28th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I give notice that on my behalf and on behalf of Senators Byrne, Carrick, Durack, Laucke, Townley and Webster, on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the amendments of the Matrimonial Causes Rules as contained in Statutory Rules 1973 (No. 8) and made under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1959-66 be disallowed.
– On my own behalfI give notice that tomorrow I intend to move:
That in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act1969-72, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report:
Construction of Wellington Telephone Exchange at Perth, Western Australia.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security. Is it a fact that the registered hospital benefits organisations in Victoria are not contributing towards the nursing home expenses of their members? Is this contrary to the basis upon which the Parliament - with all parties concurring - approved amendments to the National Health Act in late 1972 whereby generally Commonwealth benefits were increased? Is it not also a fact that since coming into government the Labor Party Government has approved increases in the charges of these nursing homes? In view of the hardship which is occurring - in the one instance by Government action and in the other instance by Government inaction - is the Government proposing to take action to overcome a situation whereby nursing homes are faced with the very real prospect that they will be forced to close because patients can no longer afford their fees?
– I am informed by the Minister for Social Security that nursing home fund benefits have not yet been paid by registered hospital funds in Vic toria on claims lodged by nursing home proprietors. I am given to understand that this situation has arisen because of the refusal by State authorities to register rule amendments to provide for the payment of the benefits following advice by the Victorian Government Statist and Actuary that such amendments should not be approved pending an assessment of the financial standing of each fund, and the benefit liability could take up to 12 months to be met. The Minister for Social Security also has informed me that such funds in Victoria are required to register their rules under either the Friendly Societies Act or the Benefits Associations Act. He emphasises that the embargo that is negating the scheme introduced by the previous Federal Government originates from the State governments. The Government is aware that nursing homes will be submitting claims, or have already done so in respect of non-pensioner patients, for fund benefits for the months of January and February. I understand that this would represent a considerable sum of money for the nursing homes. However, no specific detail has been received of the financial difficulties of individual homes, according to information supplied to me by the Minister for Social Security.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry: What action, if any, does he intend taking to ensure that the retail price of wine reflects the removal of excise on wine? Does he intend to take any action which will ensure that price levels which were applicable before the excise on wine was imposed are maintained?
– As the honourable senator would be aware, the excise on wine was imposed by the previous Government and removed by the present Government. It is true that there has been a great deal of criticism of the fact that this reduction in price has not been passed on to the consumer. It is very difficult to police and to identify precisely where these cases have occurred, if in fact they have occurred, and it is not within the power of the Commonwealth at this stage to police the retail pricing of wine. The Government is aware that there are allegations of abuse in this area but it can do no more than keep a close watch on the situation until such time as there is proper machinery to police it. I do not think there is a great deal that the Government can do.
– My question is directed to the Minister assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I ask Senator Willesee to clarify what appears to be a complete contradiction in 2 answers to questions that he has furnished to me in the last few days. On 1st March, in response to an inquiry about travel between Taiwan and Australia, Senator Willesee is reported in Hansard as having said: The broad situation is that we will not be interfering with people - sportsmen, businessmen or what have you - who wish to come and go.
That is a categorical statement that there would be no interference with sportsmen. Yesterday Senator Willesee, in answer to my question in regard to a judo team from Taiwan which sought entry to Australia, said that the team had been advised that its members would be permitted to travel into Australia in an individual capacity but they could not identify themselves with the Government on Taiwan or purport to represent Taiwan, the Republic of China or China. In view of the Government’s recognition of Peking China 1 can understand its attitude that a team from Taiwan could not call itself a team from the Republic of China or China, however much 1 disagree, but is it not colossal stupidity for an Australian Government lo concern itself with a matter relating to a sporting team and to say that a team from Taiwan can come to Australia on condition that it dissociates itself from its own Government and that it cannot use the word Taiwan’ in the team’s name?
– Order! Senator McManus, you must ask your question. If you wish to make a statement you must ask for leave.
– 1 therefore ask Senator Willesee: Was his statement of 1st March correct that we would not interfere with sportsmen who wish to come here, or is his statement of yesterday correct that we will impose conditions on sporting teams which will make it impossible for them to come here?
– I thought that Senator McManus made the situation plain. The suggestions were that the Government would stop trade and stop people travelling and all the rest of it. The words I used in regard to trade were that it would continue without let or hindrance from the Australian Government and that there would be no interference with people travelling in a private capacity. It is very clear from an answer that I gave yesterday, and it is well known and recognised, that the countries on both sides of the Taiwan Strait demand that you recognise one country or the other. They will not tolerate recognition of both countries. I know of no country in the world that recognises both the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan.
Australia had to make a decision. Together with most countries in the world, we recognised the People’s Republic of China. Having done that, surely it follows that Australia does not recognise the Taiwanese claim to rule the whole of China. Having recognised the People’s Republic of China it is very clear that we will not recognise teams of people posing as coming from a country that governs the whole of China if they do not come from the People’s Republic of China. We told members of the judo team that they could come to Australia providing they did not hold themselves out, by implication, as coming from Taiwan and from a country governing the whole of the Chinese people.
– Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate advise why a nuclear test carried out in the atmosphere by France is considered to be different from a nuclear test carried out by the People’s Republic of China? Does not the Leader of the Government in the Senate think that the environmental impact caused by Chinese nuclear explosions wilt, in the long term, be just as harmful to this nation as the environmental damage done by any other nation (“hat explodes nuclear weapons?
– I think that the testing of nuclear weapons by any country is deplorable, but that is not what the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate has asked me. He has asked a question which requires some scientific assessment; that is, whether a test performed by the Chinese in China would produce different results from a test performed by the French in, say, the Pacific region. My clear understanding of the matter is that scientifically the answer is yes, there is a distinct difference. The result depends upon the rotation of the earth. A nuclear explosion in the Northern Hemisphere has a result which perhaps will affect everyone to some extent but has a special effect in the northern hemisphere. A nuclear explosion in the southern hemisphere will, because of the rotation of the earth and the special conditions of our planet, have a special effect in the southern hemisphere. There is no doubt whatever that there is a very serious added danger to the countries of the southern hemisphere when a country which is to explode a nuclear device in the southern hemisphere - and upon the slightest reflection the honourable senators might think this is rather curious - chooses to explode the device as far away as it can get from its own country.
– Mr President, I ask the Minister for Customs and Excise whether he is in a position today to enlighten me on my query yesterday about the control by the Department of Customs and Excise of the inflow of new records, in order to assist Australian artists in having virtually the inside running for 6 weeks.
– I will be in a position to do so before question time is over, if the honourable senator will permit me that indulgence.
– Honourable senators will recall that yesterday I said if they held up their question papers it would save them the annoyance of having to stand up and sit clown each time they wanted to attract my attention at question time. I shall commence by calling first those honourable senators who sit close to my left and right and then move around to the centre of the chamber.
– I address a question to the Special Minister of State, who represents in this chamber, among other Ministers, the Treasurer. Has the Minister seen the recent publication of the Commonwealth Treasury dated February 1973 and entitled ‘Round up of economic statistics’? If so. has he noted the following comments in it:
The consumer price index rose by 1.2 per cent in the December quarter. Over the year to the December quarterthe increase in the index was 4.6 per cent: in the preceding year the increase was 7 per cent.
Does he not agree that under the previous Government and its responsible economic and Treasury management inflation was declining? Does he not agree that such a trend is highly desirable to the great body of the Australian people? Does he not also agree that the attitude and behaviour of his Government give real grounds for fearing that we are likely once again to embark on an inflationary spiral? Does the Treasurer or the Government have any plans to concern themselves with what might happen in this context? If so. do they have any proposed remedies?
– Firstly,I did see the document to which Senator Cotton referred, but I do not remember seeing that quotation. I do not agree that the situation has worsened so much. As I understand it there was an inflationary situation which was caused largely by a Budget that was tuned more to politics than to economics. There was also a situation of unemployment which had a very related effect. That situation we are attacking considerably. Unemployment has always been a situation which the Australian Labor Party would never tolerate. We will apply ourselves to that situation above all others.
– My question is directed to the Special Minister of State. Has Chiang Kai-shek ever claimed that Taiwan was a country in its own right and not a part of China? Is it a fact that Chiang has always claimed that Taiwan, or Formosa as it was previously called, was only a province of China? Would it not be equally ridiculous for the province of Quebec to claim separate recognition as a nation as it is for the Australian Democratic Labor Party to believe Australia should grant recognition at a diplomatic level to Taiwan?
– What Senator Poyser has put is the situation. As I have said - I have used the phrase several times - both sides of the Taiwan Strait demand that recognition be accorded to one or the other. The consistent claim of Taiwan has been that it has the legal and proper government of the whole of China. To that extent it admits that it is a province. I suppose, although I have never seen the phrase used, that the Government of Taiwan is virtually a government in exile. It has been in exile so long that I do not think anybody really believes today that it will lead troops across the Taiwan Strait to recapture anything. I turn now to the comparison with Canada. I do not like making comparisons in these situations. The position is that neither Taiwan nor the People’s Republic of China would allow Australia or any other country even to try to recognise both, if it wanted to do so.
(Senator Gair having directed a question without notice to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration) -
-Order! The question will go on notice.
– I direct my question to the Minister assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Did the Prime Minister indicate at a Press conference, following the advocacy by Dr Cairns of the establishment of diplomatic relations with North Vietnam, that diplomatic relations would be going too far at that moment? Is it also a fact that Mr Whitlam advocated the appointment of an Australian representative to Hanoi? If this is so, can the Minister state the reasons why the Government rushed in to give premature recognition to North Vietnam before the ink on the ceasefire agreement was really dry and the fighting had stopped, particularly in Cambodia, when straight after the Federal election it virtually exported or deported the Taiwanese officials from this country?
– Order! The honourable senator must ask his question, and not give information.
– In lieu of the questions I have posed to the Minister,I now ask: Can the Minister say why, straight after the Federal election, the Government virtually deported the Taiwanese officials from this country in its haste to close diplomatic relations with Taiwan, a country with a population equivalent to that of Australia?
– This is a confused question ranging from Hanoi to China. The first part of the question relates to some Press conference and I cannot help the honourable senator in that regard. The situation, as I have explained already on several occasions in this place, is that we have set up diplomatic relations with Hanoi because our ambition is to see, one day, a peaceful and united Vietnam. The 2 governments in Vietnam have undisputed control over a very large section of their countries. Because of that, as other countries are doing - we are not moving alone on this - we have recognised North Vietnam. It is valuable that we set ourselves up there very early. I do not see any point in waiting especially as the job of rehabilitating both North and South Vietnam and the rest of Indo-China will be a tremendous job. Most countries are already giving attention to this matter. Our attitude to aid is that it will be given to the whole of Indo-China when that is possible. At the moment it is not possible to help the Khmers in the way we would like to help because they have not been able to control their own affairs. That is one of the reasons why we moved in so quickly.
The fact is that many nations are recognising the facts of life. For too long governments have been dividing the world in accordance with their own prejudices and ideologies. They have drawn a line saying that they will put all the bad people behind it and that all of us good people will sit on the other side of the line. The Vietnam war and the turmoil and trouble came out of that situation. That could have been avoided with a much more enlightened policy.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I preface it by saying that as a Western Australian I am very concerned about the future of the iron ore projects in the north-west of my State. I also refer to the fact that new projects in the Pilbara area such as McCamey’s Monster and Rhodes Ridge apparently have been postponed because of the revaluation of the Australian dollar and other restrictions. I ask the Minister whether he knows that the revaluation of the Australian dollar has threatened to make our iron ore more expensive than that of other countries? Does he realise that if this is a fact Japan may purchase her requirements elsewhere in the very near future? Does the Minister know that the Japanese steel industry has already suspended plans for all new iron ore projects in the west? Does he realise what this means to the west and to the whole of Australia? Will he put this matter before the Treasurer and point out that the Japanese have suggested that if Australia were to devalue the dollar by 7.05 per cent the whole situation would be resolved?
– Senator Negus refers to McCamey’s Monster. This is a very large ore deposit which so far bes not produced any iron ore. When I inspected the place I was told that about S4m had been spent merely on sampling so that when they come to sell the product the samples will be there and they will be in a much better position to sell the iron ore. That is a normal technological process. The iron ore situation has had some ups and downs, particularly last year. I wish the honourable senator would stop waving that paper at me. 1 do not know whether he wants to buy the iron ore. Last year because of the situation in Japan some of the contracts had to be dropped down. I am not aware of what Japan might do. The Japanese do not confide in me what they are going to do over the next few months, few minutes or few years, so I do not know. I will put the question to the Treasurer. If anything comes out of it which will assist Senator Negus, a fellow Western Australian, then I shall certainly pass it on to him.
– Order! I asked the honourable senators not to stand up. I can see their question papers. I stated that I would commence calling honourable senators from this end of the chamber.
– I rise on a point of order Mr President, I would like to know your ruling with regard to the flag waving ceremony that appears to be going on in the chamber at the moment. I understand that yesterday you made an announcement from the chair and I would like to know in what order and by what method you are calling the senators to ask questions.
– -There are 3 distinct groups, with 3 identities, sitting on my left. There is the Liberal Party, the Country Party and the Democratic Labor Party. On the cross benches there is a group of Independent senators. On my right is the Australian Labor Party on the Government benches. I have to award the questions with some reasonable level of equality. That is my first point. My second point is that while I have been sitting in the chair it has been my rule that on one day I commence taking questions from my left and move around towards the centre, and on the subsequent day I commence taking questions from the centre and move round to my right. The reason for this is to give a priority to honourable senators who wish to ask questions when the Senate proceedings are being broadcast. The third point I wish to make is that I realise the sensitivity of honourable senators in their desire to see that their questions are acknowledged and understood. The fourth matter is that, although I have repeated on at least a dozen occasions over the last 12 months the rules I adopt in calling questions, they are not understood. Fifthly, yesterday, in order to relieve honourable senators of trying to attract my attention by standing up successively and consequentially, I suggested that they hold their question papers in the air so that I would be able to see them. Senator Bonner is holding up a paper now and I have already announced that 1 am taking questions from my left. I will not call him until later. The sixth point I wish to make is that I call honourable senators according to a sequence involving order and time, of which I keep a note. The seventh matter in this context is that some honourable senators stand up and ask questions in the early part of question time, whilst other honourable senators do not stand up to ask a question until 40 minutes after question time has begun. As I mentioned to Senator Georges the other day, I do not claim to be Prospero. I am doing the best I can.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr President. May I be allowed, in accordance with the Standing Orders, to rise in my place in a dignified manner rather than wave a paper?
– That is right; you may do so. About 2 weeks ago Senator McManus asked whether he might put up a flagpole. It was at his instigation that I suggested that honourable senators put up a flagpole.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. In order to assist the canning fruit industry diversification plans to overcome the pear surplus, will the Minister consider recommending the exemption of all fruit wines from the 15 per cent sales tax at present applicable to pear wines? This sales tax deters potential wine makers as they have to develop a market against apple and grape wines which are exempt from the tax. I understand that representations for assistance have been made to the Minister and the Treasurer. Has the Minister any information to give on this subject?
– I am not aware of the representation to which the honourable senator refers: nor am I aware of the specific details of the case. However, I shall make inquiries and ascertain precisely what the representation is, if in fact I have received it. 1 shall give the honourable senator an answer to her question as soon as possible.
– Will the Minister for Repatriation examine the possibility of paying persons who left national service last year for the period between their discharge and the commencement of their study at school or university? I refer particularly to those in Tasmania, as many of them had difficulty in obtaining employment during the period that I have mentioned.
– I do not think it is possible to give a blanket cover to these people because, as I think the honourable senator knows, persons who left national service last year and who were unable to obtain employment for a period between discharge and commencing their studies at a school or university would have been eligible for the unemployment benefit. In addition, all national servicemen who were discharged were interviewed by the then Department of Labour and National Service to see whether they wished to return to their former occupations. If they did not wish to do that, they were advised to register for the unemployment benefit. 1 would be interested if the honourable senator would provide me with particular cases which could be examined, because T do not think we could make a blanket provision for these people. If the honourable senator gives me particulars of those cases 1 will consult with the appropriate Minister and my Department to see to what extent we can help.
– J am quite aware of that Standing Order. If honourable senators wish to stand to attract my attention, and to rise successively, then I shall be obedient to the Standing Order. 1 ruled as 1 did merely to provide a convenience to honourable senators; that is all. If it is proving to be an inconvenience, as suggested by Senator Little, then I shall revert to the strict interpretation of standing order 403.
– My question is directed to the Special Minister of State in his capacity as the Minister representing the Treasurer. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to reports that revaluation of the Australian dollar is forcing Comalco Ltd, the large aluminium producer, to have a new look at plans for 2 major Queensland projects which would cost more than $400m? The projects are the proposed aluminium smelter at Gladstone and the planned $328m alumina refinery to be built by an international consortium at Weipa. As Australia is a developing country and can ill afford to lose these large investments, will the Government have another look at the parity of the Australian dollar with a view to restoring it to that which existed at December last and so encourage this large type of investment which we cannot undertake ourselves?
– I have seen references to the Comalco matter. No, 1 think it would be most unwise to go back to the prerevaluation situation. In any such circumstance one will always find people presenting a situation into which they have got themselves. I will refer the honourable senator’s question to the Treasurer to see whether there are any helpful suggestions that I can get for him.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Secondary Industry able to inform the Senate whether any aspect of the Australian Government’s policy has in part or in whole been responsible for the announced decision of a consortium of companies not to proceed with plans to construct in Australia a large industrial complex based on the steel industry? Would this unfortunate decision come to be classified as the worst blunder in the first 100 days of the Whitlam Administration?
– I could not hear all the question but I understood it was directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Secondary Industry. That being so, I will refer it to the appropriate Minister.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory. In view of the report in today’s ‘Canberra Times’ that hundreds of householders in the Aranda, Cook and Macquarie suburbs of Canberra have been left with useless milk tokens since the vendor for these areas abandoned his runs last week, will the Minister confer with the proper authorities with a view to instituting a fidelity bond for all milk vendors in the Australian Capital Territory who use the token system?
– I will refer that question to the Minister for the Capital Territory.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Without unduly trespassing upon anyone’s patience I wish to state by way of preface that a ship was built in Australia at a cost of more than $Hm. for the special purpose of providing a King Island shipping service and that within .10 weeks its owners were exposed to bankruptcy by reason of excessive crewing and loading costs. That ship has lain idle for 6 months despite the Australian Labor Party’s promise that if it was elected it would immediately institute a shipping service to King Island. I ask for the third time - once in each successive week of the Parliament - what negotiations has the Minister had with the interests representing that ship to replace it in the shipping service so that the 1,200 people on King Island can have at least some shipping service under this Government?
– As the honourable senator has stated, the ship built for the King Island trade was taken off the run 6 months ago through bankruptcy. It will be realised that that was prior to this Government coming into office. Any bankruptcy of the company concerned was not as a result of any action of this Government. At the time, the previous Government was subsidising it to the extent of some $300,000 for the purpose of providing a shipping service. As I said before, the King Island transport investigation was made but the recommendations were not carried out and were not made public. The Minister for Transport has placed a submission before Cabinet. It has been accepted and negotiations are now proceeding with the Australian National Line and the Tasmanian Government for the purpose of providing a ship of the right tonnage for the King Island service. AH attempts under the previous Government failed to provide a satisfactory service. The Minister for Transport is undertaking the negotiations with the Australian National Line and the Tasmanian Government and has received approval from Cabinet for the purchase of a suitable ship for the trade.
– Is the Minister for Repatriation aware that there are now only 58,300 survivors of the Boer War and World War 1, according to figures supplied from the Repatriation Department? Further, is he aware that 21,289 of such ex-servicemen are now in receipt of war pensions or special rate pensions? In view of the Government’s announced policy of abolition of the means test and as most of the remaining 63 per cent of those surviving- persons receive the aged persons social service payment, would he give consideration to recommending that the 37,000 ex-servicemen concerned be all granted the full war pension as an act of grace?
– The honourable senator will probably know that one of the planks of the Australian Labor Party is to provide free hospitalisation for Boer War and World War I survivors. We have accepted that as a priority which ought to follow what we are now doing with the Repatriation Act. I do not think that it is possible by any administrative act to provide the cover about which Senator Gietzelt asks. But it is possible under the policies of the Government, through the Minister for Social Security, to improve this position through the improvements to the means test which will be effected bv the end of 1974. I would think our first priority would be to consider as early as possible, following our now proclaimed improvements in repatriation, the giving of free hospitalisation to surviving veterans and then covering them by the general social service program of the Government.
– Has the Minister for the Media given consideration to criticisms levelled by the Australian Film Council at the Australian Film Development Corporation’s allocation of $200,000 to assist in the production of the feature film ‘Mr Burke and Mr Wills’? Are the criticisms based on the ground that the film would not have significant Australian content? Is the purpose and objective of the Australian Film Development Corporation, that is, the fostering and promotion of local productions and giving Australians experience in making feature films, being achieved in this instance?
– I must point out initially that the Australian Film Development Corporation was established as a result of legislation enacted by the previous Government in 1970, and the Corporation is operating under that statute. There are a number of matters stated in the legislation which the Corporation should take into account in determining whether assistance should be afforded to the production of a particular film. As the honourable senator has said, one of the matters that the Corporation should take into consideration is whether the film will be produced in Australia. Another matter is the number of Australians to be employed.
I understand that in this case the Corporation was mindful of the fact that approximately $lm would be spent in Australia in connection with the development of a film industry and that at least 54 Australians would have speaking roles in the film concerning Burke and Wills. I am given to understand that the production would require, in addition to those 54 Australians who would have speaking roles, a crew of some 50 technicians who would be employed for a period of 10 to 12 weeks. The Corporation considers that this film is a major budget production and the Corporation’s offer to participate in the production on a financial basis is conditional on the producer’s satisfying a number of requirements.
The Corporation’s offer would make the Corporation a minor participant in what it regards as a very large international picture.
The Corporation’s offer to the company involved entitles the Corporation to convert its financial investment to a guarantee at any time that suits it. I am informed by the Corporation that it considers that its ability to assist wholly indigenous Australian productions has in no way been impaired by its decision to take part in this production.
– Is the Minister representing the Postmaster-General in a position to say whether there is any substance in the serious allegation that charges made by the Postmaster-General’s Department for the initial installation of a telephone, the transfer of a telephone and the connection of a telephone, and rental charges,’ have not been based on a genuine cost-benefit analysis, but rather were a device employed by the former Government to dampen demand and deter people from applying for telephone services? Will the commission of inquiry initiated by the Postmaster-General be examining this area of the .Department’s operations? If not, will the Minister ask the Postmaster-General to have this allegation investigated and cause his findings to be tabled in the Parliament?
– I have said from time to time in this chamber that the present Government has been concerned at the manner in which, the previous administration was administering the affairs of the Postmaster-General’s department. A number of allegations have been made that charges for the initial installation of a telephone and the transfer of a telephone and the rental charges were not based on a genuine cost-benefit analysis, but rather were a device employed by the former Government to keep the demand down to a limit. I understand that this matter is the subject of inquiry by the commission that has been established by the present Government. It is the policy of this Government at this stage, considering the Commission’s terms of reference, to see that costs are reduced as much as possible, bearing in mind the profit that was made by the Post Office last year and the interest accruing to the Federal Treasury as a result thereof .
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Bearing in mind that the ship
Straitsman’ was built especially for the service from King Island to Tasmania and Victoria, will the Minister lay on the table all documents relating to the negotiations between the owners of the ship ‘Straitsman’ or their representatives, including any liquidator or receiver, and the Government in respect to the reintroduction of that ship into the service for which it was built at a cost of $1.5m?
– As I have stated before, there is no possibility of the ‘Straitsman’ being re-employed on the King Island trade. It is an uneconomic proposition. Despite the fact that a subsidy of $300,000 was provided, the ship went off the service when the company went bankrupt during the previous Government’s term of office. The then Minister for Shipping and Transport rejected the proposals put by Mr Davies from Tasmania and Senator Devitt as part of a deputation, and did nothing to preserve the shipping service to King Island.
– That is wrong.
- Senator Devitt just told me that he was a member of the deputation. The Minister for Transport is doing his utmost to restore some shipping service to King Island. He made a submission this week to Cabinet and h has been approved. I have not the papers here but if a question is asked of me tomorrow I will be able to state more fully the Government’s intention. I will refer to the Minister for Transport the matter of laying papers on the table and ascertain whether he is prepared to do so.
SUBSIDY FOR FILM THE ADVENTURES OF BARRY McKENZIE’
– I ask the Minister for the Media: Is H a fact that $250,000 has been made available to the company or firm that produced the film The Adventures of Barry McKenzie’ by the Australian Film Development Corporation, in the setting up of which I had a minuscular part? Is it a fact that this sum was the full cost of producing this ghastly, vulgar film? Irrespective of the box office success of this excrescence, can the Minister explain why $250,000 was made available to the producer of this film without the producer putting up any front money which, I understand, is the normal requirement? Is it a fact that Mr Phillip Adams is one of the 3 owners of the organisation which produced this film? Is it a fact that Mr Phillip Adams was one of the publicity officers of the Australian Labor Party who directed its publicity campaign for the last Federal election? Even if this money was made available before the election, can the Minister explain the break with tradition that any producer must, in normal circumstances, put up portion of the front money so that the entire cost of his production is not financed by the Australian taxpayer? Finally, is it a fact that the taxpayers’ money was being used to support this biased assistance even before the election?
– The honourable senator has directed to me a number of questions concerning an amount of $250,000 made available by the Australian Film Development Corporation for the production of what he has referred to as a ghastly, vulgar film - ‘The Adventures of Barry McKenzie’. I point out to the honourable senator that irrespective of his opinion of the film it has been one of the few successes, if not the only box office success, contributed to by the Australian Film Development Corporation. Senator Hannan answered portion of his own question when he admitted that the transaction entered into by the Corporation was entered into when the previous Administration was in government. Indeed, the Corporation was carrying out its investment policy in the production of films under terms and conditions laid down by legislation introduced into this Parliament by the previous Government.
The honourable senator asked whether Mr Phillip Adams, one of the producers of the film, was working as a publicity officer for the Australian Labor Party after the investment in the film was made by the Corporation. I think the answer is yes. I might also point out to the honourable senator that I know that Mr Phillip Adams was approached by the former Prime Minister to work for him during the course of the last election campaign.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. It relates to the discovery earlier this year of 2 anchors from the Matthew Flinders vessel ‘Investigator’. Is the Minister aware that the anchors were discovered by a team of South Australian underwater explorers? Is he aware also that one of the anchors - known as the ‘Best Bower’ anchor - was exclusively used by Matthew Flinders during his discoveries in South Australian waters? Can the Minister tell the Senate of the steps being taken to ensure that that particular anchor is rightfully placed somewhere within South Australia?
– I acknowledge the interest of the honourable senator in acquiring the anchor for South Australia. I also acknowledge the historical significance to South Australia of the anchor from ‘Investigator’. In fact, I supported the honourable senator in a telegram to the Prime Minister trying to secure the anchor for South Australia and received a reply that the matter had been handed over to the Minister for Transport. After their recovery the anchors were sent to Western Australia for treatment for preservation. After that treatment a decision will be made on the purposes to which the anchors will be put. The Minister for Transport wants it known that both anchors have historical significance for the whole of Australia and he is deciding now whether to submit to the request of South Australia and the honourable senator, or whether the anchors would be more appropriately placed in a national museum.
– My question, which I direct to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, follows upon the question asked by Senator Withers and the so-called answer to it. Is. the Government opposed to atmospheric tests of nuclear weapons as a matter of principle or because of the likely effect on Australia or the region in which we live, without regard to the effect of nuclear explosions in other countries? Does the Government apply different moral standards or principles for communist countries? Will the Government be prepared to adopt the same standards of morality towards China as towards France?
– The Government has made clear its opposition to nuclear testing. The same kind of suggestion that the honourable senator has just made against the Labor Government was made last week and was made a week or so earlier in this chamber. Senator Wright, who was then a Minister, made such a suggestion at one time. Following information which was subsequently given to him he had the grace in a debate on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate to withdraw those suggestions against the Aus tralian Labor Party and he set down in great detail the various protests which have been made and ‘ attitudes which ‘ have been expressed. All of the countries of the South Pacific area have expressed concern about nuclear testing of any kind. I say here and now that it is the policy of the Government to oppose nuclear testing by anyone.
– Including China?
– As I have said, opposition has been expressed to every nuclear test. The policy of the Government is to oppose any kind of nuclear testing not only because to a greater or lesser degree such tests endanger humanity but alsg because the end result of nuclear testing is the use of nuclear weapons against the people of the world.
– My question, which is directed to the Attorney-General, is supplementary to that asked of him by Senator Withers. I ask: Upon the information received from his expert advisers will the AttorneyGeneral confirm the statement made by the Prime Minister yesterday that Australia is not, in the Prime Minister’s words, ‘discernibly affected by nuclear tests by China’? Does that mean that the Australian atmosphere is not now and has not been in the past measurably affected by fall-out ‘ from Chinese nuclear tests?
– I think it is desirable that such a technical question should be placed on the notice paper in order that a proper answer can be given to the honourable senator. I have already indicated to the honourable senator, and he may be aware of the fact, that there is, scientifically speaking, an appreciable difference insofar as countries in particular hemispheres are concerned according to whether an explosion is in. their own hemisphere or the other hemisphere. 1 will endeavour to get a more precise and fuller answer to the honourable senator’s question.
– Further to the questions asked by Senator Sim and Senator Carrick, I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: Can I infer from the answer just given by him that there is no mixing of the earth’s atmosphere between the northern and southern hemispheres? What scientific authority supports this claim?
– No, the Leader of the Opposition cannot infer that from my answer.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Before asking the question I would like it to be noted that I take exception to being made an example, out of 60 honourable senators in this chamber, when conforming to the wishes of the President of the Senate. The Minister has been reported in the Press as offering free contraceptives to Aboriginal women. I ask: Is that offer in line with the advocacy by the Minister for Health, Dr Everingham, of the sterilisation of Aborigines? If not, will the Government now be offering free contraceptives to all Australian women?
– This is obviously a question the right answer to which will have to come from the Minister for Health. I thought there were free contraceptives. I do not use them. I thought that they were on the free list under the national health scheme. 1 think the only purpose of the honourable senators question was to make an unfair accusation against Dr Everingham. I do not represent Dr Everingham but obviously his statement was taken out of context. At the time he made the statement he was referring to a depressed section of society. He has received some support. I do not think that the statement referred to Aborigines alone.
– I refer to a recent statement by the Minister for Immigration that the Government’s policy is to abandon the oath cf allegiance at naturalisation ceremonies. I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration: Has this policy been implemented by any ministerial diktat or does the Government intend to give Parliament an opportunity of debating this important change in policy?
– I think that this matter was first drawn to the attention of the Government by the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council. This was one of the recommendations by the Council to the Australian Government. Shortly after the election of the Labor Government it was discussed, among other matters connected with immigration, and the Labor Government decided to adopt it as its policy.
– Senator Davidson was the chairman.
– I am reminded by Senator Cavanagh that at the time such recommendation was made Senator Davidson was chairman of the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council. I am further given to understand that the advice forthcoming from the Attorney-General to the Minister for Immigration about this matter - the Attorney-General can correct me or indicate otherwise - was that a constitutional question was involved. The decision reached by the Government was taken not only on policy grounds but on constitutional grounds as well.
– My question is directed to the Minister assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs but he may wish to seek enlightenment from the Minister representing the Minister for Overseas Trade. I refer to the proposed trade mission to the People’s Republic of China in May this year, which is to be headed by Dr Cairns and Sir Ian McLennan, and which is to establish friendly and valuable relations. I suggest that this question should be answered without reference to the previous Government. In view of the confusion existing in Japan and Taiwan over the radical changes in the foreign policy of Australia under the Australian Labor Party Government, and because Japan has been our major customer and Taiwan has had substantial trading relations with Australia, will the Government also arrange for this delegation to visit Japan and Taiwan in order to ensure the continuance of established trade relationships with those countries?
– The question was based on the false premise that there was confusion in Taiwan and Japan. There is no confusion because of representations to and dialogue with those 2 countries. Japan already is trading with China. The suggestion was that the trip be enlarged and that the mission go not only to the People’s Republic of China but also to the other 2 places. I will put the suggestion to Dr Cairns and the Government for consideration.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the
Prime Minister. During the election campaign, when I made a statement that the new Government would seek to alter the voting system, the Prime Minister gave his personal word that the next House of Representatives election would be contested according to the preferential voting system as at present used. In view of the fact that last night the Prime Minister said that it could be contested on a new system - optional preferential - I ask: Does this mean that the Prime Minister has repudiated one more election promise? As the Prime Minister has said that his object is to reduce the number of political parties in our Parliament to two, will he give further consideration to this proposal to reduce the number of political parties to two, bearing in mind the statement of his friend Chairman Mao: ‘Let 100 flowers flourish’?
– Order! I remind honourable senators that questions which canvass legislation which has been introduced in another place should not and may not be asked. If the Leader of the Government wishes to answer the question he may do so.
– My understanding is that the issue which arose shortly prior to the last federal election was whether, if the Australian Labor Party were elected to govern^ ment, it would introduce legislation for first past the post voting in place of the preferential system. It was in that context that some assurance was given by the now Prime Minister. I do not understand that at any stage it was said that there would be no kind of alteration whatever. Consistently with that it was also a clear part of the Labor Party’s policy that 18-year olds be given a vote. The issue was whether a system of first past the post voting would be introduced. The Prime Minister dealt with that. However, I shall refer the question to the Prime Minister to see whether there is anything he wishes to add on the subject.
– Does the Minister for Primary Industry agree that compensation for revaluation losses sustained by primary industries will be based not on actual losses incurred but on the inability of those industries to withstand the onslaught of Government action? As the Bureau of Agricultural Economics is the most competent body to determine the profitability of the numerous primary industries will the Minister initiate an inquiry through the Bureau into the effects of revaluation on our export primary industries so that reasonable consideration can be given to these industries before they suffer irreparable financial damage?
– In view of the series of questions and answers on this matter I was under the impression that the Government’s position had been adequately explained by now. The principle of compensation to which the honourable senator refers was not the principle enunciated by the previous administration as I have pointed out on two or three occasions. It is not the principle in this case. The principles which we have adopted were spelt out by the Prime Minister at the time. They have been stated over and over again. I do not intend to restate them at this time.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry whether he can advise the Senate which primary industry bodies have requested the Commonwealth Government to accept their applications for consideration for revaluation compensation. Which industry or industries have been advised by the Government not to apply as they will receive no consideration from the Labor Government?
– The only information I can give the honourable senator is that up until a week ago 86 submissions had been made to the Government in respect of revaluation claims, only 15 . of which made specific requests or gave specific figures concerning losses as a result of revaluation. At this stage I cannot give the honourable senator details of the names of individual organisations for which he asks. However, if he desires this information I will, obtain it for him.
– I am unaware of all of the details directed to me by Senator Dame Nancy Buttfield; but I think the very statement implicit in the last portion of her question, namely, that one of the reasons for reaching this decision is that Australians when swearing an oath are not required to swear allegiance to the Queen, was one of the reasons for the decision that was made by the Government.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. I simply refer to a question I asked earlier. Is the Minister in a position to give me an answer about the inflow of foreign produced records?
– Yes, I am. Senator Mulvihill asked:
Has the Minister examined a - proposal contained In last Saturday’s ‘Australian’ which advocated a ban on the import of foreign versions of new records until Australian artists had had a 6-week period of protection to record such new members?
I can say to the honourable senator that there has been a preliminary look into the proposal, and certain difficult policy questions as well as some practical questions are involved in any implementation of such a proposal. The policy issues concern the matter of copyright. The proposal would interfere with the ordinary exercise of control by a composer over the exploitation of his musical work. At present the trigger that brings the statutory licensing provisions of the copyright law into operation is the release of a recording of a musical work that has been authorised by the copyright owner. A month after such a release occurs in Australia or in one of the international convention countries, anyone can take a’dvantage of the statutory licensing provisions and record his own version of the work. This applies to both classical and popular works. The proposition referred to in the article would seem to involve the taking of steps to negate the right of first release in Australia enjoyed at present by many owners of musical copyright. This is obviously a serious matter because of the adherence by Australia to international conventions. Before taking such a step I will obtain the views of both my colleague the Minister for the Media and the various sections of the community that might be affected by such a decision.
Apart from the general policy question of whether there should be some preference for Australian artists along the lines suggested, I am asked a further question on how to give effect to such a preference. Having regard to the difficult matters involved, some of which I have mentioned, I will undertake to have my Department investigate the question with a view to a decision being made on the desirability or otherwise of giving effect to the proposal suggested by Senator Mulvihill.
– My question is directed to the Special Minister of State in his capacity as Minister representing the Treasurer. I refer to the Minister’s answer to my earlier question today on inflation. In that answer, which was quite unsatisfactory to me, he referred to unemployment in an attempt to evade the question. I now ask him: Does he know of the Treasury publication of January 1973 issued by his Government and entitled Treasury Information Bulletin No. 69? If he does not, I direct his attention to page 12 of the publication on which the following words appear:
Civilian employment has resumed rapid growth in recent months. In seasonally-adjusted terms, civilian employment increased at the annual rate of 4.2 per cent in the 3 months to November, the strongest rate of growth since late in 1970 and a sharp increase on the rates of growth earlier in 1972.
Does the Minister not agree that it was the action of the previous Government and not his Government that produced the improvement in employment and the consequent reduction in the rate of unemployment?
– The question is directed to me in my capacity as Minister representing the Treasurer. I will pass it to the Treasurer to see if any information I get can help Senator Cotton.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Overseas Trade and Minister for Secondary
Industry. Has there been any protest from Opposition members to the inclusion of Mr Kibel, referred to by Senator Sim as a Manchester Jew, as a member of the trade delegation of prominent leaders of commerce and industry which will accompany Dr Cairns when he visits China in May of this year?
– I have no knowledge of the particular matter that the honourable senator refers to, that is whether there has been any protest, but I shall obtain an answer for him.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. What action does the Government propose to take to assist the River Murray co-operatives to market wine and what stimulus does the Minister intend to give to the industry to assist it with market development overseas to offset the adverse effects of British entry into the European Economic Community and revaluation of the Australian dollar?
– The wine industry in this country is attempting and has attempted to expand its markets overseas. I believe that assistance has not been afforded to the industry by the Commonwealth for the marketing and promotion of these goods on overseas markets. This is a matter to which I have given some thought and it is my intention to strengthen the marketing procedures of the Commonwealth, not only in this area but in other rural industries, and I would hope that as a result we can penetrate these markets more effectively than we have in the past.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, relates to the serious situation facing non-pensioner patients in nursing homes in Victoria and nursing home proprietors who are faced with the prospect of dismissing patients because they cannot continue to operate their homes. In the light of his earlier reply, has the Minister considered whether in the light of what Senator Douglas McClelland stated to me, namely, that the Victoria Actuary’s report suggests that the funds of the Victorian health benefit organisations will not enable payments to be made for nursing home patients, there should be an increase in the contributions made to the hospital benefit funds as he has recently approved a 40 per cent increase in the payments made to medical benefit funds? What steps is the Minister taking to ensure that tha difficulties which patient contributors to those hospitals benefit funds and the nursing homo proprietors are experiencing can be overcome? Is it a fair comment to say that the Minister’s answer indicates that the Commonwealth is doing nothing and simply is attributing blame to Victoria?
– In reply to what might be regarded as a supplementary question by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition-
– An hour and a half later.
– Yes. I emphasise to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the other members of his Party that it is an hour and a half later. I point out that in addition to the private nursing homes that are involved, there are some 17 State-owned homes in Victoria which are also involved in the controversy and which are not receiving the benefits. The Minister for Social Security, Mr Hayden, has written to the Victorian Minister for Health, Mr Rossiter, requesting his co-operation in arranging for the payment of the benefit. I understand that in addition to this correspondence which was dispatched by my colleague to the Victorian Minister for Health, discussions took place between Mr Hayden and Mr Rossiter on 5th March 1973. The requirements of Commonwealth legislation for the new nursing home arrangements were outlined by the Minister for Social Security. It was emphasised that the payment of nursing home fund benefits to insured non-pensioner patients from hospital benefit funds which have substantial reserves was considered by the Commonwealth to be reasonable and feasible and that the responsibility for the non-payment of the benefit rested with the State authorities. My colleague, the Minister for Social Security, has assured me that the secretary of the Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association of Victoria has approached the Victorian office of the Department of Health about making Commonwealth payments or issuing certificates specifying the amount of fund benefits payable to the proprietors. But the Minister for Social Security has made it clear to the State Government that the Commonwealth can in no way accept the responsibility for making the payments which are, of course, the responsibility of the hospital benefit funds. Moreover, he assures me that he. has made it very clear in his discussions with Mr Rossiter that it is a matter between the State authorities, the nursing homes and the hospital benefit funds.
– In directing a question to the Special Minister of State, I refer to a question I asked last Thursday, which the Minister evaded, concerning the support by communist countries of insurgency in South East Asia. Is the Government aware of complaints by Thailand that North Vietnam is providing material and moral support for insurgents in Thailand? Is the Government aware that the voice of the Malayan revolution radio, located in southern China, is broadcasting to Malaysia? Does the Government believe that the support of insurgency in Thailand and Malaysia by the People’s Republic of China and North Vietnam serves the interests of peace and stability in the region? As the Prime Minister has given gratuitous advice to Thailand, will he now give advice to China and North Vietnam that in the interests of peace and stability and in support of the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, they should mind their own business?
– Firstly, the Prime Minister did not give any advice, gratuitous or otherwise, to Thailand. As I pointed out the other day, he gave an interview to ‘Newsweek’ magazine regarding the whole general situation in that area. In referring to that situation, he said ‘that he would like to see a scaling down and was worried that the presence of American aircraft and troops in Thailand could have an effect which might produce something like the Vietnam conflict. That is what he said. He did not offer advice to Thailand. I made it very clear the other day that what Thailand and the United States of America do is completely a matter for the Governments of those countries and not for any other government. Senator DrakeBrockman is shaking his head. Is he saying that it is not? If he thinks it is not, he should say so. I think that it is a matter for those 2 countries. But as I said, surely nearly everybody in this place does not want to see the Vietnam war break out again, nor do we want to see a situation develop which might lead to that. This was a comment made by Mr Whitlam which is made quite clear if ona reads the ‘Newsweek’ item.
As to the other question, as to whether I know of these things, I state that I have heard rumours of them from time to time. I do not officially know. I saw a comment In the newspaper article to which reference has been made here that the Thai newspaper had said that Hanoi was interfering with Thailand’s internal situation. The situation is that we do not agree that anybody should interfere with the rights of anybody else. But I am making no comment on that because I do not know and I think that it is very unwise foi any government to start criticising and telling other governments how to nin their own business.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour. Has the Government as yet estimated the cost to the economy of a 35-hour week for all workers, and the effect of this on the cost of living? If no estimate has been made, will the Government have one prepared and submit it to the Senate?
– I do not think we have reached a situation where such an estimate ought to be made, because it depends on what approaches the unions make to the arbitration tribunals and whether those unions are in special categories. In that case I think it is rather premature to talk about what costs would be involved. Unless the honourable senator has in mind a particular industry which might be costed, I think the question is rather too general to ask for a lot of detailed work to be done. Rather, I think, we have to wait until we see what arguments are put forward in particular claims before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and whether the unions seek to use, as a test case, specially selected industries which have been affected by automation and mechanisation.
– I direct a question to the Minister assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs because he omitted to answer the latter part of my previous question. I again ask the Minister: Why did the Government, so soon after the elections, virtually deport the
Taiwanese officials from this country in its haste to close diplomatic relations with Taiwan, a country with a population equivalent to that of Australia and with 20 years of separate existence?
– The Taiwanese officials were not deported. As a matter of fact, some of them were allowed to stay. The Department of Immigration looked at the criteria that it applies, and some families and some diplomats were allowed to stay. The others left Australia because their work as diplomats here had ceased. I regret that I did not answer the question previously but the honourable senator will remember that he asked his question in 2 parts. I concentrated on the first part and omitted to answer the second part. I apologise for that.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry, refers to the answer which he gave to Senator Webster in which he said that in all 86 submissions had been made for compensation but only 15 had contained details of losses. I asfa Does this mean that the other 71 submissions will not be considered for compensation because they did not contain figures or details of losses?
– Perhaps I should read this note to the honourable senator. There were 6 submissions containing some estimates of loss, 8 submissions containing estimated contractual loss, and one submission containing details in fine with the suggested approach indicated in my Press release. It is quite clear that the interdepartmental committee will need a proper, substantial case on which to assess whether these losses have in fact been incurred. This requirement was spelt out quite clearly, and I think it is incumbent on any organisation making a claim to ensure that a properly documented case is placed before the interdepartmental committee. That does not mean outright rejection, but obviously these organisations must weaken their case if they do not present it in the form required.
– I ask the Minister assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs whether he agrees that in the international community of nations the acknowledged criterion for recognition of a nation is its estab lished right to control the area it governs? Does he agree that for many years the Government of Taiwan has established its right to govern the area of Taiwan? Does he agree that the Government in Peking has established for many years its right to control the area of mainland China? If the answer to these questions is in the affirmative, why does this Government refuse recognition to either of the governments referred to?
– The first matters raised by Senator Wright were statements of fact. Yes, the Taiwanese Government obviously has strong control of the island of Taiwan. The first question Senator Wright asked me was: What was the criterion? I would say that that is one of the criteria, and an important one, for recognition but it is not just as simple as that. This matter is not in our hands. I repeat that both Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China will not accept recognition from countries, and if the honourable senator is interested I have here a list showing that not one country recognises both Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China. The Taiwanese Government claims to be the legal government of the whole of China and does not accept that its people are on the island of Taiwan indefinitely. It says, and keeps repeating, that one day it will return to the mainland and that its 15 million people will finally control the other 700 million. When it comes to recognition, every country is forced to make up its mind according to the dictates of the governments of both Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China. We were put in that position and we made our choice.
– My question is directed to Senator Wriedt both in his capacity as Minister for Primary Industry and as the Minister representing the Minister for Overseas Trade. Has his attention been drawn to the impending visit of a representative group of Australian capitalists to the People’s Republic of China seeking trade relations with that country? Is he aware that a similar group of top captains of English industry is already on its way to China? Does this reflect a mature attitude on the part of the British Conservative Government and of the new Australian Labor Government, and refute the ludicrous and inane approach of those in this country who frown on normal relationships with Asian countries? Is there any possibility that representatives from Australian primary industry may be included in the Australian delegation?
– The question asked by Senator Gietzelt highlights a very sensible approach by the British Government and its interest to improve its trade relations with the People’s Republic of China. One should try to overlook the prejudices and problems that have existed in the past and endeavour to develop trade with that country if it is to our mutual advantage. It would be a brave person who argued that it would not be to our mutual advantage. In reply to the second part of the honourable senator’s question, I will not be included in the trade mission which will be going to the People’s Republic of China in May. This mission will, of course, be designed to establish the relations to which I have referred. Specifically as to primary industry, there will not be any participation in a trade mission at this stage.
– I direct my question to the Attorney-General and refer to the forthcoming visit to this country of a character known as Dzemal Bijedich, described by the Minister as the distinguished Premier of Yugoslavia, ostensibly to discuss Croatian nationalists. Has the Minister been personally acquainted with Bijedich for some few years? Will the Minister, so far as it lies within his power - I realise that there are difficulties in doing so - prevent Bijedich from having any discussions with the Yugoslav secret police operating in this country? Does the Minister know that Bijedich is generally believed in Yugoslavia to have been responsible for the kidnapping and imprisonment without trial of Father Krunoslav Draganovich from Italian territory near Trieste on 10th September 1967? Will the Minister exercise his well known interest in human rights to inquire from Bijedich whether Father Draganovich is still alive and when, if ever, formal charges will be laid against him?
– The answer to the honourable senator’s first question is no. So far as I am aware, far from having known the gentleman for several years I do not know him at all. Perhaps the honourable senator can suggest something to remind me. Otherwise, frankly I cannot recall ever having met, having spoken to or having had anything to do with the distinguished officer of another country. I recall that last year I moved a motion in the Senate in which his name was mentioned, but to the best of my recollection I have had no acquaintance or connection with him whatever. I am open to assistance from the honourable senator. Arrangements for his visit to Australia are a matter not for me but for the Prime Minister. I will refer the honourable senator’s question to the Prime Minister. I have no special knowledge of the incidents to which the honourable senator referred. Therefore I am not able to give him any information in answer to his last question.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral inform the Senate of the nature of the steps involved in the transfer of the Australian Capital Territory Police Force from the control of the Department of the Capital Territory to the Attorney-General’s Department? For what reason is the transfer occurring? What is the ground of the reported adverse reaction of the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council to the proposed change?
– The change is occurring because of a decision of the Australian Government in pursuance of its electoral policy, endorsed by the Australian people, that the fragmentation of the law enforcement forces at the Federal level should be ended. I think some honourable senators ‘ are aware that there has been considerable fragmentation. While some separation in areas of law enforcement is essential some rather ludicrous results have flowed from the fragmentation of the police forces at the Federal level. I will find out for the honourable senator what in general are the procedural difficulties or methods involved in such a change. Any kind of change in the organisation pf the Public Service seems not to be without some difficulty. However, I will gain a general indication of what is involved and let the honourable senator know.
I cannot answer the honourable senator’s question about the attitude of. the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council. Difficult questions are involved in any reorganisation. A great deal of consideration has been given to these matters by the Australian Government. They were referred to in Labor’s policy speech and we are endeavouring to carry them out.
– I direct a question to the Minister assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I ask: What progress has been made by the Government in overcoming the procrastination of its predecessor in signing the Refugee Seamen’s Convention and thereby giving protection to international maritime trade unionists from harsh labour codes?
– Instructions were given soon after the present Government came into office for this matter to be put to a study. My information is that the Government should soon know the results of that study.
DEFENCE: Fill AIRCRAFT
– My question is directed to the Minister assisting the Minister for Defence. I ask: What assurance can the people of Australia have that the Government will provide them with a balanced and strong defence? Can he inform the Senate whether an essential part of this defence will be the use of Fill aircraft as a strike force?
– The honourable senator ought to know that the recent figures as to the numbers in the defence forces have been very satisfactory. The number of those national servicemen who have decided to remain in the Army has been satisfactory. About one-third of them have decided to remain in the Army. Basically our armed forces are in a very satisfactory position. In addition, the Government had done other things to increase the size of what it wants to be a voluntarily enlisted professional armed service. As the honourable senator knows, we have provided for a new pay scale. We have supplemented and improved by the defence forces retirement benefits provisions by means which were ventilated during the administration of the previous Government and in fact rejected by it. We have done a number of other things in relation to accommodation and so on to improve the conditions of servicemen. Basically we think we are on the way to providing all the elements of a very efficient, professional armed service.
I turn now to the last part of the honourable senator’s question. I will have regard firstly to the need to provide essential aircraft and support equipment. The honourable senator would already know, as I have explained it to him more than once in the Senate, that we have taken some initiatives in regard to the aircraft to replace the Mirage, and some initiatives to make sure that our own Australian capacity is the best than can be established in these times. These actions have been promotional and effective and were taken almost immediately upon the present Government taking office. I can only repeat what I said to the honourable senator before in relation to the Fill aircraft. We criticised the selection of this aircraft in 1963. We said then that the decision to purchase it was a political decision that was taken by the Menzies Government. We were dissatisfied, not only with the aircraft but also with the financial arrangements entered into by the then Australian Government and the United States Government. I think I can say, on behalf of the Minister for Defence, that we are not satisfied now about those financial arrangements but that the aircraft will take its place in the complement of the Royal Australian Air Force. The present Government will ensure that the Fill aircraft is used in its most effective capacity. The honourable senator would be aware of the many defects which arose, the many modifications which had to be undertaken and the many decisions which had to be made before the Government could take the aircraft. What we are saying is this: Because we are in the position of having to accept the aircraft we will use it, but we are very critical of the premature decisions of that previous Government in selecting such an aircraft in the face of the general position of Australia’s defence.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Overseas Trade concerning the recent devaluation of the United States dollar and the Australian Government’s standstill policy on the Australian dollar, which has placed many of Australia’s export industries at a disadvantage. I ask: What is the Government’s attitude towards export incentives and will the present arrangements be updated to assist Australian exporters by ensuring that the changed situation does not place them at too much of a disadvantage?
– The question of export incentives is currently being studied by the Government. I expect a statement to be made in the next week or two in respect of it.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. 1 ask: Particularly in the light of the notice of motion which was given today by Senator Wright and the possible debating of the subject matter of it tomorrow, will the Attorney-General say whether prior to the making of the matrimonial causes rules which came into force on 1st February he received any departmental submissions as to any problems that the rules would create? If he did, in view of his Leader’s specific promises about open government and his Party’s policy and platform commitments to this end, will he table the submissions he received for the benefit of the Senate and for greater elucidation in debate?
– I will certainly endeavour to assist the Senate as much as I can in regard to this matter. The question of whether departmental submissions in the nature of advice to a Minister should be tabled is a matter of very great implication, as the honourable senator would know. I think he probably would have received from time to time some observations on whether, in the pursuance of open government, such submissions ought properly to be made public, either in general or in specific cases.
– We did not make a commitment on open government in the way that you did.
– The previous Government, as the honourable senator has said, made no commitment on open government. That is quite right. The previous Government preferred to conduct its affairs in secret. The present Government is endeavouring to go as far as it can in the direction of having open government.
– You say one thing and do another.
– I should say, now that interjections have occurred, that honourable senators may be pleased to know that the work on the freedom of information Bills and the associated matters has been considerably advanced. Senator Greenwood mentioned the possibility of a debate tomorrow on the sub ject matter of the notice of motion. I should hope that there would not be a. debate on it tomorrow. I should hope that the matter would not come on until a little later. I offer that as a suggestion.
– It is very important that a decision be made promptly.
– Yes. It is also important that a decision be made on the full information. It is usual in such matters for some delay to occur before a notice of motion is acted upon. I would suggest that that course be taken tomorrow.
– I wish to direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Housing. Is the Minister aware that the Premier of South Australia, Mr Dunstan, announced the Australian Council of Trade Union’s housing plan at Noarlunga, south of Adelaide, during his policy speech for the recent South Australian elections? Has he also read the reported statement by the Federal Secretary of the Building and Construction Workers Union that he would not go along with the ACTU’s scheme as he was opposed to foreign capital being used and that the houses would be shoddy, at a cost of $10,000, because a contractor could not pay award rates and build a house, at that price? Is the Minister also aware that Mr Gallagher is reported to have the support of Mr Robinson, the State Secretary of the Union, who has claimed that the ACTU is a front for foreign capital and that he is considering putting proposals to other unions to place a black ban on the ACTU’s project? Can the Minister say whether this will mean the end of the ACTU’s proposal to construct houses for workers in Adelaide? As Mr Dunstan has stated that the South Australian Housing Trust is constructing homes at an average cost of $10,000 and as these homes are of proven quality and are built with Australian capital, will the Minister use his influence to persuade Mr Dunstan to change his policy and have this housing development carried out by the South Australian Housing Trust? In the event of the ACTU proceeding with its foreign investment proposal, what action does the Minister propose taking in order to protect workers who wish to purchase such homes against shoddy workmanship and holdups as a result of possible industrial action by the building and construction workers union?
- Mr President, it is most humorous how authorities change, is it not? I recall that the building and construction workers union mentioned - it is, in fact, the Builders Labourers Federation - was described in debates recently as the most despicable outfit in Australia because of its activities in industrial disputes.
– That is unfair.
– It was so described and a reading of Hansard would prove my point. Now the Federation is an authority on whether homes in the course of construction will be shoddy or otherwise.
– Which do you think it is?
– Senator Jessop asked a question and I would ask the primary industry gentleman to keep out of a matter about which he knows nothing. This subject is foreign to him. The Premier of South Australia said during his election policy speech that he would make land available at Port Noarlunga for an ACTU scheme to build homes for workers at a cost, it now eventuates, of $10,000. I believe that it was reaffirmed by the Premier, according to today’s Adelaide ‘Advertiser’, that they can be constructed for $10,000. Having some knowledge of home construction, and because of the system of construction I believe that an average house can be built for something in the vicinity of that amount. However, we have to consider 2 things. The first is the high cost of land, and the second is the high rate of interest that has to be paid on borrowed money. Those 2 elements that increase the cost of a home to people in the working community of Australia have been extracted from this scheme. The scheme is designed to provide cheap homes for deserving, home hungry people yet we find that the Opposition is opposed to it. Surely this matter should be given some encouragement. If a question of overseas investment or overseas takeover is involved - 1 think it goes no further than overseas investment - and this is in conflict with Federal Government or Treasury policy, I would say that the same action would be taken as would be taken where there is an attempt by overseas interests to take over certain operations in Australia. This is one of the first attempts to get cheap homes for those who deserve them, and perhaps the Federal Labor Government is being beaten to the gun. lt is the first attempt in Australia to provide new homes at a cheaper price, and it should receive our support rather than our condemnation.
– My question, addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, arises out of the debate on the Social Services Bill which was passed by the Senate last night. I now ask questions which the Minister was not able to answer yesterday. Can the Minister indicate whether there will be an increase of $1.50 in the base pension rate introduced during this coming autumn? Will the increased rates of pension be made retrospective to December and included in the first cheques payable in relation to age and invalid pensions on 22nd March next and in respect of widows pensions on 27th March next?
Senator DOUGLAS MCCLELLANDMight I say at the outset that I would have liked to reply to the matters raised in the second reading debate on the Social Services Bill introduced last week by the Government and which was debated in the Senate last night. However, because of the importance of getting early royal assent to the Bill in order that benefits could be paid, I deliberately cut short my reply to the speeches on the motion for the second reading of the Bill. The increase of $1.50 in the base pension rate which was alluded to by the honourable the Prime Minister in his recent Federal election policy speech, to be introduced in each autumn and spring session of Parliament until the base rate amounted to 25 per cent of average weekly earnings, was granted. The first part of it, namely the introduction of a measure of this nature in the autumn session, was dealt with in that Bill. It can be confidently expected by those involved that, as we honoured that part of our undertaking so too, in the spring session, there will be a similar and consequential amendment to the Act.
In relation to the second part of the honourable senator’s question which referred to retrospectivity, that Bill brings the rate of unemployment and sickness benefits up to the same level of pensions. It makes the payments retrospective to the first payment after 2nd December, which is 5th December in the case of widows and 14th December in the case of age and invalid pensioners. Unemployment and sickness benefits will start from the date on which the Bill receives royal assent. The earliest practical date for the Department of Social Security to pay pensions at the increased rate is 22nd March in the case of age and invalid pensions, and 27th March in the case of widows pensions. I am advised that the retrospective payments will be made to those 2 categories on the dates I have mentioned.
– I direct my question to the Minister assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Since the Minister has stated in a written answer to my question No. 107 that the Australian Government, since coming to office, has not communicated in any way with the People’s Republic of China regarding past or future nuclear testing by that country, why has it not done so? Will it now do so? Does it regard its statements when in Opposition as sufficient? Is it to be accepted by other countries that all policy expressions of the Australian Labor Party made to or of those countries while in Opposition are to be regarded as viable today?
– No. Our Ambassador has not taken up duty in Peking. At present we have a Charge d’Affaires there. This is a matter for the Australian Government. I cannot give any guarantee that we will or will not do so, or what subjects will be discussed with other countries, including the People’s Republic of China.
– Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware that the apple and pear industry in Tasmania is facing widespread distress and that unless adequate compensation is made for the huge losses due to currency revaluations, a complete collapse of the industry is feared? When will the Minister be able to announce to the Senate an answer to the problems faced by this industry because further delay may make certain a dramatic collapse of the industry at the end of the present harvest?
– The Tasmanian apple and pear industry has been sick for the last 10, 12 or 15 years. Predictions of collapse of the industry have been heard by all in that State for a long time. The Government already has made payments of $1,500 to apple and pear growers. It also has made supplementary grants of $1,000 to encourage growers in that industry to partake, if they wish, and are in sufficient difficulty, in the fruitgrowers’ reconstruction scheme. It is not intended, nor should it apply, that the adjustment payments made because of revaluation should be the panacea of the industry’s ills. The problems of that industry have been with us for a long time. I do not think there is any magic solution. If the markets continue to contract and the prices continue to become progressively less in relation to the cost factor of the industry, then obviously a balance has to be struck between production and marketing. Of course it is the aim of the fruitgrowers’ scheme to achieve this and this is one of the ways in which it can be achieved. I only say that the industry will continue to be looked at by the Government in the light of the situation which it has inherited.
– Does the honourable senator claim to have been misrepresented?
– I claim to have been misrepresented during question time.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted.
Senator DAVIDSON (South Australia)Earlier today the Minister for. the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) who in this chamber represents the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) referred to the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council and to myself as its chairman. He was. replying to Senator Durack who had asked a question about the form of words , to be used in the ceremony of naturalisation. The Minister said that the words were included in advice and recommendations received from the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council of which, he said, I was the Chairman. It is true that I have been privileged to be the Chairman of that Council for some 6 years. . I think the Minister knows that the chairman is an appointment made by the Minister of the day, therefore my appointment as .Chairman of the Immigration Advisory Council -.ceased with the advent of the new Government. As a matter of interest, my appointment was the first from the Senate in over 20 years’ existence of the Council. That representation of the Senate has been sustained by the appointment of Senator Mulvihill as my successor and I confirm my congratulations to him.
At no time during my chairmanship have such new form* of words for naturalisation been submitted by the Council to the Minister. A sub-committee of the Council is concerned with citizenship. The new Minister for Immigration may have referred this matter to that sub-committee for examination and advice. As 1 am no longer Chairman, if he did this I would be totally unaware of the sub-committee’s advice to him on the matter. I may have a view on the words but at the moment that is beside the point. I want to emphasise that I was in no way involved in the advice on the form of words which 1 understand is now proposed.
– by leave - I accept what Senator Davidson has said. He may recall that in the course of my reply to the question which was directed to me by Senator Durack my colleague the Minister for Works (Senator Cavanagh) interjected. He said that at one time Senator Davidson was Chairman of the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council. I responded to that interjection by my colleague. To which I apologise for any inconvenience which has been occasioned by my response to the interjection.
– It has been suggested to me by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) - I propose this for the consideration of the Senate and cheerfully adopt it although I have not had a chance to discuss it with others - that Notices of Motion Nos 1 to 4 which deal with standing committees be dealt with at 8 o’clock tonight. Normally Nos 3 and 4 would be dealt wilh on Thursdays when the reports of committees would be debated. I say this in the context that there has been delay in relation to notices of motion Nos 1 and 2 for some time because there have been discussions about some alteration in the wording, matters relating to a quorum and so forth. If it can be done we will circulate the proposals to honourable senators who do not have them prior to 8 o’clock. It is hoped that the matter can be disposed of without any debate.
– When is that? Is it today or tomorrow?
– Today. We hope that this can be done without any debate at 8 o’clock as there seems to be general concurrence in relation to the matters, as far as I can see. The suggestions which have been made by the Leader of the Opposition are acceptable to us. In the interests of the Senate we might be able to dispose of them at 8 o’clock.
– What the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) saws is correct. ‘ As honourable senators will recall, the Leader of the Government put down notices of motion Nos 1 and 2. We on the Opposition side had some views concerning them. We thought it would be far better if they were resolved on an amicable1 basis. I do not think that the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Senator Drake-Brockman) or the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party (Senator Gair) will object to my saying that I have had consultations with them. I imagine that the moment the proposals are put in proper form by the clerks - that should be done by 8 o’clock - they will be disposed of by 15 seconds past 8.
Ordered that Government Business, Notices of Motion Nos 1 to 4, take precedence of all other business at 8 p.m. today.
(5.12 - pursuant to contingent notice of motion I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
I do this out of consideration for the convenience of Mr Wilfred Burchett who is the subject of the proposed inquiry or investigation. I understand that the gentleman has an appointment in America early next month. As he has expressed publicly a desire for some investigation or some commission of inquiry into the allegations made against him I suggest that we proceed without delay. It would be most unfair to proceed with this proposed select committee in the absence of Mr Burchett. lt is for that reason that I have moved this motion.
– This motion has been proposed without any intimation being given to me. I do not know whether any intimation has been given to any of my colleagues. It is extraordinary that this should be done without any intimation and that the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party (Senator Gair) should come in now and seek to transfer a matter of General Business which would normally be dealt with on Thursday night. 1 could understand it if Senator Gair gave some intimation that he wished to proceed with his notice of motion on some Thursday night or even tomorrow night, but 1 understand that it is intended to proceed with the matter forthwith.
– That is the idea.
– It is proposed to proceed forthwith with an extremely important matter in relation to which honourable senators have had no chance whatever to prepare themselves and to consider the implications. I have not even had the chance - I may have had the chance, but I have had other things to do - to read in detail the notice of motion which has been given. In the ordinary course one expects that such a motion will come up as a matter of General Business. This is something which affects the rights of a citizen. I do not think that the Senate should rush into deciding whether a select committee should be established to investigate a citizen. That is what the notice of motion amounts to. It may be thought very expedient on 14th March 1973 to railroad or to attempt to railroad through the Senate a proposal to set up a committee of inquiry into the conduct of a citizen. But it seems to me that this is not the way in which the select committee processes of the Senate ought to be initiated. [ do not want to enter into a debate on the motion itself, but I want to indicate the seriousness of it. This is a matter which I suggest honourable senators should give very great consideration before it is pushed on in this Senate when, for a start, I as AttorneyGeneral and Leader of the Government in the Senate have not had the chance to look into the implications of it and- to go into the history of committees of inquiry into individ uals. What happens in a case such as this is that someone starts off on a .course for the sake of convenience, thinking: ‘Mr Burchett may be of no importance. We may get some political capital out of rushing into an inquiry into an individual’. The committees in the United States were brought into disrepute when they were used for purposes such as this. One of the great historical events of the second part of this century was the operations of the committee chaired by Senator McCarthy. Those committees were noted for their inquiries into the conduct of individuals instead of being used for the purpose for which they were originally conceived. They degenerated into inquiring into the activities of individuals.
It is proposed that this notice of motion be debated here without honourable senators having a chance to consider its grave implications, lt is for -all parties and all honourable senators to consider just how we should approach this matter. The proposal is to push this notice of motion on without our being given the chance for deliberation, study and inquiry. I think that many honourable senators would welcome the opportunity - other people outside would welcome the opportunity of assisting honourable senators with the material which they should have - to engage in a debate of this nature. I counsel the Senate that it is unwise to rush into a debate on whether such a committee should be set up without the chance for preparation and study. Surely Government “ senators are entitled to that opportunity without being launched into a debate on this notice of motion virtually forthwith.
I will not raise the matter of how it will disrupt the business of the Government, because those arguments ordinarily are put forward. Usually on these occasions pressure of business and other arguments are put forward. I think they pale into insignificance against the central question of the Senate rushing in to set up this inquiry at this stage without the chance for the preliminary study and investigation in which a deliberative body of this kind should engage. It is not intended to look into some area of industry or commerce. There is no suggestion in the motion that some legislative body is proposed. With great respect I .would ask Senator Gair not to proceed with this motion so that we are launched into a debate at this stage. It is not a good day for the Senate to have a debate of this kind.
Despite what I said about the enormity of what is being proposed and the fact that the business of the Government and even the ordinary business of the nation are relatively unimportant against the question of our being pushed into a decision on a grave matter without proper notice, I am reminded that there is important repatriation legislation still to be dealt with. Without having all the details, I understand that if that legislation is not passed the payments will not be made to the dependants as promised, and others who are entitled to repatriation benefit increases under the proposed legislation. That is of importance to those people and it is important to this Parliament, but its importance is minor compared with the importance of what is proposed in this motion.
It is said that Mr Burchett wants some inquiry. I do not know whether the inquiry he would suggest would be an inquiry of this nature, but it would not be enough that the setting up of such an inquiry is Mr Burchett’s wish. What is important is that the Senate should consider its own role, the purpose for which it will use its committees and whether committees of the Senate should be used in this way. If we start setting up committees of this nature we may be releasing a tiger and we will not even realise what we have done. Surely the Senate ought to be given the opportunity to consider the matter and to prepare for some days before the discussion and the decision on such a grave matter are undertaken by the Senate. In the interests of this institution and in the interests of wise government, I would counsel honourable senators not to be stampeded into a discussion of this matter without being given the opportunity for some reflection on the implications of what is proposed.
– The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) almost tugged at my heartstrings when he spoke about how urgent it was that certain Bills be passed this week. He says, in effect, that a computer has been programmed and we must not interfere with the computer. It is a pity that I do not have here copies of all the speeches that were made at Budget time when the previous Government used to put this point of view. The then Opposition used to say- I think quite rightly - that whatever proposal was before the Senate should be made, retrospective. Why should this Senate be subservient to a computer programmer in the Treasury? So, with due respect to Senator Murphy, I say that that argument falls to the ground.
I think Senator Murphy does his colleagues less than justice in raising the issue of McCarthyism in this place. I do not wish to go into the merits or demerits of McCarthyism as it arose in the United States 20 years ago. It occurred in another country in a different context of internal and international relationships. I do not think it does much good to drag that sort of herring - whether red, white or blue - through this place. I am always somewhat bemused at those who criticise McCarthyism and McCarthy himself. He did some terrible things, but his greatest haters seem to be the communists and the pro-communists. I have always had that in the back of my mind. It is rather remarkable that it is the opposite, side, of politics which continues to attack McCarthyism and keep it alive.
– The late President Johnson voted for his censure. Was he on that side of politics?
– I did not think that President Johnson rated very highly in your Party. It is a rather silly argument to raise in the Australian Senate in 1973. The Leader of the Government talks about somebody going to railroad this motion through. After all, the Senate is the master of its own House and, as I understand the procedures in this place, if 31 Senators want something they are entitled to have it. I have always believed in what Senator Kennelly used to talk about - the brutality of numbers. I do not complain about what it happening to the present Opposition in the House of Representatives because for 23 years that Opposition was in government and used the brutality of numbers. At present we are seeing the brutality of numbers in the other place to achieve political ends. Therefore Government senators ought not to cry that sort of stuff in this chamber. Senator Gair as a senator is entitled to bring on his motion. The Opposition will vote for him to have leave to bring it on. We shall decide about what is happening to the present Oppoceeds. But surely Senator Gair is entitled to bring on this motion. Government senators are afraid of this happening at all, for without going into the merits of the case they do not want their friend Mr Burchett paraded before a Senate committee and exposed.
– You are saying already that he is guilty before the Senate committee sees him.
– Mr Acting Deputy President, I am pleased that this interjection has been made because it is quite obvious that even if this motion were deferred for another month Government senators would not support it. They have already decided they are not going to have a bar of it. Whether it comes on tonight or in a month’s time their attitude towards it will be exactly the same. Therefore I indicate that the view of the official Opposition in this place is that we will support the procedural motion moved by Senator Gair.
– I say at the outset that I oppose the proposal because I think it is nothing short of what will eventually turn out to be an inquisition. I do not want to canvass the merits of the matter, but 1 do warn the Senate. I ask the Senate to take notice of the counsel of the Leader of the Government (Senator Murphy) because I have been informed - and I am seeking information through the research section of the Parliamentary Library to confirm the information that has been conveyed to me - that the gentleman who would be the subject of this inquiry has taken legal action against a journalist and a newspaper on much the same sort of subject matter as is contained in the proposal moved by Senator Gair and which would be subject to inquiry by a Senate committee. I simply say this to the Senate, and I concede that it is based on very limited experience in this chamber: I can recall that one night when I was an Opposition member the then Leader of the Government, Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, a man I have some respect for, gave me certain advice. I was speaking in the adjournment debate about a matter that I had raised and when I referred to a certain individual, Sir Kenneth Anderson immediately counselled me about the appropriateness of continuing because of a pending court case concerning the same individual. Even though I intimated then that I had the authority of the person concerned to say the things that I wanted to say, I accepted the wise counsel tendered to me by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson.
– Senator Wright also had something to say at that time.
– It may well be that Senator Wright in his role as a Minister of the Crown at that time and as a member of the legal profession also took the same point. I suggest to both Senator Gair and the Opposition generally that they should allow the matter to be deferred so that, apart from what my Leader has said, the reference to me of the action taken by Mr Burchett can be confirmed or otherwise. I do this because I am sure that this Senate would not want to proceed in such circumstances. I do not question the powers of the Senate; they are such that the Senate may proceed with an inquiry notwithstanding any other action taken outside this chamber. I acknowledge this; nevertheless I think that the action proposed could create a precedent which would be to the disadvantage of and would affect the dignity and standing of this institution. For those reasons I join with my Leader in counselling the Opposition and in suggesting to Senator Gair that he may be prepared to allow the matter to be stood over for the time being.
– Mr Acting Deputy President, Senator Gair used the procedures of this House yesterday to give notice that he would move today a certain motion. This action is open to any senator and particularly to the Leader of a Party in the Senate. Yet immediately Senator Gair did this, the Leader of the Government (Senator Murphy) rose in his place and said that this motion should not be proceeded with, that no notice had been given to him as Leader of the Government or to those who sit behind him, so that they could make an investigation into the matter and compile some information with which they could meet the points put forward by Senator Gair.
The Leader of the Government then talked about important legislation which this Parliament must pass. For a long time I sat on the other side of the House and saw Senator Murphy walk into this place and with less than 2 hours notice say that he had a matter of importance which the Government had to deal with. But he had never given the Government one scrap of information before coming into this place that he was going to do so. Nor did he pay any regard to any legislation which the Government of that time had before it. If the Leader of the Opposition at that time believed he had an important matter which the Senate ought to deal with he used the procedures of this House and raised that matter immediately irrespective of the program the Government had in hand. Today Senator Murphy is Leader of the Government with a program of legislation to get through the House yet, according to him, noone on this side should be allowed to raise a matter of public importance - because he has not had time to discuss it or because he has a legislative program which he must get through as quickly as possible. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) that this is absolute nonsense. Surely we on this side of the House, and particularly the Leaders of parties on this side of the House, can be given time to raise matters which we believe are important. It is for this reason that we in the Australian Country Party support Senator Gair in his efforts to raise this matter today.
– As a member of the Government I am concerned about events that have taken place in this chamber as a result of moves by the Leader of the Democratic Labor Party (Senator Gair) over the last 2 days. Yesterday Senator Gair placed a long and detailed notice of motion on the business paper relating to an Australian citizen, one Mr Wilfred Burchett, and he took some time to read the contents of that motion to the Senate. I note that one of his proposals is that the proposed committee to be set up under the terms of his motion consist of 7 senators, 3 of whom are to be nominated by the Leader of the Government. Of the 4 other senators, 2 are to be nominated by the Leader of the Opposition, one by the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party and one by the Leader of the Australian Country Party. In other words, if this motion were carried eventually, we would deprive at least 3 senators of their right to sit on such a committee which has been alluded to by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) and, by way of interjection, by my colleague Senator O’Byrne, as a witch hunting committee.
What is the situation? Had the Leader of the DLP in the Senate, the Leader of the Country Party - I was amazed to hear Senator Drake-Brockman adopt the attitude that he has adopted - or the Leader of the Opposition decided to have, this matter raised today, they could have done so by way of an urgency motion. It is all very well for Senator Drake-Brockman, as Leader of the Country Party in the Senate, to say that this Govern ment, which, .does not have . the majority of members , in the Senate chamber, is trying to deprive Opposition members of the right to raise matters that they consider to be urgent and in the public interest. If they do consider them to be urgent, they could have moved by way of urgency motion in the Senate chamber. But what happened today at question time? We heard from the Leader of the DLP a long and detailed charge, by way of accusation, about a Swiss author - not an Australian citizen.
– In the form of a question.
– Yes, it was in the form of a long, detailed question. The honourable senator may recall that the President of the Senate did not calf upon me as the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration in the Senate to stand and reply to the question. He immediately directed that it be placed on the notice paper. The honourable senator knows why he asked that question today. He probably knew that it would be directed to be placed on the notice paper. Normally, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, when questions are directed to be placed on the notice paper they are not broadcast in the rebroadcast of the Senate question time. But today, because the Senate’ proceedings are being broadcast directly, the honourable senator could use this chamber to libel, defame, traduce, villify and smear a foreigner.
He wants to take further advantage of the fact that the Senate proceedings are being broadcast directly to bring forward this proposition so that he can use the Senate chamber to defame an Australian citizen who, at this stage, has not been heard to speak in his own defence. The simple fact of the matter is that Mr Burchett was in this country some 18 months or 2 years ago when the previous Government was in office. Having the majority of members in another place and in this place, with the support of the DLP, had the previous government been sincere at that time, 20 years after the event instead of 22 years after the event as it is now, it could have moved in the manner in which Senator Gair is now moving. Frankly, I regard this as an insincere attempt on the part of Senator Gair, supported by the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Country Party, to use the fact that this House is being broadcast at this time to bring on this motion so that they, can bring out the old McCarthy stunt which we have heard from them for so long and which the Australian people have rejected on so many occasions. I oppose the motion.
– It seems strange to me to hear such conflicting statements from the Government in resisting the motion that we are discussing to set up a committee for the purposes outlined. It is very strange when the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) suggests that this is a terrible thing to do because the members of the Senate have not had time to consider the proposal. Then, he was followed by his colleague, Senator Brown, who said that the committee would be an inquisition.
– Of course it would.
– There you are. He says: Of course it would.’ He has had sufficient time to consider the matter. He has even come to a judgment. So when his leader said that the Government had not had sufficient time to consider this, he should have excluded Senator Brown because he has had all the time in the world. He has already come to a conclusion.
Of course. Senator Douglas McClelland’s objection was that the committee would be loaded. Senator Gair is suggesting the setting up of a 7-man committee of which one member only of his own Party will be a member. But it is suggested that somehow or other that member will dominate the Committee. I know that the DLP has won a lot of respect in politics, but even I did not think that we were that good. Even I did not think that we were so good that just one DLP senator on a committee of 7 would dominate the whole show and turn the proper inquiry that Senate select committees have always been into some sort of inquisition as Senator Brown, quite contrary to the facts, suggests might be the case.
Of course, Senator Douglas McClelland raised the fact that this Mr Burchett was in Australia some 18 months or 2 years ago. That is right. He was in this country illegally. He did not even have a passport. At that time he was the very person about whom Senator Douglas McClelland was complaining. Virtually, he was not a citizen of this country. Yet, it is Senator Douglas McClelland who objects to the fact that Senator Gair asked a question about some person from Switzerland who apparently has some sort of a record in the opinion of somebody who had written a book about the matter. What has been written is there for anybody to take legal action against or do anything he wants to do about it. Yet Senator Douglas McClelland said that this was a terrible thing to do to a person from another country. But the facts are different in regard to Mr Burchett now. One of the first acts of this Government was to give a passport to this person who has raised a great deal of controversy and doubt in the minds of the Australian people, because of the things that he himself has said. He has said that he would welcome an inquiry. This inquiry may well clear the name of Mr Burchett of the things that a great number of the returned servicemen of this country who have served abroad have come back and said about him. It should be the concern of the ALP that if these returned servicemen who have fought for this country alongside, their colleagues have been misinformed or if there is a case of misidentification and Mr Burchett was not the person who did the things that the returned servicemen said he has done, this unprecedented opportunity should be given to this person who has now regained his Australian passport and whom the ALP must hope will again become a respected citizen of this country. At least this proposition will not be decided as quickly as the decision was made to give Mr Burchett a passport. That decision and announcement were made almost at the same time that members of the present Government knew they were a government.
They did not consider the position or ask the opinions of returned servicemen who may or may not have been interrogated in foreign prisoner of war camps by Mr Burchett. All we want to know is: Are these allegations true or false? That is the whole purpose of setting up the committee. To suggest that a committee that will have representation from 4 political parties and on which the Democratic Labor Party will have only one representative to express the view that may be held by this Party will be in some way stacked against Mr Burchett is completely ridiculous and honourable senators opposite know it. We do not need more time to consider the motion. It does not involve reaching a decision on any matter other than the calling of a proper inquiry with the right to call witnesses and with the right of the person himself to have his say and also to call witnesses.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
Government Business, Notices of Motion Nos 1 to 4 taking precedence of all other business.
The seven Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committees appointed last Session be reappointed, and be known, unless otherwise ordered, as the Standing Committees on -
Opposition (Liberal Party)- Thirteen Senators, two to each of six Committees and one to one Committee, to be appointed by the Leader of the Opposition and the Senate.
Australian Country Party- Three Senators, one to each of three Committees, to be appointed by the Leader of the Country Parry in the Senate.
Australian Democratic Labor Party- Three Senators, one to each of three Committees, to be appointed by the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party.
Independents- Two Senators, one to each of two Committees, to be appointed by the Independent Senators.
Unless it be otherwise specially provided by the Standing Orders, the reference of a matter to a Standing Committee shall be on Motion after Notice. Such Notice of Motion may be given -
Any such notice of Motion shall be placed on the Notice Paper for the next sitting day as ‘Business of the Senate’ and, as such, shall take precedence of Government and general business set down for that day.
Motion (by Senator Willesee) - by leave - agreed to:
That the Notice of Motion be amended as follows:
Leave out paragraphs (3), (4), (5) and (6), insert the following paragraphs:
Opposition (Liberal Party) 14 Senators, 2 to each of the Committees, to be nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate.
Australian Country Party - 3 Senators, one to each of 3 Committees, to be nominated by the Leader of the Australian Country Party in the Senate.
Australian Democratic Labor Party - 3 Senators, one to each of 3 Committees, to be nominated by the Australian Democratic Labor Party.
Independents - 2 Senators, one to each of 2 Committees, to be nominated by the Independent Senators.
The particular Standing Committees in respect of which the Australian Country Party, the Australian Democratic Labor Party or the Independents make nominations shall be determined by agreement between those Parties and Independents, and, in the absence of agreement duly notified to the President, the question as to the representation on any particular Standing Committee as between those Parties and Independents shall be determined by the Senate.
Motion (by Senator Willesee) agreed to:
That the motion, as amended, be agreed to.
Opposition (Liberal Party) - Sixteen Senators, three to each of four Committees and two to each of two Committees to be appointed by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate.
Australian Country Party - Three Senators, one to each of three Committees, to be appointed by the Leader of the Country Party in the Senate.
Australian Democratic Labor Party- Three Senators, one to each of three Committees, to be appointed by the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party.
Independents - Two Senators, one to each of two Committees, to be appointed by the Independent Senators.
Motion (by Senator Willesee) - by leave - agreed to:
That the notice of motion be amended as follows:
Leave out paragraphs (2), (3) and (4), insert the following paragraphs:
Unless otherwise ordered, each Committee shall consist of eight Senators, four being members of the Government Party, to be nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, and four being Senators who are not members of the Government Party.
Non-Government representation upon the Committees shall be as follows:
Opposition (Liberal Party)- Sixteen Senators, three to each of four Committees and two to each of two Committees to be nominated by the Leader of the Oppositionin the Senate.
Australian Country Party - Three Senators, one to each of three Committees, to be nominated by the Leader of the Country Party in the Senate.
Australian Democratic Labor Party- Three Senators, one to each of three Committees to be nominated by the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party.
Independents - Two Senators, one to each of two Committees, to be nominated by the Independent Senators.
The particular Committees to which the nonGovernment parties and Independents make nominations, shall be determined by, agreement between those parties and Independents, and, in the absence of agreement duly notified to the President, the question as to the representation on any particular Committee as between those parties and Independents shall be determined by the Senate.
Paragraph (13), leave out ‘two’, insert ‘three’.
Motion (by Senator Willesee) agreed to:
That the motion, as amended, be agreed to.
Motion (by Senator Willesee) agreed to:
That on Thursdays, unless otherwise ordered -
The consideration of the Reports of Standing and Select Committees of the Senate be placed on the Notice Paper as ‘Business of the Senate’ and, as such, shall take precedence of other business set down for such day.
The consideration of the Reports shall take precedence on the Notice Paper pursuant to their date of presentation to the Senate.
The maximum period each Thursday for the consideration of Reports of Committees, in accordance with this resolution, shall be 2 hours, but in any event shall conclude 3 hours after the time fixed for the meeting of the Senate.
No senator shall speak for more than 30 minutes in such a debate, unless otherwise ordered.
The foregoing provisions of this resolution, so far as they are inconsistent with the Standing Orders, shall have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders.
Motion (by Senator Willesee) agreed to:
Debate resumed (vide page 421)
– At the suspension of the Senate for dinner I had almost concluded my remarks. At this point of time I merely want to remind honourable senators who have objected, in violent terms, to the idea of this committee that it has always been the practice of the Senate in setting up committees to have representation along the lines suggested for this committee. I remember Senator Murphy coming into this chamber in great haste with a proposition to set up the very important Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange. The proposition was agreed to by the Senate and nobody cast aspersions that somebody may be trying to dominate somebody else. To make charges that a committee, such as that which has been suggested by Senator Gair, would in any way act unfairly at all or act as an inquisition of course does not demean the Australian Democratic Labor Party; all it does is demean the Senate itself.
If anyone is hurt personally at all it will be the members of the Australian Labor Party who are selected by their own party to represent it on the committee. After all, if on the committee, 3 members of the Labor Party, think that they cannot equal in discussion and debate one member of the Democratic Labor Party, the members of the Labor Party have a remarkable lack of confidence in themselves. To suggest that the appointment of a member of the Democratic Labor Party to the committee will cause the committee in some way to operate unfairly or to the detriment of the views of the Labor Party merely reflects on the capacity of the members of the Labor Party on the committee to put their own point of view.
If some members of the Labor Party hold that view about their own members, let me here and now say that I do not share it. I have worked on committees, which have dealt with many topics, with members of all parties in the Senate, and I have found that the motivating force of the committees has always been the desire to ascertain what is in the best interests of Australia, to elicit the facts which the committees have been instructed by the Senate to seek on behalf of the Senate, and to report back to the Senate. I believe that there is a need for the commit tee which has been suggested by Senator Gair. I also believe that the Senate is wise in considering this motion now. I hope that when the proposition for the setting up of this committee is put it will be carried unanimously by the Senate.
– I am opposing the motion before the Senate. I believe that this is a matter to which members of the Liberal and Country parties should be giving a great deal more attention before they proceed to the passage of this motion of which notice was given only yesterday. It is a very serious motion. It calls for the constitution of a Senate select committee of a nature totally different from that of any of the committees which have been operating in the Senate over the past 8 years at least, while I have been a member of this chamber.
The motion we are considering calls for an inquisitorial committee to inquire into the behaviour of an individual. It is not a committee which calls for the examination of some aspect of the national life of this country; it is not a committee which calls for an inquiry into some particular field of endeavour - whether it be drug trafficking and drug abuse, or water pollution or any of the other matters that have been dealt with - and dealt with properly - in the past by committees of the Senate. In fact, it is a committee whose purpose is to drag through the mire of publicity and innuendo the name of an Australian citizen.
Senator Little said that this committee is to operate on the same basis as previous committees. He also said that Senator Murphy came into this chamber and moved a motion that a committee to inquire into securities and exchange should be established, and that the proposition we are discussing tonight is just the same as the proposition regarding securities and exchange which was put by Senator Murphy. For one thing, the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange did not set out to, nor did it, blackguard any individual. It was meant to be an objective inquiry into an aspect of our national life. The motion that was moved by Senator Murphy provided that there should be on the committee 4 Government senators, only 3 Opposition senators and one senator from the Australian Democratic Labour Party. The very proposition that was put by Senator Murphy provided that the party of which he is the Leader should have only 3 out of the 8 members on the committee and that the other 5 senators should be opponents of this party. To say that this is the same as the proposition which is now being put by Senator Gair is transparently false because what Senator Gair is putting is that the committee should consist of a majority of Opposition senators.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Order! The motion before the Chair is that intervening business be postponed until after the consideration of General Business, notice of motion No. 9. I think that Senator Wheeldon is debating notice of motion No. 9.
– I beg to differ, if 1 may, Mr Deputy President. I would refer you to what was just said by Senator Little and to the contributions that have been made by all Opposition speakers. They have dealt with the substance of this proposition. In fact, Senator Little himself just referred to the same question and the points that I am putting now are in answer to the points made by Senator Little. I fall to see how suddenly they become out of order, if they were in order a few minutes ago when Senator Little was making these very points.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I suggest to you that you do not debate my ruling on this matter. You will recall that I have occupied the chair for a very short time. I came into the chamber at the end of Senator Little’s contribution. What happened previously is of no consequence to my ruling. I would hope that the Senate will debate the motion before the Chair. My ruling will apply equally to honourable senators from both sides of the chamber.
– That is what I am endeavouring to do. It seems to me that it is very difficult to discuss the urgency of the proposition that is now before the Senate without referring to the substance of the proposition. If one does not know what the substance of the proposition is, then obviously one cannot debate whether or not the matter is urgent. The submission that I am making is that the substance of the proposition, of which notice has been given by Senator Gair, is of such a nature that there should be some delay in the continuation of the discussion of the motion - that we should not proceed with the motion tonight. The submissions I make are of a very serious nature. I would like to draw attention to something which 1 believe reflects the scandalous nature of the motion which has been moved today. It is known, and it certainly must be known to Senator Kane, if not to his colleagues in the Democratic Labor Party, that a writ was issued last month by Mr Burchett against Senator Kane for defamation arising from the very matters that are contained in the motion.
I have never seen a more flagrant abuse of the rules of this Senate than that a member of a certain Party should have a writ issued against him for defamation by an Australian citizen and, while this writ is still extant and has not been dealt with, that very Party should move a motion in the Senate to blackguard the man who is party to the action against the DLP senator. This is dragging the reputation of this Parliament through the gutter. If this is the approach which the so-called Liberal Party is to adopt to the rights of individuals and to justice before the law, it. should be exposed to all of the Australian people that this is what it means by law and order; that this is what it means by the rule of law; that this is what it means by a democratic Parliament. I hope that all of the people of Australia know exactly what is being done here tonight.
The motion is couched in syrupy terms which suggest that it was moved because Mr Burchett asked for a public inquiry. Mr Burchett asked for a public inquiry last year when he was in this country and when the then Government, which is now the Opposition, declined to take any action whatever. When Mr Burchett asked for a public inquiry he obviously meant a judicial inquiry. One other fact which I put to members of the Opposition to consider is the remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition in this Senate when he misquoted former Senator Kennelly as saying that he believed in the brutality of numbers. The Leader of the Opposition says that he believes in the brutality of numbers. What a confession to make when tha proposition which is before the Senate is that the Opposition parties should have the numbers on this committee. What a confession of what this committee would be. We are told that the matter is urgent. These acts which were allegedly committed by Mr Burchett but which apparently did not offend the United States Administration or Dr Kissinger because Mr Burchett was invited to confer with Dr Kissinger on these matters-
– I rise to order, Mr Deputy President. The motion before the Senate is that General Business, notice of motion No. 9 relating to the appointment of a select committee, take precedence of all business on the notice paper this sitting.
– Speaking to the point of order raised by Senator Gair I would point out, Mr Deputy President, that the debate has been dealing with the matter to which you assented earlier in the day. Frankly, I think that Senator Wheeldon’s submission to you would have to be upheld.
– What submission is that?
– You should have been listening. Senator Wheeldon raised the point that it would be impossible merely to debate the technicality of why it is desired to put one notice of motion, No. 9, above all other things on the notice paper. The situation, as Senator Wheeldon is well developing, is that this whole question goes much wider than that. I respectfully put to you that to uphold the point of order would be doing something which is not the way of the Senate, namely, that latitude is always given in matters such as this. If you uphold the point of order, it would be impossible to debate whether to allow this very serious motion, which has the effect of wiping everything else on the notice paper for the time being to come forward. The point Senator Wheeldon is raising is that there should certainly not be any curtailment of debate. He seems to me to be raising a tremendously serious matter. I am wandering whether this whole question is not sub judice. It well could be. I think that after this motion has been disposed of the Senate should put its mind to that point. It is a very serious matter to interfere with the courts of the land. I suggest that the only possible way for the Senate to make up its mind on this question is to allow a debate not only on the technical matters but also on the serious reasons why the Democratic Labor Party has taken this step.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - In view of the nature of the debate so far the point of order will not be upheld. However, I would request honourable senators to remember that the motion before he Senate does not permit a debate of notice of motion No. 9 standing in the name of Senator Gair. The question for debate is whether other business shall be postponed. In the strict terms of the Standing Orders that is a formal motion, and to anticipate a debate is not the normal practice of the Senate. I will give consideration to the point that has been raised but 1 appeal to honourable senators not to traverse too widely the subject of notice of motion No. 9 which the Senate is apparently anticipating.
– The point of order I now raise is along the lines referred to by Senator Willesee. It concerns the question whether this matter is sub judice. Senator Wheeldon has made some revelations, which have not been denied, to the effect that a writ has been issued by the individual whom we are discussing and it is therefore up to the court to decide some questions which will involve the activities of one Burchett. If we come to the stage of debating the notice of motion, whenever it comes on, we will be deciding something that is to be considered by the court. Could the discussion in the Senate prejudice any defence or any complainant, or could it in some way influence a trial jury? While the placing of business may be the main question, we are debarred by the traditions of this House from discussing anything that is before the court, and whenever notice of motion No. 9 comes on we will be then deciding the very question which the court will be asked to decide. I ask you, Mr Deputy President, to trace the traditions of this House in relation to this matter. Should there be in the Senate an open and public debate on something that has to be decided by the court? Should we put ourselves in that position?
A point of order was raised against Senator Wheeldon but he survived it justifiably, with respect, on your decision, Mr Deputy President. However, he may find it impossible to proceed on the point as to whether the order of business should be changed without going into the very items on which a court may be asked to rule in the future. Are we to have 2 trials of this man? If we believe in the rule of law, should the Senate take over the rule of law by deciding the issue tonight? With respect, according to our practice in this chamber there should be no further discussion on any aspect of the matter until there is a withdrawal of the action before a court or a court has decided on it.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- The point of order cannot be upheld. The matter of whether item No. 9 of General Business is sub judice cannot arise on the present motion. The motion asks that intervening business be postponed. Therefore the difficulty in which the Senate is placed as to whether the matter is sub judice stems from the Senate’s departure from the normal procedure of business in debating something which is beyond the terms of the motion. The question as to whether the matter is sub judice cannot possibly arise on the motion before the Senate.
– I did not raise the matter at this stage for the purpose of a point of order as to whether the matter is sub judice. I do not wish to debate the substance of the allegations which are contained in the motion of which notice has been given by Senator Gair. I wish to refer to the alleged urgency attaching to the debate of these matters this evening. I believe it is relevant to say to honourable senators opposite that they ought to consider what urgency there is in the question when at least some of the offences alleged to have been committed by Mr Burchett relate to events 20 years ago. He has been in Australia since then at a time when honourable senators opposite were in government, while Senator Greenwood, who is now the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, was Attorney-General, and no action whatsoever was taken against him. But suddenly urgency has arisen and the matter has to be debated now.
What is the only new factor? The only new factor is that a writ for libel has been issued by Mr Burchett against a Democratic Labor Party senator. That is the only urgency in this matter. That is the only reason why the DLP wants to debate this question tonight. What other urgency is there? If the DLP is looking for a judicial inquiry into Mr Burchett’s activities it has a golden opportunity. Senator Kane could take immediate steps to get the writ set down for trial so that he can appear before a Supreme Court justice and a jury. He could give his evidence as to what he alleges to have happened in Korea and elsewhere. Mr Burchett could tell his story and it would not be before a kangaroo court consisting of 2 members of the Liberal Party, one member of the Country Party and one member of the Democratic Labor Party. It would be before a Supreme Court justice and jury. If this is what members of the law and order Party want, let them press for it. Let them press to have the case set down for trial. They should not blackguard a man in this coward’s castle. We have already heard the Leader of the Democratic Labor Party (Senator Gair) today blackguarding a Swiss writer in absentia who has no right to answer here.
That is not what we want to make of this Parliament. This Parliament should not be lowered to the level of being used to feather the nests of people who want to blackguard individuals who do not have the right to reply. This has particular force when the individual concerned challenged the former Government when he was in Australia last year to have an impartial judicial inquiry into his activities and the Government rejected the challenge. The DLP says that it is an urgent matter which ought to be investigated by a select committee of the Senate. It is suddenly urgent now, but it was not urgent last year when Mr Burchett was in this country and invited the Government of that time to have a judicial inquiry.
A lot of new information must have arisen. Dr Kissinger has been accused of many things but never of being a communist agent, a fellow traveller of the Labor Party or even a fellow traveller of the United States Democratic Party. One of the people he insisted on speaking to before he entered into negotiations with the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam and the Government of North Vietnam was the same Wilfred Burchett. Dr Kissinger apparently did not feel that there was such urgency that Mr Burchett ought to be investigated by a committee of the United States Senate. He was not only prepared but anxious to discuss these matters with Mr Burchett.
I wish to raise one other matter. 1 believe that I have taken a very open-minded attitude towards Senate committees. In fact, some of my colleagues in the Labor Party have thought that I have been rather too openminded with regard to some of the select committees which have operated in recent years. I have been quite happy to continue with Opposition chairmen and majorities, not changing the composition of various committees, because I believe that they have performed a valuable function of inquiring into the facts and bringing down recommendations about proposed changes in the law that might be considered. However, I can assure members of the Liberal Party that if their attitude tonight is to be their attitude to select committees, if this is the sort of select committee that they want to constitute, I will have to review my attitude. The present Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers), who is showing his steady industry in his new job once again this evening, said: ‘You can exercise a brutal majority on these committees.’ If that is the attitude of the Opposition to this proposed committee, that will also be my attitude about all other committees.
I can imagine the sort of appeals that will be. made in the future by honourable senators opposite about how members of the Senate Regulations and Ordinances Committee, for example, ought to look at matters objectively. I believe they should. I believe that all committees of that nature ought to look at matters objectively. But can we believe that this is what they will do when the Opposition is prepared to support a proposition which gives a majority to the Opposition in order to set up and frame a man who has been prepared to test his bona fides by issuing a writ against a DLP senator who apparently is not prepared to face him in court but wants to have the matter dealt with in absentia in the Senate tonight?
– And denies the right of 3 independent senators to be elected to the committee.
– Yes. We know very well that this proposition has been moved tonight because the Opposition parties are unable to defeat the Government on its promises relating to the Australian economy, social services and reforms in industrial relations. What they hope to do is get out the old Mccarthyite tactics which they found so successful during the 1950s when they tried to terrify people with their red arrows coming down from China, descending on Perth.
– What has this to do with the motion?
– It has everything to do with the motion. Senator Gair thinks he is back in business now in Brisbane accusing everybody who disagrees with him of being a communist spy. I have news for the Democratic Labor Party, the Liberal Party and the Country Party. The people of Australia are not prepared to cop this any longer. They know very well that any sensible statesman in the world is prepared to talk to China, North Vietnam and the Soviet Union. Even General Franco, the idol and hero of the DLP, has entered into diplomatic relations with China on precisely the same terms as those on which Australia has entered into diplomatic relations with China. They think that they can defeat us by blackguarding Wilfred Burchett in absentia, not being prepared to have a judicial investigation when he was in this country last year. If there was any evidence against him, I would like to-
– Is he a close friend of yours?
– Senator Webster is very talkative on this issue. We have with us the old duo, Mr Justice Webster and Mr Justice Jessop. We have the Full Bench. I would like to ask Senator Webster, as he is so vociferous on this matter and if he believes that these serious accusations against Mr Burchett have some substance, why he did not press Senator Greenwood when he was the AttorneyGeneral to prosecute Wilfred Burchett when he was in Australia last year. He was in the country. Why did not the Government prosecute him if they believed that these matters ought to be tested before a tribunal? If that was their belief they could have had a tribunal hear charges against him. Mr Burchett could have been charged with offences against the Crimes Act or against the common law of this country. But the Government did not do so. Why did it not do so? lt did not do so presumably because it did not have any evidence. What the members of the Opposition want to do is to have an inquiry by a committee on which they have the. numbers on a subject on which they have already expressed their opinions. We have already heard what the Democratic Labor Party, which has put forward this proposition, has been saying about Burchett for years. The Democratic Labor Party wants to have a committee of inquiry on which it has the numbers and in which it can blackguard him while at the same time saving Senator Kane from some discomfort in the court action which Mr Burchett has brought against him. That is the reason for the urgency . of this matter.
I would like to conclude by offering a word of advice to members of the Liberal Party of Australia. I think that they have a couple of clear choices available to them in the role that they are going to play in opposition over the next few years. First, they can try to adapt themselves to a changing world and a higher level of education in this country, knowing that there are now people who do not believe the sort of twaddle they were talking in 1949 about socialism leading to communism, China being an agent of Russia,
Indonesia being an agent of China, the Australian Labor Party being an agent of Indonesia and the sort of stuff that was served up for years. There is a much too sophisticated population in this country now to accept the sort of drivel and the sort of nonsense that are enclosed in the proposition put forward by Senator Gair. The members of the Liberal Party can take that into account and convert themselves into a genuine liberal party, for which there is a role in any society, or they can take up the suggestion that has been put forward tonight by the absent Leader of the Opposition, who does not appear to be paying a very keen interest in this debate, that the only people who were critical of Senator McCarthy were the communists and that the only people who did not have faith in Senator McCarthy were the communists when the overwhelming majority of the United States Senate itself censured Senator McCarthy, including the late President Johnson, who was one of the sponsors of the motion of censure of Senator McCarthy. But apparently that is not good enough for Senator Withers. He still thinks it was only the communists who attacked Senator McCarthy.
I would like to offer a word of warning to the Liberal Party. I do so because, along with some others, I believe that the Liberal Party could play a valuable role over the next few years by performing the function of a sensible opposition. I do not believe that it is going to perform that function by continuing along the lines which it has followed tonight of supporting the proposition which is before the Chair. This is something which the Australian people do not accept. The Australian people do not accept the proposition involved in blackguarding a man in his absence when there has been an opportunity to deal with him judicially. Anyone who wanted to deal with Burchett judicially has had plenty of opportunities to do so. They will still have the opportunity of doing so when the writ which has been issued against Senator Kane is dealt with by the court. I warn the Liberal Party that if it wants to play any sort of role in opposition and receive any respect from the Australian people it should abandon these absurd tactics, which have been discredited not only in this country but also throughout the rest of the world.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy President. My point of order is that the overwhelming weight of constitutional authority is against your ruling that this debate can continue. I wish briefly to refer to that authority. I wish to quote from the Journal of the Society of Clerks-at-the-Table in Empire Parliaments, which I have obtained from the AttorneyGeneral’s library. I wish to refer specifically to the following passage:
There is no specific Standing Order of the Senate which covers debate on matters which are sub judice, but the practice of the Australian Senate is not to allow debate on a question awaiting determination by a court of law. This practice is based on rulings which have been gIven by the Chair and which have not been disapproved by the Senate, and the following, given by President Givens on 3rd August 1921, clearly illustrates the Senate’s accepted policy:
The point of order raised by the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) is, of course, a very important one, and, although our Standing Orders are silent in this connection, fortunately we have ample precedents to guide us. As honourable senators are aware, where our Standing Orders are silent, this Senate, as well as all other Parliaments or branches of a Legislature, are guided by the practice of the House of Commons. The whole question turns on whether the matter is sub judice or not. From the statements of the Minister for Defence, speaking on behalf of the Repatriation Department, and of Senator Elliott, it appears to me that the terms upon which this business was handed over by the Repatriation Department to the trustees is a matter which is now awaiting settlement by the Court, because certain parties, according to the statement by Senator Elliott, have initiated proceedings to prevent the trustees from taking any action in regard to it. Therefore, the whole question, in my opinion, is involved in litigation. The last edition of May, on page 296, clearly lays down the practice of the House of Commons. That ruling has been followed by innumerable others, and it is obviously a good one, because it would be highly improper for any person occupying a position of privilege in this Senate to seek to prejudice a case which is awaiting judgment by a Court. Therefore, as I gather from Senator Elliott’s remarks that the terms upon which this property was handed over is a matter that will come before a Court, by whom it will, no doubt, be weighed, and a judgment given, and as the case is still awaiting adjudication, following the practice of the House of Commons, I must rule that the honourable senator is out of order.
I mention that this is also the practice in the legislatures of New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia. The learned authors of this book conclude as follows:
It is clear from the foregoing that although there are minor differences between the legislatures in the detailed interpretation of this principle, the principle itself is nowhere in dispute. The privilege of freedom of speech carries with it grave obligations, and it is not surprising that responsible legislatures have steadfastly refused to exercise it in such a way as to put in jeopardy the rights of a private individual whose case is in due process of trial.
I submit, Mr Deputy President, that all the constitutional precedents clearly establish that this is a debate which just cannot proceed.
– On the point of order: I find myself bound to support the observations just made by my colleague, Senator James McClelland. No matter how much we may have tried to avoid introducing into this debate points which will come up in the substantive debate which will subsequently take place on this matter they have nevertheless been introduced during the course of this debate and will continue to be introduced into it. I wish to issue a word of caution to you, Mr Deputy President. On 2 occasions daring my term of office in this chamber questions of this kind have arisen and on both occasions, following very wise suggestions by the Leader of the Government in the Senate at the time, we heeded the advice of the Leader of the Government in the Senate and desisted from further pursuing the debate. I sincerely suggest to you, Mr Deputy President, that we would be doing a very great disservice to this chamber by pursuing this debate tonight. There is absolutely no urgency whatever in relation to this matter. Had there been any urgency, this matter would have been raised last year by the previous government when Wilfred Burchett was in this country. He could have been charged then with an offence which allegedly took place 20 years ago. I think that we are doing a very great disservice to this chamber and that we are moving on very dangerous ground ind:.:d by proceeding further. By proceeding further we will create a precedent and destroy forever the very basis upon which we have operated. I do not know whether there is a clear case for this debate to be regarded as sub judice; but I do think that the circumstances which have been brought out during the course of this debate clearly indicate that the matter is sub judice. I strongly suggest to the Senate that it should desist from any further debate of this nature.
– A point of order has been raised by Senator James McClelland to the effect that you were wrong in your ruling that the Senate could proceed to debate this matter, Mr Deputy President. I believe that the honourable senator was incorrect in the point of order he raised. The fact of the matter is that we are debating at the present time a procedural motion which, if carried, will enable Senator Gair to proceed to do something which honourable senators opposite have debated. They are quite ahead of the argument at the present time. The fact is that at this moment we are debating a motion by Senator Gair for intervening business to be postponed until after discussion of notice of motion No. 9. We are discussing nothing but that motion. Government supporters have no wish to debate the matter of Wilfred Burchett at this time. Our friend Senator Wheeldon criticised everyone in the Senate, including me, and even made some very able remarks about my ability on legal aspects. I thank the honourable senator. T realise that he has had legal training. I realise also that he has had many alliances over a period of time with various political parties. Perhaps if he had remained with the Liberal Party he may have been able to guide his friends on the Government side a little better, but he passed through that Party and joined the Labor Party. His comments tonight indicate that one does not know quite where he stands.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy President. My point of order relates to the relevance of these remarks to the point of order raised:
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - I think the honourable : senator is straying from the point of order.
– I wish to raise a point of order, Mr Deputy President.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- We are considering a point of order now.
– I have been in. the Senate for 25 years and I believe that the matter raised by the Democratic Labor Party will do grave harm.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Are you speaking to the original point of order?
– Yes, to the original point of order. Senator James McClelland has spoken about the ruling by the Clerks and the matter is sub judice.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! Senator Webster has not concluded his remarks.
– I ask you,- Mr Deputy President, to decide this matter. I reiterate that the point is not that we are debating anything to do with Wilfred Burchett at this time; we are debating a procedural motion calling for intervening business to be postponed until after discussion of notice of motion No. 9. There is nothing sub judice about that motion.
SenatorO’Byrne - I want to follow up the point of order taken by Senator James McClelland by quoting ‘Australian Senate Practice’, third edition, by J. R. Odgers. I refer to page 168 where sub judice matters are dealt with. The author states:
Matters still under adjudication in a court of law cannot be brought forward in debate. That is to say, the Senate will not permit a debate which, in the normal way, would be regarded, if it occurred outside Parliament, as a contempt of those court proceedings. But the rule is not always confined to those limits. Speaking in the House of Representatives which, generally speaking, takes the same line as the Senate on sub judice matters, Dr H. V. Evatt (then Attorney-General) made the following statement on 17 April 1947:
What is said in Parliament is absolutely privileged by the law. What is said in the courts of justice is absolutely privileged by the law. We have those 2 great instruments of government, the legislative power exerted by one, and the judicial power exerted by another. As the years have gone by, the Parliament, having an absolute privilege and not being bound to apply the rules of contempt of court, or even the laws of defamation, both of which are applicable to comment outside the Parliament, has taken the view which I believe has been carried out in cases like the Jerger case. That is to say the Parliament does not ask’ Is there a proceeding pending at this moment?’, but rather, In all the circumstances, should a debate on a particular matter be permitted at this particular moment?’
Thus, it can be said that there is no rigid rule, but rather that common sense indicates how the line should be drawn. A pertinent point to bear in mind in issues of this nature was made by Dr Evatt in the above-mentioned debate when he quoted:
It is possible to poison the wells of justice before they begin to flow.
Todd, in his Parliamentary Government in England, p. 573, vol. 1, declares that it is highly irregular to bring into discussion, in either House of Parliament, any matters, whether they relate to criminal or civil cases, which are undergoing judicial investigation, or are about to be submitted to courts of law, as it leads to the imputation of a desire to interfere with the ordinary course of justice.
As to the application of the rule to Bills, the position at Westminister is that there is no restriction on the introduction or discussion of Bills, in either House, relating to matters which are sub judice.
I submit that the question before the Senate is whether urgent business should be postponed. Repatriation benefits and many other matters will be delayed. We have a mandate to bring those matters before this Parliament and they are being delayed by the motion before the Chair. That motion is completely out of order.
– I am speaking to the point of order, Mr Deputy President, and simply wish to say that we have- witnessed a display of histrionics by Senator Wheeldon. It was followed by a very temperate point of order taken by Senator James McClelland and I have no doubt that he quoted faithfully from a book of authority but, Mr Deputy President, the motion before the Senate is whether at this time Senator Gair should have the floor to advance a proposition, not to debate the issues relating to Mr Burchett but for a committee to be set up to inquire into-
– Into something into which a court already is inquiring.
– If my audience would only listen and try to understand, it would be wiser by the morning. The proposition is that Senator Gair should be able to put before us a proposal to establish a committee. That proposition doesnot involve debate about whether any allegation about Burchett is true. The second point is that Senator Wheeldon, in the course of his histrionics, said that a writ had been issued by Mr Burchett against Senator Kane but nobody here knows what issues are involved in that action.
– Speak for yourself.
– Listen to the chorus. I said that nobody here knows. Government supporters are ganging together and are joining in a chorus of irrelevancies to prevent this Parliament entering upon consideration on whether we should establish a committee in order to give Burchett and all other relevant witnesses the opportunity to give evidence on whether there is substance in the very grave accusations that have been made. The question whether this business should be dealt with now does not involve any single affirmation, allegation or assertion of fact that may be in issue in connection with the writ referred to. Nobody here knows what issue is to be determined under that writ. It is obvious that a determined effort is being made to prevent this chamber dealing in a patient and thoughtful way with a motion to establish a committee. I am as jealous, I hope, as is any honourable senator in the chamber of the reputation of the Senate for integrity of procedure and protection of individual rights and, I hope, for the establishment of a proper standard of conduct in connection with loyalty or disloyalty to our troops when confronted with an enemy.
– Here he goes. Is this a point of order?
– That raises a canine howl from some quarters. I suggest that we let the debate proceed and it will be found, because this is simply a procedural matter now, that this debate is incapable of being held to conflict with any sub judice issue. When we come to debate the establishment of a committee, that does not necessarily involve debating the guilt or otherwise of Mr Burchett.
– Of course it does not. Far from the debate involving guilt or innocence, it is unworthy of honourable senators to allege or refute guilt or innocence when we are establishing a committee.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! I think Senator Wright is straying from the point of order.
– I want to speak to the point of order which has been raised by Senator James McClelland. It is similar to the point of order which I raised originally as to whether this matter is sub judice and whether we are right in discussing it. Mr Deputy President, I accepted your ruling on that occasion that we were debating not the merits of the motion but only the order of business. From your discussion with the Clerk at the table I understand that that will be your ruling now. On that occasion I intended to let the point of order go until we came to the motion for the appointment of a committee. I think that this point of order will then have some pertinence and that will be the time for it to be discussed. But despite your advice 1 ask you to consider the matter. Senator James McClelland has cited authorities to support the case that this matter could never proceed beyond a resolution for the placing of business. If this point of order which we are now discussing is brought up when we debate the establishment of a committee for the purpose of inquiring into a matter which, in many respects, despite what Senator Wright has said, will be the subject of a court inquiry we will be debarred, if not by Standing Orders then by precedent, from discussing anything which is sub judice. There cannot be 2 trials.
But now we come to the question whether we are premature in raising this point of order. Whenever we decide to debate this matter, discussion must be ruled out of order. Precedent has to be established at some time and great is the man who establishes precedent. Mr Deputy President, at this time you are asked - and I think you have a responsibility to decide - whether you will let the debate go on so that an item can be brought on before intervening business, which item you must rule out of order for discussion in this chamber when it comes on. While I agree that we are only debating the postponement of intervening business until after consideration of a notice of motion, we are wasting a lot of time discussing this subject, which I feel must be ruled out of order after we have decided in what position we will place the notice of motion on the notice paper.
I raise another point. In discussing this motion for the postponement of intervening business items which will be discussed before a court of law have been brought into the debate. The publicity resulting from this debate which will be given through the media tomorrow could have a vital influence on a jury which has to decide the outcome of the writ which has been issued. We are not doing justice to the parties to this dispute because this debate could have a vital effect on the matter when it goes before the court. Although I accept your ruling that this is only a question of the order of business, 1 do not think you can overrule the authorities which Senator James McClelland has cited. When we come to discuss the establishment of a committee we must come to the point where you cannot permit the debate to proceed. In view of the implications I am making an appeal, Mr Deputy President, that you establish this precedent. This matter possibly has never been before the chamber previously. We are wasting our time by engaging in debate which could be prejudicial to one of the parties to the litigation. Therefore a ruling from the Chair should end the discussion.
– I think that the speciousness of the point of order which has been raised will be apparent from a mere relating of the facts. The substantive motion before the Senate is that the Senate should agree to hear an item of business ahead of other items of business. This is purely a procedural motion to change the order of the business of the Senate. To that motion a point of order has been taken that no further debate should be allowed because, in some way, this is sub judice. Sub judice of what? I imagine that any argument about litigation in the courts would be irrelevant to the substance of this motion. But what is the litigation in the courts to which people are referring? Somebody has said that Mr Wilfred Burchett has issued a writ against an honourable senator in this place. I do not know the facts about whether Mr Burchett has issued a writ against an Australian Democratic Labor Party senator. But I do know that this man Burchett has issued writs against other people which have been extant for the last five or six years and have not been raised.
– I wish to raise a point of order.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Is the honourable senator raising a point of order to a point of order?
– Yes, I have to because in the first place the honourable senator speaking has digressed completely from the subject matter of the point of order. In the second place he is transgressing a ruling which you gave earlier this evening about introducing subject matter contained in a proposed motion.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Having listened to the point of order I cannot sustain it.
– The point I am making is that we do not know what this writ is really concerned with. In any event it is irrelevant to the debate on a motion to consider an item of general business. Mr Deputy President, the first point which I respectfully submit is that the original ruling which you gave on the point of order which was taken about half an hour ago is the correct ruling and that you adhere to it. The second point which I feel should be raised is that this Parliament is a place in which there is free speech and an opportunity is given in the national welfare for persons to say what they have to say. It would have to be a very extraordinary set of circumstances which would lead a person to take action in a court of law - whether it be in the High Court or in a court of petty sessions - and thereby expect that that is going to stultify debate in the national Parliament. This proposition, if taken to its logical conclusion, cannot command support. This
Senate should be prepared to assert the right of honourable senators in this place to say what they please and to say it responsibly. My third point relates to the various authorities which have been cited by members of the Australian Labor Party. These are selective authorities which are designed to meet their case and ignore the points which have been made in their own favour when points have been taken unsuccessfully by us in the past. I refer to the decision of the former President of the Senate, Sir Alister McMullin, given as recently as 20th May 1969. Let me recapitulate what the point of order was so that the speciousness of the Labor Party’s approach can be seen. It was at a time when a Mr Clarence O’Shea was before the Commonwealth Industrial Court because he had failed to answer certain questions relating to the imposition of fines. A motion was then moved by the Labor Party with a view to having the whole question debated. The then Government took the point that the subject was sub judice and the matter was argued. The President, Sir Alister McMullin, ruled that the debate should be allowed to continue. I shall quote his words because I feel this is highly relevant to an appreciation of a point to which we ought to adhere in this Senate.
– That was in the Commonwealth Industrial Court.
– It was related to a matter before the Commonwealth Industrial Court. The motion was moved by Senator Murphy on behalf of the Labor Party, and the point taken was that the debate should not proceed.
– You were lying about the Ustasha and you are lying again.
– I know, that the truth hurts on occasions, . especially when it is quoted at honourable senators opposite chapter and verse. Sir Alister McMullin ruled:
I do not think the motion necessarily-
I emphasise the word ‘necessarily’ - brings into consideration the current matter before the Commonwealth Industrial Court. As a general rule the Chair will not allow references to matters which are awaiting or are under adjudication in the courts if such references may prejudice proceedings. But it does not necessarily follow that just because a matter is before a court every aspect of it must be sub judice and beyond the limits of permissible debate in Parliament. That would be too restrictive of the rights of Parliament. Within those limits, the debate may proceed.
If it was not contrary to the practice of the Senate and to proper principles that a debate on the laws under which a man was currently awaiting sentence in the courts should proceed, then it seems to me that no circumstances^ - however uncertain, imprecise and lacking any real knowledge - which have been raised by the Government tonight should prevent this debate from taking place. Because he is now the Attorney-General and because he spoke on the point of order which was raised before Sir Alister McMullin, let me refer to what Senator Murphy said at the time. He accepts, on what he said, that even if the sub judice rule applies that in itself is no reason, if the national welfare requires it, why the Parliament should not deal with the matter. That, I say respectfully, is the common sense approach. Senator Murphy said at that time:
We have heard a specious argument from Government senators who desire to cloak this debate with subterfuge and noise. I think they ought to have some regard for the proprieties of this place and use a point of order only where it is appropriate to do so.
– I oppose the proposition of the Democratic Labor Party-
– You have to speak to the point of order.
– I oppose that proposition and 1 support the point of order that has been taken.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Order! Senator Gietzelt, you can discuss only the point of order.
– I support the point of order on the following grounds: Senator Greenwood has been rather eloquent in referring to an incident which occurred on a previous occasion, but if he analyses what he said I am sure he will agree that that incident involved a debate . in this chamber, not the setting up of a committee of inquiry which is the intention of the motion that the Democratic Labor Party wishes to submit to this chamber this evening. It is of some significance that Senator Kane is not present during the debate on this matter. This is sufficient for me to accept the proposition that there is some substance in the point of order that has been taken. If Senator Kane is not in the chamber during the debate to deny that he is the subject of certain litigation in relation to this matter, I think one is entitled to draw the conclusion that he will not vote on the matter because he has an interest in that litigation.
The mere agreement of this Senate to debate the issue involved in Senator Gair’s very lengthy procedural motion would prejudice the case of Wilfred Burchett. I understand, from what has happened in the brief period of time that I have been a member of this chamber, that we must not reflect upon another person. One learns from reading Hansard that there is a behaviour pattern in the other place which lays down that persons not able to be present shall not be reflected upon in any of the debates. The proposal contained in Senator Gair’s motion establishes a very dangerous precedent for the Houses of Parliament. If you do not uphold the point of order that is before you, Mr Deputy President, you will establish the principle that at any time any majority in the House of Representatives or in this Senate shall have the right to sit in judgment upon a fellow member of the Parliament or upon any citizen. In that respect I think you are entitled to accept the advice that has been given to you by Senator James McClelland.
I think we are entitled also to examine the motivation of those honourable senators who support the discussion of this matter. Clearly members of the Opposition have caucused, clearly they have determined an attitude, and clearly they have in mind a strategy on this matter. This evening at 8 o’clock this Senate unanimously - with the approval of all those present - agreed to establish a number of standing committees of this Senate. Those standing committees were the subject of a notice of motion submitted by Senator Murphy on the first day on which we met.
– What has this to do with the point of order?
– Just listen to it. In agreeing to that proposition, the Senate adopted the principle that we should establish committees for the purpose of considering policy, and that on those committees the Government, which has received a mandate, should have a majority of members. It is clear that the present notice of motion, which has been challenged on a point of order, seeks to arrive at a different conclusion. Built into the proposition is the suggestion that the majority of the members of the committee should come from the Opposition side of this chamber and not from the Government side. In those circumstances, Mr Deputy President, one can anticipate that in relation to the procedural matters upon which we supposedly will be voting and on which you have been asked to make certain judgments, the motion proposes that we should reach certain conclusions. I draw your attention to the notice of motion itself, Mr Deputy President. It seeks, for the first time in the history of the Houses of Parliament in Australia, that the Senate authorise ‘the televising of public hearings of the committee, at the discretion of the committee, and under such rules as the Senate may adopt’.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Order! Senator Gietzelt, you are getting right away from the matter before the Chair. You are referring to another matter altogether.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr Deputy President, but I stress the point that any point of order taken in this place which is based on procedures adopted in past years - and no attempt has been made to refute the authority which Senator James McClelland read to the Senate - requires your very serious consideration, for any precedent we set tonight in giving the majority, be it in the House of Representatives or in this place, the right to arraign any person and to change the order of business of this place will surely be expressed in the future..
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - I propose to rule on the point of order. I have heard the debate from both sides.
– I desire to rise on a point of order.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Will the honourable senator please resume his seat. I propose to rule on the point of order. The motion before the. Chair is a procedural one relating to the order of business, and it is in order. I agree in a general way with what Senator James McClelland had to say about a matter being sub judice, but that matter does not arise in the present debate which is purely a procedural one. I rule that the motion is in order. However, honourable senators must keep their remarks relevant to the procedural matters before the Chair. Had honourable senators heeded my earlier request, this matter would not have arisen.
– I move:
That the ruling be dissented from. (Senator Wheeldon having submitted in writing his objection to the ruling) -
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! Is the motion seconded?
Motion (by Senator Wheeldon) agreed to:
That the motion for dissent requires immediate determination.
- Mr Deputy President, it is with some reluctance that I move dissent from your ruling but I do so because I believe that it is incorrect and because it concerns an important principle as far as the conduct of the Senate is concerned. As I understand the basis of your ruling it is that the matter which is now before the Senate is not one which could be sub judice because it is a procedural matter dealing with the order of business on the notice paper. This, . I understand, is the submission by those honourable senators who have supported your ruling, and I understand this to be your own position from what you have just said. I would submit, in support of the motion which I have just moved, that this is a narrow and inadequate interpretation of the Standing Orders and of the principles which have been laid down by way of precedent. Although it is true that what is now before the Senate is a procedural motion, the fact remains that the motion which is being debated concerns another motion which in itself embodies the imputation of very serious charges against Mr Wilfred Burchett. It asks whether he has been associated with the Russian secret police; whether he interrogated people in Korea; whether he was working for the Government of North Vietnam in opposing Australian forces in South Vietnam; and whether he has committed any offence and, if so, what that offence is. All these are quite specific matters which will be published in Hansard and in the records of the Senate and which will be given publicity throughout the country.
It is of no use honourable senators saying this is a procedural matter concerning the establishment of a Senate committee, as was argued earlier by Senator Wright. The position is, naturally, that you are not going to be moving motions like this in relation to any citizen. Clearly if a motion is moved for the appointment of a select committee to inquire into the conduct of some person and into whether or not he is guilty of some offences against the law there has to be at least a supposition that there is a prima facie case that he has engaged in these activities and that he has committed some offences against the law. To say that this does not find him guilty is clearly a misapprehension of the whole matter as it will be interpreted by anyone who listens to the broadcast of these proceedings. Mention has been made of a writ for defamation issued by Mr Burchett against Senator Kane, and the information available to the Government is that the subject matter of the writ concerns defamatory statements similar to those which are implied in the text of the resolution of which notice has been given tonight. I have further information relating to whether the matter is sub judice. We have been in touch with Mr Frank Galbally of the firm Galbally & 0’Bryan solicitors of Melbourne, and he has informed us-
– They are criminal lawyers in Melbourne.
– Are you reflecting on Mr Galbally? Mr Deputy President, that is an extraordinary comment. I must confess it was rather unusual to hear an honourable senator start making comments about the character of counsel involved in an action. Mr Galbally has said that a writ has been issued by Mr Burchett against Herald and Weekly Times Ltd as a result of an article which was published in a newspaper of that company and which was written by Mr Denis Warner, and also a letter which was written by a Mr Peter Frankel which was also published in the company’s newspaper, and that part of or all the matters which were referred to in this article and in this letter are the subject of the motion of which notice had been given by Senator Gair.
– We want to give him an opportunity.
- Mr Deputy President, will it be all right if I interrupt Senator Gair? The matters involved in the writ for defamation, according to Mr Galbally’s recollection - he is at home now and does not have his files in front of him - are similar, if not the same, as the matters contained in the motion which has been moved by Senator Gair. It seems to me to be perfectly clear that it is prejudicial to any person involped in litigation to have his name linked in any way with a motion such as this one. Whether one is debating the substance of it or is merely putting it on the notice paper, there is an implication that there is at least a prima facie supposition of guilt - otherwise there would not be such a notice of motion on the notice paper. It would not be on the notice paper at all unless some honourable senator believed there was some substance in the allegations which are made.
For that reason I submit to the Senate that your ruling is out of order insofar as the matter which is now before the Senate does reflect on Mr Wilfred Burchett who is the plaintiff in at least 2 actions which are pending in courts of this country.
– Mr Deputy President, I support the motion of dissent from your ruling. I do so on the basis that the Senate must be responsible for the actions that it takes. At the moment, it is attempting to take an action against a citizen of Australia. It is easily known why there is urgency for this question to be discussed tonight. The Australian Democratic Labor Party well knows it. It is because of a court action pending against Senator Kane in the Supreme Court of New South Wales. I will have more to say about this at a later stage. The matter is due for mention in the Supreme Court of New South Wales tomorrow morning. The reason why Senator Kane is not present in the Senate chamber at this time is that he is attempting to obtain an adjournment of that hearing on the grounds that he has to be in the Senate chamber tomorrow.
– I rise to order. The statement made by Senator Cant is a very serious implication against the integrity of an honourable senator. I am asking, in the absence of Senator Kane, for a withdrawal of that statement. I am able to say that tonight Senator Kane is a guest at an official dinner given by the Governor-General at Government House for His Royal Highness, the Duke of Edinburgh. In those circumstances, I certainly ask Senator Cant to withdraw that remark and to apologise to Senator Kane.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Senator Cant, a withdrawal of your remark has been asked for.
– I withdraw the remark.
– And apologise.
– I will not apologise. I will withdraw the statement. I was asked by the Deputy President to withdraw the statement and I have withdrawn it. That was his request to me.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! The Senate will come to order.
- Mr Deputy President, for you to attempt to confine this debate to the narrow issue of the placing of business on the notice paper is to deny the Senate the responsibility for the actions that it takes because there is no question but that immediately following the carrying of this motion the question of sub judice will be raised. It cannot be avoided. I would say, out of respect for the Senate, that you could not rule in any other way but that the matter to be brought on was sub judice. I propose to speak to the matter of sub judice at a later time. But at this time your ruling would inhibit the Senate in the proper order of debate and it should not be agreed with.
That the motion (Senator Wheeldon’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator Prowse)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I want to speak in opposition to the motion that this committee be set up. It is obvious that-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! I have made a ruling concerning the procedure in this debate. The matter presently being debated is not whether a committee be set up. The matter is that intervening business be postponed until after consideration of general business, notice of motion No. 9. I will not allow any debate on the substance of notice of motion No. 9. It is contrary to Standing Orders.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr Deputy President, and add my protest to all others from honourable senators on this side of the Senate in regard to the tactics that have been used by the members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party in the Senate tonight. They have done this for the deliberate purpose of protecting one of their members who is under challenge in the court in relation to a defamation of character action. This is one of the most reprehensible things that I have ever seen in this Parliament. It is most reprehensible because they want to use the committee which they hope to establish for the purpose of extracting evidence from this gentleman to use in court in the defence of Senator Kane. It is the most reprehensible thing that any person could do. We are in the situation tonight where you, Mr Deputy President, on 2 occasions have ruled that this matter is not sub judice. It will put you in a very invidious position tomorrow- -
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Senator, will you cease referring to the decision from the chair and obey my ruling that you must not anticipate a debate on some other matter.
- Mr Deputy President, I wish that that ruling had been given earlier in the evening when the debate was proceeding, because Senator Little, who is one of the persons who will vote in favour of this motion, then said things which prejudices this gentleman. Senator Little might well be a member of the committee when it is appointed. The whole procedure in relation to the committee system of the Senate is under challenge tonight. Members of the Democratic Labor Party are attempting to reverse the whole procedures so that they can establish a kangaroo court against all precedents-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Senator, you cannot proceed along those lines. At this stage you cannot make any further reference to the ruling that has been given, and you must respect my request to obey the Standing Orders and not anticipate future business.
– I was just mentioning in passing that the situation has now arisen where the operation of the whole committee system will be in jeopardy if we take from General Business - and this is a precedent in itself - matters which are discussed on Thursday evenings and debate them during the normal sittings of the Senate. It is true that on a number of occasions in this chamber by arrangement between the then Opposition - now the Government - and the Leader of the then Government motions were moved in order to change the order of General Business of this chamber. But, as I say, usually it was done by arrangement and agreement across the table; to my knowledge and recollection Genera] Business was never moved to another day of sitting. This is an attempt to get something broadcast tonight in order to help a colleague who is in a jam because of something that appeared in a scurrilous rag called Focus’. The precedent we are establishing tonight could put in jeopardy the whole conduct of the business of this chamber. We will prostitute the committee system if members of the Democratic Labor Party are allowed to get away with this and establish a kangaroo court. They want to take the initiative, against all precedent, by establishing the numbers on their side. I protest most vehemently against the tactics, the snide implications of this business, and the reprehensible reasons for which it is being done.
-I will oppose the motion. I think that this debate has brought no honour or glory to this chamber. In fact, I suggest that after any public function this chamber should not sit for at least 12 hours. We have been listening to a debate apparently on a matter of urgency. Why is it urgent? No reason has yet been given.
– Yes, you were not here.
– Come off it. Sena tor Gair says I was not here. When I am here
I am awake and I have my faculties. We have reached the point where, because numbers count in this chamber, we are pushing through for our friend and colleague the motion which the Australian Democratic Labor Party wishes to get through while the proceedings are being broadcast.
– If that is not true, a reason should be given as to why this matter is so urgent. Can any member of the Democratic Labor Party tell me why it is so urgent that it could not be debated on Thursday night? May I suggest to those honourable men that they themselves withdraw this motion because, after all, it is not a question of doing justice to any individual, whether he is a communist or not. Justice has to appear to be done, and this has not the appearance of justice. We are invited to force this through and members of the Democratic Labor Party knew, or should have known, that there was a court case tomorrow. This had to be prised out by a Government senator.
– We do not know that. We only know the allegation.
– I do not know. Perhaps Senator Cant was not telling the truth. All I can say is that the respect to which members of the DLP are entitled would be enhanced if they withdrew their motion and debated this matter at another time, in its proper place, instead of forcing it through. It now appears to the whole of Australia that they are using the forms of this chamber to help one of their own side. Is that fair?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I call Senator McManus. Before Senator McManus rises, I see that Senator Negus, whose name appears on the list of speakers, has not risen. It is necessary for an honourable senator to rise in his place in order to get the call from the Chair. I now call Senator Negus.
– Thank you. I was waiting for you to call me, Mr Deputy President. I consider that a few honourable senators have spoken out of turn. I should like to say a few words on my own behalf as an independent senator. I believe very sincerely that the matter brought forward by the Australian Democratic Labor Party is not an urgent matter. It definitely should not take precedence over Government business. Some of the other matters under
General Business are far more important than the one which the DLP is trying to bring forward tonight.
It is completely wrong for nearly 3 hours of the Senate’s time to be wasted in debating this ridiculous question. It should not have gone even this far. If we had had the brains and the sense we would have brought it to a head in less than half an hour. I am completely opposed to the motion because I know that at least 9 Bills are waiting to be debated by the Senate and they are far more important to the people of Australia than a debate on something that is water under the bridge, something that has completely gone. In this matter I will stand by the Government because I believe it is right, and it is wrong for the Opposition even to think of supporting the DLP in this case. This matter should not be considered as an urgent matter because it is not urgent. Under no circumstances would I support the motion.
– I want to begin by saying that I have been in this Senate for 14 years.
– Too long.
– That was a matter for the electors to decide and they have elected me on 3 occasions as a member of a minority party. I have not been elected to this chamber, as have most honourable senators opposite, as representatives of a majority party who were picked either first or second on the ticket so that they could not lose.
– I rise to order, Mr Deputy President. Contrary to your ruling much earlier the honourable senator is now reciting the method by which he reached this chamber. Would you please ask him to come back to the subject matter?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - When the point of order was raised I was conferring with the Government Whip. Could I have an explanation of the matter you are complaining of, Senator Keeffe?
– Whilst you were conferring with the Government Whip Senator McManus was on his feet endeavouring to point out to the public at large, and probably to the Senate in particular, the method by which he was elected to this chamber. If we refer to your ruling much earlier this evening, he was out of order in doing so because his method of election to this chamber as a member of a minority party has nothing to do with the subject matter under discussion. I would suggest that if he proposes to speak in the debate you request him to continue in the general vein in which you have asked other honourable senators to speak this evening.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I will hear Senator McManus and then make a judgment.
– What happened was that as I began to speak an insulting interjection was made from the other side of the chamber, and I replied to it on the understanding that if members of the Australian Labor Party are prepared to give it they should be prepared to take it. Now I will get on with the subject under discussion. In 14 years in the Senate I have heard all parties on occasions take action if they thought that a matter was urgent, and I do not think that people are entitled to impute all sorts of scandalous motives to other people about which they have no evidence merely because in doing so they exercise a right which appears in the Standing Orders to take action to have a matter declared urgent. Allegations have been made against Senator Kane in his absence at a function to which he was invited with our distinguished guest from England. I believe that those accusations have been made to prejudice the case which was to have been put forward. I repudiate completely the suggestion that when I supported the action of my Party in bringing up this matter I knew there was a court case in which Senator Kane was involved coming on tomorrow.
– Did he not tell you?
– 1 do not know whether it is coming on, and Senator Brown does not know either. At no time until tonight have I heard any suggestion that such a thing was to happen. In relation to the alleged libel action brought by Mr Burchett, I have not been told the subject of it or the reason he is taking action. Mr Burchett is a remarkable man - he has friends on both sides of the Iron Curtain.
– I suggest that by this time the Senate should know that what has been proposed is lamentable. We have a situation where the Opposition, which is the minority, is trying to tell the Government that it should suspend its business for the evening although its business includes some very important legislation. I am concerned in some of the legislation. Last night we passed social services legislation which awarded improved benefits to many thousands of people. Also we have introduced into the Parliament repatriation legislation which provides a lot of benefits to people. That legislation should be passed before the Senate rises tomorrow to enable the benefits provided by it to be paid by 27th March. Let me remind honourable senators that that legislation provides benefits for many thousands of people. Let me mention some of them. There are 21,104 pensioners on the special rate war pension who will benefit from that legislation and there are 190,880 Australians on the general rate pension who will benefit as will many other people in other categories. Unless we do something about those repatriation Bills tomorrow it will mean that payment will be delayed. If they are not dealt with until the week after next it will not be possible to have the payments made on the normal pay day, 27th March, and this would be inconvenient. Primarily I object to what is proposed because a minority group wants to take the control of the Senate out of the hands of the Government because this group says there is an urgent matter to debate. What is the urgent matter? The urgent matter is stated in the motion which, I would suggest, places some very strong strictures upon Mr Burchett. Mr Burchett can, of course, answer for himself. But in a preliminary and pro forma way it seems to me that Senator Gair charges Burchett with a number of offences and provides for the answer yes or no on the question whether he is guilty or not guilty. At the same time as Senator Gair does this, we know that some actions are pending. What are the actions pending? My information is that Burchett currently has a writ for defamation against the Herald and Weekly Times Ltd.
– That is one of the best known old ways to shut people up and stop them revealing things.
– I appeal to the sense of justice of the Australian people and of this Senate. Senator Rae is a lawyer, and it is extraordinary to me-
– What does the statement of claim say because sub judice-
– Do not interrupt me before I have given you the answer, Senator Hannan. You are a man trained in the law.
Senator Rae, Senator Wright and Senator Greenwood who has left the chamber are also men of the law. I am a member of the Senate. I want to know why, when there is action pending in the court, the Opposition wants to precipitate a debate in this Parliament about a man whose whole reputation is to be tested in the court. I will read what my information is. My information is that Mr Wilfred Burchett currently has a writ for defamation against the Herald and Weekly Times Ltd and Mr Dennis Warner, the author of the article complained about, and that the writ was issued in Melbourne through the firm of Galbally and O’Brien on 7th February 1969.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! You must come back to the point of the debate, Senator Bishop.
– I understand, Mr Deputy President, but obviously in any discussion about the order of business has to be related to what is proposed by Senator Gair, and what he proposes has been printed. It is public knowledge, it is within the knowledge of the Senate, and it concerns the sort of things about which we are talking, it concerns the sort of things about which we know. Why should we bring this matter before the Senate at an earlier time than normal to canvas the issues when we know the background of those issues and when justice ought to be done to the persons concerned in the proper place for justice to be done. It surprises me that lawyers in the Senate are not concerned about this. I am mainly concerned about the combination that has been formed tonight of honourable senators opposite who do not represent the majority of the people. It is the Labor Party which constitutes the Government. We have been elected as the Government of Australia and we should be able to persuade the Senate
– There is the test of it. Honourable senators opposite have arrogantly combined to tell the elected Government of the Commonwealth what it should do.
– When we were in office what did you do?
– Who is complaining now? You are going to tell us what to do. Of course you are.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Order! The Senate will come to order and honourable senators will cease interjecting.
- Mr Deputy President, let me get back to the case I put. We are the Government of Australia and we have been commissioned by the people of Australia to promote legislation that benefits them according to the mandate they gave us. We have put Bills before the Parliament. Last night the Senate passed the Social Services Bill which offers great benefits to the Australian people. We expected to have passed the Repatriation Bill tonight. It offers great benefits to ex-servicemen and their dependants. Thousands of people are involved. I have given the figures. Senator O’Byrne has reminded me that some great international legislation concerning the hijacking of aircraft - a thing we are all frustrated about - is being delayed. The process of legislation is being impeded by the Democratic Labor Party, supported by the Liberal Party and the Country Party who formed the previous government of this country. They have combined to tell us that we should not have the right to pass through the Parliament important legislation which benefits the people of this country.
What is the basis of it? The basis of the action is that honourable senators opposite are promoting a case against a man who offered to have his case tried before a royal commission. I am no great advocate of Mr Burchett. Do not get me wrong on this; you will have to accept my word for it that every man is entitled to justice and justice is obtained in the courts of law. The courts of law are proceeding to hear these claims.
– When you were in Opposition-
– Senator Webster, as a member of the Country Party, should be supporting the Government tonight and not supporting the Democratic Labor Party. The Government which has been elected by the people of Australia ought to be able to say who is to control its affairs.
– You ought to be able-
– Senator Hannan is interjecting. Let him consider his verdict. Not only ls he a trained laywer-
– You will have to do better than that.
– Not only has he been trained as a lawyer but also in television programs he has played the role of a judge.
– I was pretty good.
– I am surprised that tonight as a lawyer he is coalescing with the groups that are wanting to debate the motion. It the honourable senator has any doubts, surely Burchett should get the benefit of them. I am not defending Burchett. I am saying that his case is separate. He has instituted proceedings. This issue was raised in the television program ‘Four Corners’. Let Mr Burchett be tested in the proper place. This is the national Parliament. As members of it we all are charged with the responsibility of doing our best for our country. Honourable senators opposite are members of parties that were in office for a long time. Some of them were Ministers and had a chance to do something about the Burchett case. They did nothing at all about it but tonight they say that it is urgent. The issue of Burchett involves the Korean War, not the Vietnam War. The period involved is not 1963-1972. It is earlier than that. It is the time of the Korean War. The motion rakes up a case concerning the Korean War.
Why did not honourable senators opposite do something about Burchett when they were in office? Why did not the former Ministers take action against Burchett after the Korean War? Tonight they are supporting Senator Gair. If this matter comes before the Senate tomorrow, as it may do unless honourable senators opposite change their minds, they will be supporting Senator Gair in saying to the Senate that we ought to question Burchett on what he did during the Korean War. What hypocrisy for people who sat as Ministers! They had their chance to take action against an Australian citizen and to say whether he was paid by the Russians. I ask anybody: How can you sensibly and intelligently justify this sort of action? It astounds me that people can go along quietly in this way.
– Get back to the motion.
– On another occasion there may be an argument for setting up a select committee or a royal commission, but certainly not on the condition provided by Senator Gair today and not in the circumstances of the impending legal action of which we have been told. I want to hear from the lawyers opposite, the people trained in the law and who have a belief in justice, how they can justify what they are doing tonight. If this matter is debated tomorrow I will want to know how they can support a minority Party in such actions when the courts of the land have not decided the legal issues involved.
– I would like to know when we are going to debate the motion.
– Senator Rae sits opposite and chirps. He ought to be getting up and explaining his position. When we said that important Government business was waiting the only thing that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) could say was: “Why worry about mucking up the computers?’ But more is involved than mucking up computers. This is a much more serious matter. A challenge is offered to the Government which is trying to run the country. The challenge comes from a combination of odd parties which are coalescing. They all agree, and we are going to put up with this for a long time.
– That is right.
– There is the challenge.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! The Senate will come to order. There are too many completely disorderly interjections from both sides of the chamber. I appeal to the Senate to listen to Senator Bishop, who has the call.
- Mr Deputy President, I started by saying that I thought the exercise was lamentable. I think it is wrong. I think the status of the Senate has been reduced tonight, not by the Government but by a combination of people who have quietly got together in the corridors of the Parliament and have said: ‘Yes, we will support Senator Gair. We will have a go at Burchett and we will stop the Government from bringing in the Bills tonight.’ When they take that action they must know that they are stopping a number of Australians from getting increases in pensions. That is what I am concerned about.
– You are the ones who have been doing the talking tonight. You have been talking all the time.
– They will not lose a penny.
– Yes, they will. They will not get the increases when they are entitled to get them. I would like honourable senators of the Liberal and Country parties to tell me whether they intend to support Senator Gair if this motion is carried. Do they propose to support Senator Gair tomorrow? Combinations have been formed. Of course they will support him tomorrow. I pose this question to honourable senators opposite who were in government: If this is an urgent matter, how is it that in the years when they were in government and when the Korean War was being fought they did not take action against Burchett?
– That has nothing to do with the motion for the rearrangement of the business.
– I challenge Senator Rae to answer that question. No honourable senator opposite is prepared to answer that question. They took no action during the Vietnam war. May I wind up by repeating that it is extraordinary to me that a combination of intelligent people, presumbaly intelligent that is, including some people trained in the legal profession should support a move against a person knowing now, if they did not know before tonight, that that person has taken action in the courts to defend himself. The issues that will be discussed in that court action are the issues which will be discussed tomorrow if the view of the combination to which I have referred prevails. We have been almost warned tonight by the arrogance of honourable senators opposite that they intend to act like this all the time. If honourable’ senators look at the subject matter of the notice of motion they will see that it refers to statements on which Wilfred Burchett has already challenged 2 people, namely, Dennis Warner and Professor Frankel. Those statements are contained in documents that have been printed in the Press. Honourable senators opposite intend to canvass the issue tomorrow despite the fact that Wilfred Burchett has taken action in the courts, because obviously they are going to support them. I believe that what honourable senators opposite are trying to do is a disgrace to this Parliament and that there ought to be second thoughts about it. Honourable senators opposite ought to have regard to the prestige of the Senate. Let the matters which come before the Senate be those which have to come before the Senate. If, after full consideration has been given to the case which has been brought before the courts,, honourable senators want to proceed with a debate on this matter let us proceed with a debate on it in a different atmosphere and in circumstances that do not relate to current legal proceedings.
– I will not detain the Senate for very long, Mr Deputy President.
Government supporters - Hear, hear!
– I thought that would be a popular decision. I merely wish to debunk some of the nonsense that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Bishop) has just placed before the chamber. It appears that the Minister thinks that the term ‘sub judice’ comes from St Paul and that, like charity, those words cover a multitude of sins. Sub judice does not cover a multitude of sins. Sub judice refers only to those matters which would adversely affect current litigation. Nobody on the Government side of the chamber has said one word as to what the litigation between Burchett and Senator Kane is. Nobody knows whether Burchett is-
– We have been stopped from saying it.
– Will the honourable senator keep quiet and let me put my point of view. I am going to say my piece no matter how much honourable senators opposite despise free speech. I am going to have my say. I am not going to be trodden upon by a lot of socialist troglodytes.
Government supporters - Oh!
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Order!
– I shall withdraw that word if you want me to, Mr Deputy President. If they are not troglodytes they are people who are opposed to the principles of free speech, if I may phrase it in that way. The Senate is not dealing with the merits. Nobody knows whether Burchett has-
– Tell us about the treason.
– Can I have my say?
Senator Turnbull - You have been interjecting all night.
– I have hardly said anything. I will get around in a few moments to the nonsense Senator Turnbull put before the Senate. I had hoped that it would not be necessary for me to deal with the rubbish that he put before the chamber. I want to get back, if I may, to the facts of the matter. Senator Bishop wandered all over the place and referred to matters which were not at all relevant to the subject matter of the motion. The point is whether Senator Gair’s notice of motion should be giving the procedural courtesy of being debated. Honourable senators on the Government side of the chamber, in their tender solicitude for anybody who is well to the left of Brezhnev, Kosygin, Mao Tse-tung or the late lamented Chairman Ho, have rushed forward and put a defence which, from my observations of his writings and appearances on television, Burchett himself would not put. They have rushed forward to prevent the procedural motion from being even debated. I am not going to go into the matter of the merits. I may be unique in that I will be the only honourable senator in this chamber to address himself exclusively to the legal aspects of the entire procedure.
– What did you accuse Burchett of by interjection?
– I cannot hear what Feathers’ is saying over there. I know of the charity and the well meaning nature and the integrity of my friend, Senator Harry Cant, but I was astounded to hear him make the allegation that this matter was being debated in order to assist a member of this chamber who was involved in legal proceedings. I know that Senator Cant, having heard the explanation put forward by Senator McManus, does not adhere to his original statement, since the person concerned is dining at Government House with the Honourable E. G. Whitlam, the Duke of Edinburgh and other distinguished personages. Anybody who is dining with the Honourable E. G. Whitlam must of necessity be like Caesar’s wife, Calpurnia - just dripping with integrity. I want also to refute the rather arrogant assumption of Senator Bishop that the Senate must obsequiously truckle to any matter which the current temporary government puts before it.
– We have a mandate.
– Mandate! I have never heard such nonsense as is spoken by Senator Mulvihill. As Senator Poke will tell you, Mr Deputy President, the word ‘mandate’ comes from the Latin ‘mandare’, which means to command. Obviously no-one who voted for the Australian Labor Party, however misled he may have been in the past, would have been voting for all the nonsense for which the Labor Party stands.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy President. I again draw your attention to the relevancy of the honourable senator’s remarks to the question that is before the Chair. I do not know how the subject of why people voted for the Australian Labor Party has anything to do with the placing of business.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - I trust that the honourable senator will relate his remarks to the question that is before the Chair.
– Mr Deputy President, you must admit that in some mild way I am being diverted from the path of righteouness by honourable senators opposite, who will not listen to what I have to say without interjecting. Having put those views before the chamber, I wish to say that I feel that the least the Senate .can do is allow Senator Gair’s motion to come forward for debate, and with that I am in full accord.
– I am rather glad to have the opportunity to indicate early in the administration of the new Government what I believe should be the attitude of an Independent senator now that the people of Australia have elected a new government. There can be no doubt that a rather small majority of Australian voters showed its disenchantment with the LiberalCountry Party Administration and desired that the Labor Party be given a chance to govern. I have previously stated that I believe that the Senate primarily is a House of review and a place where all States should have an equal say. It follows that honourable senators should deal with all legislation on its merits. As far as I am concerned, the effect of legislation on Tasmania’s welfare will be my paramount consideration. This may be an oversimplification of the position because many Bills that come before us contain points for and against. But in cases in which there is doubt about which way my vote will be cast, I think it is reasonable to side with the Government. Unless a measure is dangerous, illconsidered or against my State’s best interests, it is likely that my vote will be with this new Government. Tonight my vote will be with the Government.
– Like other speakers tonight, I will not delay the Senate for long but I believe that there are one or two things that must be said positively. We heard Senator Hannan, for instance, accuse the Government of being against free speech yet during his contribution tonight he said that the acts of Wilfred Burchett were treasonable. The man has never been charged, he has never been before any court of law, but Senator Hannan, an alleged lawyer, said that his actions were treasonable. If that is not prejudging a case, then I have yet to learn what those words mean. However, the point is that this matter is supposed to be urgent and I want to address my remarks to that claim.
We have heard members of the Party which sponsored this motion but they have not indicated on any occasion why it is urgent. We heard Senator McManus speak feelingly tonight about this matter but on no occasion did he indicate why it is urgent. If honourable senators disbelieve what I say, I ask them to refresh their memories in the morning by reading the daily Hansard. The debate has covered a wide field and I do not want to make it any wider, but I must indicate to the Senate and to the people at large what is behind this motion.
I say, with respect, that there is no urgency about the motion. It has been put forward to try to prove guilt by association. We heard Senator McManus conclude his reasoned speech tonight by saying that Wilfred Burchett is indeed a fortunate person because he has friends behind the Iron Curtain and in front of the Iron Curtain. The Australian Democratic Labor Party has said that communism is bad, so anybody who gets behind the Iron Curtain or anybody who has friends behind the Iron Curtain is bad. Then the members of the DLP go a step further. They allege that we of the Labor Party insult the United States of America. They say that the actions of this man are treasonable, and then they add that he is a friend of Dr Kissinger. Surely we in this country have had enough of guilt by association. I have a document here which indicates that a man has been persecuted in this country because for 6 weeks he belonged to the Communist Party. He was working in a most important aircraft factory in Australia, trying to assist in the defence of this country but because he made a mistake - he acknowledged his mistake - and was in the
Communist Party for 6 weeks, he was hounded down and today is working as a labourer notwithstanding his engineering ability.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Acting Deputy President. This material that Senator Milliner is disgorging has nothing to do with the motion before the Senate.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wilkinson) - The point of order is upheld. Senator Milliner, will you confine your remarks to the matter before the Senate.
– I repeat that no-one in this chamber who has sponsored this motion tonight has indicated the urgent nature of the motion. On the contrary, we on the Government side have been able to indicate that we are entitled to be suspicious about why the motion has been brought forward to the Senate for alleged urgent consideration. We have shown, and it has not been denied by any member of the Democratic Labor Party, that Senator Kane, one of its members, is involved in litigation. Wilfred Burchett has taken action against Senator Kane, and no-one in the DLP has denied that. 1 accept Senator McManus’s statement tonight that if that is true he knows nothing of it. However, there are 3 other colleagues of Senator Kane present and and on no occasion have they denied that allegation. I believe that the case for urgent discussion of this motion is suspect. I believe that it has no foundation in fact. Consequently I urge the Senate to reject the proposition that the motion be regarded as urgent.
– Senator Milliner has just made the point that ought to have been made hours ago in this debate, namely, the question of the urgency of the matter which we are now dis.cussing. I think all honourable senators have a right to be suspicious about this whole matter because at no stage in this debate so far has any reason been advanced for its urgent discussion. As I said at the commencement of my remarks, that is the whole point. Surely before this matter is disposed of tonight somebody will give an explanation to the Senate of the reason for the urgency. I am suspicious of the whole thing.
I wonder, for instance, if there is some reason for urgency now which causes members of the Liberal Party to be so concerned about this question as to give their whole hearted support to the sponsors of the motion. What sort of dereliction of duty were they guilty of when this man Wilfred Burchett was in this country 12 months ago? The same allegations that can be levelled against him now could have been levelled against him then. Where is the explanation for that dereliction of duty on the part of the previous Government? I think that between the time of Wilfred Burchett’s visit to this country last year and the time that this motion was moved in the Senate there must have been some other significant happening. Who will tell us what that was?
– He has an Australian passport.
- Senator Little will get an opportunity in a moment if he is game to stand and explain the situation. In all seriousness we are entitled to know what this matter is all about. The whole tenor and trend of this debate goes directly to the question of the urgency of the matter. Wilfred Burchett has returned to this country and he has an Australian passport.
– You gave it to him.
– You gave it to him.
– The present Australian Government gave it to him; let there be no doubt about that. The implied allegation is that he should not have an Australian passport, that he is a criminal in some sense or that he has broken some law in some sense. Honourable senators on the Opposition side should get up and tell us what it is all about. I think they are making a complete circus of this chamber by attempting to bring this matter forward when there is no urgency about it at the present time. If it is urgent now, was it not urgent 12 months ago when this man came into Australia? If that urgency was apparent then, one can accuse the Government of that time of complete dereliction of duty. If that is the case the Government of the day let this country down badly. I am terribly suspicious of some of the comments which have been made across the chamber, particularly the one made by Senator Hannan when he introduced into the debate the matter of treason. He quite clearly made a direct imputation that there was some treasonable conduct on the part of this man. If that is the case why did he not raise this matter last year? Where was he last year when this man was back in the country? Why did he not urge the then government to do somthing? Why did not the Australian Democratic Labor Party do something? I think we are entitled to know what happened between last year and now to cause this matter to be of such tremendous concern to this country. Either it was not last year or somebody forgot about it.
– I move:
That the question be put.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wilkinson) - The motion cannot be proposed by you, Senator Brown. You have already spoken in the debate.
Motion (by Senator Mulvihill) agreed to:
That the question be put.
That intervening business be postponed until after consideration of general business, notice of motion No. 9, relating to the appointment of a select committee.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator Prowse)
Majority . …..
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- There being 24 ayes and 24 noes the question is resolved in the negative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Willesee) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to bring forward legislation to lower the franchise age and the age of candidature to 18 years for Federal elections. At present, the Commonwealth Electoral Act provides that persons who are not under the age of 21 years are entitled to have their names placed on the roll and, when enrolled, to vote at elections for senators and for members of the House of Representatives. However, under a special provision, a member of the defence force serving in a war zone outside Australia, who is under 21 years of age, is entitled to vote at a Federal election.
This is a historic occasion - an occasion, Mr President, too long delayed. This Government when in opposition endeavoured to extend the democratic right of the franchise to the youth of Australia. Private members’ Bills were introduced and debated at length in the House of Representatives in 1968 and 1970 and in the Senate in 1972. The LiberalCountry Party Government declined to bring these Bills to a vote. It preferred to deny this well recognised democratic right to an important section of the community - the youth of this country - although the franchise for those 18 years and above is well recognised throughout the world. I am delighted that the privilege of introducing these historic measures in this chamber - of rectifying this denial of natural justice - has fallen to me and that it is one of the first legislative acts of this Parliament.
The reasons why the Labor Party attaches such importance to this legislation were summed up in the most pertinent way by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) when, as Leader of the Opposition, he spoke on the second reading of the Adulthood Bill, which was introduced by him on 21st November 1968. The Prime Minister said:
By any standards men and women are as mature at 18 years now as they were at 21 only a generation ago. They are more mature intellectually, physically, socially and economically. They stay at school longer. They go on to tertiary and technical education in much greater numbers. They are physically bigger, stronger and healthier, They conduct themselves with greater aplomb. Their consumption in all respects is greater. They make their presence felt and their ideas known much more readily. They appear in the mass media and respond to them. They attend the theatre and perform there. They practise a knowledge of the performing and plastic arts at a much younger age than men and women did a generation ago. Psephologists, psychologists and politcal scientists, asset - as a result of their investigations - that people are as mature, articulate and informed in their political views now at 18 as they are at 21 years of age. As far as can be determined they are as informed al 18 years of age now, as they used to be a generation ago at 21 years of age.
These facts are undeniable. The Prime Minister’s statement is even more valid today than it was at the time it was made. This Bill, therefore, symbolises the commitment of the Labor Government to the youth of this country - to a new Australia of equal, political, social and economic opportunity for all. It recognises in the only tangible way that those who accept responsibilities to the community should enjoy an appropriate status. At 18 years of age young Australian men and women may - or soon will be able to - enter into contracts, dispose of property, take and defend legal action, drink, drive a motor vehicle, marry without parental consent, and under the previous Government could be called up for military service. Thousands of them pay taxes. Their status as full citizens of Australia will now be properly and legally recognised.
There is a world-wide trend towards lowering the age of majority. In the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States of America and the Federal Republic of Germany the franchise age is 18 years. Indeed, some 53 countries have adopted a franchise age of less than 21 years. That Australia has not fallen into line long ago with the trend in these countries remains one of the regrettable features of the policy of the previous Government. It is absurd and anomalous that persons in the 18-20 year age group are able to vote at some elections and not at others. The Prime Minister wrote to all State Premiers in December 1972 advising them that the Commonwealth Government would lower the franchise age for all men and women to 18 years early in the sittings of the new Parliament. The position with regard to the franchise in the 6 States of Australia is as follows: South Australia and Western Australia have enacted legislation to reduce the voting age to 18 years; New South Wales passed legislation in 1970 lowering the franchise age to 18 years but the Act has not yet been proclaimed; in Victoria a Bill to lower the franchise age has been passed by the lower House and is likely to become law shortly, thus enabling the 18 to 20 year olds to enrol in time to vote at the State elections which, 1 understand, are expected to be held about the middle of this year; the Queensland Cabinet approved the lowering of the franchise age to 18 years but the Government deferred consideration pending information as to the Commonwealth Government’s intentions; in Tasmania a Bill which included the lowering of the franchise age was passed by the Lower House of the last Parliament.
Honourable senators will be aware that, under the provisions of section 41 of the Constitution, no adult person who has or acquires the right to vote at elections for the more numerous House of the Parliament of a State shall, while the right, continues, be prevented by any law of the Commonwealth from voting at elections for either House of Parliament of the Commonwealth. The franchise age question came before the High Court of Australia last year. The High Court decided that under the terms of section 41, adult person’ meant a person not less than 21 years of age. However, it was made clear by the High Court that the way was open for Parliament to extend the vote to 18, 19 and 20-year-old citizens by legislative action.
The Bill before the Senate contains transitional provisions which are designed to exempt the 18, 19 and 20-year-olds from the compulsory enrolment provisions of the existing law within the period of 3 months from the date of commencement of the lower franchise age. This period is considered necessary in order that appropriate publicity might be given to the entitlement of the newly enfranchised persons and to provide them sufficient time to become acquainted with their entitlements and obligations before the compulsory enrolment provisions are applied. Of course, any person who turns 21 years of age during the 3 months period will automatically come under the compulsory enrolment provisions upon 21 just as he would at present. The Bill provides that the proposed amendments will come into operation on a date to be fixed by proclamation and efforts will be made with the respective joint roll States - other than South Australia - to fix a common date from which the lower franchise age will operate for Commonwealth and State purposes. In South Australia the 18-year-old franchise has been operative for State elections since June last year. 1 now turn to that part of the Bill which deals with the lowering of the age for candidature. As honourable senators may be aware, the age qualification for candidature at Federal elections has been coincidental with the minimum age for enrolment and voting since federation and the Government takes the view that there is no logical reason to depart from the uniform age practice under Commonwealth electoral law. We believe that, in conjunction with the extension of the right to vote at 18 years of age, young people of this age should also have the right to nominate for election, if they so choose. They already enjoy this privilege for South Australian House of Assembly elections.
Accordingly, the Bill proposes an amendment of the Commonwealth Electoral Act which will have the effect of bringing the age qualification for candidates into line with that proposed for enrolment and voting. The age for candidature for Australian Capital Territory House of Representatives elections is governed by the Australian Capital Territory Representation Act and a separate Bill will be introduced to amend that Act. Separate legislation is not required in respect of age for candidature for Northern Territory House of Representatives elections as this matter is covered by the amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act proposed by this Bill.
This Bill is one of the most far-reaching reforms within the Australian political community for generations. Although the distribution of 18 to 20-year-old persons is not yet available electorate by electorate, the Commonwealth Statistician estimates that there are almost 700,000 young Australian men and women in this category - all of whom will be entitled to the franchise under this measure. In consequence, at the next Federal elections a wider and more representative Australian electorate will choose their political leaders. In his policy speech, the Prime Minister proclaimed to the nation that the 3 goals of a
Labor Government would be: Firstly, to promote equality; secondly, to involve the people of Australia in the decision-making processes of our land; and thirdly, to liberate the talents and uplift the horizons to the Australian people.
With this measure we make a significant advance towards these goals. We commit this Government, this Parliament and this nation to ensuring that the views of the young people are listened to and are properly understood and considered by the Parliament. In so doing we hope to remove one of the causes of discontent from the past. Our young people will be inevitably involved in the political life of the nation and will be able to divert their creative energies and enthusiasm to a better Australia. This Bill indeed deserves the support of all senators, and I commend it to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Withers) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Willesee) read a first time.
– I move:
The franchise age for the Australian Capital Territory is governed by the relevant regulations but the purpose of this Bill is to lower to 18 years the candidature age for House of Representatives elections for the Australian Capital Territory. It is proposed to repeal section 5 of the Australian Capital Territory Representation Act and to amend section 7 of that Act. Section 69 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, which specifies the age qualification for candidature, is applicable to House of Representatives elections for the Australian Capital Territory and the amendment of that section proposed by the Commonwealth Electoral Bill which I introduced earlier this day will have effect in respect of House of Representatives elections in the Australian Capital Territory. The amendments proposed by this Bill will therefore bring, the age qualification for candidature for Australian Capital Territory elections into line with the age qualification for candidature for Senate elections and for House of Representatives elections in the States. The figures supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician indicate that the number of 18, 19 and 20-year- olds in the Australian Capital Territory at the time of the 1971 census was 8,950. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Withers) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Willesee) read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Northern Territory (Administration) Act to bring the age for candidature for elections of members of the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory into line with the candidature age of 18 years proposed for Senate and House of Representatives elections by the Commonwealth Electoral Bill 1973.
The Northern Territory (Administration) Act is administered by the Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Enderby), who is represented in this chamber by my colleague the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) but, as the subject matter of this Bill is related in part to the subject matter contained in the Commonwealth Electoral Bill which I introduced earlier, my colleague felt that it would be appropriate for me to introduce this Bill also.
The lowering of the age for candidature for Northern Territory Legislative Council elections to 18 years is a natural consequence of the adoption of that age for candidature for election as a member of this House. The lowering of the age for enrolment and voting for both House of Representatives and Legislative Council elections in the Northern Territory will be achieved by amendments of the
Northern Territory Electoral Regulations. The Commonwealth Statistician has advised that at the time of the last census there were 4,362 persons resident in the Northern Territory in the 18 to 20-year-old age group. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Withers) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Bill which I now introduce to the House is designed to make changes to the Migration Act which are necessary as part of the Government’s policy to remove all forms of racial discrimination. The effect of the current legislation may be summarised as follows:
Controls on Aboriginals as such have now been lifted in all States and in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. With a view to ratification of the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination it is necessary that this legislative provision, which is discriminatory on racial grounds, be removed.
In order to implement the changes referred to, repeal of section 64 of the Migration Act is necessary. The other amendments are purely drafting amendments consequential upon the repeal of section 64 of the Act. The action of the Government in making the repeal of these discriminatory provisions one of its first legislative acts is a token of our determination to banish racial discrimination within our community and is also a step towards building on equal terms the family of the nation in citizenship. It is our unequivocal view that there should be no distinctions between citizens before the law. This is one of the key steps to achieve that position. This repeal is also a recognition that such restrictive provisions on the national statute book constitute an affront to the Aboriginal people of the nation now emerging to new dignity and progress. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Withers) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wriedt) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill proposes that the Export Payments Insurance Corporation Act 1956-1972 be amended to increase from $500m to $750m the maximum contingent liability which the Corporation may assume under contracts of insurance and under guarantees. The Export Payments Insurance Corporation was established in 1956 as a Commonwealth backed, but independent, statutory authority to provide exporters with insurance facilities which were not normally obtainable from commercial insurers to cover risks of non-payment by overseas buyers. The Corporation’s statutory powers have since been progressively extended and now include the authority to provide guarantees to commercial lending institutions supplying finance for deferred payment export transactions.
When the Corporation enters into a contract of payments insurance with an exporter, and when the Corporation gives a repayment guarantee to a lending institution, it accepts a commitment that, if specified payment risks eventuate, it will pay the exporter or lending institution in accordance with the terms of the contract or guarantee. In other words, it accepts a contingent liability. It follows that the greater the amount of export business that the Corporation insures, and the more often it assists exporters to obtain finance by providing guarantees, the higher will its contingent liability become.
Since the Corporation was established, the statutory maximum contingent liability has been increased as follows: 1956 - $50m; 1959- $100m; 1964 - $150m; 1965- $200m; 1970- $300m; and 1971 (May)- $500m. When the Corporation’s maximum contingent liability was last increased in May 1971, from $300m to $500m it was expected that the Corporation could operate for about 2 years within the new ceiling. At the end of December 1972, actual contingent liabilities stood at $4 16m. Since then the Corporation has, of course, entered into additional business and has also given in principle approvals to prospective business amounting to approximately $100m.
An important element in the expansion of the Corporation’s business is the world wide trend towards increased and longer term credit trading of capital equipment and manufactured goods. This involves the Corporation in the maintenance of contingent liabilities on individual transactions for long periods. Since the Corporation’s contingent liability is rapidly approaching the statutory maximum of 8500m, it is necessary that action be taken during this session to increase the limit as provided for in this Bill so that the Corporation will not have to curtail cover for new export business. It is estimated that, on the basis of current and prospective growth rates of short term revolving business and of medium and long term transactions, the Corporation will be able to operate for about a further 2 years within the proposed new ceiling of $750m. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.
Notice of Motion
– I ask for leave to give notice of a motion relating to days and hours of sitting.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I give notice that tomorrow I will move a motion relating to the days and hours of meeting. If I hand it to the Clerk now it will appear on the notice paper in the morning. I suggest that it would be the appropriate action.
– I have no objection.
Senate adjourned at 10.56 pan.
The following answers to questions were cir culated:
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
Senator WILLESEE - The Treasurer has provided the following answers to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
In view of the Government’s decision to remove the sales tax on contraceptives, will the Government grant similar relief from the sales tax on pharmaceutical requirements for baby care, which are at present taxed up to 27½ per cent and are a heavy expense on parents.
Senator WILLESEE- The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Requests for new or extended taxation concessions, including this one, will be considered during the preparation of the 1973-74 Budget.
asked the Minister repre senting the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
Bland as its Chairman, to examine administrative decisions made under Commonwealth statutes and regulations, particularly so far as they applied to the Department of Social Security.
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLAND- The Minister for Social Security has supplied the following answers to the honourable senator’s questions:
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice:
After the Attorney-General caused amendments to be made to the Matrimonial Causes Rules, particularly those which came into operation on 1st February 1973, why was it necessary to make amendments to those amendments on 12th February 1973.
Senator MURPHY- I provide the following reply:
Doubts had been expressed by some lawyers as to the effect of the Statutory Rules of 1st February 1973 on proceedings commenced before that date. Although I did not share their difficulty I considered it best to have further Rules made immediately so as to place the matter beyond all doubt.
– On 1st March 1973, Senator Prowse asked me as Minister for the Media:
Is the Minister aware that in a ‘Four Corners’ program on 17th February the statement was made that the English general practitioner paid his own rent and secretarial assistance out of salary received from the Government. Is it a fact that rent is paid directly by the government on the basis of council valuation. In addition, is 70 per cent of ancillary help paid for from the national health scheme. If the answer to the second part of the question is yes, will the Minister endeavour to see that the Australian Broadcasting Commission employs persons who are capable of reporting fact instead of fiction.
I now have the following reply:
I have now seen a transcript of the ‘Four Corners’ program referred to, and it indicates that the reporter concerned referred to his own English doctor and to the fact that he and his partners are allowed to draw income both from the health scheme and from private fee-paying patients.
The reporter indicated that this provided his doctor with a gross income in excess of fees received from the Government for public patients. His report then went on to say that ‘out of his gross income’ (not his salary) ‘a doctor has to pay the cost of running his surgery including rent, secretarial services and medical equipment’.
Following Senator Prowse’s question, this matter has been checked again by the ABC office in London with the doctor concerned. The doctor has indicated to the ABC that in fact he is granted an allowance, along with his public patient fees, for a figure equal to twice his council rates and a further allowance equal to about 60 per cent to 65 per cent of the cost of providing a secretary/receptionist for a specified number of hours per week. No allowance is provided for medical equipment costs. That being the case, it would appear evident that extra funds have to be found by the doctor concerned to cover his costs of operation, and in any event, it must surely be conceded that his operating costs doin fact come out of a total gross income as was indicated by the reporter.
I trust that honourable senators will appreciate that in this instance, as in many others, there is no basis for any suggestion that facts have been dis torted, or invented by an ABC reporter. The facts as reported are true enough. It was indicated that costs were paid from the doctor’s gross income, and they are in fact paid from the doctor’s gross income.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Senator MURPHY - The Prime Minister has supplied the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 14 March 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1973/19730314_senate_28_s55/>.