28th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
-I present the following petition from 11 citizens of the Commonwealth:
To the Honourable President and Members of the Senate assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
that, to allow true religious freedom, Governments will make no law respecting religion, neither to prohibit the free exercise thereof nor to compel the individual citizen to support the religion of others.
that nearly all non-State schools are church schools which to a greater or lesser degree promote a specific creed.
that, about 80 per cent of church schools are Roman Catholic schools, which Roman Catholic spokesmen explicitly state to be extensions of their church.
that, the use of Commonwealth funds to aid church schools compels every taxpayer to finance the religion of others, whether he wishes to, or not.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate assembled will restore to the Australian people true religious freedom, which can only exist when Church and State are legally separated both in form and substance.
And your petitioners, as In duty bound,will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
-I present the following petition from 1,394 citizens of the Commonwealth:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
The humble Petition of certain people of the Torres Strait respectfullyshoweth that they wish to remain Australians and do not want the border between Queensland and Papua NewGuinea altered. Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that:
this Parliament re-affirm our rights to our Islands, our ancestral homes for generations before the discovery of Australia;
you recognise that we are Australians and do not wish to become citizens of Papua New Guinea;
you help us preserve our distinctive cultural language and political identity; and your Petitioners as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the Senate disapproves the following determinations made under the Public Service Arbitration Act 1920-1972:
No. . 23 of 1973 - Administrative and Clerical Officers’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service and others.
No. 24 of 1973 - Postal Telecommunication Technicians’ Association, (Australia).
No. 25 of 1973 - Australian Broadcasting Commission Staff Association.
No. 26 of 1973 - Administrative and Clerical Officers’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service.
No. 27 of 1973 - Australian Postmasters’ Association and others.
No. 28 of 1973 - Royal Australian Nursing Federation.
No. 29 of 1973 - Industrial Arbitration Registrars’ Association.
I ask leave to make a short statement as to the purpose of giving this notice of motion.
– Does the honourable senator intend to canvass the issue? He may have leave if he is not going to canvass the issue.
– I understand that Senator Greenwood does not intend to canvass the issue.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The purpose of giving this notice of motion is to raise for debate and, if the Senate agrees, for disapproval, the determination of the Public Service Arbitrator under which 4 weeks annual leave is to be granted only to members of recognised unions and not to all public servants. I make this statement to the Senate and to those who report the proceedings in this place to make it abundantly clear that the Opposition’s objection is to the limitation of the new benefit to union members. This is imposing compulsory unionism in the public service by economic blackmail. The Opposition criticises the granting of 4 weeks leave to recognised–
– I rise to order. It was clearly understood when leave was granted that the honourable senator would not canvass the matter. He is now proceeding to canvass it. As a matter of priority and order in this Chamber he ought to observe the condition which was clearly assented to by the Leader of the Opposition.
– Order! Before I called Senator Greenwood I thought that the Party leaders had reached agreement on this question of not canvassing the matter.
– Mr President, it is really not for the leaders to agree one way or the other. Leave is granted by the whole of the Senate. If I recall my words correctly, when Senator Murphy was not particularly enamoured of the idea of granting leave to Senator Greenwood, I said that Senator. Greenwood wished to state what the motion was about and that he would not canvass the issues. That is what I understood to be the agreement.
– This sort of agreement must be maintained because it requires only one voice to deny leave. I ask you, Senator Greenwood, to bear this in mind.
– The Opposition criticises the granting of 4 weeks leave but recognises and acknowledges that the Government’s policy speech contained a promise to grant 4 weeks leave to all Commonwealth public servants. The Opposition puts forward this motion in the hope that it will be approved by the Senate. The Government, in that eventuality, will be able to alter the existing provisions of the Act which provide for 3 weeks leave simply by amending the legislation. Having regard to the Government’s election promise, the Opposition will not seek to defeat legislation which grants 4 weeks annual leave to all public servants. 1 give notice also that the Opposition will seek to have this matter debated tomorrow.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting 1 shall move:
That the Labor Government’s decision to revalue upwards the Australian dollar in comparison with the currency of nations with which it trades is to be deplored as it means a significant direct financial loss to Australian exporters; will prejudice future sales to overseas markets; will seriously affect the viability of Australia’s export producers and will adversely restrict future Australian development
Australia) - I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the Government’s decision to withdraw penal provisions now contained in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act as affecting employees is contrary to the interests of peace in industry and that the Labor Government’s proposal to retain penal provisions to apply to employers is objectionable as it demonstrates partiality and shows clearly the intentions of the ALP towards those who provide job opportunities in the community.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the action of certain unions in prohibiting tha export of Australian produce is harmful to Australia’s economic health; will create loss of goodwill with customers important to exporters and will eventually lead to loss of income and job opportunities for Australian citizens and, in addition, lower returns to producers, many of whom have suffered great losses owing to seasonal conditions, and that it is of urgent necessity to examine the disparity between farm gate price for meat and the retail price to the public.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the proposal of the Labor Government to direct Commonwealth Government departments and authorities to grant contracts for work and for the supply of goods to firms considered to be good union firms is indicative of the prejudiced tactics of the Labor Government to bring special benefits to unions and union officials.
– I give notice of the following contingent motion:
That contingent upon the reappointment of the Legislative and General Purposes Standing Committees, there be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence the following matter:
The role of ANZUK as a result of the change in Australia’s defence establishment in South East Asia.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate, as the representative of the Prime Minister in this place: In view of the recognition by the Whitlam Government of the Government of North Vietnam, and consequently the de jure recognition that there are two separate Vietnams, a proposition constantly denied by honourable senators opposite until recently, will the Prime Minister ask the North Vietnamese
Government to withdraw all of its troops from South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia and so help to bring stability and peace to this region? Will the Prime Minister particularly ask the North Vietnamese to cease trying to impose their will on other nations by acts of aggression? Does the recognition of two Vietnams mean that the Australian Labor Party, like the great majority of other nations and groups, now recognises that North Vietnam invaded South Vietnam?
– The Leader of the Opposition has asked that the Prime Minister’s opinion on a number of matters be obtained, and he has suggested courses of action which the Prime Minister might take, some of which, I think, are very unlikely. However, in deference to the Leader of the Opposition I will pass his observations and advice to the Prime Minister and obtain an answer for him. .
- Mr President, I rise on a point of order. In the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition the words: ‘Will the Government take ‘action’ were used. Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate entitled to avoid answering the question by saying that’ the Prime Minister’s opinion was sought? The questioner did not ask for the Prime Minister’s opinion.
– No Minister of State is compelled to answer a question. He can either ask that the question be put on notice or say that be will obtain a reply. That is all that Senator Murphy has done.
– Is the. Minister assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs aware of Press reports that several Cabinet Ministers were present at a send-off for Australia’s new Ambassador to Peking, Dr Stephen Fitzgerald? What Minister or Ministers, if any, were present on this occasion? Is it true, as reported, that many of the guests sat down during the playing of the National Anthem, but enthusiastically supported the toast ‘Long Live Chairman Mao’? If so, does the Minister agree that it was undiplomatic for the new Ambassador to have remained as a guest at this function? Will the Minister give an assurance that in future Australia’s diplomatic business will be conducted in a more seemly manner?
– Some Cabinet Ministers were present at the send-off for Dr Stephen
Fitzgerald, who is going to Peking. I am assured by the Ministers who were there that all Ministers stood for the playing of the National Anthem. Therefore, I cannot answer the rest of the honourable senator’s question which was based on a falsity.
– I ask the
Minister assisting the Minister for Defence: In the light of the changes made by the Government in ministerial authority, who is the approving authority for VIP aircraft and what changes, if any, have been made to the rules, as set out in Senate Hansard of 30th September 1972, which are to be applied before approval is given for the use of VIP aircraft?
– There are some grammatical differences, but basically the guidelines are the same as those which Senator DrakeBrockman set down when he was Minister for Air. They are operated by Mr Barnard and he is assisted in that capacity by my Secretary.
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General say whether it would be possible for linesmen in the Postmaster-General’s Department to connect their portable telephones to the telephone lines of a private subscriber and make a local or STD call and so lumber the unsuspecting telephone renter with an account that is not rightly his and would not be detectable at a later date? Will the Minister say whether it would be possible for the telephone of, say, a building site or some other temporary telephone to be connected to the wrong line and so record calls against the wrong renter - again being undetectable when tests were made after the line was disconnected? Docs the Minister feel, as many Australians do, that the Australian telephone system is one of the most expensive in the world and that it is robbing many persons who have no comeback against the might of the PMG?
– Frankly, I am not aware whether it is possible for PMG linesmen to connect their portable telephones to the telephone lines of private subscribers and then dial local or STD calls. The honourable senator asks whether there is a feeling that the Australian telephone system is one of the most expensivein the world. Frankly, the answer is yes, because of the policies that were pursued by the previous Government in its 23 years of administration. During the course of the recent federal election campaign the Prime Minister gave an undertaking that should a Labor government be elected, a royal commission would be established to inquire into all facets of the Australian Post Office. That royal commission has been established. It is presided over by Sir James Vernon and I understand that it will be embarking upon its course of inquiry in the very near future.
– is the Minister representing the Minister for Health aware that the administration of the Queensland health services has reached ah all time low? Will the Minister- take appropriate steps to ensure that Queens and is the first State investigated by any Commonwealth committee of inquiry into health factors generally?
– I am unaware of the matters that have been raised by my colleague Senator Keeffe. I know that Dr Everingham, the Minister for Health, and Mr Hayden, the Minister for Social Security, are in contact and consultation with all relevant State Ministers concerning health matters generally. I suggest to the honourable senator that he should place his question on the notice paper. I will then seek a reply for him from my colleague in another place.
– 1 direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I ask: In order to assess the effect on the Australian economy of the recent devaluation of the United States dollar, will the Minister advise the proportion of export income received for the year ended 30th June 1972 which resulted from contracts written hi United States dollars? Is the Minister in a position to inform the Senate of the estimated percentage of export income in primary industry, extractive industry and secondary industry to be derived for the fiscal’ year 1972-3 from contracts written . in United States dollars?
– The briefings I. have received .from the Treasurer do not contain the . figures that the honourable senator has requested but I shall certainly obtain the information and let the honour-able.’ senator have it.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer and/or the Minister representing the Minister for Overseas Trade. I think both Ministers are involved. Will either Minister make available to honourable senators a list of random retail prices of about 50 imported items ruling in the week before revaluation and also showing the retail prices of the same goods 30 days after revaluation?
– 1 will convey the honourable senator’s request to the Treasurer. I assume that it would be convenient to the honourable senator to have information for a similar period if not the particular period suggested by him. I will convey his request in that form and obtain an answer for him.
– I direct my question to the Minister assisting the Minister for -Foreign Affairs. Will he indicate the role that the Australian Government has played in seeking the release of South Vietnamese YCW leaders from the tiger cages on Con Son Island? Has the Australian Government indicated that future postwar economic aid will be contingent oh the extent of political freedom in Saigon?
– The situation of prisoners is tied up with the cease fire agreement in Vietnam. The protocol provides that within 3 months - action, was first to be commenced within 15 days - action will be taken in South Vietnam to release prisoners. It is an international agreement and the feeling of the Australian Government is that time should be allowed for it to be worked out. I take it that if at the end of 2 months the position is unsatisfactory the International Control Commission will be reporting on it. I received a deputation from the organisation which Senator Mulvhill has in mind. I explained to the deputation that I did not have at that time the information it was seeking.
Already lists of prisoners have been exchanged. About 7,000 of the approximate total number of 27,000 prisoners have already been released. The Australian Embassy in Saigon has been taking an interest in the prisoners who were taken by Australian soldiers during their term in Vietnam. I am referring to civilians. It has been difficult to get accurate records of the situation, but we understand that these people were taken across to Con Son Island. That is about as much as we know at this stage. We have taken an interest in the prisoners taken by Australians and wc know that about 7,000 of a total of about 27,000 prisoners have already been released. As to the question of aid, here we move into another area. The Australian Government is prepared to give generous aid to the whole of Indo-China when that is possible. I point out that fighting has not yet ended in the Khmer Republic. I doubt very much whether many strings would be attached to the aid. in the way the honourable senator has suggested.
– I ask the Minister for Works whether he made a statement last week that contracts to be awarded under his responsibility would bc restricted to contractors who bad good relations with unions. I ask the Minister whether his statement has been formulated cither in formal conditions of contract or in any regulation and if so whether we can have a copy. What is the justification for displacing the old criteria of proper economy in contract”; and proper performance of contracts by the criterion adopted by him of good relations with unions?
- Mr President, before attempting to answer the question I seek your advice as to whether it is in order in view of the notice of motion given today by Senator Webster, which puts this matter fairly on the notice paper.
– I wondered about that point: I think the question is in order. You will not breach Standing Orders if you answer it.
– Thank you, Mr President. The answer to the honourable senator’s question is that at no time did I issue a direction that contracts should be let only to contracting firms which had good relations with trade unions. On 12th February I issued directions to my Department that in letting contracts it should take into consideration quite *a number of questions. Those questions include the relationship of the contractor with the trade union movement, the number of sub-contractors he engaged, and the’-number of apprentices he employed under award conditions having regard to his permissible ratio of apprentices. All those arc questions to be taken into consideration - but they are not the sole criteria as to who gets contracts.
– How much they chip in will be the main point.
– The question was asked by Senator Wright and if honourable senators opposite do not want him to get an answer let them continue interjecting. The criterion of economy always will be a matter taken into account at the time of letting contracts. After long experience with the building trade I have found that those firms which employ union labour and have less disputation with trade unions are in a better position to carry out a contract than are sub-contracting firms whose employees always have the fear that they may nol get their wages or holiday pay at the termination of a job. This Government makes no apology for supporting the trade union movement. At the present time a stoppage is threatened at Amberley Air Force Base in Queensland because of the employment of non-union painters. We have received a telegram from the Builders’ Labourers Federation in New South Wales saying that there will be a stoppage on every jab on which a certain concrete construction company is engaged because of the refusal of that company to employ union labour. This Government is sympathetic to the trade union movement and is determined to assist it as much as . it can and to look after the interests of employees so that wc will not have demarcation disputes on jobs and a consequential holding up of jobs through the employment . of non-union labour. Wc shall stipulate this as much as we can, together with other considerations affecting contracts.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate in his capacity as Attorney-General. In view of, firstly, the very great confusion caused by the recently proclaimed amendments to rules made under the Matrimonial Causes Act and the concern expressed by the judiciary, the legal profession and the interested public as to ‘ their mode and effectiveness of operation; secondly, the fact’ that the former
Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs had before it a reference by the Senate concerning the law and administration of divorce, custody and family matters and was in the process of conducting an inquiry by taking evidence from the judiciary, the legal profession, academics and representative organisations; and thirdly, the fact that the Attorney-General himself sat on such committee and would be aware of the complexity, difficulty and variance of opinion on the subject of reviewing the field of matrimonial and family law, I ask: Will the Attorney-General suspend the operation of the amended rules, refer the suspended rules to the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs when that Committee is reconstituted and defer any further similar action until the Committee has presented a report to the Senate?
– The answer to that part of the question as to whether I will take steps to suspend the rules is no. The answer to the other part of the question as to whether the rules ought to be considered by the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs is that I think that is a very good idea. I would welcome a thorough consideration of those rules by the Standing Committee. The honourable senator indicated that certain observations have been expressed by judges and members of the legal profession. May I say that observations have been made to me by some members of the judiciary in quite favourable terms as to the improvements effected by the new rules. On the 9th of this month I met representatives of the Law Council of Australia, who included representatives of the Law Society of New South Wales, the Law Institute of Victoria and one other body. General approval was expressed at that meeting of the initiatives taken to make the obtaining of a divorce simple, less expensive and more dignified. At that meeting the offer was made, and I took it up, to set up a committee, to advise me on how the intention of the new rules could be carried into the Act. I understand that the committee is proceeding expeditiously with that in mind.
The Senate may be aware that the rules which existed prior to the amendments brought in this year were subjected to a great deal of criticism because, of their complexity and the heavy expense entailed iti following them. Much judicial criticism was expressed of them. They were criticised by the legal profession. But, most of all, heavy criticism was expressed by the general public. Because so much criticism was expressed of the rules there arose in the community divorce law reform associations whose aim it was to deal with the unsatisfactory state of the law and to press for amendments to the law. I am conscious of the fact that the law will not be satisfactorily attended to until the Act is amended. But there is no doubt that a great deal of the cost, complexity and indignity involved in divorce procedures previously was brought about by the unsatisfactory state of the rules. I do not pretend that the rules are perfect. They cannot be perfect, if only because of the constraints of the Act. I have done as much as I can. I would welcome the assistance of the Senate Standing Committee in making further improvements, and I would welcome from anywhere else suggestions directed towards making divorce simpler, less expensive and more dignified so that when these private tragedies occur they may be dealt with in a way which would satisfy the community as well as the individuals concerned.
– I direct a question to . the Minister for Works. It follows the question asked by Senator Wright. Has the Minister also stated that in allocating contracts consideration will be given to the degree of day labour employed by a contractor? If so, will the Minister explain what he means by day labour’ and why this aspect also will be taken into consideration in the letting of contracts by his Department?
– Yes. In post war years the system of subcontracting work has sprung up in building operations and it has proved to be very profitable to contractors. A number “of subcontractors finish up in the bankruptcy court- ^statistics would show this - leaving their employees without the annual leave, long service leave or sick leave entitlements which are due to them. In many cases they are not covered by workers compensation. Because a number of employers are on the job no payroll tax is paid. To protect the employees in the industry and to have the work’ done by skilled craftsmen rather than to have it done on the basis of the subcontractors making undue profit it has been thought desirable to take into consideration, if possible, whether contractors employ day labour. As I indicated, this should ensure better workmanship and some security to . employees on the job. ,
There is a further matter. There is a dearth of skilled labour in the building industry today. There is a lack of apprentice training in the industry. A contractor who has a continuity of work cannot employ apprentices because he has no employees; he subcontracts. Because the subcontractor lacks a continuity of work he cannot commit himself to a 4-year or S-year apprenticeship for a youth iri the industry. For better industrial relations, for the training of skilled men and for the protection of employees one of the considerations to be looked at in allocating contracts will be whether the firm is a notorious subcontracting firm or a day labour employing firm.
– I direct a question to you, Mr President. I know that you will accept that one needs to know clearly the position of one’s political opponents. I ask: Where docs the Liberal Party stand in relation to the’ Country Party and where does the Country Party stand in relation to the Democratic Labor Party? If there is a question as to the position of the Country Party in relation to the DLP, is not the matter one for you or for the Senate to decide rather than for it to be decided upon the presumption of the Leader of the DLP, Senator Gair?
– As I listened to the honourable senator’s question the thought crossed my mind that perhaps he had failed to recollect Shakespeare’s great play The Tempest’. If he has read the play, the questions he has asked could be suitably answered by his re-reading it.
– Following the question asked of the Attorney-General by Senator Byrne and the answer thereto I ask the Attorney-General whether he is aware of the many elementary drafting errors which have become apparent in the matrimonial causes rules. Will the Attorney-General confirm that these rules were not drafted by the office of the Parliamentary Counsel but by a Sydney barrister? If this is so, will the Attorney-General say whether the Sydney barrister was paid by the Commonwealth for his work and whether the office of the Parliamentary Counsel was asked before the drafting’ work was done whether it could do the work? ls it also a fact that before the rules were brought into effect neither the office of the Parliamentary Counsel nor the officers of his Department were given an opportunity to comment on their constitutional validity or consistency with legislation passed by this Parliament?
– The honourable senator, the former Attorney-General, must be maintaining some intelligence service in the Attorney-General’s Department. The rules which’ are- made under the Matrimonial Causes Act are made by the GovernorGeneral. They are countersigned by me and I take responsibility for them. Whoever drafts the rules and whatever advice I receive is hardly a matter for this chamber to be concerned with. I think it is a legitimate question to ask whether any person outside the Public Service of the Commonwealth has been paid or is to be paid in connection with drafting the rules. The answer to that question is no. If the honourable senator cares to point out what he considers to be drafting errors, I am quite sure that any suggestions he makes will be given consideration. I trust that if he has any alternative drafts to put forward he will do that also. They will be considered. My only regret is that during the time he was in office he did not see fit to make amendments to the rules which obviously ought to have been made, including the amendments ‘ which were requested by all sections of the community, especially the legal profession and the judiciary. Having failed to take any steps himself it is easy for him now to criticise. It is noticeable that his criticism is not directed to matters of substance, but that he complains of some drafting errors.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry whether he has jurisdiction over all primary industries north of the 26th parallel of south latitude or does the Minister for Northern Development have oversight over some of the primary industries in that area, particularly the sugar industry?
– The sugar industry will come under the portfolio of the Minister for Northern Development. Other aspects of primary industry which have been considered the responsibility of the Department of Primary Industry in the past are matters for determination by the two Ministers concerned. As yet we have not completely decided the respective areas of responsibility but an announcement will be made when we have.
– Has the attention of the Leader of the Government been drawn to reports that accredited journalists and leaders of the African National Liberation Movement have been arbitrarily arrested by the illegal regime operating in Rhodesia? Will the Government take steps to have these undemocratic moves aired in the United Nations so that citizens in that unhappy country may be protected against apprehension and indefinite detention?
– I do not know that anything can be done to protect the citizens in that country while the present illegal, rebellious regime remains in power. I will bring to the attention of the Prime Minister what has been said by the honourable senator in order that the further instances of illegality and breach of international codes of ethics in regard to journalists by this international outlaw may be raised in the United Nations. But I can hold out no hope whatever to the honourable senator that any kind of decency or justice can be expected of that regime in view of its very much greater crimes against the majority of the population in that country.
– I preface my question which is addressed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General by saying that I personally have approached not only the PostmasterGeneral but also the Post Office in Perth and have been advised in relation to my own telephone account that I could install a telephone call meter at my own home but it would not be recognised by the Post Office. Even though I paid for its installation the Post Office would still recognise only the readings onits own meter. I ask the Minister whether he is aware that thousands of Australian telephone subscribers have been receiving telephone accounts which amount to twice and sometimes thrice their normal average account? Is the Minister aware that up to date many private persons have been unable to have their accounts reduced and have had to pay these accounts or have their telephones disconnected? Will the Minister give an assur ance to the Australian people that refunds will be made on disputed accounts if the royal commission’s findings indicate that there could have been malfunctions in the system resulting in overcharging?
– Firstly, on behalf of the Government I congratulate Senator Negus from Western Australia upon his recent marriage.In reply to the honourable gentleman, I am aware that many Australian citizens have been complaining for a long time about the manner in which their telephone accounts have been assessed.Indeed, they have been complaining since long before this Government was elected to office. As I said in reply to Senator Townley’s question, because this Government was concerned about the manner in which the Post Office was conducting its administrative arrangements and because of the many complaints that were being made to honourable senators - I assume on both sides of the chamber - about the type of matter that Senator Negus has raised, the Government decided to establish the royal commission to which I made reference earlier. The honourable senator asked me to give an assurance that refunds will be made by the Government if the royal commission finds that refunds are warranted. Frankly, at this stage I personally cannot give that assurance but I assume and I believe that the Postmaster-General would give such a recommendation, if it were made, every sympathetic consideration.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Services and Property ask that Minister why on 21st February it was necessary to send telegrams of 155 words to honourable senators about their transport when we could have been adequately served by a simple telegram that said: Please ask Wally Lee or transport officers in your own home State to arrange your transport’, which would have been a telegram of some 20 words?
– The honourable senator asks me whether I will ask my colleague about this matter, the answer is yes.
– My questionis directed to the. Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of mounting public opposition to the pomp and ceremony reminiscent of the early colonial days which are associated with each opening of Federal Parliament, will the Leader of the Government confer with the Prime Minister with a view to conducting all such future functions in a manner more in keeping with the true Australian tradition of getting on with the task of government without miles of red carpet and unnecessary associated regalia?
– Yes. I noted that there was a great deal of pomp and ceremony. 1 also noted that a great number of the persons involved in that pomp and ceremony were wearing white shorts. 1 refer to the guard of honour outside Parliament House which formed a notable part of the pomp and ceremony. Perhaps the honourable senator-
– They were not wearing shorts. Shorts were worn the previous day when the guard were practising but not yesterday.
– The Leader of the Opposition reminds me - he may be correct - that it was on the previous day that I observed the guard of honour wearing shorts, If so, 1 stand corrected on that point. I shall accept his assurance. May 1 say that what pomp and ceremony is engaged in in this way is a matter partly for His Excellency, the GovernorGeneral, and partly a matter for this Parliament? lt is not for me, representing the Government, to interfere with what in the Parliament’s wisdom it might decide or with what in the exercise of the Governor-General’s prerogative he may care to do.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry whether he will inform the Senate what action the Government proposes to take in respect of compensation for rural industry exports disadvantaged by the current exchange situation. Is he aware of the monetary disability now being experienced in regard to rural exports, particularly those which operate on small margins? I instance the apple and pear and canned fruits industries.
– As the honourable senator will be aware, the 2 industries to which he specifically referred - the fresh fruit industry and the canned fruit industry - have had difficulties for some years. This has been due to over-production in some cases and to very competitive markets overseas in other cases. The Government, in its decision of December last year to re-value the Australian dollar spelt out quite clearly the principle that it would give sympathetic consideration to those industries which were adversely affected by the revaluation decision. A $1,500 basic grant was arranged on the understanding that there was a priority need in the case of the 2 industries referred to and there was to be a supplementary grant of $1,000 to growers of fresh fruit - apples and pears - and a grant of $500 to growers of canned fruits. The purpose of the payment was to integrate the adjustment payments with the fruitgrowers’ reconstruction scheme. That scheme was reviewed only recently by officers of my Department. I have not had time to study the report. I point out that every industry is at liberty to make a submission to the Government which will receive proper consideration. It will be studied by an interdepartmental committee which has been set up for that purpose.
– Can the Minister representing the Treasurer inform the Senate whether the rate of outflow of capital from Australia subsequent to the recent revaluation of the Australian dollar has now reached an average level of from $20m to $250m a week? What will be the total balance of reserves of overseas exchange by 30th June 1973 if the current rate of outflow, whatever it is, continues? At what point does the Treasurer consider the deterioration of reserves engendered by this flight of capital will seriously endanger Australia’s situation? What steps does the Government contemplate as necessary to check the drift if it should continue or accelerate?
– This matter does not come within my portfolio although it comes within one which I represent. I am sure that Senator Little does not expect me to have those figures in my head. I will obtain an answer for him as soon as possible.
– My question to the Minister for Customs and Excise concerns the ban on the export of kangaroo products. I ask the Minister: What were the reasons for imposing the ban? Were the State departments dealing with primary industry consulted about it? Who recommended that the ban be imposed?
– The reason for imposing the ban on kangaroos and other indigenous animals must have arisen some considerable time ago because for some considerable time a regulation has prohibited the export of skins of various animals without the consent of the Minister. Therefore over the years - I shall later give the honourable senator the date of introduction - it has been apparent that there should be a regulation and control of the export of such skins, otherwise we might find that even more endangered species than exist now would result. This country has had a most unfortunate experience with indigenous animals as a result of commercial exploitation, the destruction of habitats and for other reasons. There is an extremely heavy export of kangaroo skins - it is approximately one million a year - and my understanding is that the international demand for such skins is insatiable; that is the word which has been used to me. Curiously, those who export the products made from kangaroo skins, or some considerable portion of them, have said - I use their words - that they are 100 per cent behind the action which was announced by me, that is, to ensure that the skins and the products are not exported after 1st April, certainly unless there is convincing evidence that export was consistent with the wise conservation of the species.
I think we all would want to ensure that the kangaroos did not follow the path of the koalas. Honourable senators may recall that in the 1920s koala skins were being exported at the rate of more than one million a year and yet within a very short time this fell to a few dozen. At that time almost identical arguments were put forward about the koalas being pests, that they were not endangered by exploitation and that a certain number of registered killers depended for their livelihood on the carrying on of this trade. It is interesting to see that the same governments and the same interests are putting forward almost exactly the same arguments now about kangaroos. In the United States a view has been taken which is perhaps even stronger than the view I have put. The United States has investigated the question whether kangaroos ought to be regarded as an endangered species. In a report made on 8th December 1972 by the United States authority, the Office of Endangered Species, kangaroos were regarded as an endangered species. The various authorities, State and Commonwealth, concerned with this matter will meet some time next month and it will be important to see what steps will be taken as a result of that meeting to ensure that some co-ordinated management of the killing of these animals is instituted. In the light of all this I took the action mentioned as it seemed to me that it was a proper exercise of authority not to consent to the export of these skins and products.
– In case Senator Dame Nancy Buttfield misheard or’ misinterpreted by previous remarks, I assure, her that I in no way intended- to be complimentary of the previous’ government, of which she was a supporter. I recognise that royal commissions, on past performance, are notorious for the length of time: that they take to inquire into matters and present their reports. Unfortunately, this seems to be the way of all public forms of inquiry including - and I say this with respect to’ all. of us - Senate select committees and standing committees. The honourable senator’ has asked me whether I will take up with the PostmasterGeneral the question that perhaps local calls be not charged for before the presentation of the report of the royal commission. The answer to the honourable senator’s question is no, because I would not like to be considered to be pre-judging a report of a commission which has not yet taken evidence. .
– My question, which I address to the Minister assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs, is similar and on a similar subject to 2 questions which I asked during the last session, to which I received answers which could be fairly described as incomprehensible. As a conference of Commonwealth heads of government will be held later this year, will the Australian Government seek to have recent events in Uganda discussed at the meeting? If the Government of Uganda has not by then ceased its present barbaric activities, will the Australian Government take action to have Uganda excluded from the Commonwealth of Nations on the ground of its unfitness for membership, a course of action for which there is precedent in the expulsion of the Republic of South Africa from the Commonwealth of Nations?
– I shall convey the request to the Prime Minister to see whether he will consider putting this matter on the agenda.
– I address a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate in his capacity as Minister representing the Prime Minister. Has the Government assented to send a naval vessel into the French Pacific nuclear testing zone in protest. Has the Government begun proceedings before the International Court of Justice in respect of such tests? If protests are in train, having regard to the Government’s dedicated commitment to open government, can the Minister explain why it was necessary to send a scientific observer in secret to Tahiti to await and observe such nuclear tests? Oan the Minister explain why no similar protests are being mounted by this Government against the Red Chinese nuclear tests at Lop Nor - marginally closer to Australia - which tests, having regard to prevailing wind currents, are far more likely to pollute the Australian atmosphere than the French tests? Is this failure to protest against China just another example of the snivellingly obsequious nature of the Whitlam Government’s so-called independent foreign policy-
– Order! The honourable senator is as well aware as I am that he must not put opprobrious terms in a question.
– I ask: Is this failure to protest against China just another example of the obsequious nature of the Whitlam
Government’s so-called independent foreign policy so far as Communist countries are concerned. Was silence on the Chinese nuclear tests part of the price to be paid for our independent foreign policy to secure recognition?
– The honourable senator must have been absent on the occasion last year when similar statements were made by Senator Wright who then represented in the Senate the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Senator Wright referred to the failure of the then Opposition to protest about Chinese nuclear tests. Later, during a debate on the motion to adjourn the Senate, the then Minister had the grace to recite into the Senate record the various protests which had been made by myself, Mr Whitlam, then the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, and I think by some others. He conceded - perhaps these are my words and not his - that he was quite wrong and that the most definite and heavy protests had been made by members of the Austraiian Labor Party against the nuclear tests in China.
In regard to the French nuclear tests, the view of the Australian Government on the illegality of the French nuclear atmospheric testing in the Pacific was conveyed to the French Government on 3rd January last. It would not be proper or appropriate to give details at this stage of the diplomatic correspondence between Australia and France that has ensued. However, it can be said that a dialogue has been opened up with the French Government on future French nuclear tests in the Pacific. The dialogue has been carried on in an atmosphere of mutual respect. The Australian Government has firmly pressed its attitude to the illegality of the testing. It might be pointed out that the bringing of proceedings in the International Court of Justice to settle the legality of the tests should not be interpreted as an unfriendly act justifying any rupture of relations between the 2 countries.
New Zealand is still consulting with Australia on the attitude it will take in this matter. The honourable senator asked about a vessel, entering the test area. 1 know of no such present intention on the part of the Australian Government. If Senator Willesee, who is the Minister assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs, can add to the information I have given no doubt he will do so.
– There has been talk in New Zealand of a ship going into the nuclear test zone but there has been no such discussion in Australia.
– Will the Minister assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs assure the Senate that no assistance from Australia will be extended to North Vietnam while it maintains armed forces in South Vietnam?
– I was asked earlier today to give an assurance that no aid would be going to South Vietnam while certain action was taken there. Now I am asked about aid to North Vietnam. I repeat part of the answer I gave earlier. The Australian Government stands ready to give generous aid to the whole of Indo-China when that is possible. It is still not possible to provide aid to the Khmer Republic. We will be giving aid because it is the attitude of this Government - it has always been the attitude of Australian governments - not to tie aid to a particular situation or to any other conditions that the honourable senator might like to apply. He should realise that people in IndoChina, whether Khmers, Laotians or North or South Vietnamese have come through one of the most terrible holocausts in our history. We stand ready to help people irrespective of what their governments have done in the past. Unless the ceasefire agreement breaks down and it is impossible to send aid teams into the area, we will be helping by adopting a humanitarian attitude, firstly, to assist the victims of aggression.
– I direct my question to the Minister assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to a news report in the ‘Australian’ of Friday, 23rd February, to the effect that officials accompanying the Prime Minister in Indonesia had made scathing and derogatory remarks to Australian journalists about Indonesian Foreign Minister Adam Malik, including, incidentally, a statement that Adam Malik is Indonesia’s Jim Cairns? Has the Minister noted a similar report in the Sydney Morning Herald’ of the following day stating that members of the Prime Minister’s party were telling Australian journalists that Dr Malik was unreliable, erratic, and out of favour in the Indonesian Government? Axe these reports correct? If so, who were the persons concerned? On whose instructions were they acting? Has the Australian Government taken steps to communicate with the Indonesian Government to make it clear that such reported statements are emphatically not the views of the Australian people?
– The honourable senator has asked whether my attention has been drawn to 2 newspaper articles. I suppose that if I had read them my attention would have been drawn to them. I have not read them. I am a notoriously poor newspaper reader. The honourable senator asked whether scathing remarks were made about a Foreign Minister by members of Mr Whitlam’s staff or other people who travelled with him. I do not know anything about the matter. Knowing the staff who did travel with the Prime Minister I can say on their behalf, without even talking to them, that they did not make the remarks alleged by the honourable senator. I would say that the question is based on a false premise. The Australian Government has not contacted the Indonesian Government regarding this matter.
– Order! I wish to point out to honourable senators that I am attempting to see that every senator has an opportunity to ask questions. I have observed some honourable senators who already have asked questions trying to catch my attention. To save them the tedium of rising , to try to catch my attention I point out that I will come back to them later.
– I direct my question to the Special Minister of State. As the Government claims that the agreement with the People’s Republic of China is similar to the Canadian formula, will the Government provide to the Parliament full details of the formulas for recognition of the People’s Republic of China adopted by Canada, Japan, West Germany, Zaire, Malagasy, Jamaica and Chad?
– I understand that there is a question about this matter on the notice paper of the House of Representatives, which may inhibit me somewhat.
– No, you are not inhibited.
– I think the questioner wanted the text of the agreements.
They would be public documents. If the honourable senator cannot get them from the Parliamentary Library, possibly I could assist him to get them.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Urban and Regional Development relating to the proposed Albury-Wodonga development. What will be the general effect of such development on the River Murray system? Will the development influence the quantity and quality of water reaching South Australia? If so, will the Minister also take into account the needs of the new South Australian development of Monarto, which is adjacent to the River Murray in South Australia?
– The AlburyWodonga development scheme has been the subject of discussion by the Prime Minister, the Minister for Urban and Regional Development and the Premiers of New South Wales and Victoria. A study is taking place of the development of the area and proper consideration is being given to protecting water supplies to see that there is no increase in the pollution of the River Murray water further downstream. We have an assurance from the Minister for the Environment and Conservation that the quality of the water will not be impaired. The new town of Monarto in South Australia is not within the Federal Government’s scheme, as is known, but is the plan of the South Australian Government. According to published reports the same guarantee has been given that Monarto will in no way contribute to pollution of the water from the River Murray which is pumped to the Adelaide area.
– ‘Does the Minister for Works agree with his senior Cabinet colleague, the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, Mr Uren, who is reported to have said that he is not in favour of compulsory unionism and that he believes that unions should be free and independent?
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is yes, I entirely agree with him. Only a portion of the statement by the Minister for Urban and Regional Development was published. That expressed an opinion opposed to compulsory unionism. I have always opposed compulsory unionism.
I do not believe in it. I believe in freedom and in preference to trade unionists. I believe that those, who enjoy the benefits gained by trade unions have an obligation to subscribe to those trade unions. Anyone who has an objection to joining a trade union can go out into primary industry, which for the most part is not covered by industrial awards, and work without any opposition from me.
– I call Senator Durack.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr President. Although you did give some explanation for your actions, you have already called consecutively 4 honourable senators from the Opposition side. Whilst I appreciate the reason why you are doing so, Mr President, it is to the considerable disadvantage of those honourable senators on the Government side of the chamber. If such a practice is to continue it also may lead to undue pressure being brought to bear upon Ministers.
– Satan is reproving sin.
– Yes, Satan is reproving sin, but Satan just happens to have changed his place. I believe it is fair that those honourable senators who have not had a turn at asking a question should be given preference over those honourable senators who have already asked a question, but questions ought to be sought alternately from the right and the left of you, Mr President.
– I do not uphold the point of order because no point of order is involved, but I will bear your strictures in mind, Senator Georges.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. I refer again to the new matrimonial causes rules which were promulgated recently. I ask: Is the Attorney-General aware that one of the new matrimonial causes rules, which provides that no costs are payable by a respondent husband in an undefended divorce matter, whether it be for a decree or an order for custody or maintenance, is preventing many wives and mothers without adequate means from pursuing their legal rights, even from wealthy husbands? What immediate steps does the Attorney-General intend to take to rectify this serious discrimination and this sorry state of affairs?
– The main problem of the cost of divorce proceedings has arisen because of the complexity of the procedures involved. I might say that, without mentioning his name, a distinguished judge wrote to me recently and said that the procedures for divorce are too complex and consequently too costly, and that the remedy is not to provide legal aid but to simplify the legal procedures. I think that it may .take a little too long sufficiently to simplify the procedures and that in the meantime there ought to be some form of legal aid. Legal aid is provided in divorce matters in a number of States but not in all of them. I think that there is a special reason why the community should provide legal aid in divorce matters. It is because the litigation involved is not the same as ordinary litigation where persons may settle their differences without going to court. The community insists upon certain procedures being followed in divorce matters. Many of the differences are not permitted to be settled, but the procedure must persist to its finality by a decree of the court. The community having insisted upon that course of action, I think there is very strong and special case for the provision of legal aid. That can be done in many forms. Many forms of doing so have been tried in the community. The AttorneyGeneral’s Department is now engaged in formulating proposals for the provision of legal aid. They will be taken up at the next meeting of the Standing Committee of Commonwealth and State Attorneys-General and concurrence with them will be sought.
May I say, in answer to the specific example put by the honourable senator, that it is very difficult for me to envisage a case in which a wife would not be able to proceed against even a wealthy husband for lack of means. I should think that the procedures of law at the moment would certainly provide many means by which that might be done. I would be astonished if the existing procedures of the law and the provision which has been made by the legal profession for dealing with the cases of those who are unable to go to law were not sufficiently adaptable to deal with the case of the wife of a wealthy husband. In fact, when the wife of a wealthy husband goes into a divorce court the result of the case is very far from what has been suggested by the honourable senator. The complaints that have come to me through the Divorce Law Reform Association and other organisations are a little more real than the suggestion made by the honourable senator. They are that in a case in which the means of the husband are sufficient, the litigation seems to extend in direct proportion to the means of the husband.
COST OF Fill AIRCRAFT
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Has he been able to establish a firm final cost for the purchase of the 24 Fill fighter aircraft on order? If not, and having regard to the astronomical contract price increase over the last 10 years, are there any provisions in the contract of sale which would enable the Government to renegotiate the purchase price of these aircraft on a more realistic basis?
– No, I do not have the final figures of cost. There has been a slight variation to the . estimates which were given by the previous Government. I will obtain that information for the honourable senator and supply it to him. It might interest the Senate to know that there will .be 4 ferry flights of these aircraft to Australia: The first will commence on 28th May, the second on 26th July, the third on 24th September and the fourth on 26th November. I shall provide the honourable senator with the information he. has sought.
– I address a question to the Minister for Works. In a previous answer the Minister referred to a directive given to his Department as to the conditions upon which he will award contracts. In the interests of open government and for the . information of the Senate will he table that directive?
– The answer is yes. I seek leave to table it, Mr President.’
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. .
– My question, which is directed to the Attorney-General, is also in connection with the highly controversial matrimonial causes rules. Why will he not answer the simple question put to him as to whether these rules were drafted toy a Sydney barrister or by Parliamentary Counsel? Does he not deny that this is information which an inquiring senator is entitled to have? Further, if they were not drafted by Parliamentary Counsel, will he state the reason? Will he also answer the question I asked earlier as to whether the legal experts in the matrimonial causes area in the Attorney-General’s Department were consulted as to the substance of these rules before they were made?
– Yes. I repeat to the honourable senator and to the Senate that initially the rules were drafted partly by persons in the Attorney-General’s Department, partly by a person in the Office of Parliamentary Counsel and partly on the advice of other persons. The responsibility for those rules is mine.
– Did the Minister seek the advice of a Sydney barrister or not?
– I have indicated already to the honourable senator that the advice of various persons on the rules was sought. If the honourable senator peruses the Hansard report of evidence given to the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs when it dealt with this matter of divorce law reform he will see that a great deal of advice was given by a number of persons as to what should be done about the drafting of the rules. I consulted a number of persons in the legal profession, not only in the Department but outside the Department. I say that the responsibility for the rules is mine. The honourable senator having raised this question again, I say to the Senate that it is extremely regrettable that during the considerable time that he was the Attorney-General, with the large amount of advice which was so readily available from the Department, from the Office of Parliamentary Counsel, from the legal profession and from the divorce law reform associations, this step was not taken by him.
– I take a point of order. Mr President, 1 refer you to standing order 100 which says:
In answering any such question, a senator shall not debate the matter to which the same refers.
This is the second occasion on which Senator Murphy has, in my submission, debated the matter when answering a question on the subject. Mr President, I draw your attention to the standing order.
– Since I have been in the chair I have always ruled that if a question is asked of a Minister of State he is entitled to answer it in his own way.
– I conclude by saying that it is a matter of very great regret - in fact, it is disgraceful - that with such an enormous amount of advice, much of it consistently in the same direction, as to how the rules should be amended nothing was done by the former Attorney-General to correct the evident injustices and indignities and to deal with the complexities in the rules, which complexities had been subjected to constant criticism.
– I call Senator Keeffe.
– Mr President-
– I have a supplementary question.
– I rise on a point of order. I appreciate that on a former occasion you, Mr President, said to me that you have difficulty seeing me because of the intervention of the Hansard reporters in your line of sight. I rose on 10 occasions earlier today. On no occasion was I called. I decided to wait until question time was almost concluded. I have now attempted again to ask a question. Three senators who have previously asked questions have been called ahead of me. I appreciate the difficulty to which you have referred previously. I do not know what I can do. I am thinking seriously of approaching the Standing Orders Committee and asking for permission to wave a flag whenI rise to ask a question.
– All I can say to the honourable senator personally is that if I caused him an embarrassment it was unintentional, and I beg his pardon for any embarrassment which I have caused him. I have been looking down my list, which I keep, of those who have asked questions. The honourable senator’s name does not appear on the list. It is possible that he has been out of my line of sight. As he has been deprived of a right which is his and which should have been in my custody, I call him now.
– My question is directed to the Minister assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs. It refers to the statements made by Mr Francis James alleging that he was arrested and imprisoned without trial, tortured, denied access to representation and his health gravely affected in Communist China. I ask: Does the Government intend to investigate these statements? As the custodian of the rights of Australian citizens will it demand an explanation and/ or apology and reparation? In default of such action will the Government warn intending travellers to Communist China that the Commonwealth Government accepts no responsibility for the freedom and safety of Australian travellers there?
– The answer to the last part of the question is no, we will not give such warnings. I will make inquiries to see whether I can help Senator McManus with information about the alleged statements by Francis James.
– I direct a question to Senator Murphy in his dual capacity as the Attorney-General and the Minister for Customs and Excise. Can he indicate whether he contemplates early consultation with the appropriate State Ministers to ensure the enactment of overdue uniform firearms control legislation? Is the Department of Customs and Excise maintaining unceasing vigilance in relation to the illegal importation of high powered shotguns?
– The question is an important one. I am concerned about the need for legal provisions to prevent the spread of firearms to persons who have no real entitlement to them and to prevent the illegal acquisition by such persons of firearms. I have in mind exactly what the honourable senator has suggested - to seek, through cooperation with the States, comprehensive control legislation in this area. I can assure him that the Department of Customs and Excise is vigilant in its exercise of supervision over the illegal entry of firearms.
– I again ask the Attorney-General whether he sought or obtained from the legal experts in the matrimonial causes section of the Attorney-General’s Department any advice or submissions as to whether the matrimonial causes rules were consistent with the Constitution and with the legislation under which they were made. If he did, did he act upon that advice?
If he is unaware of the position with regard to the rules, will he check the files of the Department to ascertain whether during my term of office as Attorney-General the advice of the Department was that many of the matters contained in the substance of the rules which he has introduced could not be introduced because they were inconsistent with the Matrimonial Causes Act?
– I am doubtful about the form of the question. I do not want to deprive Senator Greenwood of his right to ask a question of the Minister or to deprive the Minister of his right to answer the question. It seems to me that we are now moving into an area of legal argument, and I am not very happy about it. Question time should not attract legal argument. However, I call Senator Murphy to handle the question in his own way. But I will not have any more of it.
– I will deal with the substance of what the honourable senator has suggested.
– I do not want the question to be answered by the giving of a legal opinion on the Matrimonial Causes Act.
– May I say this: I am pleased to understand now that the reason for the former Attorney-General’s inactivity in regard to the rules was his belief that there was nothing that he could do. It is very difficult to justify inaction on any other basis. Considerations of fairness, justice, humanity, decency and proper administration of the law called for reform of the procedures under the rules which had been described by learned judges as being far too complex, far too costly and undignified. Suggestions were made from all quarters in the legal profession that there should be reform. I am happy to know now what was previously beyond my understanding, namely why, in the face of all this advice from all quarters, the former Attorney-General failed to take any action whatever to remedy that state of affairs. I am indebted to the honourable senator for his information as to the legal advice which he received as AttorneyGeneral. I had not sought to ascertain what advice he was given.
– But did the honourable senator obtain advice?
– I assure the honourable senator that, as Attorney-General, I certainly sought advice from all quarters. I received a great deal of advice and I am satisfied that there has been a very great improvement in the rules. Great improvement needs to be made to the Act and then further improvements can be made in the rules. I suggest that instead of his carping criticism the former Attorney-General might put forward some constructive suggestions so that we may attain a common end of a divorce law which is dignified and simple and not expensive.
– My question is directed to the Minister assisting the Minister for Defence. I preface my question by reminding the Minister that it was the policy of the previous government to issue D notices for almost every action taken, including the removal of Prime Ministers. In accordance with Labor’s open government policy will D notices be abolished, or, alternatively, will the issue of such notices be considerably restricted?
– The honourable senator has asked me about the issue of D notices. I am informed that the Press Broadcasting and Television Defence Committee, a voluntary committee, has in the past co-operated with the Department of Defence. It meets and decides what its attitude will be towards D notices. It was set up in 1952 during the reign of the Menzies Government. I understand there were some new considerations in relation to D notices, which have been fairly minimal since that date. I will obtain the information for the honourable senator and give it to him.
– I ask a question of the
Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. What progress, if any, has been made by Qantas Airways Ltd in replacing the outdated DC4 aircraft now operating on the Australia-Norfolk Island-New Zealand service?
– I do not know the complete answer to the honourable senator’s question. I know there was an investigation into the use of a Boeing 727 on this service, but there is a problem with the length of the runway on Norfolk Island. I shall ascertain full details of what has been done recently in the matter and let the honourable senator know.
– Is the Attorney-General aware that amendments to the matrimonial causes rules introduced by him for laudable purposes and aims in fact have had the effect in Tasmania of increasing the cost of divorce rather than decreasing it and that the net result will be further delays in people obtaining finality in the solving of problems which arise out of the breakdown of marriage and increasing the cost.
– Order! The honourable senator is giving information. He has been here long enough to know how to phrase a question.
– Is the Attorney-General also aware that because of the confusion which has reigned in relation to these rules, legal aid for divorce has been deferred for a considerable period in Tasmania?
– No, I am not aware of any of those matters. May I say that far from the honourable senator giving information, it is my understanding that he was giving misinformation.
– I ask a question of the Leader of the Government. Will the Government make a statement as to its attitude to the employment of relatives by honourable members, honourable senators and Ministers in secretarial or other positions capable of being held by members of the Public Service? Will the Government also make a statement about the rules concerning the use of Commonwealth cars for private purposes by Ministers in their home States?
– As far as I am aware the same rules are being applied by the Government in these matters as were applied by the previous government. I suppose it is fair to seek a statement on the matter. I will convey the request to the Prime Minister. It is a very important matter. Whatever statement is made on a matter of this nature ought to be done formally. I shall refer the question to the Prime Minister so that some statement may be made in a formal way.
– My question is addressed to the Attorney-General in his twofold role as Attorney-General and representing the Prime Minister in some aspects of administration. Is it a fact that one of the earliest decisions of the present Government was that what are known as royal awards would not be granted in Australia in future? Is it a fact that when word of this decision went around, Mr Reece, the Premier of Tasmania, tore up his list of recommendations for royal awards? Is it also a fact that the legal profession has highly regarded the tradition that those who lead in the profession as barristers should become Queen’s Counsel? Did the learned Attorney-General on his visit to England when he started to undo some of the remaining links between this country and the United Kingdom make any provision for the removal of the title of Queen’s Counsel? If so, will lawyers in Australia be able to take silk? What initials will they be able to put after their names so that all and sundry will know that they are leaders in their profession?
– 1 do not know whether what the honourable senator has said about Mr Reece tearing up his list of recommendations is correct.
– He did.
– The honourable senator speaks with some passion on the matter. I trust that his name did not appear on the list. Of course whatever is done by Mr Reece is a matter for the Tasmanian Government. It is not something into which I should enter. As to Queen’s Counsel, it is true that lawyers become Queen’s Counsel in some circumstances. I did not take up the matter when I was overseas. It did not occur to me to do so. Now that the honourable senator has raised the matter I might say that even prior to my visit overseas some people had given consideration to this matter of the title of Queen’s Counsel. If the honourable senator is proposing some alternative we will be pleased to hear his suggestions. The honourable senator asked in what possible way could these senior counsel be described. The simple suggestion was made toy one person that they should be described as senior counsel with perhaps the letters ‘SC or something like that. There may be alternatives. If the honourable senator regards this as a matter which should be proceeded with urgently, I am sure that the legal profession would have some suggestions as to the appropriate title that might be conferred.
– I refer to my previous question addressed to you, Mr President. Please forgive me if I appear perverse. Do you recognise the Democratic Labor Party as the second opposition party? If so, do you realise that certain benefit may flow from that decision which may not be deserved?
– Order! Senator Georges, in my earlier reply I referred you to The Tempest’ and I see that you are trying to identify me in the role of Prospero
– Well, I am not, and I do not think I can rive the knotty oak, either. I have been in communication with the Prime Minister who has given me certain information. Until such time as he makes this information public I have no right to make any remarks on the subject here in the Senate. It was private information granted to me. I think that in the circumstances you might address yourself to the Prime Minister. I call Senator Drake-Brockman.
– Senator Webster has not had a question.
– All I can say, Senator Webster, is that you do not appear on my list. So the reason you have not asked a question is probably that you have not been rising. I shall call you after Senator DrakeBrockman.
– I indicate that Senator Webster has been standing but probably not on every occasion. I address another question to the Minister assisting the Minister for Defence. Earlier this afternoon I asked him about the changes that had been made in the guidelines applying to VIP flights. The Minister replied that very little change had been made to the rules laid down by me on 30th September 1970. 1 am interested in the very little change that has been made, and I ask the Minister to pinpoint the particular areas in which a change has been made. I ask the Minister to go further and bring up to date the statement that I made on 30th September 1970 so that we can all have a look at these guidelines for approval.
– I told the honourable senator that the guidelines were basically the same, and they are. There are now some different grammatical expressions in the document. I am prepared either to table the guidelines or show them to Senator DrakeBrockman. Of course, he is very familiar with the practice followed in relation to these matters.
– My question which is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry refers to the proposed merino ram export ban referendum. I ask the Minister whether the interests of the wool industry have been taken into account in the proposal for a poll of sheep owners. Is it a fact that the Minister has instructed that any person owning 300. sheep will be entitled to vote? Does it appeal to the Minister that owners and breeders of other types of sheep have little true interest in the export of merino rams? Does the Minister consider that in this matter he is tied to decisions of the Australian Labor Party Federal Conference and that these views hold more weight with him than the views of the wool industry, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation or other expert industrial bodies?
– There is currently a total ban on the export of merino rams and their semen. The decision taken by the Government to hold a referendum was taken on the understanding and in the belief that this was the fairest way to resolve a very contentious issue. No matter what decisions were taken as to who would qualify to take part in that referendum, quite obviously some people would feel dissatisfied and say that alternative measures should have been taken. For example, I asked all the State Ministers at the Australian Agricultural Council meeting to give me their views on who should be included in the referendum, and those views were taken into account. The only thing that one could do was to strike a balance, not allowing the referendum to get out of hand but at the same time obtaining a reasonable cross-section of opinion. It was for that reason that the Government decided to give the vote to all wool growers who in the 1971- 72 season delivered more than 1,400 kilos of shorn wool to a registered broker. I believe this was a fair decision. The referendum will include also, of course, members of the Australian Stud Merino Breeders Association. The actual execution of the referendum will be in the hands of the Commonwealth Electoral Office. The industry will need to co-operate with the Government to get a proper poll of those persons entitled to vote. I think the decision that has been taken is a fair one and I anticipate that we should have a result by June or July.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Is there any significance in the- choice by the Minister of Dr Patterson to represent him in the other place? Why was the Minister” for Immigration bypassed in the selection of a Minister to represent the Minister for Primary ‘ Industry in the other place?
– I do not know whether I am obliged to answer that question.
– You are not obliged to answer it; you can ask the honourable senator to place it on the notice paper. .
– I do not think it is an appropriate question.
-My question relates to the export of merino rams and’ is based on the Governments stated policy of open government. Can the Minister for Primary Industry tell the Senate, why at one stage the Prime Minister agreed to lift the ban on the export of merino rams and then suddenly changed his mind?
– The original decision tq permit the export of 30 rams in January was taken by me. I discussed the. matter with the Prime Minister and on my recommendation he accepted my decision. As is well known, subsequently the Cabinet decided to hold a referendum, the details of which I outlined previously in my answer to Senator Webster’s question. I do npt think there is any necessity for me to expound on that. The fact is that we have taken a rational decision and, as I said earlier, I believe a fair decision.
– My question, which is supplementary to my previous question, is addressed to the Minister assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs. In view of the fact that the Minister has unequivocally stated that the published reports by 2 senior journalists relating to the Prime Minister’s Indonesian visit are wholly false and because any such statements in such terms can do harm to Australia’s relations with its neighbours - quite apart from the journalistic ethics involved - will the Government invite the journalists concerned to explain why they wrote and had published statements which the Government now asserts are absolutely false and which, because of their similarity of content, suggest on the basis of Government denials either a remarkable coincidence of inventiveness or collusion?
– I think the words 1 used were to this effect: ‘Knowing the staff that travelled up there, I can say no.’ If we started to ask journalists to come and explain everything to this Parliament or to Ministers we would be doing nothing else. I do not think we will be asking the journalists to explain. They have made a statement. I have not asked the other people present about the matter. If Senator Carrick is so anxious about this matter I suggest that he ask those gentlemen or ladies whether they did make these statements. That would be the easiest way for the honourable senator to find out. Knowing the people who travelled with the Prime Minister I would say that they did not make the statements. If the honourable senator thinks that I am wrong I suggest he ask them.
– I direct a question to the Special Minister of State. 1 draw attention to pages 85 and 163 of the ‘Australian Government Directory 1973 Interim Edition’ published by the Minister’s Department. Is the Mr F. Kirwan, designated as the private secretary to the Minister for Education, the same Mr Frank Kirwan who was the defeated Australian Labor Party member of the House of Representatives for the electorate of Forrest in Western Australia? Is the Mr A. D. Kennedy designated on page 163 as press secretary to the Minister for Overseas Trade and Minister for Secondary Industry, the same Mr David Kennedy who was the defeated Australian Labor Party member of the House of Representatives for the electorate of Bendigo in Victoria?
– I do not know the pages to which the honourable senator referred. However, Mr Frank Kirwan is employed by Mr Beazley and Mr Kennedy is employed by Dr J. F. Cairns. I understand that when a former premier of Queensland was defeated at an election he was employed in one of the government departments.
– I address a question to the Attorney-General who represents the Prime Minister in this chamber. What is the present employment of Mr Richard Hall whom the Prime Minister announced on 16th February would be appointed to the Literature Board of the Australian Council for the Arts? The announcement as reported in the Press simply described him as ‘playwright, New South Wales’. Is this his full-time profession or does he have other employment? If so, what is the nature of such employment and by whom is he employed?
– I am obtaining some instructions.
– The question is addressed to you, Senator Murphy, but you do not have to answer it. The Minister for the Media can do so.
– I understand that Mr Hall is on the Theatre Board of the Australian Council for the Arts. It may be more satisfactory if the honourable senator placed the question on the notice paper and I obtained a full answer for him.
– I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister whether it if proposed to appoint the following people to the new Australian Council for the Arts announced by the Prime Minister on 26th January: Professor R. I. Downing, Mrs Judith Wright McKinney Mr Clifton Pugh and Mr J. L. Menadue? Are Professor Downing and Mrs Wright-McKinney the people who signed a public letter prior to the last general election calling for a change of government? Is Mr Pugh the person who recently painted a portrait of Mr Whitlam? Is he the chairman of the arts policy committee of the Victorian Branch of the Australian Labor Party? Is Mr Menadue a former private secretary to Mr Whitlam?
– I know that there was a Mr John Menadue who was private secretary to Mr Whitlam. I do not have a clue about the other people mentioned.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral a further question which is related to the question asked earlier by Senator Rae as to whether he was consulted by the Acting Prime Minister before the Acting Prime Minister stated that the Commonwealth would not intervene before the High Court in regard to the Tasmanian tobacco tax case? Will he explain why he has asked for the question as to whether a consultation took place between him and the acting Prime Minister to be placed on notice?
- Senator Greenwood, you know as well as I that any Minister - and you have been a Minister - is entitled to ask for a question to be placed on the notice paper. He does not have to give a verbal answer to it.
– I asked whether Senator Murphy would explain why he asked for the question to be placed on notice. He may require this question to be placed on notice also. But 1 should like to hear his answer.
– I asked that the question be placed on notice because it went beyond what Senator Greenwood is now asking and I intended to give a formal answer to a serious question. I think that it is fitting that I should answer all of Senator Rae’s question on notice and not now answer part of that question as addressed by Senator Greenwood.
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Media. Has the Government any plans for the rationalisation of the commercial television industry? Is it proposed to withdraw any commercial television station licences?
Senator DOUGLAS MCCLELLANDSenator Laucke has raised the future of the rationalisation of the commercial television industry and asked whether it is intended by the Government to withdraw any of the commercial television licences. The last matter contained in his question was the subject of a discussion with me in Sydney by all of the capital city licensees on, I think from recollection, Monday, 5th February. The suggestion was put to me, as the representative of the Government, by all capital city commercial licensees, with the exception perhaps of one, that in view of the spread of revenue advertising, the costs of production, and the high cost of the purchase of programmes from abroad, the amount of advertisement revenue available to them would seriously inhibit them in increasing the Australian content of their programmes and also would jeopardise them from an economic point of view, especially with the advent of colour television in March 1975.
As I say, the matter was put to me by all commercial licensees with the exception of perhaps one. I think it fair to say that that one adopted the attitude then, although it has been changed since, that he would agree with the proposition that had been put forward provided that his was one of the stations that was to be retained. A number of other suggestions have been put to me and I am searching on behalf of the Government for the real answer as to how to make this industry an economically viable one. Certainly, some of the stations are making what one might refer to as ‘reasonable profits’. Others are receiving a very small return on the investment that has been involved. I would suggest to the honourable senator, coming as he does from Adelaide in South Australia, that he have a look at some of the returns of the commercial stations in Adelaide. I think he will find that one or two of those stations could well be in difficulties. The Government is certainly giving consideration to the proposition, as it is giving to all other matters that have been raised with it, not only by the licensees but also by the unions. It is receiving the advice of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board about a general review of the Act. That advice should be on my table by the time I leave the Senate chamber after question time. We are looking at all facets of the problem because there are serious economic problems ahead regarding the television industry.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. It refers to an answer he gave in reply to a question from Senator Webster in which he said that the qualification for voting in the referendum on the merino ram export embargo was 1,400 kilos consigned to a registered broker. May I take it from that that wool sold to a private buyer will be excluded?
– I am not certain but I think it is intended to include private buyers as well. However, I shall raise this question for the honourable senator and obtain a reply for him.
– I direct a question without notice to the Minister for the Media. Having regard to the dynamic approach of this Government, is there any intention to speed up the introduction of colour television which is at present set for 1975, as the Minister said earlier today?
Senator DOUGLAS MCCLELLANDDuring the recent Federal election campaign the Prime Minister indicated that the Government’s policy on the introduction of colour television would be the same as that of the outgoing Government. That means that colour television will be introduced into Australia in March 1975.
Formal Motion for Adjournment
– Order! I inform the Senate that I have received from Senator Byrne an intimation that he proposes to move the adjournment of the Senate this day for the purpose of discussing a matter of urgency. Copies of Senator Byrne’s proposed motion have been circulated to honourable senators. I point out that standing order 14 provides that no business beyond what is of a formal character shall be entered upon before the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech has been adopted. Senator Byrne’s proposed motion cannot be regarded as formal. Furthermore, standing order 64 provides that an urgency motion shall propose that the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to any day or hour other than that fixed for the next ordinary meeting of the Senate. At this stage the Senate has not fixed the time for the next ordinary meeting of the Senate. For those reasons it is not possible to proceed further with Senator Byrne’s proposed motion unless the Standing Orders are suspended.
– Mr President, may I suggest as a result of what you have said that this question could be dealt with simply by Senator Byrne asking for leave to move his motion. So long as the matter is dealt with in the ordinary way, he could perhaps ask for leave for the purpose of adjourning the Senate until tomorrow at 11 a.m. or some other time. We would then treat the matter on the same basis as if it were brought properly under standing order 64. Provided that we are not caught up in unnecessary technicalities, if Senator Byrne asks for leave to move his motion, I doubt that there would be any objection from honourable senators.
– Is the Leader of the Government referring now to the reference to the time of adjournment or to the fact that debate cannot proceed until the Address-in-Reply debate is concluded?
– I have referred to both. If Senator Byrne seeks leave to move his motion that would eliminate the AddressinReply aspect. I suggest that the honourable senator moves that the Senate adjourn to a specific time tomorrow, say 11 a.m., and then his motion would be treated as if it were in order under standing order 64. The Senate could then proceed with the debate. I suggest that this would dispose of the matter.
– I am indebted to the Leader of the Government for suggesting that this matter proceed by leave since that would overcome 2 difficulties, namely, that relating to the as yet unascertained time of adjournment and that relating to the Address-in-Reply debate. I should be very happy to ask for leave to present this motion. I point out that a specific time, 10.55 a.m., has been inserted in the copy of the motton which has been circulated to honourable senators.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
That, unless otherwise ordered, the Senate at its rising adjourn until tomorrow at 10.55 a.m.
I do so for the purpose of debating a matter of urgency, namely:
This House asserting in a particular manner its role as the custodian of the rights of the States within the Federation and honourable senators their role as representing the component States of the Federation, take into immediate consideration the following:
The suggested transfer of islands in Torres Strait from the sovereignty of the State of Queensland and/or the Commonwealth of Australia to the emerging independent nation of Papua New Guinea.
That no Torres Strait island be transferred from its present sovereignty without a referendum of the people of the islands proposed to be transferred and without a referendum of all the people of the Torres Strait islands. The people entitled to vote at such referendum being those entitled to vote under the electoral laws of the State of Queensland.
That in no circumstances should any individual
Australian citizen of those islands have citizenship transferred to that of any other nation unless with his or her explicit consent.
This matter is raised as an urgency motion. In the long history of the Senate there have been many occasions on which the Senate has been asked to adopt a role related to its general functions, and they have varied from time to time with varying degrees of emphasis. Originally the Senate operated substantially as a States House. However, in the intervening years that character to some extent was lost or was lost sight of, and the Senate emerged substantially as a House of Review, and in that character it has been most active and most effective in recent years. However, the motion I have moved today reinforces the original concept and character of the Senate, which is that it should operate as a States House protecting the States within the Federation. For that reason this urgency motion recites in the preamble:
This House asserting in a particular manner its role as the custodian of the rights of the States within the Federation and honourable senators their role as representing the component States of the Federation, take into immediate consideration the follow-‘ ing . . .
Several matters are then mentioned. The preamble particularly requests the Senate to advert to its role as the custodian of the, rights of the States within the Federation. During my membership of the Senate, this chamber has on occasions adverted to matters which affected States particularly. For example, I have heard debatesin this chamber on the sugar industry which particularly impinges upon the economic welfare of Queensland. More recently a debate in this chamber concerned the creation of the Dartmouth Dam on the border of South Australia and Victoria, a matter of intense interest to South Australians. While those matters were of concern to the relevant States, neither had the particular significance which is implicit in the motion I have moved. The motion deals with the situation in which it may be proposed, and in fact has been proposed, that the geographical and physical limitations of a State should be interfered with. Therefore it is in a very particular way the concern of the Senate in the primary role of its original creation. If I may be pardoned for doing so - I think this is a matter of high importance to this chamber - I should like to refer very briefly to the Annotated Constitution of the Australian Commonwealth, the great textbook by
Quick and Garran. I read from page 414 of this work the chapter entitled The Senate. It reads:
The Senate is one of the most conspicuous, and unquestionably the most important, of all the Federal features of the constitution, using the word federal in the sense of linking together and uniting a number of co-equal political communities, under a common system of government. The Senate is not merely a branch of a bicameral Parliament; it is not merely a second chamber of revision and review representing the sober second thought of the nation, such as the House of Lords is supposed to be; it is that, but something more than that. It is . the chamber in which the States, considered as separate entities, and corporate parts of the Commonwealth, are represented. They are so represented for the purpose of enabling them to maintain and protect their constitutional rights against attempted invasions, and to give them every facility for the advocacy of their peculiar and special interests, as well as for the ventilation and consideration of their grievances.
In this debate, therefore, a very heavy responsibility rests upon this Senate in its original concept. A similar responsibility rests upon individual senators as I have pointed out in the preamble: . . and honourable senators asserting their role as representing the component States of the Federation.
Every honourable senator must be prepared to regard himself in a particular manner as representing the State which sent him here, and as looking after the interests of one State when an attempt is being made to truncate the geographical and physical dimensions of that State and to transfer part of its territory, probably without the consultation of the people of that territory or State,’ to perhaps a foreign nation. Therefore I can imagine fewer matters of higher import or greater significance which have come before this chamber in many years. I ask honourable senators to approach the deliberation of this question with those things in mind. We hope that we will get a vote on this proposition. While the vote, in a technical sense, will be on the adjournment of the Senate, the vote will be substantially on the substance of the urgency motion. I ask the Senate, adverting . to this question of the proposed transfer of the sovereignty of part of Queensland, part of the Commonwealth of Australia, to the emerging nation of Papua New Guinea, to lay down certain propositions and particularly that the people of the Torres Strait islands, the area concerned, must be consulted. That is the important consideration. Therefore, I’ appeal to honourable senators to bring their minds to this question with all the seriousness of purpose which should be the background of their very presence in this chamber.
With what are we dealing? We are dealing with a group of islands that lie between Cape York Peninsula and Papua, which is part of the Territory of Papua New Guinea. The original proposal by the Commonwealth Government was that the boundary should be realigned and that 3 of those islands - Saibai, Boigu and Dauan - should be transferred to the Territory of Papua New Guinea which will soon be an independent nation quite foreign to Australia. Then there was a transposition of that original proposal which said that the line should even be dropped further south of the 10th parallel, that that should be the demarcation line and that all the islands north of that should pass from the sovereignty of the State of Queensland and/ or the sovereignty of the Commonwealth of Australia to the sovereignty of the emerging nation of Papua New Guinea.
What is involved in this question? 1 was shocked to hear the statement of a Federal Minister that it was only a question of a dotted line. That of course, is a completely inhuman approach to this situation. The fact is that the inhabitants of that group of many islands, possibly number 8,000 or 9,000 people. They are not just 8,000 or 9,000 agglomerate non-homogeneous people; they are not just a collection of people of no particular ethnic, cultural, historical or geographical background.
– How do you arrive at that figure?
– I am giving the figure for the whole of the Torres Strait islands not just the 3 islands concerned. The Torres Strait islands are historically the places where these people were born and have lived for generations and generations as a complete ethnic group - a total nation. We are not dealing merely with a series of islands which could be indiscriminately populated by one group here or one group there; we are dealing with a complete ethnic group, a complete nation of Torres Strait islands which in other circumstances could have become a completely independent nation in its own right, as some very small though more populous African nations have become. Therefore, the proposal would be not merely to sever geographically 3 islands from this group and transfer them somewhere else, but to cut through the whole of the ethnic group of the Torres Strait islands - actually to sever a nation.
If the truncation were to take place merely to separate these 3 islands to which I have referred and to put them in Papua New Guinea that would be bad, but to drop the demarcation line down to the 10th parallel and take probably 4,000 or 5,000 of the Torres Strait islanders out of the sovereignty of Australia and Queensland and transfer them to the sovereignty of Papua New Guinea is virtually the complete destruction of a nation. To some extent it is a type of genocide because you are really destroying the integrity of a nation, and I do not think that in any circumstances Australia should stand by and allow that to happen - certainly not above the expressed will of the residents of those islands.
I have made some considerable research as to the historical background in which these islands came under the sovereignty of the State of Queensland. In 1879 by action of the then Government of Queensland - it was ratified by statute - the boundary of Queensland was extended and the Torres Strait islands came under Queensland and then, with the Constitution in 1901, under Australian sovereignty. Therefore, there are virtually 100 years of recorded historical sovereignty of the State of Queensland and subsequently of the Commonwealth over these islands in Torres Strait. That is something which cannot possibly be lightly disturbed and this Senate must be alert to see that, it is not permitted to occur.
I know it is said that this is merely a transposition of 3 small islands, 3 small pieces of land, to a nation that has many similarities in colour and otherwise, and that the islands would pass into its developing sovereignty. But these are different people. The 3 islands which I have mentioned and others lie off the coast of Papua, but the residents of those islands are not Papuans, they are not New Guineans and they are not Australian Aborigines; they are Melanesian people, absolutely distinct from all the other ethnic groups to which I have referred. It is a monstrous suggestion, and it would be even more monstrous to permit this total ethnic group - virtually this , total nation - to be cut in 2, severed, and part of it willy-nilly transferred to the Territory of Papua New Guinea.
I do not know - and nobody knows - how the new emerging nation of Papua New Guinea will operate. But we do know that the residents of these islands under Queensland sovereignty are hard-working people. They are essentially an island people who make their living by fishing - toy taking dugong and things of that nature. That is their life, that is their life style, and that is something which they must be allowed to maintain and to continue. But to transfer them into a totally different social, political and ethnic climate, where those things may not be available to them and almost certainly will not be available to them, would be to face these transferred people with disaster.
If ever the Senate were called upon to take its stand in terms of its constitutional position and in terms of the very purpose for which it was created, it is now to step in and prevent this happening. I know there are many legal arguments as to how this could or could not be achieved. There is much legal disputation as to whether in any case these people could be transferred without the authority of the State Parliament of Queensland, which has State sovereignty over the islands, or without a referendum of the people of the State of Queensland or of the islands. There is legal opinion - how strong it is, T do not know - that the matter is open to grave constitutional doubt and there may need to be no consultation whatsoever. Perhaps at this stage I might refer to sections of the Constitution which bear upon this important question. I will recite now from an authority. It states:
Most relevant to the complicated matter of altering Stale boundaries are sections 111, 123 and 128 of the Commonwealth Constitution. Sections 123 and 128 both refer to the need of securing the approval of the majority of the electors for any alteration. This requirement had been added to the original draft of these sections following the Premiers Conference of 1899. Isaacs-
Later Sir Isaac Isaacs, Chief Justice of the High Court- argued that the result of these amendments was not an absolute prohibition for altering boundaries except with the consent of the electors. Section 1 1 1 made no reference to such a requirement, and as both it and section 123 were phrased in positive language (States ‘may surrender’ territory) it was argued that those sections provided alternative methods, independent of each other: Having established this point it was obviously most judicious to proceed on the basis of section 111. Still another hurdle, however, was the question of whether the Commonwealth Parliament had the authority to give effect to the Order in Council of 1898 which preceded the establishment of the Commonwealth and whose implementation had been dependent upon approval by the Queensland Parliament.
That Order in Council was never promulgated because of the intervention of the Commonwealth. It continues:
It might be possible to argue that on the basis of the provisions of the Colonial Boundaries Act of 1895 (and Clause 8 of the covering Act of the Commonwealth Constitution)-
That was the Act of the House of Commons bringing into operation the Australian Constitution - the King in Council had been granted the power (with the consent of the Commonwealth Parliament) to alter the boundaries of the Commonwealth (and ipso facto those of Queensland) without reference to the electors.
There is a position which opens the possibility, looking at the matter in the constitutional framework, that the Commonwealth Parliament with Her Majesty in Council - whether that would be Her Majesty in the Executive Council of Australia or in the Privy Council in England - could unilaterally and without consulting anybody whatsoever transfer these territories to Papua New Guinea.
Mr Whitlam and Mr Somare have recently set out in joint statements their general intention. In a joint statement issued by the Prime Minister and Mr Somare, the Chief Minister of Papua New Guinea, on 17th January last this appears:
The Prime Minister said that the Australian Government was willing in principle to negotiate the relocation of the border and indeed was keen to do so and would not allow any narrow considerations to obstruct a settlement, but the Government noted that there were constitutional considerations which had to be taken into account and which might delay the matter. Moreover, it would be most reluctant to be a party to any settlement which was not accepted by the islanders in the respects which affected them.
There is the obvious and proclaimed intention and attitude of the Prime Minister in conjunction with that of the Chief Minister of Papua New Guinea that they think the boundary should be relocated. The proposal is to relocate it as far south as the tenth parallel and they would allow no narrow considerations to impede it. When we consider in the light of the constitutional recitation which I have given the Senate that the Commonwealth conceivably could proceed by unilateral action - or not inconceivably - then there is both the opportunity and the proclaimed intention It could well be that these islands would be transferred by Act of the Commonwealth
Parliament with Her Majesty in Council, quite irrespective of the views expressed, taken or considered of the people of those islands.
What is the attitude of the people of the Torres Strait Islands? Recently Mr Bjelke Petersen, the Premier of Queensland, made a special tour of these islands and received deputations. The islanders have been down to Brisbane. Their attitude is firm and implacable. They do not want to be transferred from the citizenship of Australia. They do not want their islands to be transferred from the sovereignty of Queensland and the sovereignty of the Commonwealth of Australia. They have expressed that view in every way and the reasons they give for it are proper, just and defensible. They say: ‘This is our home. It has been our home for generations’. It was probably their home when the Aborigines came to this continent. These are not migrant people who came there just 50, 60 or 100 years ago. They are not casual seafaring people who have been thrown up on that shore. Their arrival would have been part of a general migration hundreds or perhaps thousands of years ago. It is their home. They have their own life style and attitudes and they do not want them disturbed.
What is to be the attitude of a government faced with that situation? Are we completely to disregard the attitude of these people? Are we wantonly to lay aside their wishes, their inheritance, their island in the sun? Are we wantonly to lay them aside for some other consideration? A very compelling reason would be required to enable or to justify that being done. What reasons have been given? The most vague reasons of all have been given in statements by the Prime Minister and perhaps by other Ministers. They have said: Well, when Papua New Guinea emerges into independence we want to have good relations with that country’. That seems to be the most compelling reason that has been given. It is nothing more than that. There has been no suggestion that in the event of the proposition not being accepted there will be a very violent rupture of relations between these 2 countries. There has been merely the pious expression of something that we want and on that altar the home and the history of these people are to be sacrificed. Surely nobody could argue for or justify such a climactic and dramatic step - to transfer people from everything they know and everything they have had to another country for such a totally inadequate and unacceptable reason. Surely that is not sufficient.
These islands have a particular significance to the Commonwealth of Australia quite apart from what they mean to the indigenes who inhabit them. They are an indigenous people. They have their own culture and history. But quite apart from that, and if humane considerations are not allowed to intrude at all, what other consideration affects Australia? We are an island continent and much of our trade comes up the east coast of Australia and moves over to the west. The only substantial sea passage around the northern tip of Australia lies through the great north east passage between some of these islands and the shoreline of Papua New Guinea. If that is denied to us it will be a tremendous deprivation in the sea passage by that route, whether to the west or to, the east.
This is not a small channel in which casual fishing craft may sometimes appear or into which pleasure craft may intrude. This is a substantial commercial channel through which hundreds of vessels pass every year. Various calculations have been made, but possibly millions of tons of cargo go by that route. One can only imagine how important commercially and strategically this is to Australia. This channel is comparatively narrow in its geographical proportions. If if fell on one side into hands which, one never knows, tomorrow might be totally hostile to Australia, the whole of the passage through the north east channel would be lost to the Commonwealth. The 2 things might have to be balanced out. The loss of national security and trade opportunities, the economic deprivation to Australia, might have to be balanced against any detriment to the people of the islands and then a choice made for one or the other. However, fortunately in this case the preservation of Australia’s commercial opportunities and trade passages up there means that these islands should be retained in the Commonwealth sovereignty. That also implies that these people will remain Australians and the 2 purposes will be accomplished by the one stance on this matter. We will maintain our commercial advantage and security in the area and we will retain these people for what they want in the sovereignty of the State of Queensland and the sovereignty of the Commonwealth of Australia.
The matter has humane and national overtones and should occupy the minds of honourable senators. I do not know what honourable senators on the Government side who represent Queensland will say or do in this matter. I do know that on the announced statement of Mr Whitlam which I have read to the Senate he is in favour of the transfer of these islands. Originally 3 islands were concerned. If the border is brought down to the tenth parallel, 14 islands will be transferred to the emerging nation of Papua New Guinea. That is Mr Whitlam’s disposition and I take it to be the disposition of his Party.
What will Queensland senators on the Government side say and what attitude will they take on this question? I think that is very important. I reiterate that that is why we are here and today we have a very rare opportunity of protesting our position and exercising our right as representing a component State of the Federation. It is not a matter which is of peculiar and particular interest to Queensland. The encroachment by the Commonwealth in any State sphere of activity or power, or the physical encroachment by the Commonwealth for reasons of geography, whether they relate to the continental shelf or anything else, has overtones for every State of the Federation. Therefore honourable senators from all States, again operating in their character as representatives of the States, should stand up and be counted on this issue because it goes to the very heart and concept of the federal system. Particularly would I expect support from honourable senators, irrespective of party, who come from Queensland. This is an occasion when they should trespass beyond the bounds of party policy. They should be prepared to trespass on whatever decisions their own parties may have taken and which normally would bind their votes in this chamber. I think the people of Queensland will be alert to the situation. I think they will be greviously disappointed and will feel that they have not been adequately represented if they find that on this issue, one of those rare occasions when the Senate can stand within its original concept in the Constitution, Slate rights have not been protected.
As I said, the reasons projected by the Prime Minister are not reasons that are in any sense totally compelling. They have not been particularised. They have not been taken out in detail. There has been merely the vague statement that this course would make for good relations for Papua New Guinea. I say this to Papua New Guinea: The people of the Torres Strait Islands belong to a different ethnic group. It may be very unwise and very imprudent for a developing nation to wish immediately to embody within its independence a group which will be different, a group which will not be homogeneous and which may well provide the seeds of dissent by being there reluctantly and being part of a new and developing nation although it is totally ethnically different and with a totally different background. Action could be taken then to exclude them from Papua New Guinea and put them somewhere else but these people cannot lightly be dispersed. They are an island people; their home is on the islands. Their occupation is fishing - catching sea creatures of all kinds. There are very few places to which they could be simply transferred. If one were brutal and inhumane one could suggest giving them another habitat, but they could not just be placed in Arnhem Land or somewhere else in the Northern Territory. They could not be placed in some place in Papua New Guinea.
– But you do this. The economic situation in the Torres Strait actually does this. You are transferring young working men right across to Western Australia to work on the railways.
– We are not transferring them. They elect to go there and they come back to their own islands, their homes. There are many such people all over the world. For example, there are the classic cases in Europe. Italians and Spaniards work in France although Italy or Spain is their home. They leave their homes in order to work and return at the weekend or for holidays. They regard their own country as their home and they can return to it. That is the thing which maintains them. The Government proposes to deny this to the people of the Torres Strait Islands. It proposes to change completely their life style.
I do not think that the State of Queensland should stand by and allow this to happen. The Premier of Queensland has taken a strong stand. I would like to pay this compliment to him. He has taken a particularly strong stand on many current issues in Australia for which he has received the overwhelming endorsement of the people of Queensland and, I think, the people of Australia. The Premier has taken a strong stand in relation to the Torres Strait Islands and has made his position overwhelmingly clear. For that I am sure he has the endorsement of the people of Queensland, as he has the overall endorsement of the people of the Torres Strait. Incidentally, the Federal Member for Leichhardt, Mr Fulton, is opposed to the transfer of these islands. At the last State election the Democratic Labor Party candidate for the State electorate of Cook was Mr Ben Nona, a Torres Strait Islander and a lugger captain. He campaigned substantially on this issue during the State election campaign because the suggestion was already then current. He obtained a tremendous vote throughout those islands. If Mr Nona had had more time I am almost sure that he would have won the seat. He certainly will win the seat next time on this issue as that is the response of the people of the Torres Strait Islands to this infamous suggestion.
I do not think I should unduly engage the time of the Senate because the issues are clear. The might and the power of the Commonwealth may well be mustered without any constitutional inhibitions to sever these islands from the State of Queensland, to completely truncate part of a nation, a total ethnic group, and put it in another nation embracing a multitude of races with which it would be totally alien.
– What about a plebiscite?
– I am going to deal with that point. My motion deals with it also. We say that in no circumstances should there be a transfer without a referendum of the people of the islands proposed to be transferred and a referendum of the people of the Torres Strait Islands because, as I say, this should be a referendum of a whole nation. The Torres Strait Islands are a nation just as Australia is a nation. There is a multitude of islands but nevertheless this is one nation and it is appropriate that the island people under threat of transfer should have a plebiscite. I appeal to honourable senators to support the motion.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Senator Willesee) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.40 to 8 p.m.
– Mr President, 1 seek leave to make a statement concerning United States defence installations in Australia.
– Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The statement I am about to make is being made in the other place by the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard). It will be understood that when I use the first personal pronoun it refers to the Minister for Defence.
I wish to advise the House of some decisions that have been taken in respect of certain installations with defence implications which have at one time or another been established in Australia following an approach to the Government by the United States. I say at the outset that it is not our intention to repudiate any treaty. We must, however, insist on seeking renegotiation of certain treaties where this is necessary to obviate the complete exclusion of Australia from any effective control over a defence installation on Australian soil or to obviate any possibility that Australia could be involved in war - and a nuclear war at that - without itself having any power of decision. I shall be speaking later about problems of this kind in relation to the United States Naval Communications Station at North West Cape. But I want to refer to other installations first.
Some joint Australia-United States installations are public and well known, like the installation of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. There are other installations which are related to defence. For example, there are 2 installations which have been in Australia for many years, at Amberley in Queensland, and at Alice Springs, both of which have operated with a degree of secrecy which has led to quite unnecessary speculation and mystery about their purpose. The US Air Force detachment at Amberley has been described as ‘measuring the physical effects of disturbances in the atmosphere or in space, with particular emphasis on the effect on radio communications’. The installation is equipped with sensitive devices which can detect very low pressure waves in the atmosphere. Information so obtained has defence and civilian application in the study of ionospheric and auroral disturbances in the upper atmosphere. The essential point I wish to announce tonight is that it has proved possible, through use of these research devices, to monitor the Partial Test Ban Treaty in respect of the testing of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere and on the surface.
The Joint Geological and Geophysical Research Station at Alice Springs has been described as conducting ‘long term geological or geophysical studies including studies of earthquakes and attendant phenomena’. The Bureau of Mineral Resources receives recorded information obtained at this installation, which assists with its studies of the seismology of central Australia. But, among the attendant phenomena’ - the installation studies - one has proved to be of special importance. This station can aid in distinguishing between natural and man-made tremors in the earth’s surface. The man-made tremors are, of course, made by massive explosions, particuarly by nuclear devices underground. The progressive development of this scientific capability to distinguish nuclear tests from natural seismic occurrences is, of course, an essential basis to the development of an effective comprehensive test ban treaty. Australia supports the achievement of such a treaty.
The object and value of having these installations at Amberley and Alice Springs in Australia will now be evident. They make contributions towards the achievement and monitoring of nuclear disarmament. The Australian Government has access not only to the product of these 2 installations but also to the other wider assessments to which they contribute. We see no reason to keep our participation in these matters confidential. The Government has already made clear its real and active concern that Australia take a positive role in disarmament matters. We have ratified the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the treaty prohibiting the placement of nuclear weapons on or under the seabed. We are pleased to have in Australia stations monitoring disarmament. We will take a greater interest in their activity in future.
I wish now to speak about 2 joint installations in central Australia which have long been matters of concern and debate in the Parliament. These are known as the Joint Defence Space Research Facility at Pine Gap near Alice Springs in the Northern Territory and the Joint Defence Space Communications
Station at Narrunga near Woomera in South Australia. As is well known, previous Australian governments chose to exclude the Leader of the Opposition from those who were briefed on the activities and functions of these stations. It was therefore necessary, as I have said in the past, for us to wait until we became the Government before we could develop a policy in respect of these stations founded on a knowledge of what they do, how they can be used, how they are controlled and whether Australia has properly preserved its national interests in the arrangements entered into by the previous Government. This unfortunate situation, which the previous government forced upon us in the past, has been rectified. A week ago I offered the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) the opportunity of being fully briefed on the activities of both these installations. He has accepted my offer and has been briefed.
The review that the Government has made has started from the fact that these installations are established and operating and that their presence is covered by formal international agreements between sovereign states. In the case of Pine Gap the agreement runs to 1976 and thereafter until terminated; in the case of Woomera to 1979 and thereafter until terminated. One year’s notice of termination is required. We continue to disapprove of the manner and the secrecy with which these agreements were entered into by the LiberalCountry Party Government. Although we are going to make changes, we are not making a fresh start. Our responsibility has been to consider whether the national interest and independence are jeopardised by the continuance of the agreements. The Government will, from time to time, inform the Parliament and make public all the information about these activities as would be consistent with national security. But, of course, the Australian and United States governments have given undertakings to each other to protect from unauthorised disclosure classified information which we share about these stations. The Government will respect all classified information shared between us and the United States, as well as with Britain, New Zealand and other powers, including our friends in Asia. Defence co-operation cannot be conducted on any other basis. Apart from these undertakings, there is no doubt in our minds that details of the techniques employed, and of the data being analysed and tested in the stations, must be kept highly secret if the 2 installations are to continue to serve their objectives.
At the same time I wish to announce that the Government has decided that members of this Parliament must have a special right of access to the 2 installations which will enable them to see something of the nature of their operations and be given more information than was provided in the past. I shall not here describe in detail the Parliamentary access arrangements proposed. I have looked at them on the ground at Pine Gap and Woomera and I am satisfied that they provide the maximum access which is feasible without prejudice to the high secrecy of the data being handled. At this point I want simply to announce that there will be special provision for access for members of this Parliament, as would be the case if United States congressmen were to visit the stations. This special form of Parliamentary access will not be available to other persons. With the exception of the very few people directly associated with the central execution and control of the defence programmes of Australia and the United States, no person will have greater access. Members will recognise that these installations are defence projects. They do have work programmes and commitments, and applications to visit them must be made through me. It will not be possible to make visits without prior notice, and there will be some conditions to observe.
I state clearly that neither station is part of a weapons system and neither station can be used to attack any country. My concern has been to ensure not only that these installations do not conflict with our defence interests, but also that they contribute specifically to the improvement and development of Australia’s defence system. To date, some measure of this has been accomplished by the following: We have access to the installations so that we know what is being done there. There is joint management of the facilities and participation by Australian civilians and servicemen in their operation. All data available to the United States Government from these facilities is available to the Australian Government. We have the right to use either or both systems to meet specifically Australian requirements. Notwithstanding these arrangements or opportunities for substantial participation, I am not satisfied that Australia has taken a sufficiently positive role in and share of the control of these installations in the past. I expect later this year, at a mutually convenient time, to visit the United States. When I go there, I shall further discuss these and other aspects of management and control of the installations with the United States Defence Secretary and his advisers. I believe that in these circumstances, should it be desirable, as I expect it will, we could expect that United States advisers would discuss the implications of these matters with officials in Australia.
I now turn to the matter of the United States Naval Communication Station at North West Cape. This installation was established under a formal agreement between the United States and Australia. The agreement ‘runs for 25 years, to May 1988, and thereafter until terminated by 180 days notice. Title and sovereignty over the land occupied by the base remain vested in the Australian Government. Article 3 of the agreement signed and ratified in 1963 provides:
But as members of the House will recall, the Government of the day chose to restrict the meaning of this article. In an exchange of letters between the United States Ambassador and the then Minister for External Affairs on 7th May 1963, the Government publicly accepted the interpretation that the Australian Government’s right of consultation in Article 3 of the United States Naval Communication Station agreement did not carry with it any degree of control over the station or its use.
An agreement with the United States restricted in this way would not have been made by a Labor Government. It. was as we. said at the time, a derogation from Australian sovereignty. No responsible Australian Government can accept such a situation. The, agreement and the exchange of letters were entered into 10 years ago. The exchange of letters applies and was intended to apply a restrictive interpretation of the agreement. We shall negotiate for the application of the actual terms of the agreement, as distinct from’ the qualifying exchange of letters. The United States has told this Government that it is willing to enter into consultations and has said that it is prepared to make North West Cape a joint installation. We will of course be examining whether this would be desirable. These aspects will form an important part of my discussions when I visit the United States.
– I seek leave to make a statement.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I became aware of this statement when Senator Bishop, the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, began to read it. Obviously the statement is a significant one and one in respect of which the Opposition in this place should not make a response until proper consideration has been given to its contents. For the purpose of enabling the matter to be considered and for the purpose of having the debate on the matter renewed at a later stage, I move:
That the Senate take note of the statement.
Debate (on motion by Senator Willesee) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 52).
– Unfortunately Senator Byrne started in error. He finished by giving the real reason for moving the motion - straightout politicking. It was unfortunate that he did this. He finished by challenging Queensland senators about where they stand. He asked them to stand and be counted and used other familiar terms that we hear on occasions in this place. The first thing 1 dispose of is his statement that in voting for the Senate to meet at a certain hour tomorrow morning the Senate is voting on the matters that be raised. I am afraid that he raised them in a way which would not, unless we put the record straight, give anybody reading Hansard a very clear view of what the story was all about.
Honourable senators might remember that a little while ago this matter of motions for adjournment to debate matters of urgency was referred to the Standing Orders Committee because we felt that the form used was a rather quaint way of enabling this section of the Parliament to debate matters which should be brought to the public attention and which should be considered by the Parliament. It was laid down clearly that at no time was the Senate debating anything but the vehicle of enabling something to be raised. I quote from a book which is quoted often. It has become very thumb marked over the years. I quote:
By the very nature of an urgency motion, no issue can be determined, but opportunity is afforded to spotlight some specific matter which, in the opinion of those senators supporting the motion, is of sufficient urgency to warrant the immediate consideration of the Senate. In 1971 the Standing Orders Committee considered a proposal that the Senate should vote on the subject matter of the urgency motton, rather than the question of rising until an unusual time. The effect, however, would be to accord precedence to a substantive motion of General Business, which would be contrary to the purpose of the standing order. Furthermore, there are established procedures for proposing substantive motions to tho Senate. It was decided, therefore, not to make any, alteration to the existing practice.
The first thing I say is that whatever vote is taken on the matter tonight we are merely deciding that we shall meet at 10.55 a.m. tomorrow.
– That is not what Senator Murphy said.
– I quoted from a book with which I have not heard very many people argue so far. I emphasise the fact that the matter was re-examined, after 71 years, by an all-party committee. I have quoted its decision. Senator Byrne handled the whole of this debate as though the Australian Government wanted to excise some islands on which certain people lived and to give those islands to Papua New Guinea. There did not seem to be any argument as to why this should be done and, of course, that is not the situation at all. The situation is that an untenable border exists at the moment between Australia and a country which will shortly be independent and sovereign. For many years Australia has been working towards that end and helping that country. Obviously it will be an important neighbour to us and we will be its most important neighbour.
Senator Byrne used a lot of exaggerated language. He talked about truncating a State. He did not say that the border was several miles out to sea from Queensland and but one mile from Papua New Guinea. He talked about transfer without consultation. But that has never been suggested. The position has been made clear. Senator Byrne in his quotation chose to give emphasis to one side of the quotation and not the other. He asks the Senate to adopt a role as the protector of the States. But he, above all, knows perfectly well that in a very short time this will not be a matter of States but a matter of a border between an independent, sovereign country - that is Papua New Guinea on the one hand and Australia on the other. The preamble to the motion appears to assert that the issues involved in negotiations concerning the border between Australia and Papua New Guinea are matters for the Queensland Parliament. On the other hand it is clear that relations with other neighbours are clearly within the constitutional capacity of this Parliament. Equally, since the referendum of June 1967, this Parliament possesses at least concurrent powers in relation to persons descended from the original inhabitants of the continent and islands forming part of the Commonwealth.
The motion implies that the matter of the border between Australia and Papua New Guinea affects the Torres Strait islanders alone. The fact is that all citizens of Australia are affected by the border problem with a neighbouring country and the interests of the people of Australia and Papua New Guinea as a whole must be considered in any settlement which is reached. In saying that I do not wish in any way to downgrade the importance of the interests of the Torres Strait islanders. The Government has a number of reasons for wishing to settle the border problem within a reasonable time. The first and most fundamental desire for this settlement is that the Government is anxious to remove a source of possible friction between an independent Papua New Guinea and Australia. Secondly, the maintenance of an Australian border within a few hundred metres of the Papua New Guinea shoreline would be quite untenable internationally. Honourable senators may recall the concern of the United Nations in this matter. I read from the report of the United Nations visiting mission to the Trust Territory of New Guinea as late as 1971:
The border runs within a mile of the Papuan coast and includes under Queensland jurisdiction all the intervening islands, including 3, with a total population of 370, which lie close inshore. This situation is regarded locally on the Papuan side as anomalous and there is incipient pressure for revision of the boundary in the Territory’s favour. This is far from being a national issue as yet, but could develop into a source of potential friction unless sympathetically handled.
I suggest to honourable senators that since that report was written the attitude which Mr Somare has taken, which in my view is quite reasonable, has made that incipience a little more prominent than it was then. Thirdly, it is obviously of advantage to the Australian Government to attempt an amicable settlement of the problem while Australia has jurisdiction on both sides of the border, always bearing in mind the wishes and rights of the Torres Strait islands people involved. Some matters of history need to be considered in regard to the border. It was set while Australia was still a British colony and was made, of course, without consultation of the Australian people as a whole or, indeed, the people of Papua New Guinea.
It was conceded by Queensland magistrate Douglas in 1886 and the Queensland Premier. Mr Griffith, in 1893 that the border as it then existed was unfair. It appears that Queensland had agreed to a relocation of the border before Federation but such relocation was never finally effected and the border remains in its original position today. The motion as framed by Senator Byrne misrepresents the attitude of the Australian Government towards the citizens of the Torres Strait islands who may be affected by an alteration of the boundary. I take this opportunity to point out to honourable senators that the wishes and rights of the people inhabiting these islands have been at the forefront of consideration of this matter by this Government and the Papua New Guinea Government. I quote the following passage from a communique issued by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitiam) and the Chief Minister of Papua New Guinea on 17th January this year as evidence of this attitude. Honourable senators will notice where the wrong emphasis was placed by Senator Byrne when he read this passage. It states:
The Prime Minister said that the Australian Government was willing in principle to negotiate the relocation of the border and indeed was keen to do so and would not allow any narrow considerations to obstruct a settlement, but the Government noted that there were constitutional considerations which had to be taken into account and which might delay the matter. Moreover-
Let this be underlined - it would be most reluctant to be a party to any settlement which was not accepted by the Islanders in the respects which affected them.
– I read every word of that.
– The honourable senator read every word and emphasised one narrow section. The communique continued:
The Chief Minister reaffirmed that the existing border was unacceptable to his Government but he was confident that it would be possible to reach a solution which would be generally acceptable to all parties including the islanders.
I believe that situation is one which still obtains unless people want to exacerbate a position which is not really present at the moment. The communique further stated:
He said that his Government was conscious of the existing rights including land rights of the islanders and intended that these should be safeguarded in any settlement that might be reached. The Australian Government has asked the Council for Aboriginal Affairs to arrange a meeting with the chairman of the island’s councils in order to try to identify and clarify the islanders’ anxieties and wishes and possibly to assess how far these might be met in a settlement entailing a relocation of the border. The Australian Government would facilitate contact between the Papua New Guinea Government and the islanders if the Papua New Guinea Government wishes.
The Prime Minister and the Chief Minister agreed that Australian officials should engage in early discussions with Papua New Guinea officials with a view to seeking provisional agreement between Australia and Papua New Guinea on issues other than that of territorial sovereignty of the islands. These relate to seabed divisions, fishing and navigation rights.
An interdepartmental committee of interested Commonwealth departments at this moment is giving consideration to attitudes to be taken by the Commonwealth in the proposed discussions with Papua New Guinea officials. The attitude of the Papua New Guinea Government was expressed in another way by Mr Ebia Olewale, who is Minister for Education, in a statement reported on 3rd May 1972 in which he said that it was unreasonable to ask Papua New Guinea to put up with a situation which Queensland would not tolerate should the positions be reversed. As a first step in the consultation necessary to enable the islanders to understand the issues and to express their views the Australian Government has asked the Council for Aboriginal Affairs to meet the representatives of the islanders in order to identify and clarify the islanders’ anxieties and wishes. Some preliminary steps have been taken towards such a meeting.
The crux of the matter is that the Commonwealth Government has recognised that the present border between Papua New Guinea and Australia is in need of adjustment, and having recognised that fact the Government is anxious to arrange a settlement which is in the best interests of all the parties concerned. The Government is adopt ing a flexible approach to the matter and is considering a number of proposals which may enable changes to be made while at the same time preserving the citizenship and land rights of those Torres Strait islanders affected. On the other hand Mr Bjelke-Petersen apparently believes that the border should not be changed under any circumstances and that it represents a perfectly acceptable situation for the present border to run so close to the coast of Papua New Guinea. I believe that Mr Olewale’s comment is relevant here and that Mr Bjelke-Petersen should try to place himself in the New Guineans’ position in order to see that Papua New Guinea has a reasonable case for requesting a variation of the present border. The Council for Aboriginal Affairs will establish communication with the islanders and in due course there will be discussions with them by the Prime Minister and other Ministers concerned.
I think I should make one comment on the concept of a referendum which looms so large in Senator Byrne’s motion. A referendum can only be an instrument for expressing a legitimate opportunity if the voters are properly informed of the various alternatives which are available and on which the referendum is based. It seems clear that the islanders have been extensively informed about one alternative, the one favoured by Mr BjelkePetersen to maintain the status quo. The other alternatives appear to have been misrepresented or simply withheld from the islanders and it is for this reason that the Government attaches such great importance to the Council for Aboriginal Affairs establishing proper communications with the people of the islands. The Federal Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant) has announced that his Department is forming a task force to report on a wide spectrum of issues including the Queensland Government’s dealings with the islanders. This task force might be expected to inquire into the inadequacies of past communications between the Federal Government and the islanders and to recommend ways in which the position should be improved.
Honourable senators may be assured that the deep concern which the present Government feels and is expressing in its actions for Australians of Aboriginal and island descent will be equally apparent in its dealings with Torres Strait islanders in this matter. Given this assurance, I underline the point that if this motion is carried and Senator Byrne’s view, as wrong as it is, is given credence, it could only inhibit future negotiations between 2 sovereign nations - Papua New Guinea on the one hand and Australia on the other. (Honourable senators interjecting) -
– Order! I think the Acting Leader of the Government is doing very well without the encouragement from the back.
– I regret very much- (Honourable senators interjecting) -
– Order! Honourable senators know as well as I do that the Leader or the Acting Leader of a Party is accorded the civility of being heard in reasonable silence. I remind honourable senators of the standing order which states that all interjections are highly disorderly.
– I regret that when opening this debate Senator Byrne did not once adVert to the true situation. Here we have a situation, underlined by a United Nations body, whereby Papua New Guineans in order to travel from one part of their island to another - they can only do so by sea - have to go into Queensland waters. The Queensland border runs within a mile of the Papua New Guinea coast. The Papua New Guineans themselves have said that this is an untenable situation; and who would argue with that? Senator Byrne talked of a State but the fact is that very shortly Papua New Guinea will be an. independent nation which as of right will be able to approach the Australian Government to negotiate this matter. When that happens it will not be on the basis of the narrow view put forward by Senator Byrne, of standing up and being counted and talking about such rights.
I believe that as Mr Somare has said eventually this matter can be ironed out in an amicable way. All sorts of things can be done, lt does not have to come to a headlong dispute. We have not made great play of this. We have said that we appreciate the situation that Papua New Guinea places before us. We have asked Mr Bjelke-Petersen to have a lc ok at the situation, realising that the matter will be taken out of his hands the moment. Papua New Guinea becomes independent. Then it will be a matter of one sovereign nation dealing with another. There is no difference between this situation and deciding what should be the boundary between Indonesia and Australia, which was done without any problems at all because 2 sensible governments sat down and talked around a table. This can be done in this situation. This is what must be done. The emotional issues on which honourable senators are asked to vote tonight are not the issues at all. Senator Byrne talks as though the Australian Government really wants to take a few islands, grab a few people and shift them over to some other position. It has been stated time and time again that whatever negotiations take place the people will count with the Australian and the Papua New Guinean governments.
Finally, I repeat that the issue is not a question of what the situation is tonight because in a very short space of time the Queensland Government will not have responsibility for this matter; it will be the responsibility of a properly elected government of Australia dealing with an independent Papua New Guinea which will be relying on us in all sorts of ways. Papua New Guinea has a right to expect that the country which has been a colonial power over these years - quite unwillingly on our part - should be looking towards it to help it to great nationhood. We are co-operating with Papua New Guinea on a wide variety of fronts, such as allowing it into international conferences to speak in its own right, by making special considerations for it, setting up organisations for it, discussing where we can help in the field of foreign relations, where we can represent it and where it should represent itself. Yet in the way in which Senator Byrne has put the motion there is no such approach. I do not think he discussed at any stage what the real problem is, that here is a government with a problem of its border running so close to the coastline that when its people get in their boats to go from one part of the country to another they have to go into Queensland waters. I ask the members of the Senate tonight to think very carefully about the vote they are about to make because the result could very easily inhibit a future government in Australia, whatever its political colour and whatever might be the situation in Papua New Guinea at that time. The formation of an international agreement might be inhibited because someone has tried to arouse emotions tonight without any foundation at all. Statements have been clearly made by Mr Somare and Mr Whitlam that the people of the
Torres Strait islands will be the main consideration and this will be kept to the fore at all stages of the negotiations.
– I rise to support this urgency motion. I want to answer a couple, of things that the Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Willesee) has said. First of all, he referred to an untenable border. There are many parts of the world where this situation occurs. For example, one can see part- of Indonesia just 2 or 3 miles from the island of Singapore. The situation where islands of one nation are very close to the coast of another nation occurs in many parts of the world. I do not think the situation in this particular case is of great worry to the Papua New Guineans. Senator Willesee said also that they have to go through Queensland waters to go to another part of Papua and New Guinea. It is less than 30 miles from those islands to West Irian. So they do not have to travel through very much Queensland water to go from one part of Papua and New Guinea to another.
I do not believe that many members of the Parliament have been all around this area and know the set up. Senator Willesee forgets that the Torres Strait islanders are a unique race of people. They inhabit only these islands in the Torres Strait. They have no relations elsewhere in the world. They are not related to the mainland New Guineans or the Australian Aborigines. To divide their islands in any way would be like going into another country and cutting it in half or cutting off a bit. That is forgotten completely. I wish to point out that there are many misunderstandings about the Torres Strait. When seen on an atlas it looks like 80 miles of open sea. Nothing could be further from the case. It is a maze of reefs and islands. It has only one small passage through which any big boats can pass. That is the passage to which Senator Byrne referred, the great north east channel which is just north of Thursday Island and which heads in a north easterly direction from there.
These islands are part of Queensland. That is another point that is not clearly understood. They are part of metropolitan Queensland. They are not island territories administered by Queensland. They are just as much a part of Queensland and Australia as, say, Kangaroo Island is part of South Australia, Rottnest Island is part of Western Australia, or King Island is part of Tasmania. Two suggestions have been made: Firstly, to draw the boundary south of the tenth parallel. That would take in more than half the Torres Strait Islands and their people and would take in quite a considerable part of this one steamer passage through these straits. I think that the Government’s suggestion is untenable.
The second point involves the 3 islands closest to the New Guinea mainland. They are not one mile away but at least 5 miles away. The islands are Boigu Island, with 272 people, Dauan Island with 93 people and Saibai Island with 211 people, a total of 576 good Australians. Many of their menfolk are away working in other parts of Australia. As I said before, these people are a unique race. They have their own language and have been in these islands for generations. The islands have been part of Queensland for about 100 years. These people are loyal Queenslanders and Australians. I wish to quote from the’ News-Weekly’ of 17th January 1973:
The Whitlam government’s determination to give’ away the Torres Strait islands and their native population to an independent New Guinea is causing deep resentment in the islands. The islands belong to Queensland, and their inhabitants are Australian aboriginal citizens. It is being said’ bluntly that the Labor government wants to get rid of them becausethey are black. Certainly, there would be no question of handing, the islands over to New Guinea if they were inhabited by white people.
The article goes on to quote several other authorities. It also states:
The Labor MP for Leichhardt, William Fulton, had told islanders at pre-election meetings the borders would not be changed.
It contains the statement:
It would be tragic for the Torres Strait .people if the Federal government drew a line across the middle of the Strait. … It would disturb the - whole unity of the people based on. a common fellowship and a pride in being Australian.’
I also wish to quote the remarks of the Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane, Dr Felix Arnott, who promised to take a very strong stand on the issue. He said:
I will do my level best to let it be known ‘ how strongly I feel. I cannot see why any change at all is necessary.’
Also. I should like to quote the remarks of the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) in another place. He is the present Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. This is a letter which Mr Bryant wrote on 28th July 1972. It is addressed to the Torres Strait islanders, some individually. This letter is addressed to ‘Dear Friend’. It reads: 1 am writing to you because one of my constituents has asked me to support the transfer of your island to Papua New Guinea.
I do not believe that Papua New Guinea has any right to your land but I wouldlike to hear from you about it.
If, as I expect, you wish to remain part of Queensland and Australia, I will give you all my support as will the FCAATSI of which I am Senior Vicepresident.
I am writing to you now because when I received the letter setting out the claim to your wishes 1 realised that some people in Papua New Guinea have started a campaign which may be difficult to stop unless the people of the islands speak now with the help of their friends on the Australian mainland.
GORDON M. BRYANT
M.H.R. for Wills
– What is the date of that letter?
– The date of the letter is 28th July 1972. I hope that when a decision is made both Mr Bryant and Mr Fulton will stand up and be counted. The Papuan mainlanders adjacent to this area were never seafaring people. They did not fish in the oceans. They fished in the estuaries and rivers. They built their villages out on the seafront only after the coming of Europeans and the stopping of headhunting by the Torres Strait islanders. On the other hand, the Torres Strait islanders were a seafaring people. They are superb navigators in the reefs and they obtain most of their food from the sea. They obtain turtles, dugongs and many other forms of fish. Each family has its own land rights on the islands where they have their gardens. If a family trespasses on another family’s garden, there is a row.
– This is more than you have given the Aborigines.
– This is what I am saying. They have their land rights and the Government wants to take them away. I want to talk about the Australian Broadcasting Commission television programme called ‘This Day Tonight’. The programme of 13th February dealt with Torres Strait islands and the Papuan mainland. With all their movements around the islands, the film crew could not find one person who wanted to give those islands to Papua New Guinea. Photographs were taken and interviews held on the Papuan mainland at one fishing village called Buzi which is about 5 or 6 miles from these islands. An elder there said that he wanted his people transferred to Queensland. He did not want the islands. This has been the position throughout the area and it is the present position. All of the Torres Strait islanders have stores run by the Island Industries Board. Really, they are Queensland Government stores. The islanders have democratically elected councils. They are like our local authorities and they are extremely well run. I should like to quote also from an article in the November 1972-January 1973 issue of Australia’s Neighbours’ entitled ‘The Boundary Between Australia and Papua New Guinea’. It was written by Mr J. R. V. Prescott, Reader in Geography at the University of Melbourne, and was as follows: . . the present boundary is a’ perfectly proper boundary in the terms of the existing Convention, unless some historic title or other special circumstances can be demonstrated by the Government of Papua New Guinea and accepted by Australia. First, there do not seem to be any recent cases where a State has voluntarily ceded occupied territory which has been held for nearly a century, without some compensating territorial gain.
– Who said this?
– Mr J. R. V. Prescott, Reader in Geography at the University of Melbourne. About a fortnight ago I visited the Torres Strait area and talked to the chairmen of the islands. There are 3 chairmen in the different groups of islands, all very able men who speak for their people. They are Mr Tanu Nona, Mr Getano Lui and Mr George Mye. They are adamant that they will not leave their islands. They refuse to be resettled and they say they will secede if they are given to Papua. In fact, they say they will fight if they are given away or if any attempt is made to remove them forcibly. Their tradition, culture and way of life is bound up with their islands. The Brisbane ‘Courier Mail’ today features an article under the headline Islanders’ fear of end to their race*. The article begins with this statement:
If we’re going to be given away to Papua New Guinea, our race will die out,’ Mr Getano Lui said in Brisbane yesterday.
We want to remain on the Torres Strait Islands and retain them for our children and our children’s children,’ he said.
He goes on in that vein. What has happened in the Papua New Guinea House of Assembly on this question? Mr Ebia Oliwale, the member for the South Fly open electorate, is the only member of that House who over the years, it seems, has really been interested in changing the boundary. He tried in 1969 to get the House of Assembly interested in this question. But what did he get? He did not get any support. His resolution was lost on the voices. I should add that Mr Somare was a member of the House of Assembly at that time but apparently he did not say anything in support of Mr Oliwale’s resolution, whatever his views on the subject may be today. Mr Burns, a member of the Queensland Parliament and, I think, Federal President of the Australian Labor Party, made a statement on the subject which shows how little some people know of our north. He said that Mr Jo Bjelke-Petersen had returned to Queensland from the Torres Strait Islands when in fact Mr Bjelke-Petersen had never been out of Queensland.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– Before beginning my remarks in this debate I want to recapitulate briefly some of the comments made by speakers from the Opposition side. It is difficult now to be certain of who is the Opposition since the Australian Country Party has stepped down in favour of the Australian Democratic Labor Party. It is rather significant that the 2 honourable senators who have spoken in this debate so far are members of the minority parties with the DLP taking the lead. I support my Minister’s statement earlier tonight that the motion moved by Senator Byrne can only further divide people in this argument over the Torres Strait area. Let us all be clear about it. It is obvious that Senator Byrne has jumped on the bandwaggon as a result of recent publicity about Torres Strait and then, as the Minister said, he finally issued a challenge to other honourable senators to stand up and be counted. I realise that Senator Byrne of the DLP who moved this motion is missing from the chamber. As the Minister said, this shows that the honourable senator’s interest in the subject is purely political. The Minister pointed out that the Government was adopting a flexible attitude. Frankly, our desire throughout has been to reach an orderly agreement on the boundary dispute.
Some of Senator Lawrie’s statements were outrageous. He certainly let his imagination run away with him. Perhaps he will tell us at some time who wrote his speech for him. Senator Bonner shortly will stand in his place and read a speech which no doubt was prepared for him by the Premier of Queensland who is better known in most circles as Holy Joe. However, I want to pay a tribute to Senator Lawrie’s wife, for she does know the Torres Strait area, has done a tremendous amount of research on’ it and has written some very good material about it. But Senator Lawrie himself, I am afraid, did not spend much time in the Torres Strait because obviously he could easily have been .mistaken for a dugong and finished in a cooking pot.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy President.
– I did not call you a dugong, I said he was one.
– Mr Deputy President, the remark passed about my colleague is offensive to me and I ask that it be withdrawn.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - I cannot sustain the point of order.
– I will withdraw that word and substitute the word ‘sea-cow’.
– Mr Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. I ask that that remark be withdrawn for it is offensive not only to me but to members of the Country Party, and indeed to all honourable senators in this chamber; and I stress the word ‘honourable’.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Senator Keeffe, Senator Bonner has claimed that the remark is offensive to him and in the circumstances it is customary to ask that it bc withdrawn.
– It might be suitable to all if I refer to a sea animal. That covers the field without being offensive to anyone.
– Mr Deputy President, I rise on a further point of order. I take it that we are all Australians and that we know exactly what Senator Keeffe means by changing the word as he did. It is still offensive to me and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I do not want to waste debating time. It is obvious that the statement is not offensive to Senator Lawrie but I will withdraw it in deference to Senator Bonner, The final stupid statement by Senator Lawrie was that land rights are available to people in the Torres Strait. He knows this is not true. Land rights never have been available to them. The only way land rights will be made available to the islanders is through the Labor Government, and in due course that will be done. The land in this area will be returned to the local people. There has been a great attempt to spread the dispute over a very large political area, but we know that in the original discussion only 3 islands were involved - Boigu Island, Saibai Island and Dauan Island. It has been stretched to southern areas only by the Premier of Queensland and those who side with him.
It is equally stupid for it to be said that the dispute is between the Prime Minister of Australia and the Premier of Queensland. The Premier has been the man making all the noises. The Prime Minister has made one or two very dignified statements, setting out a factual situation without attempting to indulge in a cross brawl. But I cannot say the same for the Premier of Queensland who has conducted a one-way brawl on his own, talking to himself, and this is what has caused all the problems. It is no use saying that this dispute has been inspired by the islanders. That is not so. It has been inspired by a number of shady characters moving from centre to centre in an endeavour to stir up sufficient interest so that islanders away from Torres Strait will have mass meetings or whatever you like to call them.
It is significant that these shadowy figures move in the background. Perhaps the point that is of greater significance is that one of them is a well known member of the Country Party. He is organising the meetings. I wonder why persons who can see the Labor Government’s angle in relation to the border dispute were not allowed to speak at public meetings on Thursday Island and in other areas in the Torres Strait islands.
I turn to one or two other points that I think are of tremendous interest in this dispute. We know that some time ago, largely as a result of agitation by the Labor Party which was then in Opposition in this Parliament, a royal commission was established to investigate whether it was in the interest of Australia to carry out oil prospecting and perhaps development on the Great Barrier Reef. We all know that the report of that royal commission will be produced either towards the end of this month or some time within the next few weeks. We all know that the Premier of Queensland has large holdings in oil companies, and I think we all know that the undersea area in the vicinity of these 3 islands is a highly prospective hydrocarbon area. I wonder whether it is because the Premier of Queensland has interests in oil companies that he is making this great big noise.
I refer to a statement that was made by Senator Bonner. It is contained in an article published in the ‘Townsville Bulletin’ of 3rd January 1973. It quotes Senator Bonner as saying:
The only voices raised in protest have been those of the Torres Strait islanders, the Premier of Queensland, Mr J. Bjelke-Peterson, and the Church of England.
The article continues: tie also reminded the people of Queensland to think back 2 or 3 years when the State Government resisted moves to establish drilling for oil on the Great Barrier Reef.
The person who built up that resistance to drilling for oil on the Great Barrier Reef was my colleague Senator Georges. He led the fight against it because at that stage the Premier wanted to get in there with his sticky little oil covered fingers and drill on the Barrier Reef regardless of the consequences, and Senator Bonner knows that. The article quotes Senator Bonner as then saying:
I have learned there is the possibility of oil in the Torres Strait. If the boundary is moved then Papua New Guinea, having independence, would have no hesitation in drilling for oil in the Torres Strait.
Then he referred to accidents and what have you, and said:
Mr Somare also said Papua New Guinea wanted fishing rights. . . .
Then Senator Bonner continued:
Is it fishing or oil he wants to consider?
I think this is a pretty hypocritical attitude to adopt because some years ago the Premier of Queensland and his Government gave away a large area of Queensland water at the southern end of the Gulf of Papua to international oil interests, and honourable senators opposite know that. They also know that in exchange a piece of the Coral Sea was added to Queensland’s so called prospective area. There was no uproar at the time because this was an area in which the Premier would have had great difficulty in taking out an oil lease. But he will have no difficulty in taking out an oil lease in Torres Strait. I submit that if this is a prospective area for oil it ought to belong to the Torres Strait islanders; it ought to belong to the people who live on the islands.
But like everything else, if there is half an opportunity the area will be taken away from them by the Queensland Government, and this is the aim and background of most of this dispute.
I also criticise Senator Bonner for saying: If you take these 3 islands out and put them into the Territory of Papua New Guinea you will take away unemployment benefits.’ He and I know that no person on any of these 3 islands has ever received any unemployment benefits under his Government. It is true that they have received age pensions and other social services but they never received unemployment benefits, and he knows it. People on the reserves in Queensland do not receive unemployment benefits and they never received them under the previous Government. Changes of that sort can take place only under a Labor government. We have promised them in the past and we will honour that promise in the future.
Let us not indulge in lies and hypocrisy about things that should be happening so that honourable senators opposite can build up a propaganda machine. That is all they are doing. Some 60 acres of land on Thursday Island were set aside from Crown land and were to be made available to island residents as areas on which to build homes. But the Queensland Government got its sticky fingers on that land, after the previous Commonwealth Government released it to the Queensland Government, and it is still holding the land in cold storage because it hopes that if there is mineral development in this area it will sell that land at exorbitant prices not to the Torres Strait islanders or to the Aborigines but to white people, and thus fill its own pocket.
I am suggesting that a lot of these things should be looked at if one is to decide whether the statements made by Senator Laurie and Senator Byrne have any truth in them at all. It is outrageous hypocrisy for honourable senators .opposite to adopt this holier than thou attitude by saying: ‘This sort of thing is going to take place’. What they are hoping at the bottom of the motion and at the bottom of their speeches is that they will divide the island people. They hope that they will divide the people of Queensland and the island people and cause trouble between the people of the Territory of Papua New Guinea and the people who live on the islands in Torres Strait. I hope that when Senator Bonner reads his prepared statement, which has been written by the Premier of Queensland or one of the officers of the Aboriginal and Island Affairs Department, he will take these things into consideration and leave reference to these matters out of his speech. I am saying this now because this is all that Senator Bonner has ever done in the past when he was supposed to be defending the people in these areas.
I make this final appeal: If this motion is carried, honourable senators opposite will further divide all of the people in the. area and cause trouble between governments. If they leave it to the Federal Labor Government to handle the question in the manner in which it is handling it now there will not. be any problems. Agreement will be reached between, the governments. Probably under the guidance and leadership of the Chief Minister of Papua New Guinea, Mr Michael Somare, our own representatives and the people in the areas concerned, an agreement will be hammered out which will be acceptable to all.
– And to Mr Bryant?
- Mr Bryant is leading the discussions right now, as was mentioned by the Special Minister of State a few minutes ago.
– Cambodia Bryant.
– Cambodia does not come into it. If Senator Gair wants to talk about Cambodia he can go there. I am asking now for this matter to be dealt with not by a motion but as a matter of law in the interests of the people who live in Torres Strait.
Senator BONNER (Queensland) (9.9J - I rise to support the motion moved by Senator Byrne. I rise as one of the 10 senators “elected to this place to represent the State of Queensland, and I ask honourable senators opposite to take particular note of those words ‘elected to represent the State of Queensland’. A lot has been said tonight and a great deal of noise has been created on the other side of the chamber, particularly by the last speaker. I believe that of all the senators present in this chamber tonight I probably would have more right to speak on this issue because I speak on behalf of my brothers and sisters in the Torres Strait islands - despite what Senator Keeffe has said. I have heard talk about the illegality of the border and about the oil and mineral wealth that could be in the area. But I see that what happened to members of my race is happening in 1973 in the Torres Strait islands to my fellow Australians and. fellow Queenslanders. Members of the Labor Party seem to be quite happy to hand over to Papua New Guinea 3 islands in the Torres Strait. The issue has been discussed between the chief Minister of Papua New Guinea, Mr Somare, and the Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam. 1 have not heard any member of the Labor Party say positively: ‘No, we are not going to give these 3 islands away.’ There has been no such positive statement.
– Does that prove that there has been a statement that the islands will be given away? That is strange logic.
– There has been talk of giving the islands away. There, are 576 people on the 3 islands in question - ‘Boigu, Saibai and Dauan. They have regarded themselves as Australians since the white man first came here and took this country. They have regarded themselves as Queenslanders. Now there is a possibility that they will become Papua New Guineans because someone down here is to say: ‘You are not going to be. Queenslanders or Australians any more. We are going to give away your nationality and give you to Papua New Guinea.’ An honourable senator opposite said that people in shadow form have been going to the Torres Strait islands. Perhaps I could be mistaken for a shadow because of my colour.
– No, you are a shining light, Senator.
– Thank you, but I could be regarded by some people as a shadow. 1 went to the Torres Strait islands and spoke to the people there. They called a special meeting at Tamway Town to ask me to make representations in this chamber on their behalf. 1 listened to several Torres Strait islanders speak on the border issue. One old gentleman rose and addressed the assembly in these words: ‘My brothers, please don’t let em taken these islands away from us. These, islands belong you and me and my father, grandfather and great-grandfather.’
– They do not speak like that. They speak better English than that.
– Honourable senators opposite might think it smart to interject because I speak as my brother Torres Strait islanders speak among themselves and Aborigines speak amongst ourselves. It might sound funny to you people but it is our way of communicating and it is a> way in which Senator Keeffe will never be able to communicate with Torres Strait Islanders and Aborigines. The men and women on the Torres Strait islands do not want the Australian Government to give away their birthright that was given to them not by man but by God. They do not want their homes and everything that they believe in to be given away. Their families have been born and raised there. I ask you please, for God’s sake, do not let us see again happen in 1973 to the Torres Strait islanders the same thing that happened to members of my race. Do not take away their islands; do not take away their nationality. Let them remain as they want to remain - Queenslanders and Australians. The wise old gentlemen to whom I was referring when I was so rudely interrupted said that they have a problem. He said to us: ‘Brothers, when I got problem I go to my father’s grave. I can sit and I can talk and I am comforted’.
– Who is going to take that away from them?
– You are, because if you give these islands to Papua New Guinea the islanders will not remain there. No longer will they have the opportunity of going back to their own land. How could you understand? How could a white man understand the feelings of Aborigines or Torres Strait islanders? You have no idea. You could not understand their feelings because to you a piece of land means money in your pocket. You can use it for some commercial purpose, but that is not the feeling of Torres Strait islanders and Aborigines. To us land means something more.
– You have got nothing under conservatism.
– No, and some of your people helped to do it. Never forget that.
– Are you in favour of Aboriginal land rights? Tell us your policy on Aboriginal land rights.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Order! I do not think this is an occasion for creating bedlam. Senator Bonner is entitled to be heard in silence and I trust that senators will give him a fair hearing.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy President, but feel not for me because, like my brothers and. sisters in the Torres Strait islands, I am quite used to being overruled by the white majority. I do not have a great deal of time to speak in this debate. Unfortunately, much of it has been taken up by rude interruptions and interjections from senators who, I am quite sure, know a little better. Nevertheless, once again I make this plea on behalf of the people of the Torres Strait islands. They know nothing about mineral wealth and such things. All they know is that these are their islands. On their behalf I am asking that before any alteration to the border is made they are consulted and their views are taken into consideration. J ask that they be given an opportunity to say to the Government or to the representatives of the Government whether they want to be Papua New Guineans. 1 have heard many silly arguments here tonight about the islands being too close to the Papua New Guinea border. That is a stupid argument. What about the bolder between West Irian and Papua New Guinea? lt is only a line across a map. Some people say that because the islands are too close to Papua New Guinea we should give them to Papua New Guinea. I say that that is a stupid argument because many countries are divided by a line on a map.
What difference does it make if the islands are a mile or 2 yards away from Papua New Guinea? lt makes no difference because between some countries there is only a fence. To say that these people have to traverse Queensland waters to go from point A to point B because of a bay does not carry any weight whatsoever because they could still go in around the bays and get to the other point in that way. So because we want to save the people of Papua New Guinea, bless them, from going an extra mile, it is suggested that we should give 570-odd people to Papua New Guinea when they do not want to become part of that country. I say that we should not give part of Queensland to Papua New Guinea. We in this Parliament should listen for once in our lives to the voice of the indigenous people who are asking that their boundaries should not be changed. 1 am sorry, Mr Deputy President, that I lost my speech, the speech which Senator Keeffe referred to as having been prepared by Mr Bjelke-Petersen, but perhaps what I have had to say tonight has been a lot better than anything Senator Keeffe could come up with. 1 urge all honourable senators in this chamber tonight to support Senator Byrne’s motion and to carry it so that the rights of the
Torres Strait islanders will be preserved and so that they will remain Queensland Australians.
– May I remind Senator Bonner of his brothers and sisters in Papua New Guinea. He referred to his brothers and sisters on the Torres Strait islands. For some reason he seemed to separate them from his brothers and sisters - he used the term - in Papua New Guinea. 1 would like to remind him that Papua New Guinea is an emerging nation with a tremendous potential for growth, commercially and otherwise, and it will not be long before the interests of the Torres Strait islanders will be better served by the nations to the north of them than by the State to the south of them. lt is fairly evident that their interest has not been served by the State to which they belong. The Torres Strait islanders have been the victims of neglect on the part of the Queensland Government for many years. In fact the inhabitants of the 3 islands concerned-
– They were not neglected when the Labor Party formed the Government in Queensland because Senator Gair looked after everybody.
– The record of the Gair Government in Queensland as far as Aborigines and Torres Strait islanders are concerned it not one which can be supported and certainly is not to the credit of the Labor movement.
– Did von not support the Labor movement then?
– 1 did not support some of its actions and 1 do not support it now.
– Oh, no!
– I am talking about the Queensland Government which was led by Senator Gair. The inhabitants of these islands are so depressed economically that many of them have to travel many miles to Western Australia to work on the railways for 2 years. They have to be separated from their families and from their children for no less than 2 years in order to earn sufficient money to maintain their families. They cannot live from the sea as was suggested by Senator Byrne. This is not the time for speeches of the kind made by Senator Byrne, Senator Bonner and Senator Lawrie. This is not a time for emotion. It is not a time for emotional terms such as were used by Senator
Byrne. One of the words he used was ‘genocide’. He had the temerity to use the word genocide’ because it has been suggested that these 3 islands should become part of the Territory of Papua New Guinea. He suggested that this was a type of genocide but he and his party have supported since 1954 the acts of genocide against the Vietnamese people. There is no doubt that his party has supported what could have led to the complete obliteration of the Vietnamese people. That is what can be termed genocide, not the relocation, by arrangement and discussion, of a boundary between Papua New Guinea and Queensland.
Let me make it clear to the Senate that the proposition brought forward today is premature and will prejudice the negotiations. I warn supporters of the motion that what they are saying will happen because of their violent opposition and because of the violent opposition of Bjelke-Petersen. Three boundaries have been suggested in the past. Looking at a sketch which I have before me, the first boundary, as it exists today, was established in 1879. Subsequently, in 1899 a border should have been introduced but was not. That boundary is accepted generally today by the politicians of Papua New Guinea. By bringing the border further south, Papua New Guinea takes in the 3 islands concerned. As far as the negotiations have gone, at the present time the politicians of Papua New Guinea are prepared to accept this boundary which will bring within their territory the 3 islands under discussion. There is a further boundary which is called the William Macgregor boundary. That is the boundary which seems to be acceptable, at the present stage of negotiations, to the Australian Labor Party. It runs somewhat further south and takes in certain reefs and one or two more islands. But under the pressure of Mr Bjelke-Petersen, the Democratic Labor Party and misguided senators here tonight, this problem will not be resolved until Papua New Guinea takes it to the International Court of Justice. Possibly the International Court will accept that the boundary should be as far south as the 10th Parallel.
– You said possibly.
– I am saying that if the boundary is not altered by negotiation and conciliation, as is suggested at present, but is taken to an international authority, the international authority will take it to the obvious line. The moving of this motion today, the methods being used by the Opposition parties, the emotive terms being used, and the panic that the Opposition parties are creating among the Torres Strait islanders will mean in the end that the matter will be taken to an international authority and then the Torres Strait islanders will be worse off. There are 576 people concerned and I agree that the future of the 576 inhabitants of these 3 islands must be carefully considered. Their future must not be left to the mercy and the neglect of the present Queensland Government as it has been in the past. These people practically live on the social services, the pensions, provided to the elder people.
– I thought you said they were neglected.
– They are neglected. They are neglected because there has been no provision for them.
– Do you think that the Papuans will provide these social services?
– Let me say to you, senator, that the future of the people of these 3 islands must be protected and in a transitional period the benefits which they receive at the present time must continue, and they are mainly Commonwealth benefits. Nothing flows to those people as a result of the initiative of the present Queensland Government. Their neglect is obvious and it has been obvious for years. The Queensland Government has not cared. It has not even bothered to seal off the waters of the Torres Strait islands for the benefit of the people of those islands. It has allowed those waters to be exploited by foreign vessels - and by foreign vessels I mean vessels from New South Wales and Victoria. The Queensland Government has never endeavoured to protect those waters upon which the Torres Strait islanders depend, not for their livelihood in the normal economic sense-
– Why do the Torres Strait islanders want to stay in Queensland if they have been so badly treated by the Queensland Government?
– They have been badly treated by the Queensland Government because no initiative has been shown in providing employment for them. In fact all the economic benefit that flows to these people flows from the Commonwealth Government.
If it were not for the social services which the Commonwealth provides, those people would be as destitute as the people who live on the mainland of Papua New Guinea. I suggest to Mr Bjelke-Petersen that he should not use methods that he condemns others for using. He condemns students for arousing tempers in the streets and for creating situations which he considers to be riotous. On one occasion - quite unwarrantedly - he claimed that a dangerous situation existed and he declared a state of emergency over a football match. At the present time he is using far less responsible methods in the islands of the Torres Strait. He has caused such a stir and such an emotional position that one chieftain or leader of the island people has suggested that he could muster 100 warriors to protect the islands and that there would be bloodshed on the beaches. That sort of statement has followed Mr Bjelke-Petersen wherever he has gone on those islands. He has deliberately stirred up the passions of the people on the islands and compromised the negotiations which must take place. 1 trust that the problem will be solved by negotiation and conciliation and that the people of the Torres Strait Islands will be consulted and will be a part of the conciliation process. I suggest to those who so violently oppose any discussions on the matter of a boundary that eventually they will be forced to accept a boundary that is far less suitable to the interests of the people of the Torres Strait Islands than is that suggested at the present time by the Australian Labor Party. It should not be forgotten that the whole area of Papua New Guinea, the Torres Strait Islands and West Irian, which, incidentally, was created because of the ineptitude of the previous government, which was prepared to concede to Indonesia certain benefits which it ought to have resisted conceding and which has moved the autonomy of that area further away, is the cradle of a new emergent nation and we should not do anything that is likely to stir or to create division. But that is what the Democratic Labor Party is doing at the present time and that is what Mr Bjelke-Petersen has done. It has been suggested that Mr Bjelke-Petersen has certain economic interests in the area. I refer honourable senators to a map of the area.
– Senator Georges has economic interests in the area, too.
– Yes, I have an economic interest in the area as an Australian, but I do not have a personal economic interest in the area. I refer honourable senators to a map of the area which shows the leases that are available in the area and which have been the subject of applications for exploration purposes. An application has been placed for those leases by a company called Exoil Australia Ltd, which is a company in which Mr Bjelke-Petersen has a lion’s share.
– Will the Labour Government grant it the leases?
– The point I am getting at is that we must carefully watch to ensure that the self interest of Mr BjelkePetersen in other areas, such as the Great Barrier Reef-
– And Senator Georges.
– I will answer that interjection in due course. Before the honourable senator takes up that matter he should get his facts correct. He obviously has been listening to members of the Democratic Labor Party, who have no basis for any of the remarks or interjections they have been making. Let me tell honourable senators about Mr Bjelke-Petersen. lt is clear that he is a major shareholder in Exoil Australia Ltd. Exoil Australia Ltd has put in an application for the prime lease which is in the area under dispute. I believe that Mr Bjelke-Petersen has disenfranchised himself from any negotiations in this area. It is fairly obvious that there are interests other than the interests of Queensland and of the nation involved in this matter. I suggest also to those honourable senators who want to inform themselves properly on the suggestions and the proposals that have been put forward in the past for a variation of the boundary, that they should go into the Parliamentary Library and take note of the very excellent display there, which indicates that this border dispute, problem or controversy - call it what you will - has been one that has extended back to before Federation.
– Does the honourable senator think the land should be transferred?
– One does not transfer land. All we are suggesting is that the boundary be moved to south of the 3 islands concerned, to south of the reefs which are rich in marine wealth. All we are suggesting is that careful and unemotional negotiations should be conducted with the people of Papua New Guinea to reconcile the matter.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– The Senate has before it a perfectly logical proposition on a matter of great importance on which it has been asked to express an opinion. Despite this a lot of extraneous matter has been brought into the debate. Indeed it has been argued that the presentation of this proposition was designed to introduce emotionalism and everything else into the controversy surrounding the border dispute. A reading of the proposition will show that it refers to nothing that is emotional in any way.
– Then why has it been brought on for debate?
– It seems obvious from Senator Georges’ speech (hat somebody had to do something to ensure that the rights of the people of the Tories Strait Islands were considered. Lots of people all over the world in the last quarter of a century have said they knew what was good for everybody else. Hitler knew what was good for the Austrians and even the English. Senator Georges suggests that in Greece today the Government there knows more about what is good for the people than do the people themselves. The Government does not appear to be prepared to discuss the horder issue with the Torres Strait islanders. Let us have a border dispute which has been manufactured by somebody who thinks he has a claim to certain islands because they happen to be somewhat adjacent to his own territory. The people of these islands are of entirely different character, racial background and culture from that of the people of Papua New Guinea.
Senator Georges said that the Government was not giving away the islands, it wis only moving the border further to the south. He even said that the ancestors of the present Torres Strait islanders did not matter. If the islands are to be given away, what will happen to the graves of the islanders’ ancestors as was mentioned earlier? Those are things which are important to these people. I have heard honourable senators opposite advocat ing the preservation of the Aboriginal culture in Australia. We know that some of it is mysticism, but it is important to them. What will happen to the culture of the Torres Strait islanders if the border is changed and these islands come under the jurisdiction of Papua New Guinea? The position in Papua New Guinea is such at present that nobody in this chamber will be prepared to guarantee the safety of any section of the people of Papua New Guinea when that country receives self-determination Nobody can guarantee th at there will not be some day one of the greatest blood baths in the world in that country. These Torres Strait islanders have no ti;s with the people of Papua New Guinea. They just happen to live adjacent to the coastline of Papua New Guinea. Papua New Guinea is a country which has nothing to do with them.
It has been said that people travelling from one part of Papua New Guinea to another might have to sail through Australian waters. Has it ever been suggested that Australia will raise any objection to their doing that providing they go about their business in a proper manner? Has it ever been suggested that their rights of transit will be interfered with in any way whatsoever? Has there ever been any dispute about this matter? Is there any reason why the lands and homes of the Torres Strait islanders should be ceded to Papua New Guinea? Have the people of Papua New Guinea ever suffered any inconvenience? The answer is no. They say: ‘The islands are there and are close to us. We would like to have them’. I have no doubt that they would. I have no doubt that a lot of people i:i this chamber look at the property of the fellow next door and think: T would like to have that. too’. Surely we will not reach the stage of shifting the border merely because somebody lays a claim. Other islands are closer to a nation other than the nation ‘.hat has become the nation of traditional origin. Tn history many of the real origins of people have been lost.
Those lines cannot be withdrawn without causing a great tragedy similar to tragedies that have occurred recently in other parts of the world. Those tragedies were caused by the drawing of artificial lines between people and by saying: ‘We shall create a new nation in this area. We shall force people of one type and race to live under the jurisdiction of another.’ The drawing of artificial lines has” created some of the greatest tragedies that the world has known. These islands have been occupied traditionally by members of the present race. The people have been there for so long and have created their own way of life that they have a right to stay there.
What, is the matter of urgency? Far from being emotional, if contains a statement that no Torres Strait island should be transferred from its present sovereignty without a referendum of the people of the islands proposed to bc transferred. What is unreasonable or emotional about that proposition?
– lt was the way in which the honourable senator presented his speech that was emotional.
– Senator Byrne made a mighty speech, every word of which was off the cuff, I listened to the reply of the Special Minister of State (Senator Willesee). Every word of his speech was read. The Senate is not in a position to know whether he prepared his speech.
– A Minister should be able to read his speech.
– I respect his right, as a Minister, to read his speech, but I do not concede that because he is a Minister other honourable senators should not interject. I apologise because I was one who interjected and was reprimanded by the Deputy President. I do not believe that on an issue such as this Ministers have a greater right than anyone else to read a speech that may or may not be their own thoughts on the proposition. The speech might have been written by a journalist or by somebody else - even a Papua New Guinean who has a vested interest in the proposition. So do not criticise the splendid speech made by my colleague Senator Byrne when he explained the issue to those who were intelligent enough to listen to it and to follow it. Do not make a comparison with the Minister’s speech which was read to the Senate - and read very well indeed, I have no doubt.
– 1 did not compare them.
– The facts are as I have stated them. The honourable senator knows that as well as I do. There is nothing emotional in the proposition.
– It is a very common sense proposition.
– It is a very common sense proposition, as the honourable senator and 1, two intelligent senators acting in the interests of the States which we represent, would be the first to agree. If these islands were off the coast of Western Australia and if the honourable senator had weekend fishing interests in those waters he would not be prepared to give the islands to somebody else. People living on the Torres Strait islands have their fishing interests. That is how they live lt is true that many of these people travel long distances to find employment. That is to their great credit.
– lt is not to the credit of Queensland.
– lt is also true that in that area there is a need for social services. I will accept what the honourable senator has said about a map which he produced to show that certain companies have applied for oil leases. What does that prove? fs the honourable senator endeavouring to prove that BjelkePetersen has sufficient influence over Gough Whitlam and that now that Mr Whitlam is the Prime Minister the leases will be granted to Bjelke-Petersen’s company, and that that is the reason why the Government is giving away the Torres Strait islands to Papua New Guinea? No other logical conclusion can be drawn from the map that the honourable senator went to so much trouble to produce to show that some company in which it is alleged by the honourable senator that BjelkePetersen has shares has applied for an oil lease in the area.
– Does the honourable senator think that Whitlam might ‘Gough’ up?
– The popularity of BjelkePetersen, as indicated in the speeches of Labor members tonight would seem to be such that they think he has sufficient influence over the members of the new Federal Government to see that he gets the oil lease that he wants for his company. I would never allege that a fellow member of the Federal Parliament would be involved in seeing that Bjelke-Petersen gets the lease. If anybody suggests that he is likely to get them, which Senator Georges suggests, let the doubt be on his head, because I would not suggest it.
– A Labor government will grant it.
– Apparently Senator Georges agrees with the honourable senator but I do not. I do not think that what BjelkePetersen is doing has anything to do with any oil companies in which he may have an interest. It is a straight out plain fact. We are interested in people. The islands have at least 100 warriors. The 100 warriors would be stronger than the forces which could be provided toy the Queensland Government, which Senator Georges suggested should be there defending the people’s fishing rights. With what? The Queensland fleet? The Queensland fleet, which is non-existent, would be more powerful than the armed forces of Australia under a Labor government, the way that the Government is going. The 100 warriors, with their heart and soul set on defending their homeland, might be a lot more effective defence structure for the Torres Strait islands that the Labor Government would provide for them.
I do not believe that Papua New Guineans feel strongly about the Torres Strait islands. They have an enormous problem to face because, as an emerging nation, there is a huge amount of terrain which has to be supervised. Out of that will come problems which they recognise as being so immense that they are not anxious to cut the cord with this country. But Papua New Guinea is being told bythe present Government: ‘You will be independent whether you like it or not’. Papua New Guinea has made no real aggressive claims to these islands. Some of its politicians have suggested that they would like to have the islands. As a response to that suggestion the then Leader of the Opposition of this country, who went there to popularise himself, said: ‘We will give you the lot’. Now it is suggested that he does not really mean that and that we should talk about the suggestion. But he has said that.
Because he has said that, it is wise that the Senate, representing the sovereignty of the States, should take a stand and say: ‘We believe, firstly, that Queensland, as the State affected, has a right to some say and, secondly, that nothing should be done without consultation and without a referendum of the people concerned - the people whose homes are involved’. We could uproot them. We could take them away and put them on other islands. We could sever them completely from everything they have learned to live with and from everything that they hold dear or else we could let them go with the country.
– Who said that?
– If we did, would the honourable senator be prepared to guarantee or be in a position to guarantee their personal safety? Does he know the circumstances in Papua New Guinea, outside those in a very few isolated areas that are under some sort of proper control and some sort of proper jurisdiction?
– The honourable senator is a fearmonger.
– The honourable senator knows as well as I do that if there is to be any criticism of the way in which this country has developed we should sharethe criticism because we have not helped enough, although we have helped enormously particularly with wealth and talent in recent years. The tribes in Papua New Guinea will have an enormous task in adjusting to each other. No honourable senator opposite would guarantee the safety of any sector of that community in the early days of its independence. Yet they say that the Torres Strait islanders can take their chances with Papua New Guinea or they can move to other islands where they will have to re-adapt their way of life. Old people will have to find new homes and new interests. Honourable senators opposite say that that would be fair. That does not take into account the suggestion contained in the matter of urgency - consultation with the people there. We do not suggest that one thing or the other should be done. We suggest that nothing be done until the people are consulted. There is a clear principle that should be fundamental to all those who have belonged to a nation which on several occasions has seen fit to stake its future in the freedom of the world. The third papagraph of Senator Byrne’s motion reads:
This is the danger if these islands are transferred. The people themselves are transferred or, alternatively, they are uprooted and thrust elsewhere. I believe these reasons justify the motion.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– Some play has been made during the debate this evening of the fact that various opinions have been expressed within the ranks of the Australian Labor Party in relation to this matter and, for example, that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant) and the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr
Fulton) have said elsewhere that there should be no transfer of the people of the Torres Strait islands to the jurisdiction of Papua New Guinea. We make no apology for this because we. believe that this is a very complex question which relates to the future of the islands off the shore of Papua New Guinea which at present are under Australian jurisdiction. The Australian Labor Party has never pretended that it is a monolithic organisation, that everybody thinks the same thing at exactly the same time or that all members of the Labor Party are subject to direction and have to think precisely the same thing at all times on every matter. We acknowledge that this is a very difficult situation. For that reason we are opposed to the proposition which is before us this evening; that is the motion which has been moved by Senator Byrne and supported by members of the other Opposition parties - both the first and the third Opposition parties. We believe that what is being done by the Australian Democratic Labor Party in presenting this motion tonight is leading to a situation which will only cause strain and tension between this country and Papua New Guinea which is shortly to obtain its independence.
We believe that this very delicate and complex question is not one which should be dealt with by means of a party political resolution which is moved inside this chamber and the whole purpose of which is to exacerbate relations between our 2 countries. With the impending independence of Papua New Guinea the primary goal of all of us must be peaceful and friendly relations between our 2 countries. The sort of situation which exists in relation to the Torres Strait islands is not unique. There are similar situations in many parts of the world where one power has as part of its territory certain islands off the shore of another country and which has, as inhabitants of the islands which it possesses, people who belong to a similar ethnic group to those of the power which possesses the islands and nol of the same ethnic group as the country which they adjoin.
– They are not, unless the honourable senator considers skin colour to be important.
– If Senator Little would listen he would find that he is not helping his case by what he is saying. At present there is the problem of the Falkland Islands off the coast of Argentina. They are much further from the Argentine than are the Torres Strait islands from Papua but, nonetheless, by world standards, they are close to the coast of Argentina. The people are predominantly of Scottish origin. A very grave problem is involved as to whether the Falkland Islands should be ceded to Argentina or whether they should remain a possession of the United Kingdom. There is a similar problem with relation to Gibraltar which is part of the Iberian Peninsula. Geographically it is part of Spain and yet its population is predominantly not Spanish. It has a long tradition of being one of the dependencies of the United Kingdom. There are problems on the borders of France and Italy. There was a problem about who was entitled to control Corsica, an island which is just as close to Italy as it is to France. Its peoples, language and culture are more similar to those of Italy than to those of France. There have been the problems of the Dodecanese Islands. There have been the problems of South Tyrol. All these problems have been among the worst problems in the history of international relations. Such problems have been frequently the excuse for war and for armed conflict as have disputes about who owns what have often been very trifling and insignificant pieces of territory - at least by world standards. This is not deprecating the people who live on these islands or the importance which they place on their homes.
I believe it would be tragic if this Senate were to adopt a motion such as the one which is before it tonight so that before Papua New Guinea obtained its independence it would be faced with a declaration from the Australian people that we were adamant that we would not transfer these islands to Papua New Guinea even though they are only a few miles from the mainland of Papua New Guinea, even though they are part of the continental shelf surrounding Papua New Guinea, and recognised by international law as being the waters of Papua New Guinea. Despite what has been said by some other speakers, if we look at the actual text of the motion which has been moved this evening by Senator Byrne we find that he says:
That in no circumstances should any individual Australian citizen of those islands have citizenship transferred to that of any other nation unless with his or her explicit consent.
What does that mean? Does it mean that if the proposed referendum is held on the Torres Strait islands and one person out of the whole population votes against it the islands cannot be transferred.
– Well, what does it mean? If it does not mean that 1 would like to have an explanation of what it does mean because the motion does not say ‘A majority of the inhabitants of the islands’; it says ‘any individual’. That is one person. According to Senator Byrne one person can exercise the right of veto. If that is not so, what does it mean? I defy somebody to explain to me what it means because it is completely incomprehensible to me. Seeing the subject has been raised I must say that 1 find it very strange that members of the 3 Opposition parties - I name them in order of seniority, the Liberal Parly, the Australian Democratic Labor Party and the Australian Country Party - should be so concerned tonight about the transfer of populations from one island territory to another when only a few years ago the government supported by those parties wanted to shift the entire population of Nauru to Palm Island off the coast of Queensland and the population of Palm Island to the mainland. That is the proposition which was made by the same people who, for a long time, were members of the government and who, for a long time, will not be the government. Tonight they are telling us what tender feelings they have in relation to the movement of people from one island to another.
Tonight we have had a very interesting contribution from Senator Bonner. He has told us that he is the only one here who can really talk about the subject because his brothers and sisters live on Torres Strait islands. He treated us to a bit of Black and White Ministrel Show humour in imitating the way in which the inhabitants of the Torres Strait islands speak. If anybody else had done that it would have been regarded as most derogatory. If any honourable senator on this side had done it he would have been described as being insulting in talking in such a way about these people. Senator Bonner has said that he feels so strongly about this matter because he, as an Aboriginal, has suffered so terribly from the white man that he does not want to see this happen to the people of the Torres Strait islands. Listening to Senator Bonner one would think that Papua New Guinea was inhabited by whites and that Australia was inhabited by blacks because Senator Bonner was saying how shocking it is that the people of the Torres Strait islands should be placed under the jurisdiction of the white man. They are now under the jurisdiction of the white man and if they were shifted to the jurisdiction o£ Papua New Guinea they would be leaving that terrible condition of thraldom about which Senator Bonner has told us at such length tonight.
He has said - I think this is the crux of the whole matter - that the people of the Torres Strait islands have a God-given, natural right to the possession of those areas in which they live. 1 would not dispute that but I would find it very extraordinary for anybody to establish that God had decided that the Torres Strait islands were to be part of the colony of Queensland. We all know very well how that happened. The islands were acquired by the British Crown in the 19th century, less than 100 years ago. A purely accidental borderline of demarcation was drawn between the colony of Queensland and what subsequently became Papua New Guinea. God did not do that at all. Nobody has suggested that we should be in any way abridging the rights of the Torres Strait islanders to their land or homes. The only thing that has been suggested by the Government is that there ought to be negotiations with Papua New Guinea as to the future of these islands. If I may say so, 1 find it very extraordinary that Senator Bonner as a member of the Liberal Party should be feeling so agitated at this stage about the land rights of the Torres Strait islanders when the Government of which he was a supporter and which is now the Opposition showed by its actions just precisely what it thought about the land rights of the Aboriginal people of Australia. This sudden discovery that the present Opposition has made about land rights of Torres Strait islanders is remarkable and I think it would make hilarious listening for the Aboriginal inhabitants of Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory to hear tonight that the Liberal Party, the Democratic Labor Party and the Country Party were the advocates of their land rights and that in some strange way the Australian Labor Party was their opponent.
All I say in conclusion is that we do not say that this is a problem which is simple of solution. It is a problem which this Government has inherited from the demarcations by colonial powers of Asian, Pacific and the. African areas. They are the same sort of problems as exist now throughout India and Africa where tribes were abitrarily divided, where there was no natural geographic division, where there was no natural ethnic division. The tribes were divided purely to suit the convenience of the occupying power, and this is what happened with regard to the relationship between the Torres Strait islands and Papua New Guinea. We acknowledge this. We acknowledge also that the rights and the wishes of those people who are presently Australian citizens living in the Torres Strait islands have to be considered and they are one of the most important factors to be considered.
– Support the resolution.
– No, I will not support the. resolution. I will not say that one Torres Strait Islander has a right of veto. I believe that it would be quite absurd at this stage for this Parliament to make declarations on a matter which is still subject to negotiation between our Government and the Government of Papua New Guinea. In the same way, [ believe, it would be quite improper for the Parliament of Papua New Guinea to pass a resolution with regard to the future occupation of these islands. There will be plenty of time for debate on this matter. If as a result of an agreement between our 2 countries some decision is made which alters the present status of the Torres Strait islands, then will be the time to debate the matter instead of this whipping up of racist frenzy that we have heard tonight from Senator Little when he talked about barbarism in Papua New Guinea and only a few areas being under proper control. He has predicted the greatest blood bath in the history of civilisation. As a supporter of the war in Vietnam he ought to be an expert on blood baths. This is precisely the sort of language which has led to war after war through the history of humanity. This is the type of thing to which the Australian Labor Party is opposed and this is why we say that we will not be bound by jingoistic resolutions, that we will negotiate this matter on a sensible, rational basis as sensible, civilised people with a sensible, civilised government in Papua New Guinea.
– I have much pleasure in supporting the motion moved by Senator Byrne. As a good Queenslander - unlike Senator Keeffe apparently in this debate, anyway - I am prepared to support the rights, responsibilities and privileges of the Queenslanders in the Torres Strait islands. I think we have to take all this emotion out of the debate. We have heard from 2 Western Australian senators who live 3,000 miles from the scene and who have probably never been there. All we heard from the 2 Western Australian senators is what has been acknowledged between the centralist Government in Canberra and the Government of Papua New Guinea. The rights of the people concerned in these Torres Strait islands have never been considered by either of those 2 senators. What has been done by the 2 Queensland senators who should be supporting this motion, and who know they should be supporting this motion as Bill Fulton was prepared to do? All they have done is throw a bucket over the Queensland Government which is trying to do the right thing. I support Joh Bjelke-Petersen on this issue. Those people in the Torres Strait have just as much right to be protected by the people of Queensland from the centralist Government in Canberra as any other citizen. I just wonder, as Senator Lawrie wonders, whether these people would have been given the same sort of treatment had they been white. All we hear from Senator Wheeldon is that these people in Papua New Guinea have a right to decide the future of the people in the Torres Strait islands.
– When did I say that?
- Senator Wheeldon said that the Australian Government and the Papua New Guinea Government can negotiate a line. In other words, he says: ‘Forget about the people in the Torres Strait.’ The honourable senator never ever mentioned them.
– Yes I did. I said that they had to be considered.
– They had to bc considered. In other words: ‘We will shift you where you want to go.’ Let us get down to tin tacks. These people have lived on these islands for hundreds of years. They are entitled to the protection of the people of Australia. They are Australians and they are entitled to the same protection as any other Australian. It is interesting to see this new Labor Government with a new look looking after the interests of other people. In particular, we have seen how it races off to China. An individual has just come out of China; I refer to one Francis James. There was not one word of protest to the People’s Republic of China about the condition in which he came out of that country. I wonder what would have been the attitude of this Government had that person come out of Rhodesia or South Africa in that condition. 1 wonder how many protesters would have been marching up and down the streets of their capital cities.
– Get back to the Tories Strait islanders.
– Let us get back to the Torres Strait islanders because they are the people with whom we are concerned, not anyone outside Australia. There are all sorts of issues to be considered. Not only have the people on the islands to be considered. Queensland in particular recognised the problem from a security point of view. It is all right to say that we have an emerging nation in Papua New Guinea. As Senator Lawrie mentioned quite rightly, only 30 miles away is another nation - West Irain - which is a part of Indonesia. Who knows whether in the long term that country will be a friendly nation. This is something of which we are not sure. Is not the first consideration to look after your own country, your own people and protect the people in the northern areas in particular who need protection, who live close to these countries and who know the possibilities of the future? All of our shipping going to Asia from north Queensland ports has to travel around the north of Australia. Those ships go very close to Papua New Guinea. Does anyone suggest that we should give away these islands, these waterways, so that the only shipping lane we will have is close to the coast inside the reef which in most cases can be traversed only by small ships? This is what this Government is suggesting we should do. As someone has mentioned, the Government will give away the defences of this country. It will put us in a position where we will be asking people to come and take us if it is here for much longer, and I hope that it will not be.
– You will be disappointed.
– We will be back on the other side of the chamber before very long. The people of Australia have already woken up to what is going on here. The emphasis on foreign policy is not the only thing that has been changed. Giving away part of our territory to another nation is only one issue. It is meant to create goodwill around the world, to give the impression that we are not an imperialist nation. Who the devil do we have to impress? Do we have to impress the Russians, the Chinese and all the communist countries that wc are not imperialists? These are the most imperialistic countries in the world today. Let us become Australians and forget about trying to impress other people that we are great fellows. We have to be realistic about this.
The proposition put forward by Senator Byrne is quite simple. It is not emotional. It simply states that in considering the transfer of any Australian territory, whether in the Torres Strait or anywhere else, the rights of the people and the views of the people concerned must be consulted. That is one point in all the argument used by the Government tonight that has been ignored. Not once have Government senators said: ‘We will accept what the people want’. They have said: ‘We will consider them.’ After it has negotiated with Papua New Guinea and after it has come to an arrangement then it will consider these people. How is it going to consider them? Is it going to say to them: ‘You have an option. You can either become part of Papua New Guinea or become part of Australia. If you want to become part of Australia you have to shift camp. You have to uproot yourselves and come over and be Australians - leave your land behind.’? That is actually what the Government is saying.
What we are saying is that if these people want to remain Queenslanders and Australians we will make sure that they remain Queenslanders and Australians. When did this become an issue? In all the debates that I can find in the Papua New Guinea Parliament, on no occasion has there been any great support for a change in boundaries. T defy any honourable senator to identify one debate in the last few years in the Parliament of Papua New Guinea in which Oliwale has received major support. It has not been an issue. It was a non-issue until the present Prime Minister of this country, before he became Prime Minister, made it an issue. Now he is stirring up the people of Papua New Guinea who are close to these islands. It would be interesting to take a census of some of those people to find out whether they want a change made because many of them do not have a lot in common with the other people in Papua New Guinea. As long as they have what they consider to be friendly people alongside them they will be happy.
If you stir up a hornet’s nest in a country, the responsible people in that country have to start to make a noise. If it had not been for the intervention of Mr Whitlam this would still be a non issue. Why go and drag up the matter before it is raised in Papua New Guinea? It has been said that the Premier of Queensland has been going to the islands and stirring up strife. All he has been doing is going up to meet the good Queensland constituents. He has gone up there to meet them and to find out their views. What responsible member of the Government has gone up there to find out the people’s views? Has Mr Whitlam gone up there? Has any other member of the present Cabinet been up there to discover the views of the people of the Torres Strait islands? I was up there before the last Federal election and this matter was an issue then. As a matter of fact, Mr Bill Fulton, the honourable member for Leichhardt, followed me up there. He said: ‘No. we are not going to give them away’. The people said: ‘That is all right, then,’ but they were very concerned about the matter. We did nol have to whip them up. They were whipped up long before any of us went near the place because they are concerned that their islands will be taken away and given to a nation about which they are not happy. They know that it is not united and that anything can happen. But they are satisfied with the solidarity and the way of life that we have in our State of Queensland, lt would be interesting to see what Mr Bryant does in relation to these issues. I know that he has been all over the country in a VIP aircraft. But some time 1 would like him to go up to the Torres Strait islands. He was good enough to write to these people and give an assurance that he would support whatever views they had. If they wanted to remain Queenslanders he would give them support. That is stated in the letter read out by Senator Lawrie. We would like him to go up there. We will be very happy if he is going to back up the letter that he sent to these people last July. But let people go up there. Let members of this Government go up there and see the feeling for themselves. There has been too much of shooting from the hip ever since this Government came to power on 2nd December. It has made decisions without consulting the people and without knowing the facts. Many of the decisions were made without knowing the facts. I can assure you, Mr President, that they will regret many of the decisions before this session is over and before we, finish explaining to the people what bad decisions they were. We have had a one-man Government and a 2-man Govern ment. Last time it was a two-man government. 1 guess that next time it will be a oneman government and it will be for a longer period if we leave the present Government in power long enough. This is the problem we have with this Government. It will not go and determine the facts. The facts of this matter are that the people of those islands, to a man and to a woman, want to remain part of Queensland. What right has any Federal Government in Canberra to ignore the rights of these people and give these islands to another nation? It may be an emerging nation and a nation in which we have much interest. It is a nation we are helping and one which we hope will take its part in the community of nations. But what right has the Federal Government to say that we will give part of a sovereign state away as a sort of a goodwill gesture? The people themselves have been ignored. I have much pleasure in supporting this motion. I have no doubt that the people of Queensland will be looking to this States House to ensure-
– Since when?
– They will be looking to the 10 members of this State’s House anyway to see that the interests of Queenslanders, and most particularly Queenslanders in the north, will be preserved.
– The subject matter of this debate is one that has interested me for very many years. More particularly, it has interested me since publicity has been given to statements made by the present Prime Minister of Australia (Mr Whitlam) suggesting that the border between Queensland and Papua New Guinea should be lowered which would have the effect of handing over certain Torres Strait islands to Papua New Guinea. I have had ideas in connection with this. I have sought conversation and discussion with people who I believed were in a better position than I to judge the situation because of their residence in that part of the world on many occasions. I listened to the excellent speech delivered by Senator Byrne. I congratulate him on the case that he put forward in support of those who say that there should not be any interference with the border between Queensland and Papua New Guinea, principally because of the effect it would have on the people who are resident on the islands to be affected.
I had hoped that I would learn something from the Deputy Leader of the Government (Senator Willesee) and subsequent speakers from the Government side in support of the case for the removal of the boundary. I had hoped that some constructive case would have been put forward but I regret to have 10 say that I have not heard anything here tonight from the Government side that would cause me to alter my opinion.
Senator Willesee at the outset was,I believe, offensively critical of Senator Byrne’s submission, which is not like his attitude in the ordinary course of events. Is the strain of office and the tension associated with it taking its toll? I do not know. He denigrated the suggestion that a referendum of the people concerned should be conducted. As democrats we have always subscribed to the referendum system with a view to obtaining the viewpoint of people on any controversial issue.
– You were silent on the Brisbane City Council issue for a referendum.
– If you want to descend to municipal politics, I point out that I am in the national Parliament.
– Why did you not urge a referendum on that issue?
– Why did you not conduct it? However, I will not pull up todear with every dog that barks at my caravan.
– When I bark at you, you will know that you have been bitten, you silly old goose. When I bark at you I will make a good job of it.
– What is your name?
– You know what it is.
– You have a couple of aliases. I believe. Mr President, I have not heard a case in support of the suggestion for removal of the boundary. The referendum proposal, I think, has some merit. At least the views and the feelings of the people most intimately concerned in this matter should be obtained. Who could object to that procedure? The only ones who could object would be those who would fear the result. Of course these islanders are entitled to some consideration before anything is done. Whether it can be done constitutionally or not is a matter of opinion. I do not think the Commonwealth Government has the power to do it. We have heard a lot of things over the years. During the last war there was the Brisbane Line strat egy by which the Government of the day was supposedly prepared to give to the Japanese that section of Queensland north of Brisbane. Today it would appear there is a strategy to hand over the Torres Strait Islands north of the Whitlam Line to Papua New Guinea. We do not go along with that. Are these people to be ignored? According to Senator Willesee and Senator Wheeldon they should be ignored because there would be no merit in holding a referendum. They also denigrated the suggestion that there should be a referendum, and Hansard will prove that what I say is true.
– You should apologise, because you are wrong.
– I am never slow to apologise when I am wrong, but I have never known you to apologise because you are always wrong. As Senator Byrne said, these islanders are not New Guineans or Papuans. They are a distinct race of people who have occupied these islands for generations. They have as much right to say as Sir Waller Scott said:
Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own. my native land!
It is their native land; it is the land they know; it is the land where they were born and bred and where they have reared their families. Of course they have an equal right to say whether they want the boundary moved.I do not believe that any government would be entitled to act otherwise.I am amazed that alleged Australian Labor Party men would deny them the right of having a say in their future.I am amazed that these islanders are to be treated with utter disdain and contempt. This attitude confirms the deterioration that has taken place in the Labor movement since I was in it. A lot has been said from honourable senators on the Government side. We have heard a lot of noise but very little logic or any case in support of the proposal for the alteration of the boundary. These people are Queenslanders, and they are Australians too. This question should concern not only Queensland but also the nation of Australia. I move:
That the question be now put.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
– Mr President, a number of honourable senators on the Government side called no, and I called for a division.
– Order! Have any Ministers any papers to present?
– May I receive clarification of this position? This is a very important matter which concerns the functioning of the Senate, as I said in the early stages of the debate. It is one in which a definitive vote should be taken, if that is possible under the Standing Orders, and I am asking for a division.
– I am advised by my advisers that you are not in order and that you may not call for a division.
– May I ask for the basis on which I am not entitled to call for a division? What is the rationale of your decision that I am not entitled to call for a division?
– Order! I gave a decision that the motion was carried on the voices. Only an honourable senator moving to dispute my ruling can call for a division.
– Mr President, 1 raise a point of order. 1 dispute the ruling.
– You disagree wilh my ruling?
– Will you advance the reasons why you do so, and put the objection in writing?
– Yes. (Senator Webster having submitted his dissent in writing) -
– 1 have a letter from Senator Webster in which he disagrees with my ruling. Has he a seconder? In the absence of a seconder, the motton lapses.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
- Mr President, I want to take up a short period on the adjournment to make certain references to the Queensland hospital and health system which I believe needs an urgent inquiry. I make this appeal in particular to the Minister representing the Minister for Health and the Minister for Social Security. I ask him to take all constitutional means to have an investigation carried out as a matter of high priority by the Australian Hospital and Health Services Commission.
In order to give a clear picture I want to quote from a story that was written exclusively for the ‘Australian’ of Friday, 23rd February 1973, by Dr Arthur Crawford, a Liberal Party member of the Queensland Parliament who, in my view, ought to be Minister for Health in Queensland but unfortunately does not have the numbers. I quote 2 short paragraphs. This is what Dr Crawford is reported to have said about the Queensland hospitals system:
It is geared for central bureaucratic control through the Health Department. . . .
No hospital is allowed to run with autonomy. Lip service is paid, but it does not work in practice.
We have had tremendous numbers of capable men and women leave Queensland because they have been blacklisted. . . .
They have complained about something in the hospital system and have been blacklisted by the Health Department and cannot get a job anywhere in Queensland.
By legislation and regulation those who could best serve on hospital boards were forbidden to serve.
By law no doctor or nurse associated with a hospital can serve on its hospital board. . . .
That is why the hospital system works badly. Decisions are made in the Health Department and the power is with the Under-Secretary.
A person can be a member of a hospital board so long as he is not a madman, a criminal or a doctor or nurse associated with that hospital.
He made this further accusation:
Inferior intravenous equipment and antibiotics were being imported from overseas for Queensland hospitals because they were cheap. . . .
The State Stores Board calls tenders in Queensland. If a drug representative presents a new drug he will be asked not whether it is efficient, but what it costs. . . .
There is a serious shortage of staff throughout the State, starting with the metropolitan hospitals, but the shortage is particularly acute in areas distant from the metropolitan area. In 1971 a Committee of Inquiry into Nursing was set up, and I want to read two or three of the recommendations made by that Committee. At page 5 of its report the Committee stated:
The principal criticisms which were voiced were the failure to recruit nurses, and to retain nurses once recruited; inadequate, or inappropriate, and unimaginative nursing educational programmes; unrealistic and inadequate staff establishments in some hospitals, with consequent depressed standards of nursing care; use of hospitals which provide insufficient variety of clinical and nursing experience for education and training; inadequate teaching and supervisory staff in very many hospitals.
Other pages of the report set out further shortcomings. On page 13 the Committee stated:
Despite the number of hospitals involved and the number of students enrolled there are in the State only four qualified nurse educators in the midwifery training hospitals. In hospitals lacking a qualified nurse educator teaching is undertaken by a sister-in-charge or an unqualified nurse educator, supplemented by lectures given by medical practitioners. The number and quality of lectures varies considerably and, as with the student general nurse, the student midwife is expected to learn her craft and skill on the job. She is depended upon to a very large extent to provide the service needs of the hospital. She works also in the post-natal area with mothers and new-born babies, generally with insufficient supervision: and frequently at too early a stage of the course she is required to make judgments and decisions beyond her capabilities. Involvement with non-nursing work is again a feature of this course.
On the same page the Committee stated:
As in the case of midwifery there is a marked shortage of qualified nurse educators - there ls only one nurse specifically assigned to teaching in the special hospitals.
That refers to the psychiatric hospitals. On page 15 the Committee stated:
The Committee notes that conditions of employment are generally unsatisfactory. They would appear to reflect a social climate and attitude of a past age, and are not to be compared with conditions in other equivalent professions.
The report goes on to make many suggestions as to how the nursing profession may be improved.
– What is the date of that report?
– lt is dated September 1971.
– It is a Queensland report?
– lt is the report of the Committee of Inquiry into Nursing which was commissioned by the Council of the Queensland Branch of the Royal Australasian Nursing Federation. It is a very illuminating report and describes in detail many of the background problems associated with the female staffing of hospitals in the nursing sphere in my State. As this is a highly controversial issue and as 1 propose in a few moments to refer to a particular hospital, I make the following statements: The Queensland system is rotten from the top and I feel sorry for the doctors and nursing staff throughout the State who have to carry on under such primitive conditions. The whole system is run down and staff shortages apply to both metropolitan and country areas. Some of Queensland’s hos pital equipment, particularly in country hospitals, is so old and unserviceable as to be dangerous in some cases. In the first place the Minister is to blame. Secondly, three-quarters of the members of every hospital board receive their positions as a matter of political patronage.
– That is the Queensland State Minister?
– The Queensland State Minister, Mr Tooth. Obviously hospital boards will be yes men for the Minister and Government policies. The Townsville General Hospital is an outstanding example of departmental neglect. The nursery section is a disgrace and at least 6 additional nurses and another 7 sisters are needed to run the section smoothly. At this juncture I say that I have nothing but the greatest admiration for the Superintendent of this hospital who I believe to be one of the best in Australia. I have nothing but admiration for the Matron of the hospital who is forced to carry out her job under the most trying and difficult conditions. I also have great admiration for the medical staff, including the superintendents, of the various Queensland hospitals and for their nursing staffs. In my view they are heroes and heroines to carry on under the present system.
Referring again to the Townsville General Hospital, on night shift one nurse is required to look after up to 29 mothers and 18 babies in the bottom floor nursery and ward. Frequently a nurse is required to spend a great deal of time with one patient while other patients are neglected. On night shift only one nurse is on duty, anyway. Frequently babies and patients with infections and patients and babies with no infections are treated by the same nurse. There is no isolation of infected patients. Nurses are not getting proper meal breaks and often work unpaid overtime because there is no-one to relieve them. The nursery is overcrowded. It is an accepted principle that the distance between cots in hospital nurseries ought to be 3 feet. In the Townsville General Hospital it is 2 inches or less.
Student midwives are not getting proper training. About 200 hours should be spent on lecture training but they are receiving about 90 hours. The labour ward is not waterproof. A rat once lived in a linen cupboard for a week after coming in through a window. I do not think anyone was game to tell the patients in the ward that the rodent was imprisoned in the linen cupboard. The cupboard also harboured cockroaches. In the operating theatre are mouse traps bought by the staff with money from their own pockets. On at least one occasion a student midwife with 6 months experience was forced to deliver a baby by herself. She had to do this because no sister was within call. In fact, no sister was on duty.
The operating theatres in this hospital look like the utensil room of an ordinary dairy farm. They are cluttered and doctors and nurses are forced to work in substandard conditions. New operating theatres are badly needed. If a tutor sister is not made available in the immediate future, particularly in the section for the training of midwives, it is likely that the hospital will no longer be classified as a training hospital, as are various hospitals in western Queensland, including a bigger one at Longreach. I want to refer now to a few of the problems that the girls at the Townsville General Hospital have to face. It will be most unfortunate if the situation is allowed to continue.
– Does this relate to any matter within the Federal jurisdiction?
– Yes. If Senator Wright had been here earlier he would know that I am asking the Minister representing the Minister for Health to give Queensland number one priority for an investigation by the Australian Hospital and Health Services Commission.
– I have been here throughout your speech, so do not imply my absence. But you are not always articulate.
– I suggest that you might listen a little more closely and you will know what I am talking about. At present on night shift one nurse looks after up to 29 mothers and 18 babies in the bottom floor nursery and ward. At present in the top nursery floor and ward one nurse looks after up to 13 patients and 22 babies of whom 4 may be premature, another 3 could be very ill, and another 3 to 6 could be adoption babies who all have to be fed by the nurse on duty. On both floors women with their first baby receive very little supervision of breast feeding or general care to their babies in matters such as bathing. I remind honourable senators that many of these mothers have just had their first baby.
When only one nurse is on evening shift the patients are left by themselves for half an hour while that nurse goes for a tea break. There are no trained personnel on the floor at all during this time. A nurse often has to give a great deal of time to one patient while other patients are neglected. During lecture times the wards are left completely manned by 2 sisters, one on the top floor and one on the bottom floor. Labour ward patients receive very little attention if there are more than 2 patients. On clinic days the majority of staff are taken to the clinic and the ward is left with a skeleton staff. One nurse may have to feed up to 5 babies at once by prop feeding them in their cots, due to lack of staff. The staff do not have proper meal breaks and morning and afternoon tea breaks. One nurse is responsible for swabbing down patients, removing pans and carrying babies, all within a matter of half an hour. Babies and patients with infections and babies and patients with no infections are treated by the same nurse and there is no isolation of infected patients.
Patients who are supposed to rest in bed often do not do so because there are no staff to look after their needs. Patients assist staff by making up linen bundles, folding napkins, feeding adoption babies and so on. The nursery on the bottom floor is left unattended for most periods of the day, except at feed limes. On the top floor the patients are left unattended for most of the day. These are the private patients. Quite often after a nurse has handled dirty pans she proceeds to make the babies’ milk mixtures. There is no time between changing babies to wash hands A sister may also have to handle the dirty puns and then feed a baby under most unsterile conditions.
The milk room has no steriliser. An electric jug is used to boil the babies’ milk foods. The steriliser has been broken down for 7 months or longer. This creates unnecessary walking for the staff. I referred earlier to the lack of a qualified tutor for lecturing. Text books for student midwives state that it should take 30 minutes to feed a baby. In fact at the hospital one nurse has to feed up to 12 babies in an hour. If the text book were followed it would take one nurse up to 6 hours to feed the babies, which is completely unfeasible. On some days the nurse on the bottom floor is expected to do the sister’s duties as well as her own duties, due to a lack of trained staff.
The nurses are expected to go to lectures in their own time. At present this occupies up to 5 hours a week. The workload has increased by 29 per cent in the last 5 years while the start has decreased by one. A baby born by Caesarean section is officially described as a baby at risk. The staff and resuscitation equipment on hand when the babies are born is inadequate. Public ward patients are expected lo make their own beds because of a shortage of labour. On one occasion sterile water was needed but the facilities were inadequate. An electric jug had to be used to boil water in the operating theatre. The sterile taps system is totally inadequate and frequently very little more than a dribble of water is supplied by it.
I could tell honourable senators of many more difficulties under which the staff in the Townsville General Hospital have ‘.o work, and the situation is very little different in other parts of Queensland. Dangerously ill patients cannot get the care and attention that they need. For the benefit of anyone who should disbelieve what I have said I have here a series of photographs taken at the hospital. They are available to anyone who wants to look at them, including members of the Press. The first photo is of the upstairs nursery and shows, as I stated earlier, a space between cots of about 2 inches. The next photo is of the so-called observation nursery and premature babies’ ward. Tn fact, there is no tral premmy ward in the hospital, and there is no real premmy ward in most other hospitals in Queensland. The nurses’ staff quarters-
– How does this affect Federal responsibility?
– It affects Federal responsibility to the extent that now we have a Federal Labor Government we will take some interest in what happens in the health field. Queensland is one of the most neglected States and has been for the last 15 or 16 years. Money that ought to be spent on hospitals in Queensland is not being spent on them. As I said earlier, my criticism is of the Queensland Government and its neglect of public health, not of the staff in the general hospital system.
– Obviously you should not have got rid of the Gair Government.
– If the honourable senator wants to go back into history I will go with him, but in this debate on the motion to adjourn the Senate T do not want to take up the lime of my colleagues. In the bottom nursery problems arise from overcrowding, as is clear from the photograph I hold. The next photograph shows the “famous steriliser that has been broken down for 7 months or longer. A lot of equipment is on order but the overworked and harrassed superindentent is fighting a losing battle all the way. I now show a photo of the sterile washing system for pans from the maternity ward. It is a babies’ bath. The disinfectant used is known as ‘Safesol’ It is an ineffective mixture as is evidenced by the fact that there is a large amount of urinary tract infection which apparently has been caused by the inadequate system for sterilising pans.
– How long ago were these photographs taken?
– They were taken about one week ago. This is a case in which I believe only Federal intervention will bring about a standard of hospitalisation in the State of Queensland that is comparable with other States in this country. It is true that in Queensland we have a so-called free hospital system. It is equally true that patients have to leave hospitals long before they are well enough to leave because of the shortage of bed space, lt is equally true that we spend less per bed in Queensland than is spent in any other State. 1 believe that only a searching inquiry such as I have called for under these circumstances will eliminate the weak spots in the Queensland health system.
May 1 reiterate that under no circumstances must the staff be criticised or condemned. The entire Queensland nursing system is made up of the typical Florence Nightingale type of angel who is dedicated to her job but when they are forced to work under these circumstances who can blame them if the wastage in the nursing profession is so great that there is inadequate staffing. The type of doctors who serve in Queensland under the public hospital system are highly qualified and highly dedicated men and women, so there is no criticism of them either. But there is tremendous criticism of Mr Tooth, the State Minister for Health, who has carried out a toothless campaign, if 1 may use that phrase, ever since he was appointed Minister. He has been severely criticised in his own government and he has been criticised by medical experts all over the State and all over this country. It is about time he was removed from this position.
The system of appointing hospital boards is a scandal. If you belong to the Liberal and Country Parties in many instances you have a good idea that you will get the nod to serve in this socially elite position as a member of a hospital board. But we have people who are not experts. We have people who belong to all sorts of trades and professions and who would not know anything about hospital administration while the people who do know, as Dr Crawford has said, are blacklisted because they dare to criticise. I trust that the Minister will take the necessary action to ensure that this investigation is carried out with a minimum of delay.
– - I rise on this occasion, particularly in deference to Senator Wright, to state at the outset that I am making a plea via Senator Wriedt, the Minister representing the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor). My plea relates to the apparent inability of successive State governments in Western Australia to curb maverick mining employers or, perhaps in a secondary role, their subsidiary contractors. In the period leading up to the recent election and even as late as today, the general theme of Opposition speakers in relation to industrial relations has been that trade union demands are excessive and that people like my colleague, Senator Cavanagh. the Minister for Works have been unduly solicitous in this field.
I think my complaint will amaze the Senate in this year of 1973. My complaint is that a number of miners operating in the Dampier area in Western Australia worked from 14th March 1972 to 9th July 1972. As a prelude to this job they surrendered their bank books and they have not received a cent or a dollar since. I know that this seems incredible. 1 came into the play due to information 1 received from a Mr S. R. Bizjak of the Triglav Club in the Australian Capital Territory. In an endeavour to get to the facts of the matter I made inquiries via the Australian Workers Union, through both the Federal Secretary, Mr Mitchell, and the union’s State offices in Western Australia. To expedite discussion I will ask leave ofthe Senate in a moment to incorporate in Hansard a number of documents. As a preface, the guilty parties happen to be the V.C. Mining Co. Pty Ltd of 44 Outram Street, West Perth; the contractor, Mr Chammassian, of 55 Morley Drive, Morley, Western Australia; and dilatory solicitors, mark you, Senator Wright, Downing and
Downing in Perth. These are the people concerned and despite this period of time and the massive documentation that I have sent there has been no response. I ask, firstly, that the documents be incorporated in Hansard.
– BeforeI give my assent, how long are they?
-I will give you a rundown.
– No. How many pages of Hansard will they occupy?
– There are 3 separate letters and the text of 4 telegrams between me and the other parties.
– There is no objection.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Leave is granted. (The documents read as follows) -
AUSTRALIAN WORKERS’ UNION
West Australian Branch 113 Newcastle Street, Perth 6000 9th February 1973
Senator T. Mulvihill, c/o Commonwealth Parliament, 5 Martin Place,
SYDNEY, N.S.W. 2000
Your telephone call to this office re Messrs Diklic, Velagic and Jovkovic on the 8th February 1972 is acknowledged. I enclose for your perusal copies of all information that we have on this matter.
After your telephone call to this office on Thursday I called at the office of V.C. Mining Co. Pty Ltd with a view to trying to establish whether or not they were the employers of the workers concerned. I spoke to a Mr Seale who explained to me that his Company was not liable for those workers as they did not employ them and he gave a verbal account of the situation which I was not very impressed with and as far as I am concerned, in any event, it is obviously still suspect in view of the statement submitted by Chammassian.
You will notice that I have written to Downing & Downing, Solicitors, who act for V.C. Mining Company and I have written a further letter to Chammassian. V.C. Mining Company did, however, inform me (or rather I should say that Mr Seale informed me) that Chammassian did not have any assets and this is why he is endeavouring to shelve the responsibility of the employment on to their Company.
This type of practice is not uncommon because earlier this year we had dealings with another Company on behalf of 8 Yugoslavian people which took this Union 9 months to resolve. Fortunately a settlement of some $8,000 was effected.
I will await a reply from Downing & Downing and as further correspondence comes to hand I will forward same over to you. We trust, however, that this is to your satisfaction for the moment and if you can bring pressure to bear on the parties concerned with a view to having this matter resolved I think the three workers who have been exploited would be very appreciative. I would appreciate your advice on any progress you make.
Your telegram has been received today which concerned the above-mentioned persons.
I would advise that I had a call from Mr Chammassian on Friday, 16th February and further to that telephone call Chammassian called at this office with an interpreter and explained his position verbally. I must admit that I tended to be more impressed with Chammassian’s story than I was with the story that V.C. Mining Company gave me and in my view, I am of the opinion that V.C. Mining Company are liable for these men’s wages.
I am waiting on a letter from Messrs Downing & Downing and Mr Chammassian’s interpreter promised to put in writing for me all the particulars associated with this matter.
I was not impressed at all with Mr Seale’s story and as far as I am concerned that man is suspect.
Thank you for keeping me informed and likewise I will do the same for you.
Commonwealth Parliament Offices, 5Martin Place,
I have received your 12 February letter today and also your 21 February telegram relating to the 3 Yugoslav employees of Chammassian General Contractors.
These people have never been employed by V.C. Mining Corporation Pty Ltd and I can assure you that I am also deeply concerned at the cavalier attitude of Chammasian General Contractors in their attempt to place the responsibility for the payment of their employees on V.C. Mining Corporation Pty Ltd.
The facts of the matter are that V.C. Mining Corporation Pty Ltd engaged Chammasian General Contractors on a contract basis to dig a sample tonnage of 200 tons of not less than 20 per cent pure copper between the period of the 31 March 1972 and the 23 April 1972.
The Company also engaged Chammassian General Contractors to assist its Surveyor in the pegging of 2 blocks of mineral claims during May 1972. I believe the total time taken in the pegging operation would have been approximately 6 days.
V.C. Mining Corporation Pty Ltd has since that time made repeated requests to Chammassian General Contractors for them to submit their account for services and strangely enough in August 1972 an account was received for a total of $90,000 odd for the provision of men and machinery for a period between February and August 1972. Of course our Company had to reject such account and call for another which represented a fair and reasonable charge for the services rendered by Chammassian General Contractors to V.C. Mining Corporation and also for the period which V.C. Mining Corporation engaged the Contracting Company.
You may also be interested to know that Chammassian General Contractors have billed R. & R. Sabadini and Katanning Holdings Ltd with exorbitant charges for the provision of labour and machinery services for the same period.
I believe that Chammassian General Contractors are insolvent and the attempt by this firm to place upon the shoulders of several other Companies its responsibility for the payment of its own employees wages will be strenuously resisted, not only by V.C. Mining Corporation but also by others.
In conclusion, and with the knowledge that this Company is entirely without liability to the employees of Chammassian General Contractors, I suggest that you use caution when referring to others outside the House in the terms that this Company ‘is seriously damaging the Australian Immigration programme’. This allegation is entirely incorrect and if used in other than privileged circles then this Company would have no alternative other than to proceed in an action against you for libel and slander.
Contents of your telegram being referred to parliamentary privileges committee. Regard its contents as threat to my obligations as elected parliamentary representative.
Acknowledge your communication 20th February regarding V.C. Mining Company and wage applications. Am in receipt of threatening telegram from this mining company which I am referring to the
Senate Privilege Committee. Intend using parliamentary device to get wage justification ‘for employees concerned. If needs be will use next meeting of Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Committee to call immediate conference of mining companies in view of their spiv industrial conditions.
Senator Mulvihill 22nd February 1973
Mr J. Isherwood,
A.W.U. Western Australian Branch, 113 Newcastle Street,
Perth, W.A. 6000.
V.C. Mining Company squealing at my representations. Regarded their telegraphic response as a breach of parliamentary privilege and have referred telegram in question to the appropriate committee. Will increase pressure in various directions including Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Committee.
Minister for Mines,
Mineral Mouse, 66 Adelaide Terrace,
Perth, W.A. 6000.
Acknowledge your communication 20th February regarding V.C. Mining Company and wage applications. Am in receipt of threatening telegram from this mining company which I am referring to the Senate Privileges Committee. Intend using parliamentary device to get wage justification for employees concerned. If needs be will use next meeting of Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Committee to call immediate conference of mining companies in view of their spiv industrial conditions.
Senator Mulvihill 23rd February 1973
Hon. J. Tonkin,
Parliament House, Perth, W.A. 6000.
Gravely concerned at lack of wage protection to migrant mine workers in your State. Refer you to case of Mr Diclic and other Yugoslav workers with outstanding wage claims from February 1972. Serious allegations andcounter charges flying between V.C. Mining Company West Perth and contractor V. Chammassian but neither prepared to pay outstanding wage claims. Demand investigation by W.A. Police Fraud Squad, A.W.U. concur with my agitation.
– I wanted to put this case in very clear language. Here is a situation in which people have been waiting 12 months for their wages after slugging it out around the Dampier area for 8 weeks. 1 have been involved in telephone conversations over this matter. Incidentally, they were paid by the mining company and the contractor, not by the Commonwealth Government. When I sentout these dispatches I received one letter back from one of the individuals in these terms: ‘Your 12th and 27th letters received yesterday’. The writer went on to say. ‘Suggest you use caution in referring to this company in terms which might prove actionable’. I simply replied that I treated the telegram as being something for the Senate Privileges Committee. Within 2 hours he telephoned me and it cost him a 20 minute phone call from Perth but he crawled to me and assured me that he was the innocent party and that it was the other group which was guilty.
I am asking Mr Connor, the Minister for Minerals and Energy, to intervene because I am not interested in whether the contractor thinks that the personnel of the mining company are bastards - I apologise, to you, Mr Deputy President - or whether they think the same of him. Those were the words used to me over the telephone. When you read those documents you will see that the officials of the AWU are inclined to feel the same way about it.I am not interested in who the guilty party is butI am asking the Minister for Minerals and Energy to intervene and to place an embargo on the products of the V.C. Mining Co. until it pays up. I am being perfectly clear on this. Every honourable senator here knows that I am critical of any State Government, irrespective of its political colour, if it does not face up to its obligations. There are immigration overtones involved in this case because when you read this correspondence you will see that some of the Western Australian mining employers, not all but a few of them, have not been averse to using labour which they could exploit. In this particular instance these men had not been in Australia very long and as the correspondence from the AWU indicates, there has been earlier litigation.
I did contact both Premier Tonkin and Mr Don May, the Minister for Mines in Western Australia, and I was indebted to an earlier conversation with that doyen of mining knowhow, Senator Cant, who advised me on one aspect. I understand that there is an old provision of the Western Australian Mining Act, section 243, which indicates that there is some obligation on a mining company to pay a minimum of a month’s wages. On that basis I wired the Western Australian Minister for Mines, the Honourable D. May, who sent back to me a very cavalier telegram suggesting that while that provision exists he felt that the legal processes should apply. I do not want to insult honourable senators with a legal background by talking about the law being an ass but I want to say this: I have, heard people prate about our having the best arbitration system in the world, but there is something wrong with it when people have to wait 12 months for wages. That is the core of my argument.
I already have used any influence that I am able to wield with Al Grassby, the Minister for Immigration, to have blacklisted certain mining companies engaged in using ch”ap migrant labour. So far as the Honourable R. F. X. Connor, the Minister for Minerals and Energy, is concerned, I hope, he will be able to stir up this particular mining company. I think that this is a scandal in this age. Mr Seale, of the mining company, said: ‘Senator, I would like to help them but it is not my fault. Mr Chammassian is the cause of it. In his case he owes us thousands’. Yet you find that this contractor, Chammassian, claims that the mining company is his debtor also.
I know that it is 11 p.m. but I am purposely having all this information incorporated in Hansard in order to save time. I give friendly warning to the Opposition that every time its members talk about industrial relations and every time they talk about Mr Connor using the big slick on the mining industries I am going to say: ‘What about the V.C. Mining Co.?’ It will be no use Opposition senators looking at me with blank expressions on their faces because I will be able to quote the Hansard report of my speech tonight.
– I understand and can sympathise with the exuberance of a government newly in office, but I hope that on some minor matters the exhubrance of the new Commonwealth Government will be tempered with a little more common sense. I was amazed to read in the Press during the period since the last election that a judo team from Taiwan which had been invited to participate in an international tournament in Sydney had been told by the Australian Government that its members could compete as individuals but that they could not compete as a team. Frankly, I think that is just stupid and ridiculous. A team of basketballers from Taiwan also visited Australia and apparently invited an Australian team to visit Taiwan. I read in the Australian Press that the Australian basketballers had approached the Government with a view to visiting Taiwan and were told that they must not go to Taiwan but were directed - ‘directed’ is the word that was used in the newspapers, and I find it hard to believe that that word was used - to go to communist China instead.
– By whom?
– The statement in the Press was that they were directed by the Government. I hope those allegations are untrue, but they were not contradicted by any of the numerous Government public relations officers. I hope we have not reached the stage of authoritarianism, within 3 months of the new Government coming into office that it is telling sportsmen where they can and cannot go to play sport.
Let us look at the situation with respect to Taiwan. I will not traverse all of it because we will be discussing it again at some other time and it is too late in the evening to do so now. Is there a ban on trade with Taiwan? 1 wrote a letter to the Minister for Overseas Trade, Dr Jim Cairns, and asked him what was the position in relation to trade with Taiwan. I did so because our trade with Taiwan has been if anything a bit better than has our trade with Communist China, despite the big discrepancy in the populations of those 2 countries. I received a reply from Dr Cairns saying that trade would be permitted just as before, that special arrangements were being made for Customs and so on and that the only change in the trading relations was - this seems to be silly - that we would not be sending any promotion teams to Taiwan to try to sell our exports. If there is no ban on trade with the Taiwanese but if instead, we are chasing their trade ali we can because it has been, and is, worth more than the trade of the whole of mainland China, why are we holding up our hands and saying that we cannot permit an Australian team to go to Taiwan to play basketball? If it is good enough to trade with Taiwan surely it is good enough not to interfere with the free passage of a basketball team or a judo team to that country.
I will not go into all of the other ridiculous things that have happened since the new Government took office but, for example, what happened when a Band of Hopers wanted to stay in Sydney for a short period en route to New Zealand and we were piously told that because they came from Rhodesia they could not stay in Sydney? Fortunately the Minister for Immigration, Mr Grassby, intervened and did the sensible thing and let them stay. We have to put up with the situation whereby
Wilfred Burchett can get an Australian passport but a highly decorated Air Vice-Marshal who was born in this country is denied an Australian passport.
– Why? Because he is in Rhodesia.
– Apparently because he is serving Rhodesia at the present time. But there is no Rhodesian situation in regard to Taiwan. There is no United Nations ban on trade with Taiwan. As I said before, we are so anxious to keep their trade that we are making special arrangements. Let us have politics in the fields where politics has a right to be. I hope we have not reached the stage of authoritarianism whereby a judo team will be prevented from coming to Australia and taking part in an international competition in which it has been invited to compete, and that we have not. reached the stage where a team of basketballers is told by thu Government that it must not accept an invitation to go to Taiwan but should go to Red China instead.
– In my capacity as Minister representing in this chamber the Minister for Health I listened attentively to the remarks of my colleague. Senator Keeffe, who drew the Senate’s attention to the substandard condition of the Queensland hospital system and. in particular, to the conditions which exist at the Townsville Base Hospital. His statements were supported by photographic evidence which he tendered to me this evening. I wish to say at the outset that I am indebted to Senator Keeffe for the interest that he has shown in this problem over a great number of years during his term of tenure of office as a senator for Queensland. I know that for some years while he and I were members of the Opposition he took part in a great number of estimates debates in this4 chamber in connection with the Department of Health and highlighted the inadequacies of the hospital system in his State.
Senator Keeffe has suggested that all of the constitutional means available to the Commonwealth Government should be adopted by it to enable it to ask the proposed Australian hospitals and health services commission to give high priority to the investigation of the needs of the Queensland hospital system. I assume that in referring to the substandard conditions at the Townsville Base Hospital he is seeking high priority to be given to that hospital. 1 think it is fair to say that any honourable senator who served on the Senate select committee that inquired into medical and hospital costs throughout Australia, and who travelled throughout Australia as a member of that committee, certainly would have had drawn to his or her attention the different Standards that exist in hospitals in various cities and towns in Australia. Senator Keeffe has drawn particular attention to the substandard conditions that exist at Townsville. On the photographic evidence that is available, the conditions there must be very bad. But the fact of the matter is that in another part of Australia - I am referring now to the State of New South Wales, which I have the honour of representing in this chamber - great publicity has been given to the inadequacies of a large number of hospitals. Just recently the metropolitan Press in New South Wales gave publicity to the substandard conditions at the Fairfield District Hospital, which serves a very large section of the outer urban area of Sydney. 1 know from my own experience that many other hospitals need a great deal of money to be spent on them.
Senator Keeffe mentioned remarks made by Dr Crawford, a Liberal back bench member of the Queensland Parliament. 1 know that the New South Wales Minister for Health, Mr Jago, said recently that S200m needs to be spent in that State alone if the hospital needs of the people are to be brought to proper standard, f mention these matters merely to indicate that as a result of 23 years of conservative government in Australia the hospital needs of this country are crying out for remedial attention.
This is why my colleague the Minister for Health announced recently the establishment of an Australian Hospital and Health Services Commission to be presided over by the wellknown hospital administrator, Dr Sax. from Sydney. On a number of occasions he has given evidence before Senate select and standing committees. The purpose of the Commission will be to study Australian health care needs and to submit to the Australian Government recommendations on allocations of both capital and operating funds to develop and maintain health care delivery systems for the benefit of all Australians. The Commission is to be guided in its work by the principle that a high standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every Australian without distinction of race, creed, political belief or economic or social condition. Because of the complementary nature of the responsibilities of the Commission and of the Department of Health and because that Department will implement the recommendations of the Commission that are accepted by the Government, the Commission will keep the Department of Health fully informed on its activities.The Department, for its part, will provide expertise and general support for the Commission. One of the principles which the Commission will take into account in assessing hospital and health care needs of Australians is that of planning on a regional basis and the effective co-ordination of hospital and community services.
Townsville is the largest city in the far north of this country and I believe that Senator Keeffe has made a justifiable case for the Australian Hospital and Health Services Commission giving high priority to the needs of the Townsville hospital. I certainly will bring his remarks to the attention of my colleague the Minister for Health. I will ensure that all the matters which he has raised and the photographs which he has tendered are brought to the attention of the Minister and to the attention of the Commission. I will ask my colleague Dr Everingham to give Senator Keeffe’s remarks his utmost and sympathetic consideration.
– I rise simply for the purpose of assuring Senator Mulvihill that I shall bring his comments to the attention of the appropriate Minister.
– I did not know that Senator McManus intended to raise the matter which he raised this evening. 1 apologise for not being present when he raised it. I was called out to speak to a member of the other House. I did get the sense of what he said. There is a considerable amount of trade between Taiwan and Australia. That trade will continue under private arrangements, withoutlet or hindrance by the Australian Government. Private people, business people and sporting people can come from Taiwan to Australia and can return to Taiwan. That is the situation at present.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.15 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 28 February 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1973/19730228_senate_28_s55/>.