §5m. This project was referred for investigation to the Joint Committee on Public Works. The Fannie Bay residents are concerned that insufficient publicity was given to the public hearings of the Committee and that insufiicient time was available in which to prepare submissions for presentation to the Committee fo/ consideration. Because of these facts, the residents concerned formed a committee known as the Fannie Bay Residential Committee. This Committee believes that some of the evidence on which the Public Works Committee made its decision should be the subject of further cross-examination.
When this matter was first publicised in the media in Darwin, it brought quite a number of adverse comments practically every day in the ‘Northern Territory News’. On 1st September, in big headlines on its front page, the ‘Northern Territory News’ declared: ‘Freeway will cut into Fannie Bay - 11 homes to go - plus part of Waratah Oval’. The newspaper stated:
Darwin’s new $5.4in Palmerston Freeway will be built on a route requiring demolition of 11 Fannie Bay houses unci part of the Waratah Sports Club oval.
The Parliamentary Works Committee has recommended the route in preference to Administration proposals for the road to run ulong the edge of the cliffs at Fannie Bay.
On the following day, the newspaper used this headline: ‘They Open Fight on Freeway’. On that same day, the ‘Northern Territory News’ saw fit to run an editorial which I wish to quote. The editorial was headed: ‘The freeway and life . . .’. The editorial stated:
Most people are agreed that another or much better road link is needed between the northern suburbs and the city . . . and that the need will grow and become critical unless something is done.
But a great many people do not agree that the ony way of achieving this is to wreck a longstanding sports oval, knock down eleven homes, some of 20 and more years standing, and destroy the peace and quiet of a long-established suburb.
The fact that Administration and Works differed in opinion about the best route for the proposed Palmerston Freeway is sufficient reason to again doubt that all angles were properly studied.
And once again a decision on a matter affecting the lives of a great many people has been taken without prior consultation with civic leaders and the people concerned before detailed planning began.
It is an unfortunate fact of life that progress and development almost always mean disruption to some people and this fact is accepted by most.
And if it is a fact that there is really no satisfactory alternative to the Freeway to that announced, then the homes in line are doomed and so is the Waratah Oval.
No doubt suitable compensation in terms of land and cash will be made. The peace and quiet of an area and the feelings of people for their homes and gardens can hardly be priced.
But at this stage, The News and obviously many other people are not satisfied that full consideration to all the alternatives have been examined.
The people called together by Mrs Stella Kirk yesterday will insist on a reappraisal . . . and one must be undertaken.
These people will win the support of others and in particular of those in the area who may only have considered their luck at being missed by the road . . . not the fact that it’s going to disrupt their lives and change the total environment of their slice of Darwin . . . with vehicles charging by their doors days and night . . spewing out fumes and noise where once was relative peace and quiet.
That is the opinion of the publishers of the Northern Territory News’. A few days later, on 9th September-
– Was that the view of the old editor or the new editor?
– The Minister for Works has asked me whether this was the opinion of the old editor or the new editor. I am quite sure that the Minister who has been to Darwin on many occasions would know from the fact that I have quoted dates that the paper was not under its new editor at this time. Mr Bowditch has only in the last few days, because of circumstances on which I am not prepared to comment, been replaced as the editor of the ‘Northern Territory News’. Whether the new editor will follow a different line on this matter, I am not prepared to say. But what J am prepared to say is that what I have just read was the opinion not only of the editor of the ‘Northern Territory News’ at the time of publication but also of a great number of residents of Darwin who are vitally concerned with this issue.
– Order! Wait a minute, senator. I have been giving you a good deal of leg rope in this matter. The Standing Orders of the Senate are quite clear and unequivocal on this matter. An honourable senator cannot quote at length from newspapers. You may make reference to newspapers. You have been informing us by reading out great pieces of the Northern Territory News’. I say that with no carping spirit. I inform you of what are the customs and procedures of this chamber as laid down in the Standing Orders.
– I will bow to your ruling. 1 felt that I had to strengthen my case by referring to what appeared in the Press. 1 have here a whole sheaf of photostat copies of extracts from the ‘Northern Territory News’. All of those extracts refer to the same matter which is the topic that 1 have been referring to. I do not think that I need to refer further to the newspapers. The point that I do wish to bring to the attention of the Senate is that this Committee which was formed in Darwin has been so concerned about what has been taking place without sufficient consultation involving it and the Public Works Committee that it has seen fit to send to Canberra to plead the case on its behalf a Mr Stan Phillips who is well known in Darwin. He has travelled to Canberra and is here at the present time. As a matter of fact, he is in the precincts of the Parliament tonight.
That Committee sent Mr Phillips to Canberra to endeavour to obtain an interview with the Minister for the Interior (Mr Hunt). 1 have endeavoured on many occasions today to try to arrange for the Minister for the Interior to give this gentleman at least 10 minutes of his time so that he may put to the Minister on behalf of the residents of Darwin the case which he wishes to present. He has travelled that great distance at great expense not only to himself but also to the people who have sent him here. But the Minister has not seen fit to give even 10 minutes of his time to Mr Stan Phillips. 1 feel that he is not getting a fair crack of the whip. The Minister for the Interior is the man solely responsible for the workings of the Northern Territory. The least that he could do would be to hear the case which Mr Phillips came fully prepared to put to him today. 1 understand that, in the other place today, Mr Les Johnson, who is a member of the Public Works Committee, pleaded with the Minister for the Interior to devise some way of instituting a re-hearing by the Public Works Committee of the Palmerston Freeway reference in order at least to allow these people the opportunity to put the case which they wish to submit. It is for this reason that I rose tonight. I ask the Minister for Works to use his good offices with the Minister for the Interior in the dying hours of this Parliament to request the Minister to talk to Mr Phillips before the Parliament rises and before Mr Phillips must return to Darwin. Mr Phillips has told me that he is prepared to stay here indefinitely on behalf of the people of Darwin and particularly of Fannie Bay in order to plead this case. Surely this is not too much to ask when we remember that the Northern Territory is a vast area represented in this Parliament by one member only. The only other person in this Parliament with responsibility for the Northern Territory is the Minister for the Interior. If he cannot spare 10 minutes from his daily routine to speak to this representative, I am sure that the people of the Northern Territory are not getting a fair go.
– I wish to speak on the same subject. As a member of the Joint Committee on Public Works, I appeal also for a re-examination of this reference. I was overseas when this project was examined and took no part in its consideration. But I believe that I have seen sufficient documented evidence to convince me that at least the persons affected by this project should be heard. I make no criticism of that matter. I think the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) is aware of the great pressure of work that has been on the Committee in the last few sitting weeks of this Parliament. I think that, because of this pressure and because of the number of matters that the Committee had to consider, there was a period in which perhaps insufficient notice was available to persons concerned who may have desired to give evidence to the Committee about a project.
I have looked at maps of the area. I have studied Press reports. I have studied the evidence given to the Committee. If I had heard the evidence I probably would have been a party to the decision that was made. I believe that the Committee made a decision in accordance with the evidence that was before it. I make no criticism of that decision. Because the project is one of only 2 projects that have not come before the House of Representatives for approval and because people are aggrieved by the decision of the Committee, I suggest that the representative of the Darwin residents should be able to see the Minister for the Interior (Mr Hunt) to present his case. I believe that he has a fundamental right to be able to do so. I make no comment about the evidence that has been given to the Committee. I make this comment: People believe that they are aggrieved. They believe that they have not had an opportunity to present their case adequately to the Committee. I suggest that the Minister for the Interior should meet Mr Phillips, see what documents he has with him and hear his arguments, and not reject him as he has been rejected all day .today. I hope that tomorrow the Minister will give Mr Phillips some time to present his case. I believe that the Minister should view sympathetically, in view of the evidence that we have before us, the request for a reopening of the case, particularly in view of the fact that the project has not been submitted to the House of Representatives for approval. I hope that the matter will be treated sympathetically as about 15 families are involved because of the new route that has been decided on by the Committee.
– I was a member of the Public Works Committee which investigated the proposal for the building of the Palmerston arterial freeway. I certainly agree with the 2 previous speakers, Senator McLaren and Senator Poyser, that whenever a freeway is built through a residential area there is a lot of heartbreak and individuals become concerned. My understanding of this project is that a freeway to some of the northern areas of Darwin was essential and had been discussed for a number of years. Proposals were published in the Darwin Press on many occasions, and various routes were discussed. As is normal with a Public Works Committee inquiry, the inquiry was publicised in the Darwin Press. The Committee did not hasten its work. From memory, we spent 3 or 4 days in Darwin, with publicity each day flowing from the work that was done by the Committee in relation to this matter. Many people gave evidence. My recollection is that residents affected by the original freeway proposal spent a great deal of time giving evidence to the Committee. The original proposal was not accepted by the Committee, but an alternative proposal was accepted. During our inspections at least 2 other alternative routes were put forward by members of the Committee and given consideration.
I think all honourable senators would agree - I know Senator Poyser would - that when a hearing is to be held advance publicity is given by way of notification in the Press. It is very difficult to understand why individuals do not respond. That is their business. One would readily agree that not every individual reads the newspapers in order to be aware of what is going on. I was surprised at Senator Poyser’s statement that the matter has not come before the House of Representatives for approval. I remember presenting to the Senate the report on the proposal for the Palmerston arterial freeway. During the Committee’s hearings I argued a number of aspects relating to the route that the freeway should follow. The overwhelming evidence - certainly the overwhelming support of members of the Committee - was for the freeway to be built where it is now proposed to be built.
– We have been listening to a case which concerns a representation to the Minister for the Interior (Mr Hunt). We have been told that a delegate from Darwin has come to Canberra to put a case to the Minister and that the Minister has refused to see him. If that is the case, it seems to me to be quite unfair and improper, and that the Minister should arrange-
– You are just trying to score a political point.
– I am not. I listened to Senator Webster and to Senator McLaren. Senator McLaren said that Mr Phillips had come to Canberra to put a case before the Minister. If that is the position, surely there is some vehicle to ensure that early representations are made to the Minister. If the position has been made known to the Minister, there is no excuse for him not receiving the delegate from Darwin. I do not see why we should have to listen, for 25 minutes or half an hour, to a case which ought to have been put to the Minister. T hope that when Senator Wright makes the inquiries, which no doubt he will make, he will present that circumstance to the Minister, because that is how the case appears to those of us who have listened to it as a new matter. We have been told that, although the Public Works Committee has made a decision on the matter, a representation was sought to be made and the Minister could not see the individual concerned, nor did he indicate when he might see him. I think there has been some lapse of communication or some discourtesy shown to the person from Darwin.
– I, too, have been a victim of having to listen to these speeches. When a project of this sort is designed and referred to the Public Works Committee and when the Committee reports, until it is resolved to proceed and until the construction is complete, the responsibility for that work is mine, not that of the Minister for the Interior. He initiates the proposal, but the liaison with the Public Works Committee, the provision of submissions to the Committee and the consideration of its report are for the Department of Works. Then the Minister for the Interior considers whether he wishes to proceed with the work. If so, he arranges with my Department for a motion to be submitted to the House of Representatives that it is expedient to proceed with the work. If that motion is agreed to, the carriage of the
Adjournment project into execution is the responsibility of the Department of Works. Under the Public Works Committee Act there is provision for a review, and a consideration as to whether that review is to be initiated will be undertaken by the responsible Minister.
– Who is that?
– Probably me, but of course in consultation with my colleague. I am not averse to considering this matter, and I am available to the visitor from Darwin from now until midnight tomorrow night or at any time during the weekend. Why must we have this sort of wrangle? One word to me as to the presence of this person in Canberra and, like any other member of the Senate, he would have been given almost immediate entrance to my room. I took the trouble last year to initiate a review of one decision of the Public Works Committee, even though its execution had been partly entered into 2 years earlier. The Public Works Committee reviewed the decision and recommended a different project. That is no skin off anyone’s nose. It is in the ordinary course of cricket. I will see the gentleman concerned at any time between now and midnight tomorrow and give a completely impartial audience to his submissions. If he thinks it is needful, or if, on listening to any aspect of the matter, I think it is desirable, I will endeavour to get the Minister for the Interior (Mr Hunt) to give an interview which will meet the convenience of the gentleman from Darwin.
The proposition that this freeway should be constructed was not entered into suddenly. It was a matter, as Senator Webster has said, of local politics for quite a long time before it was submitted for approval
During the design stage the question of the route was given very careful consideration and attention by the various departments concerned, to such an extent that when I visited Darwin a few months before the Public Works Committee sat 1 was taken over the route as a matter of interest and made aware that the real issue was whether between 6 and 11 houses and part of a sports ground would have to be disturbed. On the other hand, the route proposed was along the foreshores of Fannie Bay. At one place bridging had to be built to accommodate the highway where the shore had disappeared. I should think that Senator Mulvihill would have been among those who were concerned, as I was, about the possibility of anybody invading those foreshores. From my amateurish viewpoint, I thought that all the considerations balanced out in favour of the route that was recommended by the Committee. Of course, I tell the Senate that only out of interest and so that it will know that this project has actually drawn my personal attention and the attention of my Director-General and my Director of Works in Darwin and has been the subject of most careful consideration. Notwithstanding that, my view does not prevail. As I have indicated, I will hear the gentleman concerned at any time at his convenience.
– Mr President, I seek leave to make a very short comment on what Senator Wright has said. I do not want to argue the case.
– The honourable senator cannot speak a second time to the motion for the adjournment of the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.14 p.m. 26 October 1972 Adjournment
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister rep resenting the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts upon notice:
Can the Minister inform the Parliament if all rights to mineral deposits at the former Auruken Mission have been sold to a Dutch, Japanese and French consortium by arrangement with the pastorincharge; if so, will the Auruken people now receive no return from the mineral deposits in this area.
Senator GREENWOOD- The Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts has supplied the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
The Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs has stated that the Aboriginal reserve area on which the Auruken Mission is situated continues to exist and has not been sold or disposed of to any consortium either by the Presbyterian Church, as the managing authority, or by any State instrumentality.
A group of companies presently holds an Authority to Prospect and are negotiating to develop a mineral deposit on an area which includes portion of the Aboriginal reserve. The managing church authority, the Aboriginal Council and the relevant Slate agencies are in consultation withthe consortium but at the present time no firm agreement has been developed.
It is within the province of the Queensland Slate Parliament to provide for any development of any mineral deposits.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
Senator COTTON- The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Under the provisions of the Public Service Act, the promotion of officers to departmental positions under the Permanent Head is the responsibility of the Permanent Head and the Public Service Board, rather than the Minister. It would therefore not be appropriate for me to intervene in departmental staffing matters or attempt to influence particular promotion decisions.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe Prime Minister has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Superannuation Fund or Provident Account, as appropriate. One medical examination serves the purpose of both Acts.
The medical standards, set by the Superannuation Board and the Public Service Board acting on the advice of the Department of Health, are relatively high for Superannuation Fund acceptance, but persons who are not able to meet these standards are often eligible for appointment under Provident Account conditions.
Over the years, the Service has been able to cater for substantial numbers of handicapped persons seeking employment and during 1971 these efforts were placed on a more formal and systematic basis. The Public Service Board has nominated an officer in each State or Territory who is responsible for matters involving the recruitment, placement and employment of handicapped persons in the Commonwealth Service. This officer acts as a point of contact for voluntary organisations representing handicapped persons for the employing departments, and for the Departments of Social Services and Labour and National Service. In addition, a system of reporting on the placement of the handicapped was introduced during 1971 to allow the Board’sOffice to observe trends and to assist with further developments in the area.
Subject to maintenance of the requirement of efficiency for the duties to be performed, greater flexibility will be observed in assessing the medical fitness of candidates for permanent appointment.
At present the general practice is to expect appointees to the service to meet a medical standard designed to ensure a period of at least seven years’ efficient service.
In future, a three-year minimum period will be used as a general guideline. This guideline will be flexibly administered according to the duties to be performed and any other relevant factors so as to allow consideration, in their particular merits, of borderline cases. On the other hand, as at present, a longer period may be required in some cases - for example, where lengthy training as a Cadet is involved.
This decision represents the second general relaxation of the basic medical standard.
Until 1962, the general rule was that permanent appointees to the Service (other than returned soldiers) should be in sound health and likely to remain so until retiring age. In May 1962. the Government approved a recommendation of the Public Service Board which gave opportunities for many handicapped people to be permanently appointed. These people contribute to the Provident Account.
asked the Minister rep resenting the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
What amount has been expended on the payment of wages, overtime and other costs to members of the Australian Capital Territory Police Force and other employees of the Commonwealth who were involved, on several occasions, in the removal of the Aboriginal Embassy.
Senator COTTON - The Minister for the Interior has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
As nearly as the costs of the removal of the Aboriginal encampment can be estimated, they were:
Various expenses were also incurred in crowd control and other duties as follows:
asked the Minister for
Civil Aviation, upon notice:
Senator COTTON- The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The availability of such a forecast enables the Noise Abatement Committee to predicate its actions in the light of what is expected to happen in the future.
Townsville is used by both military and civil aircraft and it has proved to be difficult to predict the type of aircraft that will be operating there in the future. However, work on this matter is proceeding and it is expected that a Noise Abatement Committee will be formed at Townsville early in the new year.
asked the Attorney-
General, upon notice:
Has the Attorney-General’s Department any evidence to indicate whether there is any substance in an allegation made by the Minister for Primary Industry that the Australian League of Rights and the Australian Nazi Party are closely linked.
Senator GREENWOOD- The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
I assume that the question refers to a speech given by the Minister for Primary Industry in
Melbourne on 20th August 1972. It is clear from the context in which the Minister made this statement to which the question relates that he was talking about the policies and philosophies of the 2 groups. He was obviously not referring to organisational links between them. I have no evidence that there are any such links.
(Question No. 2423)
(Question No. 2436)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Housing, upon notice:
Senator WRIGHT- The Minister for Housing has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice: (!) Have many complaints been received of overcharging on private and business accounts for STD phone calls, similar to the $15,000 overcharge on the Parliament House account.
Senator GREENWOOD - The PostmasterGeneral has now provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The honourable senator may be assured that the Post Office makes every effort to avoid errors and, when they do occur, does not hesitate to make an appropriate adjustment.
Many safeguards have been adopted by the Post Office to ensure accurate registration and billing of local and STD call charges. These include:
Meticulous attention to equipment design, using the principle that a failure or fault condition will cause undercharging rather than overcharging.
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:
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
Senator COTTON- The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows: (1). (2) and (3) The amounts payable by the various airlines in the last three years are shown in the 1.971-72 Annual Report of the Minister for Civil Aviation presented to Parliament recently. The percentages in 1971-72 were as follows:
asked the Minis ter for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
Senator COTTON- The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Prompt consideration will be given to the Commonwealth/State/City of Brisbane Advisory Committee’s report immediately those studies and other technical reviews have geen completed.
Meanwhile, it is not possible to advise when any land is likely to be acquired.
However, in accordance with well established practice, the Commonwealth will acquire that land at fair prices and with careful regard to the commitments and desires of existing land users.
– On 27th September 1972 Senator McLaren directed a question without notice to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior asking what was considered to be a reasonable time in which former Ministers may be required to vacate houses made available to them by the Government and would any priorities given to former Ministers in renting Government flats result in applications of persons on the waiting list being superseded by those of back bench members of Parliament. The Minister for the Interior has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
What constitutes a reasonable time in which a former Minister may be required to vacate a Government home made available for rental would depend on the circumstances of each case. There could be furniture and furnishings to be moved, arrangements to be made for alternative accommodation, a school term to be completed for a child or a number of other factors to be taken into consideration. In the normal situation a reasonable time would be expected to be at the most a matter of months as distinct from days or years. If a flat were then made available to a former Minister an isolated allocation of such a nature would have no discernible effect on the waiting time for the normal housing list.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 26 October 1972, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1972/19721026_senate_27_s54/>.