28th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 2 p.m., and read prayers.
– Although I had thought that I would relieve honourable senators of the tedium of standing by allowing them to hold up their question papers in order to attract my attention at question time, as a result of yesterday’s episode and my attention being drawn to several standing orders, I have decided that I will abandon any attempt to reform the procedure and I shall strictly enforce the Standing Orders.
– My question is directed to the Minister assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer the Minister to the statements issued by the United States Government on 14th March, that it was using every means of communication to express concern to Hanoi about the heavy flow of troops and equipment into Laos, Cambodia and South Vietnam, and specifically that the confirmed movement of about 30,000 troops, 300 armoured vehicles and heavy artillery is expressly contrary to the Paris cease-fire pact. I ask him: Will the Australian Government also express its concern? Will it use its influence with Hanoi and the North Vietnamese Government? Will it withhold its proposed diplomatic representation in Hanoi so long as that Government acts contrary to its pledge not to send its troops into other countries?
– As I understand it, this question is based on a Press report. I do not know the validity of this. I shall make some inquiries and let the honourable senator have an answer.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is the Government’s opposition to the atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons based on principle? If so, why does not the Government apply the same principle to China as to France and be prepared to take the same legal action against China as has been threatened against France? Does the Minister agree with the
Prime Minister that the reason the Government cannot take legal action against China is that we are not discernibly affected? I leave aside the validity of that argument for a moment. Does he agree that many of Australia’s friends are affected by China’s testing of nuclear weapons and deserve support, or is it a case, as suggested in a newspaper editorial, of let them fry with Chou En-Iai?
– The Australian Government is opposed to nuclear testing. It has indicated that it will join the relevant conventions which are against the spread of nuclear weapons. The question of Australia’s opposition to nuclear testing is one of principle. Already I have indicated that there are some differences, on a scientific basis, as to relative adverse effects. As to such differences as there may be in legal relations, I think it would be convenient if the matter were given some consideration. I will refer it to the appropriate Ministers.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Overseas Trade whether he has noted reports that primary production in New Zealand is so prosperous that it has been described in some Press comment, including today’s Press, as a bonanza, and that astronomical returns are quoted for some commodities. Will the Minister look closely at the deprivations to this country per medium of the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement with a view to curtailing damage to the local market of Australian producers? Will the Minister treat this matter as urgent and expedite a reply to the question which I placed on the notice paper yesterday? Will the Minister ascertain the origin of the peas distributed by Rosella Foods Pty Ltd under the brand name ‘Surprise’? What percentage of the Rosella company is Australian owned?
– All of us in this place are aware of Senator Lillico’s interest in this matter, an interest which he has shown on numerous occasions in the past. I have not seen the Press report to which he refers nor am I aware that there is a bonanza situation in primary production in New Zealand. If there is, I think it would be fair to say that there is a similar situation in this country. If there is a bonanza situation in New Zealand
I might point out to Senator Lillico that one of the reasons for it would be the initiative displayed by New Zealand in having, as I understand it, over 40 representatives around the world promoting New Zealand butter. The benefits of that initiative are being felt very strongly by New Zealand producers. I will refer the other question relating to the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement to the appropriate Minister for his comment.
– I direct a question to the Minister assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Could the Minister give any indication of just what the position is concerning the naturalised Australian who is at present facing a capital charge in the Supreme Court of South Africa?
– I do not know what the latest position is. I will try to find out and let the honourable senator know.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Does he know that last year the Bureau of Agricultural Economics in its 10-year review put on record the fact that individual incomes derived from primary industry had decreased since 1963 by 33 per cent in contrast with the increase over the same period in average weekly earnings throughout Australia of 83 per cent? Does the Minister seriously, sensibly wish us to accept him as being a Minister of responsibility when he says that the primary industries in that relative economy are enjoying a bonanza?
– I should have thought that Senator Wright would have listened more carefully to what I said in answering the context of the question I was asked by Senator Lillico. Senator Lillico’s question referred to the present situation in New Zealand and my answer referred to the present situation in Australia - not the situation that existed in the last 10 years. I add for the honourable senator’s information that the report to which he referred does not concern the income, which I understand will this year be in total something like $370m more than it was last year. It was in that context that I made the statement. I should also point out to him that if he were to read that report further he would find that the Bureau of Agricultural Economics estimates that the average income of those in rural industry in Australia is higher than that of other Australians.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory. My question refers to the recent tragic loss of life in a nightclub in Brisbane. I preface it by expressing my amazement that any licensing court should issue instructions that windows should be not only sealed to contain excessive noise but also permanently rivetted up. I ask: Does the Minister know that the purpose of windows in any building is not only to provide light but also to provide circulating air, which is most necessary in a smoky atmosphere as in a nightclub? Does he know that the provision of such windows is a condition laid down by the health authorities in any State and that plans will not be passed unless such windows are to be provided? Does the Minister know that a further condition in any phase of public entertainment is that an alternate fire escape door leading to a separate and independent exit has to be provided and kept free of obstruction at all times and that such a door is accepted only if it opens outwards and is fitted with a special quick release catch - the positioning of the fire door being away from the front door and normally at the rear of a building? Does he not agree that if excessive noise is issuing from any public entertainment premises orders should be issued to reduce the noise rather than seal the windows and that it is the duty of the licensing court to ensure that all windows and fire escape doors are working freely and correctly at all times to comply with health department and fire department standard regulations? Will he ensure that inspectors are instructed to inspect all premises in the Australian Capital Territory where the public is entertained to ensure that the building regulations are being observed at all times? Will he ensure that such inspection is carried out immediately? Will he advise the licensing court that it must never issue instructions to seal any wndows in any place of public entertainment because, those following such instructions would be not only breaking the building bylaws but also jeopardising people’s lives? Will he consider advising and enlightening all State licensing courts of the situation immediately to ensure that the Brisbane horror is not repeated anywhere in Australia? I ask that, because it is a known fact that most nightclubs are established in basements or shops and such premises are not and were never intended to be used as places of public entertainment.
– The honourable senator asked first whether I was aware of the purpose of windows. I understand their purpose to be as described by the honourable senator, that is, to allow air and light to enter premises. Perhaps this question should have been addressed to you, Mr President, and that an investigation should be made of Parliament House to see what the position is here. The next question was on the subject of health. The honourable senator asked whether windows should be left open. I am personally in favour of their being open. However, 1 do not know what the attitude of various health departments would be in relation to premises which have air conditioning. It is my understanding that there is a requirement in the Australian Capital Territory for alternative fire escapes, but 1 am unable to comment on the situation in Brisbane where it is a matter for the State authorities. The honourable senator asked whether I agreed with certain propositions. In this part of the question he was asking for an opinion and I suggest, Mr President, that you would prevent me from expressing opinions.
– The Minister must not express opinions but he may give information.
– I would be completely incompetent to decide whether the licensing court should do one thing or another. I suggest that up to this point not much of the question related to the Australian Capital Territory. I am sure that the licensing authorities in the Territory make inspections but, if not, I shall certainly convey that very sensible suggestion to the Minister who is responsible for that area. I shall ask him to look at the situation immediately. Nevertheless, I believe that regular inspections would be made. I believe that it would be a little dicey to begin instructing the licensing court in its functions. T assume that the body would be quite competent in matters of that kind.
– Obviously it is not.
– I do not think that can be assumed in relation to the Australian Capital Territory simply because something has happened in Brisbane. Nobody would argue about the tragedy that occurred in Brisbane. All honourable senators were appalled and shocked at what happened there. As to the honourable senator’s suggestion that State licensing courts should be given directions, I shall refer that matter to the Minister to see whether some liaison can be established, but I doubt the power of the Commonwealth to instruct State licensing courts in what they should do.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment and Conservation. I refer to a statement by the Minister for Transport and Minister for Civil Aviation concerning the investigation into a site for a second international airport in Sydney. I ask: Is it correct that the Commonwealth-State committee desires to review other sites as well as Richmond and Somersby? Will he advise whether representatives of the Department of the Environment and Conservation have been asked to join the joint CommonwealthState committee? If not, will the Department seek to do so to ensure that matters impinging on the environment are not disregarded? I ask finally: Can the Senate have an assurance from the Minister for the Environment and Conservation that he will strenuously oppose any move to place an airport in the national park south of Sydney, or at Duffy’s Forest, which would encroach upon Kuring-Gat Park?
– I have received information that more than Commonwealth and State considerations are involved in this question. Advice has been sought from a number of people as to the location of a second international airport in Sydney. No final decision has been made. Now that the Department of the Environment and Conservation has been established, all Federal projects will be subjected to an environmental impact study prior to Cabinet’s approval for the work to be undertaken. 1 believe that a second airport involves more than Commonwealth activities. I assure the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate that an environmental investigation will be made of any site recommended and that the report of the investigation will have a big influence on whether the site is accepted. I can give the honourable senator no assurance that a certain area will not be used.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Is it a fact that one or more reports have been received by the Government relating to the investigation of the suitability of the ship ‘Straitsman’ for the King Island shipping service, to the appropriate type of ship to provide for the service and to considerations relating to the viability of a shipping service to King Island? If so, will the Minister make those reports available to all interested persons, particularly the residents of King Island, by tabling them in this chamber?
– I suggested to Senator Rae yesterday that he might ask a question today about King Island because I had a document which I thought would provide additional information. I now am in a position to provide that information. It follows my answers for some time to questions about the difficulty found in providing transport. The Australian National Line has been instructed to purchase the ‘Straitsman’. I believe I said yesterday that the vessel would not be suitable and would not be engaged. It is to start the service to King Island when agreement has been reached on manning conditions, about which there was some trouble previously. The ANL has been asked to maintain separate accounts for the operation of this service because it is realised that it will not be a profitable one. When the ‘King Islander’ was in use the Government was subsidising the freight to the extent of $3.35 a ton and this cost approximately $150,000 a year. I can assure the honourable senator that the service will be operating in the future.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence and refer to a statement made last evening by the Minister for Defence announcing the Government’s acceptance of the Fill aircraft, a statement in which he pointed the finger at the former Minister for Defence. Does the reference to cost in that statement refer to the project cost or the cost of the aircraft? Is there a basic cost for this aircraft? Is the increased cost referred to due to the escalation in the cost of labour and materials over the period of production of the aircraft, plus the incorporation into it of safety aspects and modifications?
– When this project was accepted in 1963 the estimated cost was $US125m.
– What was that for?
– That was for the whole deal. When Mr Malcolm Fraser was Minister for Defence and when he discussed this matter with Mr Laird, he agreed to an escalation in the total project costs which included a number of factors. That escalation was from $US124.5m to an estimated $US300m. As the honourable senator now knows, the estimated cost as at today is calculated to be $US344m. What Mr Barnard points to - I support him - is the fact that the last Government unnecessarily tied this Government to an amount which ought to be reviewed. As honourable senators know, last night he said that he intends to try to review some of the cost. The Government has said that it will accept the aircraft. However it considers that the negotiations by the last Government were not conducted in the way in which we as a Labor Government would have conducted them. Consequently we are out to see to what extent there can be a new deal. I think that when Senator Drake-Brockman was Minister for Air the Royal Australian Air Force insisted upon certain safety standards being rigidly applied to its specifications. We support that point of view. I suggest that that insistence was obviously promoted by the wide demand in the Australian community, from honourable senators in this place and from honourable members in the other place to ensure that this aircraft was safe enough to carry out the job for which it was first designed.
The whole matter boils down to this: The Cabinet and the Government have said that we will accept the aircraft; we have no alternative. We are not satisfied with the financial arrangements because we are in the position that although we have guarantees from the manufacturers of the aircraft that spares will continue to be made, we do not know yet what the price of those spares will be in the future. We feel that we can obtain sufficient spares but the fact is that the United States Government has already terminated plans for its production target. We are taking action to ensure that Australia gets whatever benefits it can out of what we declare are fairly loose arrangements made by the past Government.
– Questions which would be directed to me in respect of the portfolios which I hold or for which I am responsible in this place will be answered by the Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Willesee.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Media. I refer to representations which have been made over a long time to the predecessor of the present Minister, Sir Alan Hulme, and to the Minister himself in support of the installation of a larger television transmitter at Esperance, Western Australia, when the seventh stage of television development takes place in that town. Is the Minister aware of such representations and of the concern felt by residents of the town and district that the transmitter, as planned, will not give an adequate coverage? In particular, has the attention of the Minister been drawn to a petition from residents of the town which was presented to his predecessor, Sir Alan Hulme? Has any change in policy occurred as a result of a public meeting on 22nd November 1972 at Esperance which was attended by a senior engineer from the Australian Broadcasting Control Board?
– I have received representations as did the previous Postmaster-General, Sir Alan Hulme, from the honourable member for Kalgoorlie in . another place, Mr Collard, and also from Senator Durack. Senator Durack wrote to my colleague the Postmaster-General, I think towards the end of February. This letter was referred to me for attention; I acknowledged it last week. I have had inquiries made into the matter by the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. I am advised that the commencement date for the building of the transmitter at or in the vicinity of Esperance will be, on present indications, June 1974. It is true that an officer of the Board visited Esperance in November last year and addressed a public meeting there. But since the visit to the area took place the Board has in fact approved changes in operating conditions for the Esperance station. These changes will result in the provision of a better service not only to Esperance but also to the population which lies east and west of the town. I understand that a petition was presented to Sir Alan Hulme although I have not seen it.
But the Chairman of the Broadcasting Control Board assures me, notwithstanding a complaint that the honourable senator has received from the local chamber of commerce, that the residents of Esperance are satisfied that the provision of a higher powered station is not practical for technical reasons. There are possibilities of serving the developing areas 50 or 60 miles east of Esperance and places such as Salmon Gums which are along the microwave relay link connecting Norseman and Esperance. This matter is currently in the course of investigation by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. The honourable senator can be assured that, as soon as I have any further information for him, it will be relayed to him.
– I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister: Does the Australian Government regard the monarchy as outmoded and irrelevant, as stated by Mr Whitlam in an interview on the Australian Broadcasting Commission television program Monday Conference’?
– I have no knowledge of what happened on an Australian Broadcasting Commission television program. If the honourable senator will leave the question with me I will make inquiries and give him an answer to it.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry: Has the Government determined the rate of interest which in future will be charged to farmers for moneys advanced under the rural reconstruction scheme? If so, what is the rate to be?
– I am not at liberty to answer that question at this moment. I can only say that I hope there will be an announcement in the next few days on the details of the Government’s proposals on both rural reconstruction and the fruit grower reconstruction scheme.
– I call Senator Hannan. I remind honourable senators that I announced earlier, that I intend, to apply the Standing Orders when calling questions. The Standing Orders require me to call the senator who is first on his feet. I have given up the system of giving preference to anyone, including party leaders.
– Is the Minister for
Primary Industry aware of economic difficulties faced by Victorian potato growers and the general hostility shown on popular diet charts to the potato and the consequent percentage reduction in consumption? Has his attention been drawn to a calorie count published recently by an English researcher, which shows that the potato is a far less serious calorie offender than is commonly believed? Does the Minister know that this chart shows that a boiled potato weighing 31/2 oz contains 75 calories whereas a mutton chop of the same weight contains 629 calories? The chart lists a whole range of foods. I will not read the whole chart.
– I can assure the honourable senator that he will not be permitted to do so.
– This is a serious inquiry and I do not want the frolic of honourable senators behind the Minister to detract from its serious nature.
– Order! The honourable senator will ask his question.
– I ask the Minister whether he will investigate the chart published by this English researcher, which I will make available to him. Will he have the calorie chart checked for accuracy? If it is accurate, will he publicise the figures in the interests of national health and rural finance?
– I have not seen the chart to which the honourable senator refers. Even assuming that the information is correct, I do not think there is very much that I or this Government can do about people’s eating habits. We are aware that in all the so-called affluent nations there is a trend towards less starchy foods and foods containing fewer calories. However, I shall certainly have a look at the question which the honourable senator has raised. In the meantime I can only suggest that in his own interests he may as well go onto a diet of fish and chips.
– My question is directed to the Special Minister of State as the Minister who todayis representing the
Attorney-General. It relates to the AttorneyGeneral’s recent statement that he would seek the active help of various bodies including trade unions in the interests of crime detection and prevention. On that principle will the Minister urgently seek the help of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union regarding a series of recent and current incidents of alleged physical violence to persons and property at the Botany plant of Imperial Chemical Industries?
– In the absence of Senator Murphy I must say that I have no knowledge of the matter which the honourable senator has raised. I ask him to put the question on notice and I shall ask Senator Murphy to get an answer for him.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Transport inform the Senate whether, if problems associated with the ship ‘Straitsman’ are overcome and it is returned to the King Island service, that service will include the port of Stanley on Tasmania’s north-west coast on which many thousands of dollars have been spent to enable it to provide correct facilities for servicing the Straitsman’?
– It will be the right of the Australian National Line so to operate the ship as to make it a viable service. Whether the ship will call at the port of Stanley I do not know. I will try to get some information for the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister assisting the Prime Minister. I point out that a day or two ago I received a reply to a question to the effect that there would be no ban on visits by sporting bodies from Taiwan. Yesterday I received a reply from the Prime Minister which said that in the case of visits from Taiwan members of sporting bodies could come only as individuals and not as a team; secondly, that they must dissociate themselves from their own Government; thirdly, they could not call themselves a Taiwanese team; fourthly, they could not call themselves a team from China; and fifthly, they could not call themselves a Republic of China team. My question is: What is the difference between these conditions and a ban?
– Speaking on behalf of the Prime Minister, I seem to remember that yesterday the Special Minister of State answered an identical question. I recall Senator McManus having put a question like this. I think the honourable senator has rather stretched the answer to his question. I will repeat the answer once again, for about the fourth time I think to Senator McManus and the second or third time to others. The situation is that people can travel to and from Taiwan; trade people can go to and from Taiwan. But we recognise the People’s Republic of China and therefore we do not accept people coming from Taiwan and claiming to represent the Government of China or putting themselves in an official position.
– They come as a sports team. That is not an official team.
SenatorWILLESEE - If they come as a sports team, they cannot call themselves the representatives of a government of any particular country or use any of the names that we have suggested. That is the agreement and those are the rules that the Government has laid down. Obviously, Senator McManus does not agree with them but I am afraid that is the fact.
– Is the Minister for Repatriation aware that ex-national service personnel who attend full-time study at public expense receive about $50 a week for 1 year, plus a certain amount for fees and books but that a part-time student receives only his fees and an allowance for books for 2 years? Does he agree that it appears that the full-time student gets much more public support than the part-time student? Will he examine the possibility of extending the number of years for which a part-time student may attend to his studies?
– One such case has been brought to my attention. As a result of the honourable senator’s question, I will certainly investigate the matter to see to what extent the position may be improved.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. With the Government’s encouragement of increased wheat production in this current season, is it a fact that wheat quotas will continue? If so, bearing in mind the Government’s policy of greater Australian participation in industry and control of overseas companies, will he ascertain what percentage of the Australian wheat quota is allocated to overseas companies and Australian companies with overseas control in an endeavour to see whether the rights of Australian wheat growers are being fully protected?
– The increase in the first advance was not taken with the thought in mind that it may be going into the areas which the honourable senator has suggested, but as an incentive to wheat growers to plant the maximum amount of wheat and therefore to maximise our crop. It could be true that some of the moneys being paid to wheat growers are going into the areas to which the honourable senator referred. But I would doubt whether sufficient information would be available to allow the Government to make any discrimination in a matter like this. Nevertheless, I will look at the matter referred to and let the honourable senator know whether there is any further information I can give him.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport and Minister for Civil Aviation. Why does the Government still allow Qantas Airways Ltd to disregard the interests of travellers by its refusal to permit cheaper air fares by the system of advanced bookings on the most popular direct Sydney-London route whereas it allows this system for travellers to the United States of America? Will the Government insist on Qantas serving the interests of the public before the interests of the International Air Transport Association?
– I shall take up the matter with the Minister. If any answer can be found to the question, I shall try to obtain it. I do not think there is a Government restriction on cheap fares. Although some problems have been involved Qantas has been trying to reduce air fares for the purpose of increasing the passenger load. I think that Qantas operations, including air fares, are matters for decision by the Qantas Board. But I will take up the matter with the Minister. If any restrictions are imposed by the Government I will try to find out the reason why.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Defence tell the Senate whether the Royal Australian Air Force shares the present Government’s doubts concerning the effectiveness and value of the FI 1 1 aircraft?
– The statement by the Minister for Defence has been made after consultation with his advisers from the Royal Australian Air Force and the Department of Defence. That is the clear position. There is no question but that the Government, having assessed the position as I have explained to Senator Drake-Brockman, considers that its view now is the correct view. We are talking about the purchase of aircraft the value of which rose from $US125m to a bill which will exceed $US350m. In that circumstance. Mr Barnard has made the statement that he feels that, while we accept the aircraft, we should be in the market to make some arrangements having regard to the fact, as I have pointed out to Senator Drake-Brockman, that this aircraft will go out of the production line in the United States of America in about a decade.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Was the Minister correctly reported us saying last weekend that many agricultural marketing schemes were ineffective and that some price support schemes were virtually useless? If so, will the Minister identify the particular schemes which, in his view, fall into those categories?
– The quotations by Senator Carrick from my speech last Saturday are not strictly accurate. I referred to inefficient marketing schemes and support measures of doubtful merit. Taking those 2 matters individually, yes, I would agree. I stand by the statement I made then. I believe that the marketing procedures which were adopted by the previous Government were inefficient, and I believe that improvements could have been effected by streamlining those operations. For example, I referred earlier, in answer to a question by Senator Lillico, to the degree to which the New Zealanders have been prepared to get out into the world markets and sell butter to the point where now they are increasing their production of butter. They have concentrated in the area of finding markets and to developing them. These are the sort of things which, I hope, this country will be doing under the new Government.
As regards support schemes of doubtful merit, I believe that there have been instances of these also. I instance, for example, what has happened in the dairy industry over the last few years. In 1960 a committee of Inquiry recommended that the bounties on the dairy industry be phased out. This recommendation was not accepted by the previous Government. Ten years later in 1970 the Government was compelled to ask the dairy industry to look at a production control scheme, and after 3 years and the expenditure of $108m of public money in the form of bounties, a production control scheme has still not been presented in an acceptable form to the Australian Agricultural Council. At its meeting last February the Council had to reject that proposal because after 3 years the industry had not come up with plans acceptable to the Council. I think it is in the interest of the industry to consider seriously those plans before the next Agricultural Council meeting in July.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry: Will he instance which product of the dairy industry is being overproduced in Australia at this moment?
– As I indicated in the answer I gave to Senator Carrick, I was not talking about the situation at this moment. As Senator Webster well knows, I was looking at the overall trend which was recognised by the previous administration just as much as it is recognised by the present administration. It was for that reason the previous Government asked the dairy industry to look at a production control scheme. I think that is sufficient evidence of the need for that scheme to have been introduced by now.
– My question is directed to the Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate. I ask whether it is not a fact that Mr Whitlam, when Leader of the Opposition, asked the then Attorney-General, Mr
Hughes, the following question, as reported on page 31 of the House of Representatives Hansard of 4th March 1970:
Is it thought that Mr Burchett has broken any law of the Commonwealth? Alternatively, now that he is in Australia, is any investigation being undertaken lo ascertain whether he has broken any law of the Commonwealth?
I also ask whether the Liberal AttorneyGeneral, Mr Hughes, did not reply as follows- 1 do not propose to give any opinion as to whether Mr Burchett has broken any law of the Commonwealth. What I will say, however, is that I, as the principal law officer of the Crown, do not propose, as at present advised, to bring any charges against him…..
– That is a fact. I would not have had this knowledge except that during the debate last night I was busily gathering all sorts of papers. From the papers I have now, what Senator Gietzelt has said is correct.
– Is it a Dorothy Dixer?
– No. I have just explained that I had these papers last night. It would have been remiss of me if I had not.
– Order! I might add that it is not an uncommon practice in either the previous Administration and the present one.
– Even if it was such a question I do not know what is wrong with that. If any honourable senator, whether from the Opposition side or this side, asks a question without notice I do not know how any Minister could be expected always to have the information. Senator Cotton was the most sensible Minister in the last Government. He said: Questions to Ministers whom I represent I will ask you to put on notice, and those directed to my own portfolio I will answer’. I think that was sensible. If anybody cares to give me prior notice of a question so that I can get information, that will be all right by me. If help is not wanted, that is OK by me. To return to Senator Gietzelt’s question, I did obtain this information last night. The operative words of Mr Hughes, who was then Attorney-General, in his reply to the question asked by Mr Whitlam were: . . I, as the principal law officer of the Crown, do not propose … to bring any charges against him in respect of . . .
– That does not mean that he did not do scabby things.
– I can answer the question, can I not? The honourable senator would know about scabbing.
– I did not criticise, nor even imply any criticism about, the previous administration of the rural reconstruction scheme. I want to make that point clear. It was said by the honourable senator who was a supporter of the previous Government. As I indicated earlier, this Government has considered the continuation of the scheme and a decision has been taken. However, I am not in a position to announce that decision until such time as the States are advised. The manner in which the moneys are used is not a. matter for the Commonwealth. The actual disbursement of the moneys is a matter for the various reconstruction boards in the States. The boards make the determination as to who is eligible to receive money for rural reconstruction. This is out of the hands of the Commonwealth which simply provides the finance.
- Mr President, could I give some further information to Senator Mulvihill? I told him that I would seek further information for him.
– Is it in reply to a question previously asked?
– Yes. I had the background to it but I sent out and obtained additional information. I take it that the man referred to is Mr Moumbaris. The facts are that Mr Moumbaris, an Australian citizen, was arrested in South Africa on 19th July 1972 but the Embassy was not made aware of his arrest until 14th November following the release of his wife, a French citizen, on 12th November. Following representations by the
Embassy, consular access was granted on 16th November and Mr Moumbaris was interviewed in prison. With the Embassy’s assistance, Mr Moumbaris obtained legal representation. Both consular and legal access have been freely granted and messages have been passed to his family in France. Mr Moumbaris was charged under the Terrorism Act on 10th January and he and his companions were remanded for trial in the Supreme Court on 14th March 1973. The Embassy is maintaining contact with Mr Moumbaris. That was the information available in early February.
The information I have just received for Senator Mulvihill, according to a cable from Pretoria, is that Mr Moumbaris’ trial began at 10 a.m. on 14th March. Following the preliminaries, including delivery of indictment, application was made by the defence to adjourn the trial until 19th March on the grounds of initial non-availability of defence counsel. This was done to gain extra time to complete a defence. The State raised no objection and the trial was adjourned.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. I ask: What did the Minister intend the word bonanza’ to indicate to the Senate when he claimed that primary industry in Australia is experiencing a bonanza? Did the Minister speak in a loose fashion or did he intend his words to be accepted by the Senate? Is he aware that there is no primary industry receiving individually high returns for its produce, if one takes the rise in the consumer price index over a period of 10 years and applies it to any one rural primary product, including wool and beef? Does the Minister agree with the statement of the Minister for Northern Development, Dr Patterson, yesterday that one of the first things that the new Government found out when it came into office was the very serious financial problems that existed in some sectors of primary industry?
– To answer the last part of Senator Webster’s question first, I would simply say that if Dr Patterson was correct it is a sad reflection on 23 years of LiberalCountry Party rule. But, to take the first part of the honourable senator’s question, the term bonanza’ was used initially by, I think, Senator Lillico. If the honourable senator were to check Hansard tomorrow he would find that I did not say that there is a bonanza; 1 said that it could be said that there is a bonanza in prices in Australia at the present time for our rural products. I can only go by the fact that wool prices, as we know, are at the highest they have been at for 21 years; the wool clip this year will be approximately 80 per cent higher than it was last year; meat prices are running at a record level and so is the volume of shipments. I think sugar prices could be said to be not at a record level but a very high level. Even butter prices are well above the average in the last 3 or 4 years. Dried fruits are running at a record level of over $500 a ton. I said earlier - I think I was correct in saying it - that the income from rural products this year will be to the order of $370m above what it was last year. I am not going to argue as to whether or not that represents bonanza conditions. But I do think it would suggest that conditions are reasonably good in the main for those people engaged in primary production at the present time.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Media. I ask: Does the Minister agree with the reported statement by Lord Hill, former Chairman of the Board of Governors of the British Broadcasting Corporation, during his current Australian visit that an optimum balance of programs cannot be achieved by legislative compulsion?
– I have seen a report of remarks that Lord Hill made on the radio program ‘A.M.’ yesterday morning. In addition I had the privilege and benefit of a very long discussion in my office on Monday of last week with the right honourable gentleman. One of the things that Lord Hill, who is the retiring Chairman of the British Broadcasting Corporation, had to say during his interview on the Australian Broadcasting Commission program ‘A.M.’ yesterday was that in the case of independent or commercial television in England there is a parent authority which enters into contracts with program-making companies and that there is a requirement on that parent authority to secure balance. I am given to understand - I am subject to correction - that that requirement is by way of legislation.
Insofar as the policy of the Government is concerned, it is specifically written into the Australian Labor Party’s policy that a fairness principle will be included in the legislation regulating radio and television so that opposing viewpoints will have a fair opportunity of expression. 1 point out to the honourable senator that this has been the practice in a number of other countries, including, of course, the United States of America under the auspices of the Federal Communications Commission. Admittedly there have been some difficulties in some areas of administering a principle of this kind, but 1 do not believe that the difficulties that might arise will involve a problem that is insoluble. The fact is, of course, that a balanced doctrine - for want of a better term I adopt the term used by the honourable senator - is embodied in the Broadcasting and Television Act insofar as it relates to political advertising during an election campaign. Also a principle of fairness or balance is written into some of the standards laid down under the Act by the Broadcasting Control Board. This applies particularly to standard No. 2 , which relates to news programs. It states that fairness should be ensured in the pictorial presentation of news. I might mention that other somewhat similar requirements of fairness or balance appear elsewhere in the Board’s television program standards.
– My question was directed to the balance of entertainment, the balance of culture - not the balance of fairness.
– I am sorry. I misunderstood the honourable senator’s question. I should like to think that a balance could be achieved without legislation, but bearing in mind the history of television in this country to date and the paucity of programming in certain areas, such as children’s programs, professional variety programs and educational programs, if it cannot be done in co-operation with the stations it will have to be done by way of legislative enactment.
– I notice that Senator Jessop was the first to rise to get the call for the next question. Before I call him I inform the Senate that it is my intention when the Senate resumes after next week to ask the leaders of all parties in the Senate to attend upon me in my room so that I may discuss with them the whole matter of question time and how the call shall be given. Yesterday there was an obvious demand by a substantial number of senators for the application of the Standing Orders. When I called on questions today I made it quite clear that it was my intention to apply the Standing Orders and that the first senator to rise would receive the call. I call Senator Jessop.
– Can the Minister assisting the Prime Minister inform the Senate why the Prime Minister did not call a Premiers Conference in February as is customarily done? As the South Australian Labor Government is experiencing serious financial difficulty and faces a deficit of at least $15m, can the Minister say when the Prime Minister intends to call a meeting to discuss this particularly important matter affecting the Commonwealth and the States?
– Unfortunately Senator Jessop, as always, has to throw something at the South Australian Government. I think I can say that whatever the difficulties or advantages of South Australia having that Government, it will be there for another 3 years; so the honourable senator had better become used to it.
– That is unfortunate.
– I remind the honourable senator that he has already asked his question. I know that he does not particularly like the democratic system, but he will just have to put up with it.
– Mr President, I rise to order. The Minister has cast doubts upon my integrity by saying that I place no importance on the democratic system. I ask him to withdraw that statement.
- Senator Jessop will be aware that if he claims to have been misrepresented or that words used by the Minister are offensive to him he may ask the Minister to withdraw. I am sure that if the Minister considers that he has been offensive he will withdraw the remark.
– I have never said anything offensive to anybody while I have been in this place. The honourable senator contravened the Standing Orders by interjecting. If he wants to give it he should be prepared to take it. I mentioned the South Australian Government and said that it would be there for another 3 years, at which point the honourable senator said That is a pity’, Bad luck’, or some such thing. He was asking for a reply and I gave it to him.
– Again I rise to order. 1 suggest that the Minister is quite wrong in what he has just said. My objection is not to his reply to my interjection but to the doubts expressed about my credibility. The Minister said that I was against the democratic system.
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– I will ask the Prime
Minister to give some consideration to the honourable senator’s question.
– My question, addressed to the Minister for the Media, refers to reports that a ‘Four Corners’ team was not allowed to make a documentary film in Russia after the team arrived in Moscow. Did the ‘Four Corners’ team have any agreement with or permission from the Russian authorities before it left Australia? If this is the case, can the Minister say where the misunderstanding occurred which will prevent the Australian public viewing conditions as they exist in Russia?
– I understand that last year arrangements were negotiated between the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Soviet authorities for a ‘Four Corners’ team to enter the Soviet Union this year for the purpose of making certain film programs. During the course of a visit to the Soviet Union last year, one of the Assistant General Managers of the ABC, Mr Buttrose, who was there to arrange for certain Soviet artists to come to Australia, entered into arrangements for getting the ‘Four Corners’ team into the Soviet Union. I understand that the team arrived in Moscow last Thursday in accordance with an arrangement reached between the ABC and the Soviet authorities with the full knowledge of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs. It was an understanding on the part of the ABC that as part of the agreement the team would be allowed to take its own camera crew into the Soviet Union. When the crew reached Moscow the camera equipment was impounded and the leader of the team was told that he would have to pay for a Soviet camera crew for which the ABC would be charged, speaking from recollection, some Si 50 a day. The leader of the team got in touch with the Australian Embassy which in turn contacted the Department of Foreign Affairs. I understand that as a result of the negotiations between the ABC and the Department of Foreign Affairs, on the one hand, and the Soviet authorities on the other hand, the team has now left the .Soviet Union and has been dispatched by the ABC to Vienna where certain film programming will be conducted by the team.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Overseas Trade. Is it a fact that in September this year renewal of international trade talks under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade will take place? Will the Government issue a brief statement on the operation of GATT so far as it affects Australia’s current major trading partners? I believe that there are half a dozen countries with which trade relations are of major significance. Can the Minister say whether the question of the United States duty of 25ic per lb greasy wool could be taken up under these talks? The Minister will appreciate that that would be of great significance to our rural economy. I refer also to the current heavyweight trade tour about to visit Red China from Australia. In view of the fact that Taiwan’s overseas trade is many millions of dollars greater than that of Red China, will the Minister extend the tickets and the time of this delegation so that it may inlude Taiwan in its endeavours?
– I shall have to obtain a reply in relation to the question about the meeting in relation to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. It will be held towards the end of the year, I think in September. The honourable senator asks whether the Government will make a statement about the impact on our trading partners. I shall refer that to the appropriate Minister as I shall the question about the duty of 25ic per lb on greasy wool. I was asked yesterday about the trade mission to the People’s Republic of China and I said I would pass the question on for consideration. But general guidelines have been laid down. The only connections with Taiwan will not be of an official nature. I think that will prevent the mission from going to Taiwan.
In the question asked of <me yesterday it was suggested that a visit to Japan be included. The same situation does not apply in relation to Japan so I will obtain an answer to that question. I think that when an answer comes back in relation to Taiwan - about which Senator Hannan specifically asked - we will find that the tour will not be extended because of the guidelines which the Government has laid down. The Government will not have official representation with Taiwan but individuals who want to travel there may do so.
– This is about foreign affairs.
– It is the Hansard of 5th March 1970. I thought you said you had read it.
– It is the Hansard of 5th March. I thought you said you had read it.
Notice of Motion
– Mr President, this matter has been brought on suddenly. I had no knowledge that Senator Kane was going to ask for leave to make a statement in the form of a personal explanation. I assume it is going to be a brief statement. As he was not here last night, I suggest that the Senate give Senator Kane leave to make a short statement on the matter now.
– I hope the honourable senator does not mind my suggesting to him that he should stick to making a personal explanation and not open up the subject to debate.
– What is the general nature of the statement?
– I move:
That the Senate take note of the paper.
I simply indicate that the Opposition wishes to have the opportunity to make some references to this very important matter. It is a matter of great importance to the whole of Australia. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Motion (by Senator Willesee) agreed to:
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 27th March, unless sooner called together by the President or, in the event of the President being unavailable owing to illness or other cause, by the Chairman of Committees.
Constitutional and Legal Affairs
Senators Byrne, Durack, James McClelland, Wheeldon, Wright and Brown.
Finance and Government Operations
Senators Cotton, Devitt, Gietzelt, Guilfoyle, Lawrie and McAuliffe.
Foreign Affairs and Defence
Senators Drury, Carrick, Gietzelt, Maunsell, McManus, Sim, Wheeldon and Primmer.
Health and Welfare
Senators Sir Kenneth Anderson, Brown, Dame
Nancy Buttfield, Donald Cameron, Fitzgerald and Townley.
Industry and Trade
Senators Lillico, McAuliffe, McLaren, Webster, Wilkinson and Young.
Senators Bonner, Davidson, Keeffe, Georges, Little and Mulvihill.
Motion (by Senator Willesee) agreed to:
That the senators as indicated by Mr President, having been duly nominated in accordance with the resolution of the Senate, be appointed members of the legislative and general purpose standing committees,
Reference to Public Works Committee
Motion (by Senator Cavanagh) agreed to:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the
Public Works Committee Act 1969-1972, 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.
Motion (by Senator Willesee) agreed to:
That Government Business, orders of the day Nos 1 to 8, take precedence of all other business on the notice paper this day.
– As we are all aware, the Senate will not sit next week. Orders of the day Nos 1 to 8 - Government Business - are all Bills which I anticipate, as a result of discussion with Senator Withers, will not occupy a great deal of time. Nonetheless they are important. I understand that a group of repatriation Bills provide for a certain commencing date. Of the electoral Bills one, that relating to a reduction of the voting age, is of particular urgency. The electoral officer in Victoria has contacted the Chief Electoral Officer in Canberra and has pointed out that an election will be held in Victoria shortly and that he has fixed 21st March as the date for compilation of the Victorian roll. In other words, Victoria is doing the same as the Commonwealth, and in Victoria, as in most of the States there being I think one exception, there is a common roll. The reason for the Commonwealth being able to collaborate with Victoria if possible is obvious; if the Federal electoral legislation is passed and the Parliament reduces the voting age to 18, there will be an opportunity for them to get together and to make a common roll for everyone. The will of the Senate will of course prevail, but if it is possible to pass these Bills, it would assist the Government.
Then we would come to the situation at 8 o’clock tonight at which time Senator Wright wishes to proceed with his motion for the disallowance of the divorce regulations. I have indicated to Senator Withers that we would take the adjournment of the debate at that stage as Senator Wright will have argued why the regulations should be disallowed and we would like an opportunity to examine his argument. Senator Withers understands that. The debate would be continued at some future time.
– I agree with the proposal.
– What Senator Willesee has said is in substance correct. I do not want to sound as though I am on a nit-picking expedition, but I point out that the repatriation Bills will be put through within minutes as it is well known that the official Opposition offers no real opposition to them.
As to the motion proposed by Senator Wright, I think it ought to be known that whilst Senator Wright is sponsoring this motion the Opposition will not resist the Government’s seeking the adjournment of the debate on it because it will be done at the specific request of the Government. I simply want to make that clear. I think the procedures will work out satisfactorily.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Gair) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Senator Gair moving a motion relating to the order of business on the notice paper.
Motton (by Senator Gair) proposed:
That after the consideration of the business of the Senate, Notice of Motion No. 1 take precedence over all other business on the notice paper.
– I did not take part in the discussion on this matter. As the Senate knows, Senator Murphy has been called away. As I understand the position, the effect of this action would be that if we take the adjournment of Senator Wright’s motion Senator Gair would then want to proceed with Notice of Motion No. 1 which relates to the withdrawal of troops from South East Asia. Is that the situation?
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.
This Bill will amend the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act to provide 2 additional exemptions from sales tax. Firstly, it will exempt contraceptives thus giving formal effect to the announcement by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) on 8th Decem- ber last year that the Government had decided that the sales tax on contraceptives would be removed as from that date. The exemption will accordingly have retrospective effect to 8th December 1972. Secondly, it will exempt certain goods used in the conversion of business and industrial equipment to the metric system. This exemption is being introduced following recommendations by the Metric Conversion Board for limited taxation concessions for the benefit of persons who are faced with the costs of converting items of plant and equipment to the metric system. Broadly, it will apply to parts and accessories used in converting existing items of business and industrial equipment to the metric system.
Some industries have commenced the changeover to the new system and in recognition of this the tax exemption will apply to parts and accessories purchased on or after 1st July 1971. After the Bill has come into operation, persons who have already paid sales tax on metric conversion parts and accessories purchased on or after 1st July 1971 will be able to apply for refunds of the tax. A memorandum explaining the provisions of the Bill in detail is being circulated for the information of honourable senators. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 13 March (vide page 360), on motion by Senator Bishop.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Mr President, there are 4 Bills which are related to the Repatriation Bill 1973, which is Order of the day No. 1, and I would suggest to the Minister in charge of the Bill that we should have a cognate debate covering all 5 Bills which are listed as Orders of the day Nos 1 to 5. All the matters are related and the Opposition believes the measures could be taken together.
– in reply - I thank the honourable senator and the Opposition for giving the Repatriaition Bill 1973 a speedy passage. I do not agree with his remarks about the ability of the present Government being based on the previous Government’s financial policies. We have clearly promised the ex-servicemen and ex-servicewomen and their associations that we would carry out our policies. It is recognised that what we have done in this legislation will improve to a large extent the lot of those people and will introduce a fairly large slice of our promised program.
The answer to Senator Rae’s question is that a legal wife is classed as a dependant for war pension purposes under section 23 of the principal Act. Clause 4 of the Bill amends section 23 to provide that the term ‘wife’ shall include a dependent female. Therefore, subject to a dependent female satisfying the conditions of eligibility under clause 4 of the amending Bill, she may be paid a pension at the same time as the legal wife. The purpose of the amendment was to bring this legislation into line generally with workers compensation and the Social Services Act.
Bill read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I wish to raise a query with the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Bishop) in relation to the Repatriation Act generally. It has been raised with me that the assurances given by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in his policy speech were on these lines: The basic compensation payments under the Repatriation Act would be given a fixed relationship to the Commonwealth minimum wage so that the special or totally and permanently incapacitated rate would equal the minimum wage; the general 100 per cent rate pension would equal 50 per cent of the minimum wage; and other pension rates and allowances would be adjusted proportionately. It has been raised with me that other pension rates and allowances have not been adjusted proportionately. Could the Minister indicate to the Senate the position in actual fact? Which are those pension rates and allowances which at this time have not been adjusted proportionately and what are the intentions of the Government in this matter?
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is that our program for improvements to the Repatriation Act was not based on a time table. We thought that we would move towards fulfilling them in our first year of Government. But as the honourable senator can see, although we might have introduced these particular improvements at budget time, a number of them other than the pension matters, we have introduced quickly. So we intend to attend to outstanding matters progressively. The general totally and permanently incapacitated pension has been adjusted. In relation to the general rate pension, on this occasion we have made a first step towards achieving our policy.
There are other matters of great priority that we are considering. For example, I am mindful of our undertaking to provide free hospitalisation for veterans of the Boer War and World War I. The honourable senator will remember these matters being ventilated on behalf of organisations during debates on repatriation matters in the old days. My attitude is that we should be moving towards doing that very quickly and other matters will receive priority according to what Cabinet and the Government considers appropriate. But we are very anxious to implement our policies. I say shortly that what we have done so far has been greatly welcomed by the ex-servicemen’s organisations as the honourable senator knows.
– I thank the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Bishop) for his comments. I acknowledge that the Government has done something very substantial in this legislation. Perhaps a little encouragement ought to be given to the Minister to make clear what he means in relation to these other matters. He has indicated to the Senate that the other pension rates and allowances will be adjusted proportionately. Will this be done during 1973? Can those who are interested in those rates and allowances expect that they will be adjusted within 2 years? May it be that they will be adjusted sometime within the life of this Government, or does the suggestion that has been made by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) allow the Senate to understand that these improvements may not be introduced in the life of this Government? I think that there is reason for the Minister to make this clear. Knowing the Minister’s great interest in this matter I can understand that he would wish these pension rates to be made applicable immediately. However, I think it is important that he tell the Senate whether the promise that was given by the Prime Minister means that this Government may run its full term before the improved benefits are introduced.
– First, I will answer the honourable senator’s question concerning the dependant pension rates. These rates have not been increased at this time. Currently the Cabinet Welfare Committee is examining this particular side of our program, and in doing so it has had to have regard for what ought to be done in the social security field. So I can assure the honourable senator that presently we are examining to what extent we can increase these rates and I would expect that that step would be taken at Budget time.
In regard to the hospitalisation matters, I can only say that as the responsible Minister I will be making a submission on them as a matter of urgency. As far as we are able, we will carry out the main reforms in our repatriation policy within the life of this Parliament, but it might take longer than one term in government to make some of the adjustments set out in our policy. It will depend on the general economic factors. But I think the honourable senator would agree that given the short time we have been in office, we have granted very substantial increases in repatriation pensions, and I would hope that the Government will support me in implementing to the fullest possible extent the program which we promised. The next matters to be considered are those to which I have referred.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Bishop) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 13 March (vide page 360), on motion by Senator Bishop:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Consideration resumed from 13 March (vide page 360), on motion by Senator Bishop:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Consideration resumed from 13 March (vide page 360), on motion by Senator Bishop:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Consideration resumed from 13 March (vide page 362), on motion by Senator Cavanagh:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 14 March (vide page 449), on motion by Senator Willesee:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Last night Senator Willesee delivered the second reading speech on the Commonwealth Electoral Bill 1973. I take it that we are now dealing with the Commonwealth Electoral Bill and the 2 associated Sills as one. If the Senate is agreeable I think that that is the more sensible approach. I am dealing with the Commonwealth Electoral Bill 1973, the Australian Capital Territory Representation Bill 1973 and the Northern Territory (Administration) Bill 1973 and by agreement with Senator Willesee I suggest that we have one debate on the second reading. In effect the Bills are about the same matter. Whilst the Opposition does not oppose the Bills one should make a few remarks. I do not know whether it was necessary for the Government when introducing the Bills to use such almost flamboyant language about it being an historic occasion and all the rest of it. When this matter was debated here last year I remarked at the time that I thought I was about the only person in the Senate or indeed in the Parliament who had received a vote at the age of 18 back in 1943. It is not really such an historic occasion to me. It is a long time ago since I got my vote at the age of 18 in 1943, some 30 years ago. I suppose the difference betweenthen and now was that the Government at that time thought I had really earned my vote and that I was not being given it as a gift. On the general merits of the Bills the Opposition does not take exception. However, one is somewhat intrigued by the passage in the second reading speech in which the Special Minister of State (Senator Willesee) said:
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. . . .
What intrigued me was that it was saidthat this period was considered necessary ‘in order that appropriate publicity might be given to the entitlement of the newly enfranchised person’. We were led to believe in this place, during last year especially, that almost 100 per cent of the 18, 19 and 20-year-olds were demanding this right. The fact that the Government now has to indulge in a publicity campaign over some 3 months would rather indicate to me that the demand from this group possibly has been over-emphasised in this place. I do not take exception to the general proposition that persons of 18 should be treated the same as are persons of 21. We have had the situation in the Royal Family for the last 500 or 600 years where the King or Queen could become of age at the age of 18 and exercise all powers of the monarchy, so I suppose it is only right that at last the peasantry or the lower orders or non-royalty should reach equality with the Royal Family.
My Party will give speedy passage to the Bill. Everybody has different views on what will be the ultimate electoral results. I think this will be a matter of conjecture forever because, after all, it is a secret vote and statements by people in the community, whether they be political scientists, pollsters, journalists or politicians, that 18-year-old voters always vote against the government in power or always vote this way or always vote that way is so much eyewash. It is a secret vote. I am happy that persons of this age will exercise their judgment responsibly. I believe that they do have an interest in politics and in what happens in this country, and that they will cast their votes according to their judgment of the political parties and the candidates at the time of the election. Therefore, the Opposition offers no opposition to the Commonwealth Electoral Bill or the 2 Bills that will follow.
– The Australian Democratic Labor Party will support the Bill. We made policy about 2 or 3 years ago at our Federal Conference in favour of votes for those of 18 years of age. The argument was put forward, and there is a good deal in it, that if people are old enough to be called up to fight for their country they are old enough to vote for their country. I think it can be said that this is one of those cases that lawyers refer to when they say that one should never ask a question unless one is sure what the answer will be. In this case all parties are asking the question and none is sure what the answer will be. 1 have heard some Australian Labor Party supporters contend that it will be a big advantage to their Party, but I understand that in some places where it has been tried it has not been found to have a very considerable effect upon the percentage of votes received. I still think that, whatever happens, elections will be won on policies and strategy rather than through a particular group that may happen to have the vote. There was a suggestion in some quarters in my Party that we should make the vote a voluntary affair for people between 18 and 21 years of age on the ground that some of those young people may not be sufficiently clued up to feel that they ought to cast a vote. It was felt that we should leave it to them to decide. But as no other Party has indicated any interest in that proposition we do not propose to put it forward. The Democratic Labor Party will support the Bill.
– The Australian Country Party offers no objection to this Bill. In my State of Victoria we have debated on many occasions whether the Party should fall in line with the general proposal that appears to have been taken up on a worldwide basis that people under the age of 21 should be given the right to vote for their country’s legislature. I have always accepted the view that people younger than 21 today have a greater capacity to learn and develop than did their counterparts of 20 years ago. The comment could be made that they now become more informed every year. This matter has been debated in the Senate on a number of occasions and various honourable senators have taken diverse views on it. It has always appeared to me to be something of an anomaly that the age of 18 should be settled upon as being an age at which the vote should be granted. I could well argue in line with the Prime Minister’s very excellent statement that a youth or a lass at 17 in 1973 has all those qualities which the Labor Party or any Party which proposed the vote at 18 some 2 or 3 years ago said they would have.
I refer the Senate to the second reading speech where it quotes the very excellent words of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) on 21st November 1968 when he was the Leader of the Opposition. Looking at some of those words I draw the Senate’s attention to the fact that those factors which the Prime Minister mentioned should apply in 1973, certainly within the next 3 years will apply to people of a lesser age than 18 if one is to believe that this is the basis upon which we have granted the vote to 18-year-olds now.
I think some of the words spoken by the Prime Minister are worth repeating. He 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.
The words used by the Prime Minister in that statement were appropriate. I again emphasise the fact that I believe that we are caught up in a world-wide trend to grant to people under the age of 21 years the right to vote. Anyone who examines the record of what is happening throughout the world in this respect will find that some countries are granting the right to vote to certain individuals of 19 years of age and 18 years of age. Indeed, some countries have gone so far as to grant it to some at the age of 16 years. Of course, those countries are very few in number.
Victoria has given consideration to this proposition over a number of years. I think it adopted a sensible attitude. I do not think it would have been wise for that State to announce some years ago that it was going to grant the right to vote to people below 21 years of age if the Commonwealth Government would not follow the lead. One or two States have granted the right to vote to 18- year-olds. Considerable public expense would have been involved in the preparation of separate electoral rolls. As is noted in the second reading speech of the Special Minister of State (Senator Willesee) the franchise age in Victoria is to be lowered if a Bill which has been introduced in the lower house becomes law. I understand that Victoria has been waiting for the Commonwealth to pass the present legislation. It is on that basis that I and my Party acquiesce in the Government’s move and will give speedy passage to this Bill.
– I rise for the purpose of making a few short comments on this Bill. I commend the Government for introducing the measure, which will give the 18-year-olds of Australia the right to vote in federal elections. I was very happy to note the change of attitude today by the members of the 3 Opposition parties who have spoken about and have now given their support to this measure. I vividly recall that on each of the last 9 sitting days of the Senate prior to the last federal election the then Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and present Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Murphy, moved for the suspension of the Standing Orders to enable him to bring forward a Bill to give 18-year- olds the right to vote at that election. The government parties of the day, supported by the Australian Democratic Labor Party, saw fit to deny 18-year-olds the right to vote at the last federal election. We now find those parties supporting this measure. I think I am speaking on behalf of the 18-year-olds throughout Australia when I say that I wish those parties had adopted the same attitude about 3 or 4 months ago, and so enabled the 18-year-olds to have a say in the present administration of the country.
– Were the rolls printed in Australia?
Motion (by Senator Willesee) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
– I wish to raise a point that crossed my mind during the course of Senator McLaren’s contribution to the debate on the motion for the second reading of this Bill. It relates to the fact that a voluntary enrolment system applies in some States to people under the age of 21 years. That is a proposition which the Australian Democratic Labor Party had in mind. We think it is a rather sensible one because all 18-year-olds do not share the same maturity and some may not want to be enrolled. My query is: What would be the Commonwealth Government’s attitude towards the administration of this legislation, which provides for compulsory enrolment, in those States where on a State basis the enrolment is voluntary? There could be some confusion among the young people, especially if they do not realise that on a Federal basis enrolment is compulsory and they are likely to be fined if their names are not placed on the electoral roll. I would like the Special Minister of State (Senator Willesee) to give the Senate some indication of what will be the Government’s policy in regard to the administration of this legislation in so far as it affects those young people.
– I wish to clear up one thing which arose out of Senator Little’s remarks concerning my comments about the situation in South Australia. I said that enrolment by 18-year- olds in South Australia was voluntary but that voting was compulsory once they enrolled. Senator Little would know that enrolment for State elections in South Australia is still voluntary, even if one is over the age of 21 years. Enrolment is not compulsory for State elections, but it is compulsory in Commonwealth elections. We in South Australia recognise that fact. I want to point out that the reason why enrolment for 18- year-olds in South Australia is voluntary is not because of the State Government’s decision; it is because of a decison by the Legislative Council, which does not believe in compulsory enrolment or compulsory voting because of the extreme gerrymander that exists in that State so far as the Legislative Council franchise is concerned. The reason for this was very easy to see in the election for the Lower House on Saturday last. The Australian Labor Party was supported by 54 per cent of the electors and gained 26 seats in a House of 47 members. In the Legislative Council, where there is a voluntary vote under a gerrymandered system, the Labor Party now has 6 members. In the past it has had 4 members in a House of 20. It is the Legislative Council which has forced upon the young folk of South Australia and has always forced upon those over 21 years of age, a voluntary voting system. There is neither compulsory enrolment nor compulsory voting in the Legislative Council. Members of the Labor Party believe that people should make some effort to take part in decisions made by the Government. That is one reason why our policy is compulsory enrolment and compulsory voting - so that people will be obliged to exercise their rights. I mention these points for the benefit of Senator Little.
– in reply - The situation is that all States with the exception of South Australia have compulsory voting. South Australia does not have compulsion because of its historical background. The absence of compulsion applies not only to the 18 to 20-year-olds. In all other States voting is compulsory. If the Commonwealth were to provide for voluntary voting it would be inconsistent with what is required by most of the States.
– I think it is usually conceded that the very elderly people should not be required to vote.
– Compulsory voting is sometimes an act of cruelty in the case of a very elderly person.
– Will that not be in breach of the law?
– I have never had one instance of that.
Consideration resumed from 14 March (vide page 450), on motion by Senator Willesee:
That theBill be now read a second time
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 14 March (vide page 450), on motion by Senator Willesee:
That the Bill be now read a second time
– There are some circumstances in the Northern Territory in respect of Aborigines which put this Bill in a slightly different category. I should like the Special Minister of State (Senator Willesee) to explain whether the exemptions which apply now in the Northern Territory to the Aboriginal population and the provision for voluntary enrolment will apply also to people in the 18 to 21 -year-old group.
– in reply - The Aboriginal people of Australia were brought onto the electoral rolls only a comparatively short time ago. An all-party committee had examined the situation and made recommendations which were accepted by the Parliament. I do not propose to go into the reasons for that being done at that time. The one exemption in the electoral Acts applies to Aborigines. I am not able to foretell the future, but from the spirit of the Acts I should imagine, without wishing in any way to intrude on the responsibilities of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant), that the Government would want to move towards a situation in which Aborigines do vote and, in due course, exercise the same rights and responsibilities as anybody else.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
– I move:
The situation is that we have already made an arrangement that the Notice of Motion in the name of Senator Wright will be brought on at 8 p.m. We have dealt already with my motion concerning Orders of the Day Nos 1 to 8 and if it suits the convenience of the Senate we will now go back to the Address-in- Reply debate which is Order of the Day No. 17.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 8 March (vide page 301), on motionby Senator Primmer:
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to:
MAY IT PLEASE YOUR EXCELLENCY:
We. the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
Upon which Senator Withers had moved by way of amendment:
That the following words be added to the AddressinReply, viz: ‘. but the Senate is of the opinion and regrets that - The Government in its conduct of the nation’s affairs has subordinated the security and welfare of the Australian people on whose behalf it should govern to the factional decisions of the Conference and Executive of the Australian Labor Party, in that:
without regard to either economic or social consequences it intends to award Government contracts to employers who will comply with trade union policies;
in defiance of its election policy, it attempted to introduce compulsory unionism for Commonwealth public servants;
it has pursued and intends to pursue defence and foreign policies which are contrary to Australia’s international treaty obligations and which ignore or reject long established bonds with traditional and trusted allies; and further the Senate views with alarm -
economic decisions which take no account of their impact on the nation’s exporters and their employees; and
the Government’s lack of action to curb runaway inflation’.
– I had spoken for some minutes on my AddressinReply speech when the House was adjourned one day last week. I am somewhat surprised to find that the Address-in-Reply debate has been resumed because it had not been planned to come on today. However, I recall that in my opening remarks I said that the address presented to us was far ranging and brought innovation to the Australian people. I congratulated the Labor Government on winning office in its own right, I understand for the first time in 35 years. 1 cautioned the policies and actions that the socialist Government had followed in the few months since it assumed office. Certainly from my political standpoint it appears that many things that have been done and said could be to the great disadvantage of this country. It appears to me that the anti-socialist government of the Liberal and Country Parties lost office mainly by acts of omission and not necessarily by acts of commission. Most people in the community will be anxious to see how we fare for a period under a socialist Government because they have not previously had experience of control in the Federal sphere b> a Labor government. One would expect to see quite considerable change, and that certainly has happened. The immediate reaction of the Labor Government was to demonstrate that it was possible in its opinion for 2 men to govern this country for a period of time. In my view that was a serious situation. Undoubtedly the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) was able to say that the actions that he and the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Barnard) took were purely in line with the Labor Party’s election promises and, as has been emphasised on many occasions, that the Labor Government had a mandate to take just those actions. Some of their statements were in my view most dangerous to the wellbeing of Australia. Undoubtedly I speak from an opposition camp to that in which the Labor Party finds itself at the moment.
The statements that have been made by the Prime Minister and the actions taken by other Ministers have given me great concern. Perhaps those in the Government do not feel any concern for Australia’s safety and security in these matters but to me the Government’s attitude to existing allies such as America and Britain was not in the interest of this country. The Government took the attitude that it has taken on subsequent occasions of telling our great ally America that we did not trust it. We have been doing that regularly in the last weeks in relation to bases in Australia. Certainly one of the premises upon which any good friend and ally should work is that it should have complete trust in a friend. We have not demonstrated that to America and 1 would apologise to America, as I have done on the previous occasions I have spoken, for some of the statements which were made by Ministers of the Labor socialist Government. I do not believe that statements by Dr Cairns and other Ministers truly reflect the attitudes and wishes of the Australian public in general.
Senator Murphy flurried across to Britain where I do not think he made a great friend for this country in attempting to say to Britain that he wanted a quick break in the ties that had existed. It seemed to me again to be one of the double standards which have been applied by Ministers when in Britain. Senator Murphy, as a Queen’s Counsel, forgot to mention that he would be quite happy to have the title ‘QC taken off the end of his name as he did not wish to have any relationship with the monarchy in future years. However, Senator Murphy was not so much concerned with that; he was concerned with a proposal to seek a break with Britain in regard to our legal structure. His comments in relation to the Crown are certanly not in line with my thinking and I do not agree with them. However, I say to the new Labor Government that I hope it will consider the actions it has taken perhaps in the flurry of the first two or three months in office because having been in Opposition for so long it may be forgiven for some of the hasty statements that have been made.
The Government’s flurry in attempting to embrace communist countries certainly has raised the eyebrows of many people in the community. I doubt whether it was necessary for us to throw Taiwan out of Australia in our hurry to embrace the People’s Republic of China. Undoubtedly the time was coming when China would be recognised, whatever that word may mean - whether it is United Nations recognition or Australian recognition. The fact is that China has shown very little interest in Australia. I imagine that a country of such great size would have very little need to take great notice of a country of 13 million or 14 million people. Although China had not taken this interest, Australia took action to recognise that country. The Australian Government has also taken action to recognise East Germany. Further, it has made a quick recognition of North Vietnam and that action certainly demonstrated where the Labor Party had stood on this issue over the past years. This action by the Government has given me great concern. A report today asserts that some 30,000 troops and arms are flowing down from the north into South Vietnam. The Government has now recognised that there are 2 Vietnams, which is contrary to the statements made by Labor politicians when they were in Opposition for so many years. They said there was only one Vietnam. I hope that the Department of Foreign Affairs will verify quickly - I point out that there is a question on notice about this matter - whether there has been any violation by North Vietnam of the Paris peace agreement. I hope that the Australian Government, even though it apparently has some close relationship with the communists, will take appropriate action. We will see what happens when that comes forward.
There are so many things about this Government’s foreign policy that one can criticise. I could refer to the reply received from Indonesia, a country which for so many years had experienced infiltration by communists, to the suggestion by the Government of this small nation of Australia that there should be some pact within this area which should embrace Communist China. Our Prime Minister received a very quick answer from the appropriate officer in Indonesia. A similar thing happened when the Australian Government tried to influence Thailand to our way of thinking. It would appear to anyone who has viewed the situation that hasty statements were made about our foreign policy which perhaps do not accord with Australia’s best interests. In my opinion our new foreign policy is a disaster for the reputation of Australia. It is disastrous that now we should be viewed as a country willing to throw away a very good and strong ally of very many years and quickly embrace a country with which we have not had relationships for a number of years. That will not be respected by our former friends, nor will we gain great reputation with those we now embrace. I sincerely hope that those who guide and direct the policies of this Labour Government will be inclined to moderate their views, if they are able to do so. I hope that they are not directed from outside the Party as has been the situation in past years. I implore them to take notice of the reputation of Australia and to understand what they are doing to this country when statements are made.
The other important aspect for Australia following the election of this new Labor Government is the likely effect on our domestic financial policies. It must be acknowledged that there has been a 2.4 per cent or 2.7 per cent swing in the voting pattern in Australia, and this has placed an entirely new class of government in office. We must acknowledge that the people have given a mandate to this Government to carry out a number of determined policies. I hope that the Senate will show great responsibility in granting to the Labor Government the opportunity to carry out those policies for which it did achieve a mandate. I am afraid, however, that there are some things about which the Government is attempting to say that the people gave it a mandate. It will then be the responsibility of the Senate to act wisely and to restrict the Government’s proposals.
One such very important matter is the electoral system. This is an important matter for my Party, the Country Party, or for any Party which represents mainly the lesser developed areas of Australia. I imagine that my Party would be said to be more representative of the outer metropolitan and rural areas of Australia than it would be said to reflect the views of the inner metropolitan area. I sense that the aim of the Government at this time as revealed in the various Bills that it has introduced, is to ensure that it secures a Labor government in Australia for all time. Some of the proposals put forward by the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) cannot be in the interests of the smaller States. It will be necessary for honourable senators representing States other than Victoria and New South Wales to look very closely at what the situation will be in the House of ‘Representatives, the House which is said to reflect the more popular vote of the people of Australia. I hope that they will realise that the Government’s claim that it is attempting to bring about what is popularly referred to as one vote, one value is untrue. The Government claims that it is attempting to provide for every person’s vote to have the same weight, but the result will be that the domination of the whole Parliament will fall into the hands of New South Wales and Victoria. This is one of the greatest burdens that this Senate will have to shoulder.
– Does not the honourable senator agree with the Leader of his Party who, when he was addressing a meeting of small farmers 2 years ago, said: ‘You have to get big or get out’? Has the honourable senator changed his mind?
Motion for Disallowance of Rules
– I 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- 1966, be disallowed.
The question whether these rules should continue to operate or be disallowed is already overdue for decision. My colleagues and I hoped that the Senate would decide this question today. However, the Attorney-General, Senator Murphy, the author of the rules, has informed us that he is preoccupied today with 2 high national security questions requiring his decision. In deference to that view I, speaking only for myself but after arrangements have been made, will have no objection to the debate being adjourned at the conclusion of my speech on the understanding that the Senate, when it resumes on Tuesday, 27th March, will debate the matter and decide the matter that day. I would add that it may be sensible to interpret the wide range of representation of honourable senators who are associated with me in submitting the motion as indicating some confidence as to the fate of the rules on that date. To prevent dislocation and interruption of the proper administration of the divorce law, the AttorneyGeneral might think it prudent to arrange the repeal of the rules and the submission of acceptable rules in the meantime.
Having prefaced my remarks in that way, I now address myself to the substance of the motion. Mr Deputy President, I remind you and, through you, the Senate that the rules as they were previously - what I will call, for shorthand purposes and ease of understanding but without being disrespectful, the rules in existence before the Murphy rules - were brought in after this Federal Parliament had enacted as recently as 1959 a new divorce law giving expression to the view of this Parliament as to the proper provisions of divorce law. The rules that were promulgated to implement the procedures - although I agree that they were a little too verbose and unnecessarily complicated - were forged out by conference and consultation between the Attorney-General of the day and those who had to administer the rules. They therefore represented not one man’s point of view as to the appropriate procedural rules but a combined Australian point of view of those experienced in the field.
The next point is that the divorce Act itself definitely requires divorce relief to be granted only if it is proved that there has been matrimonial misconduct, such as adultery, cruelty, desertion and other things, or that there are certain breakdown circumstances such as separation for 5 years or insanity. But the basis upon which I have moved this motion - I hope my colleagues will associate themselves with me in this; we share a common purpose but, of course, I do not presume to speak for them - is that it is a cardinal rule of this Senate that it will not permit any Executive or Minister to enact rules that are inconsistent with the Act, either in their direct expression or in provisions which prevent the effective enforcement of the Act. This Senate has established a special role in the supervision of subordinate legislation. One of the cases in which a collision with our principles occurs is where rules are inconsistent with the Act. Another is where rules purport to give expression to a policy that is so substantial in its nature that it should be implemented by an Act of Parliament. Another is that a ministerial abolition of real individual rights by subordinate legislation without access to court supervision will not be permitted.
The other principle upon which I state my case - I do so very firmly, for all my misdemeanours - is that the great majority of the Australian people believe that marriage is a fundamental security, not in any spiritual or theoretical sense but in a practical sense. It is a security to the parents and the children of the union. Unless the children can rely upon the proper security of marriage and unless each parent can rely upon a system to enforce the proper obligations of it, the basis of our community is weakened indeed. Any alteration of that situation, of course, is a matter that excites very great interest, even when it becomes a matter for debate on the floor of the chamber on the presentation of a Bill. Certainly the present situation is not to be undermined by a Minister at his desk, during a vacation, simply by putting his signature to a piece of paper, getting a colleague to recommend it, and going out to Government House and publishing it in the ‘Gazette’.
The relevance of these points is that on the day I gave notice of my motion Senator Murphy took the occasion, with that lack of inhibition which is so characteristic of him, to express his viewpoint. When answering a question asked by my colleague Senator Greenwood on 8th March Senator Murphy said, as reported at page 264 of Hansard:
He was referring to Senator Greenwood’s view - is that the notion of the guilty husband and the innocent wife is something that belongs with the rest of the 19th century thinking of the honourable senator. In modern days the legislative provision under which a great number of divorces are granted is on the ground of separation. This does not involve any question of guilt. As to the other grounds, the common understanding is that it is absurd to talk about guilt and innocence in this way . . .
It is apposite in relation to that remark to quote the views of an expert - they are expressed in language better than mine - who is not inimical to relaxation of divorce safeguards and who contributed a considered commentary to the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ on Sth March. I refer to none other than Professor Sackville, Professor of Law at the University of New South Wales. He said:
The problem is that the rules -
He was referring to the Murphy rules- graft on to a ‘fault’ system of divorce a series of non-fault’ amendments. These amendments are essentially inconsistent with the basic legislative framework established by the . . . Act.
Senator Murphy was good enough to enable us to have his thoughts expressed in print. With the impulsiveness that one saw when other Ministers were contending for notoriety in the early days of the new government, one Minister bounded forward out of the flock and butted off these rules irrespective of anything that was in the Act. Apart altogether from any question of proprieties in the preservation of marriage, this Senate is not in the habit of permitting a Minister to undermine Acts of Parliament simply because he may have some individual notion that the Act is old fashioned and that the rules reflect a fault system which he attributes to the 19th century.
I want to state, not only in terms which I hope will be interesting to the lawyers but in language that people use, 5 reasons why the rules should be disallowed. Firstly, when the rules abolish the requirements that a petititioner should state for the Court’s information matters of collusion and condonation they are really contrary to the Act, because the Act specifically and clearly makes collusion and condonation absolute bars to divorce. No Court which ignored the provisions of the Act to that effect would be worth its salt, however vehemently Senator Murphy may think inquiry into them is not warranted. When he makes rules which absolve a petitioner from stating for the information of the Court whether or not there has been collusion or condonation, he is contributing to an embarrassment to the Court’s judgment that really blocks the Court’s performance of this duty.
Secondly, when the rules abolish the provision that a petitioner should disclose adultery or cruelty or wilful desertion by the petitioner, he prevents the Court from having knowledge of something which, by the Act, the Court is required to take into consideration. If found to exist, the Court is bound to give its discretionary consideration to it and to decide whether in all the circumstances of the case, notwithstanding adultery, cruelty, or wilful desertion by the petitioner himself, the divorce should be granted. Any Court invested with that discretionary authority which proceeded as though it did not exist would be deserting its judicial duty. Senator Murphy makes great play of the fact that he has abolished what has come to be called the confession statement, in the interests of what he calls the dignity of man. I point out that the courts for a long time have permitted a petitioner, who is under an obligation of candour to the court as to any misdemeanour that may affect him matrimonially, to disclose adultery by putting it in a confession statement in a sealed envelope which is brought to the consideration of the judge but without mention in the court and without questioning by counsel.
It follows from several judicial statements that have been made by judges that, if that procedure is denied to a petitioner, nonetheless the courts will not be relieved when they know from the petition that the petitioner asks them to exercise their discretion in his favour. This mere abolition of a confession statement has been said by the judges not to relieve them of the obligation to consider whether ornot the fact is proved, as the Chief Justice of South Australia, Dr Bray, said in February of this year. His Honor said:
Despite the new rule about discretion statements, the allegation in the petition that the petitioner has committed adultery, or seeks the discretion of the court, notifies me of that fact and it is still my duty under Section 41 of the Act to inquire into the matter and see whether I should exercise my discretion or not. In such cases it will be for counsel to decide how the necessary information is to be put before me and I will not refuse to receive it in the form of a confession statement if that is desired.
But other judges have said: ‘I, having no longer a statement which can be called discreet, will be impelled by my duty to inquire into these undignified issues in open Court by embarrassing questions to the petitioner in the presence of whoever may be there’.
The third proposition comes nearer home. One of the great things, one of the real improvements introduced by the Federal Act in 1959, was a provision that a decree for divorce should not be made absolute unless arrangements for the maintenance and custody of children were approved by the Court and the Court was satisfied of them. The Provision now makes it optional as to whether the petitioner, before the decree, should disclose the arrangements as to custody and maintenance of the children. I distinguish entirely for the purposes of my argument questions of property and maintenance of other people. But if the Court is to be disembarrassed by being left in ignorance about custody and maintenance of the children, it will be prevented from or handicapped in performing one of the supreme duties under the Act - that is, to be satisfield before dissolving the marriage that the arrangements as to the custody or maintenance of the children are proper.
Fourthly, 1 doubt whether it is fully realised that the occasion was taken in framing these rules to promulgate a rule that in divorce proceedings no Court fees should be payable. In every jurisdiction of Australian Courts, even in petty sessions and bankruptcy jurisdiction - it has been the universal practice for Court fees to be payable as some contribution by litigants to the cost of the administration of justice. It has been reliably stated that in New South Wales alone the cost to the State Government of administering the divorce jurisdiction is $500,000 a year. Also, it has been reliably stated that the fees col lected in that State amount to $300,000 a year. Yet, we are seriously confronted with amendments to the Matrimonial Causes Rules from a Minister at his desk in Canberra that state that no court fees shall be payable thereby depriving the States of reimbursement of costs to which they are exposed by the exercise of this jurisdiction.
Finally, for the purpose of my substantial statement of objection, I come to what is called ‘legal costs’. Somebody in the Press gallery will say: ‘Ah! Here are the rackets. We set black type for this.’ Oh, I do sigh for perspective, proportion and understanding when it comes to the wages earned by doctors or lawyers. I for my part - I am sure that I speak for all my colleagues - would oppose to the nth degree a client or that client’s adversary being exposed to excessive demands for professional fees. But ever since this jursidiction has operated the fees of every legal practitioner have been capable of being presented to the taxing master for assessment to see whether they were reasonable and justified in every detail. For Senator Murphy’s benefit, I state that in 4 compartments or in 40 items of one bill the taxing master is unrestricted as to the detail to which he shall submit the legal fees. I mention that situation because it has prevailed in the legal profession for 100 years, in contrast to the position of medical men who have never had to submit to such a system. That situation, of course, is contemporarily a matter of great contention.
I am not interested, except by way of preface, to state the situation to which I have referred because the part of this rule as to legal costs is one that I think should be headlined for our consideration for a week. We have this bland statement that no party to an undefended matrimonial cause shall be ordered to pay the costs of any other party in the cause. It is easy to slip into the idea of discussing this matter from the point of view of poverty-stricken people. This rule of Senator Murphy’s applies to every grade of litigant in the matrimonial causes jurisdiction. It should be considered not in the terms of hardship but of justice. If 2 spouses each have property valued at $30,000 and the husband commits adultery and the wife is put to the cost of getting a divorce from him, in the name of God and justice, what principle, except arrogant irrationality, deprives the wife, the petitioner, of the right to recover the cost of that legal process against the husband who has committed adultery?
Take the case, not of people owning property the value of which runs into thousands of dollars but of a husband and wife, wage earners, each with an income of $50 a week. The wife yields to a man who has an income of $10,000 a year. The husband proceeds with a divorce action. Today he would get his costs from the co-respondent. Senator Murphy would have the co-respondent go free. Why? Just because they were caught in circumstances in which no defence was available to deny the misdemeanour. It gives us an insight into the mind of the draftsman of these rules when we find that after providing that these things should occur, it is stated:
Is it thought that we would be bemused by the idea that the hoo-doo - the grace and favour - of a Minister is a sufficient substitute for a court’s judgment as to whether costs should be payable? Ever since I have been a member of the Senate we have fought against the principle that a Minister should be the person to make a judgment as to individual rights. For the Attorney-General to use the excuse that he is the protector of victims of hardship is as bad as saying that corespondents should go free of the obligation to pay costs just because the case against them is so clear that it is undefended. There are, in addition to these matters, many technical objections to the rules, both from the legal and constitutional point of view. But I submit that I have advanced sufficient to make it imperative in the judgment of the Senate to disallow the rules.
I offer 2 further comments. The disallowance of the rules will create some confusion, but the longer they are allowed to remain, the more the confusion will increase. The needless questions of legal doubt that will arise if the impetuous draftsmanship of these regulations is permitted to remain operative will create great cost, indecision and the injustice of untoward decisions. Finally, I say that the disallowance in no sense implies opposition to reasonable and well considered reform. Therefore, I ask the Senate to disallow Senator Murphy’s amendments.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
– Notice of this motion was given by
Senator Gair, but he has commissioned me as the spokesman on foreign affairs and defence for the Australian Democratic Labor Party to present the motion to the Senate. Therefore, I move:
May I say for clarification purposes that when we refer to the announced proposal of the Government to withdraw Australian military units from Singapore, we refer principally to the decision to withdraw the battalion of fighting troops. Whether the other troops which are said to be engaged, by some in logistic work, and by others in espionage or similar work, are to be withdrawn, appears to be a matter of some doubt at the present time. There are strong divisions of opinion in the Government party on this question, and it appears from a statement of the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Barnard) that the Labor Party proposes to allow the question to be resolved by the Federal Conference of the party at a later date.
I believe that the Senate must debate this question because it is a matter which strongly affects our security. We must also determine where we stand because of the strongly differing opinions not only as between the Government and the Opposition but also in the ranks of the Government which, on this issue, appears to be divided into 2 warring sections. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and Mr Barnard, whilst saying that they will adhere to a promise given prior to the election that the Australian troops would be withdrawn, are interpreting that as suggesting that it is still legitimate for them, within the terms of their promise, to leave a number of troops, variously stated to be perhaps 600 or 700, in Singapore after the departure of the battalion.
Then in opposition to that we have the strong statement by Mr Hartley and the Victorian socialist Left which is extremely powerful in that State. We have the strong statements by Mr Hartley and Mr Crawford who are members of the Australian Labor Party Federal Executive, to the effect that in their view the party is committed to the withdrawal of all troops from Singapore. We have the statement by Mr Barnard that while the matter is in doubt at the moment and he feels that the troops ought to be left there, if he is told by the Federal Conference to take them away he will obey its instructions.
Therefore, 1 believe that in this position of uncertainty it is the duty of the Senate to express an opinion. Why are the Australian troops there? They are there, we are informed, as part of a Commonwealth force which contains British, Australian and New Zealand troops. They are there with the willing consent of the Government of Singapore which, as the body which provides housing and shelter for the troops, is most intimately concerned. We have this statement by Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who some years ago was highly regarded by members of the Australian Labor Party, and is still highly regarded by large numbers of them and highly disregarded by others:
I am quite happy with the modest forces of British, Australian and New Zealanders that we have in Singapore. They are effective for the purposes of maintaining stability in a relatively tranquil area behind Vietnam.
It is interesting that Mr Lee Kuan Yew went on to say that he had no objection to the presence of Australian troops with their British and New Zealand comrades but he. would have every objection to the presence of Russian or United States troops in Singapore. He expressly stated that the reason why he approves of their presence is that he believes they are a stabilising factor in a very difficult area; he believes that they are a safeguard. Therefore, the position is that our troops are not in Singapore as part of some imperialistic process; they are there by invitation. They are regarded not only by Singapore but also by Malaysia and Indonesia - all of which would have been concerned if they objected to the presence of these troops - as a stabilising force and as a protection against the prospect of guerrilla subversion.
– How did we win the election on 2nd December?
– The National Civic Council is your secret base.
– Name them.
– Who made them the victims?
– I think “that there is a certain amount of hypocrisy in the proposition that Senator McManus has put forward tonight. This is the second occasion in a debate on bases and the troops in Singapore that he has told us about the constructive role that is being played by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Barnard) and applauded that role. Senator McManus has asked us to ensure that members of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party get behind Mr Whitlam and Mr Barnard and see that their moderate attitude is supported.
– It was Chifley who put troops into the coal mines.
– No, I am just putting in what you are leaving out.
– What was he doing flying in the VIP aircraft with Whitlam? The Minister cannot see anything wrong with that, apparently.
– The DLP is leading the Liberal Party by the nose.
– I am not very concerned with paragraph 2 of the motion except to say that we are entitled to take note of the statements which have been made by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Barnard), by Mr Hawke who warned the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) that he had to take note of the Federal Conference of the Australian Labor Party and by men such as Mr Hartley and Mr Crawford who are very prominent in the Victorian branch of the Australian Labor Party.
– I think that Mr Hartley has said that he hopes the North wins, has he not?
– That is your opinion.
-Senator Bishop, I think, has laid the foundation of the Australian Government’s attitude to this question. We have heard a fair amount of loose talk. The more I look at the wild statements in the motion, the more I believe that they cannot possibly be backed by any debate or any facts that can be brought before the Senate. Since the advent of the Labor Government it has been made tremendously clear throughout the world that there has been a change in Australia’s stance on foreign policy, and this has been welcomed throughout the world. The fact that we have moved from a military stance has been welcomed. When one considers the countries in our region that we are talking about one asks why, having regard to their size, geographic position and history, they would want any of their friends insisting on a completely military stance. That is the last thing they could possibly want.
What has to be realised, and what is tremendously important, is that we have lost peace in this area on so many occasions that it will be a standing disgrace to the countries in the area if we ever lose it again. That is the tremendous challenge that faces not only Australia and New Zealand and the ASEAN countries but the countries outside the 2 blocs or sections that I have just mentioned. We lost peace in 1954, we lost a chance for peace again after the Korean war, and now we have this third opportunity which must not be lost. We lost peace twice in the field of military battle by insisting on the very things that the Democratic Labor Party and people like Senator Sim are insisting on tonight. That has led to failure. We are saying that it is time that another approach was made to this question. I do not think that either the DLP or those members of the Liberal Party whom I have heard speak on foreign affairs in the last 3 weeks realise the tremendous significance of the changes that have taken place in the world. They are still living in the cold war period when the 2 giants, the 2 super-powers, were glaring at each other across the globe. It was required of small nations and of middle sized nations to line up and be counted so that they were then on one side as the goodies or on the other side as the baddies. Thank heaven, that situation has changed.
We. have a situation in our area in which we do not have to look over our shoulder at Russia, or the United States of America. We have this multi-polar situation involving countries like the People’s Republic of China, Japan, Russia, the USA and England. They are creating a multi-polar situation which gives within the region much more flexibility for countries such as our own, the Asian countries and the smaller countries throughout the world. It gives these countries, particularly in the region we are talking about tonight, much more manoeuvreability and much more flexibility.
The Indonesians summed it up by saying that national resiliance is needed. This means that each of these countries has to be put in a situation in which it can stand on its own feet and make its own arrangements or negotiations or in which these countries can combine and do these things which it had been impossible to do since the end of the last war. If you talk to the representatives of these people you find that they are trying to grab at the position with both hands. That is why we see a combination such as ASEAN that started off in a very tenuous situation. It has grown in confidence into a situation in which the countries talk together very much more freely and very much more boldly than I think even they dared to think about in the early stages of their formation.
The countries themselves are now talking about moving into a situation in which this organisation can embrace more people. Already they are looking to the forward situation in which they can take in the IndoChinese states and possibly Burma. They are not waiting for the Khmer Republic to join them. Its people are still not in a position to be talking like this. But the countries to which I have referred are throwing their arms wide open to receive, other countries. The challenge in this area is not the challenge of a thousand or so troops in Singapore. The great challenge in this area is, firstly, stability and, ultimately, peace. I suppose that ‘peace* is a word similar to love in that it can be used in many ways. But we cannot get away from the fact that if ever we lose the peace in sufficiently large quantities, as we have, done in 2 world wars, there will never be any chance of rising from the degradation into which the whole world will be thrown again. It is stated in the motion that we will ultimately destroy the confidence of America. What we are talking about is the withdrawal of some troops - not all troops - from Singapore, perhaps 800 or 1,000 troops will be involved. The number of American troops in South Vietnam alone was 500.000. Do honourable senators opposite think that the Americans will quiver and quake because we make these arrangements because a sovereign government made it clear before it was ever elected that this is exactly what it would do? It becomes almost laughable when we start vo think about the situation.
What has happened under the previous Government and what has to be destroyed by this Government and by other governments that want to see peace in the world is the practice of drawing lines around the world and saying that a country on that side of the line is a baddie and a country on this side of the line is a goodie. We hear criticisms in the Senate day after day by way of questions because the Government has recognised the People’s Republic of China and the Government of North Vietnam. The phrase we used to hear for years about the containment of China is the very sort of thing that causes war. Could any power in the world finally contain 700 million people on one land mass? The proposition was never a goer at any stage. It was able to take some credence during the cold war period. Of course the final situation is that the whole world has come to its senses.
When the Democratic Labor Party tries to blow up the fact that we are to reduce the number of troops in Singapore, the matter becomes a laughable proposition. Let honourable senators ask themselves for one moment: Would the ASEAN countries such as Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia. Thailand and the Philippines want Australia to be emphasising a military stance? None of them are great powers. Most of them are very small powers. Indonesia, because of its situation, its numbers, its tremendous wealth and the resilience of its people probably one day will become a great power. But most of the people sitting in the Senate chamber tonight will not be here when that takes place.
These countries are a combination of small powers. Why in the world would they want their friends to be emphasising a military stance? The very thing they fear is military action. They know perfectly well that if a world war were to break out and the great powers were to move on them they would be annihilated. See their actions are designed to create a detente in this area which will make such a development impossible. The Democratic Labor Party has said that withdrawing some of our troops will cause all the other countries in the world to collapse - that New Zealand, the United Kingdom and America will be affected. The fact is that Lord Carrington, after his trip to Australia, said in answer to a question in the British House of Commons that the Australians were going to withdraw some troops, that the British would maintain their level of troops and that New Zealand would do the same.
This has not been some sort of action taken off the top of our head. Our intention to take this action has been clearly demonstrated to the world, not over the last 6 months but over the 3 years before we were elected as a government. After we were elected as a government, we kept these countries fully informed of what we were doing. Because of that, there is no worry or kerfuffle in Great Britain, America or New Zealand. The contents of this motion and the whole of the way in which the members of the Democratic Labor Party and the Liberal Party talk indicate that all our relationships with these countries are based on military might - as though we have a great military might. What military might have we compared to countries such as Russia, China, the United States of America and Great Britain?
DLP senators speak as if this represents the whole of our relationship with these countries. The fact is that defence aid is being given and will continue to be given to these countries. We have a co-operative system operating with these people. We are giving them technical assistance. We are acting in advisory situations and carry out joint exercises. We give them logistic support. Above all, we give aid which is much more beneficial and which is one of the greatest things that we do because of the number of people who train in Australia. This hierarchy of people who have trained in Australia move through the whole of the public service and the business community of Asian countries. For years, we have had 1,000 students from Singapore in Australia. At the moment, we have 6.000 Malaysian students in Australia. If discussions are held with representatives of departments in these countries, it will be found that you do not have to go very far down the line until you strike somebody who has taken a degree in Australia. Generally, the person will have attended a university in Melbourne or Sydney and, probably more than any other place, the university in Perth because of its accessibility to these people.
Our aid to Malaysia alone is worth $30m. In Indonesia, you do not have to travel very far before you find aid of the first magnitude being carried out efficiently. The whole of the telephone system in Indonesia has been updated over the last 12 months under the supervision of an Australian Post Office engineer. Work on the Bogor water supply scheme is under the charge of Australian engineers. We have put in the minimum support, letting the people in the country do the work. We give advice and the initial aid. Do not honourable senators think that this aid is more important than military aid? They should not talk about a military presence in such countries when the very thing they fear is military action.
Twice Australian troops have marched away to the other side of the world to support Great Britain in times of war. There was never any question, either before World War 1 or in between the 2 world wars where the sympathies of Australia lay. But did Australia have 1,000 troops based on the Isle of Wight, on the Isle of Man or in the south of England? Did we demand that those troops should be there to show that we were true? What difference would it make in the event of an armed attack? At the time that the Liberal-Country Party Government sent troops to Singapore, we were told in answers to questions and in a statement made by Mr Gorton who was the Prime Minister at the time that they were not there to stand up to military aggression from outside. Certainly, they were not there to deal with any internal aggression that could be a nationalistic movement. This remains the $64 question: What the devil were they doing there, if this is the situation? The Five Power Arrangements do not require that we should have troops in these areas. What these countries want and what they will get is the number of troops to do those things about which we have talked. lt has been mentioned that we are going to throw these people into peril. What sort of peril is involved when we are talking about withdrawing merely a handful of troops? The whole military stance is one that ought to be reversed and it is one that these countries welcome our reversing. We heard criticism when in the very early days of this Government we stopped throwing military aid into South Vietnam and there was a great cry to heaven. We were sending military aid into an area which was saturated with military aid; the people in the area could not use any more of the aid. The previous Government was withdrawing troops from South Vietnam, saying that it was trying to wind the war down, but at the same time it was sending military aid to South Vietnam. This motion is in some ways analogous to that. The Democratic Labor Party says that it wants troops in this area. Why? In case there is going to be a world war in which we all will be involved? In case there is going to be some internal insurrection, which the troops would not engage in anyway, because that is the sort of thing in which other countries will not get involved in the future?
We are building up relationships by providing aid. In one year 6,000 students from one country and 1,000 students from another, who had been studying in Australia, returned to their own countries as the greatest ambassadors which Australia could send into these areas. These are continuing and lasting things. Tonight Senator Sim said: ‘I do not believe that the five power pact is going to be of any permanency’. Whatever one might say about Senator Sim, one cannot say really that he is such a great radical. He said that statements made by some people in Australia irrevocably destroy our relationships with other countries. I remember criticism being levelled about 2 Manchester Jews. I assure the Senate that that did not destroy any relationship between Great Britain and Australia: it did not destroy any relationship between Manchester and Australia, and it did not destroy anything between Israel and Australia. In fact, it turned out that they were not Jews anyway. Senator Sim refers to a statement made by somebody and says that it destroys our relationship with another country. He can say these things, but I assure him, in case he feels uneasy about it, that the statement he made did not worry Manchester, it did not worry Israel and it did not really worry Australia. If you get these things into perspective you can see just how ridiculous one can get.
What does the Democratic Labor Party expect? Does it expect that because we have stationed troops in another country, like the laws of the Medes and the Persians the position can never be altered; that there have to be X troops stationed in Singapore; that there have to be so many Mirages stationed in Malaysia; and that this is the way it has got to remain forever? It is because of this cold war attitude and because of the implacable, old fashioned attitudes that are inherent in this motion tonight that you have your Vietnams and your Koreas. Surely we realise today that because of the atomic bomb the possibilities of such wars are thus far diminished. Having reached this situation, what is to happen next? Do we want to go on with all these old military postures? I have heard the previous Government sabre rattling at Russia - a country of 245 million people, with one of the great land masses in the world, and spending more on a percentage basis on its military commitments than any other country. Australia with a population of 13 million people and spending a very small proportion of its income on military commitments is rattling a sabre at these people. That was the problem with the previous Government which unfortunately was backed by the DLP. I say ‘unfortunately’ because it could have had a balancing influence on the government of the day but very obviously it is going the full way in the field of foreign policy in a cold war atmosphere.
Why does the DLP adopt this attitude? As I say, it is just leading on, not moving one bit away from the former situation. If there is one place in the world where you ought to be able to feel the change it is the South East Asian area. This is why we have an interest in this area. This is why almost weekly since the advent of this Government topline people have been coming from all around the world to visit Australia. You name the country and they are coming from it to Australia. If the members of the DLP are going to be blind to the changes that have taken place in this area, they will do so at their own peril. Firstly, they do not realise that colonialism died in South East Asia following the war. Every one Df the countries about which we are talking, except Thailand, has been under foreign control at some time or another, and the scars of it are fading slowly. At long last the People’s Republic of China is being recognised by the world. It is coming out of its cocoon, and it was largely that country’s own fault for being in that position. Japan is now one of the great, aggressively commercial countries. At long last the Vietnam war has finished. We will have to pour tens of millions of dollars of aid not into building up any regime but into patching up the wounded, putting them into hospitals where many of them will remain for the rest of their lives. We have to overcome the effects of carpet bombing and give light shelter in order to keep these people away from the elements. Basically this is how we have to move on our own in the Indio-China area. The situation in the Indo-China area, as far as Australia is concerned, will be just that. We are not going to be concerned whether the type of government of the man who is lying in hospital is a communist government or a right wing government or whether it is going to be some form of a coalition government. The person is going to be a person. It he needs aid, then to the limited extent that Australia can give it, we will do so. The amount of our aid is not great when it is compared with the aid given by the great powers. But we are going to be in there doing our little bit in order to establish that as a wealthy country in this area we do care, not about the regimes but about the people and the things that we can do for them.
Honourable senators opposite are talking tonight as though all of the Asian countries are standing back, glaring at us with hatred. The fact is that they are agreeing with everything we do. They are talking about a zone of peace, freedom and security. We have told them God bless them, that we are with them 100 per cent of the way in their desire to bring that about. We are doing it not by interfering with them but by saying: ‘Here is a fairly wealthy country that is slightly different from you, but we are in your area and we are here to assist and see that this happens, because if you go back to your Koreas or your Vietnams you may never get another chance for peace in this area.’ This is the third time around and it must not be allowed to fail. These are the aspirations of these countries and these are the aspirations that we are supporting.
It has been said that Indonesia’s confidence will be destroyed if we take some troops out of Singapore. Let us think about that for a moment. Indonesia is a country of 120 million people who are shying away even at this stage from military pacts and who at long last have moved cautiously into co-operation with their neighbours. It is said that if we take 800 or 1,000 troops out of Singapore and bring them back to Australia this will destroy the confidence of Indonesia in Australia. Why we waste time in debating things such as this just beats me. The fact is that, excepting New Guinea, Indonesia is receiving more aid from Australia than any other country to which we are sending aid. We are working with Indonesia on defence co-operation. We are giving that country economic and technical aid. At the end of Mr Whitlam’s visit to Indonesia, the President of Indonesia thanked Mr Whitlam for the exchanges of ideas and stated that what Mr Whitlam was talking about in the area was the very thing that Indonesia wanted. Then they come back to America again because this is the emotional issue. This is the follow-up. The previous Government got itself into trouble time and again, ably aided and abetted by the Democratic Labor Party, because at no stage did it examine the field of foreign affairs to see what should be done. it looked at foreign affairs and said: How can we win votes within Australia?’ That Government finished up being the laughing stock of the world. It was dragged into Vietnam because its great partner, America, decided that it should go in. There was no other reason. We could never get the reason, but it stood out like a sore thumb that that was the reason.
It has been up to this Government to state clearly and concisely the things we stand for. The fact that we have said that racialism has no part in our foreign policy has brought us friends throughout the Asian and African countries that we have not known for 25 years. We have heard a lot of claptrap here tonight. The fact is that Senator Gair’s motion can be dismissed as old-fashioned scaremongering based on a completely unreal view of what the situation is throughout the whole of South East Asia. The Opposition parties do not realise the changes that have taken place. I suppose a couple of generations of Australians have been brought up hearing, asI did when I was a child, about the British
Fleet. I did not know what it meant, but if anything happened the British Fleet would be there. The fact is that the only time Britain did try to help us with its fleet was at a time when Britain herself was heavily over committed and she sent the ‘Prince of Wales’ and the ‘Repulse’ and they never fired a shot. This was the myth.
– It is a communist country.
– What did Mr Malik say.
– What did the Deputy Foreign Minister say about Mr Whitlam?
– Of Thailand.
– -It is greatly to be regretted that the Special Minister of State (Senator Willesee) should have seen fit to claim that the very mild, very sane and very rational motion proposed by the Australian Democratic Labor Party is nothing more than a political stunt. There was only one of all his remarks with which I could agree, that is, that there are very few areas of discussion which occupy more of the time of this Parliament than the area of foreign affairs and defence. As honourable senators know, the Democratic Labor Party has always elevated these matters into the forefront of national consideration. We have taken our stand on them even at times when to do so was not popular. The Democratic Labor Party has often taken a stand on policies because they were embedded in principles, although they were politically unpopular and unrewarding. We make no excuse for our continued defence of the situation in relation to Australia’s involvement in the countries to our north west and north east. That is a strong policy; it is a clear policy; it is a consistent policy; it is a policy which we have always projected.
The point at issue in this debate, as Senator Willesee indicated, is: ‘What is the attitude of the nations in South East Asia to the Australian presence in that area?’ Senator Willesee says that they do not want us there and that to suggest they do is merely an outmoded approach to foreign policy - a sort of nineteenth century neo-colonialism. 1 had the opportunity to be in that area about 18 months ago with a parliamentary delegation. We visited Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. Everywhere we went we had high level discussions. We had discussions with General Nasution, with Lee Kuan Yew, with Tun Ismail, and with Adam Malik in Indonesia. Honourable senators will realise that I do not attribute to any one of those persons anything I might now say, because to do so would be a breach of faith. I am going to give to the Senate the composite, as I assessed it, of the concern of the leaders of those countries in relation to the vulnerability of the area and the significance of the Australian presence.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . , . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion (Senator McManus’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Apple and Pear Industry
– I find it imperative tonight to speak to the motion for the adjournment to draw the attention of the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) to the sad plight of the apple and pear industry in southern Tasmania, northern Tasmania and on the north west coast. The Australian Apple and Pear Board stated in its report for 1970-71 that there was little doubt that at the then rate of freight to Europe, all European trade was open to question. It said that the industry was therefore facing a most serious situation, which in realistic terms could involve the very survival of large sections of the industry. Although the stabilisation scheme that the Liberal-Country Party Government established enabled apple and pear growers, not only in Tasmania but in Australia generally, who shipped fruit on consignment to Europe to be paid $2.5m in 1971 and $3.1m in 1972, events have crowded in to create for the industry a handicap that must be taken into serious account. The first is that due to the revolution in shipping, freights in this industry have grown until now the effective freight rate is likely to be of the order of $3.7 a bushel.
– 1 think that for the first time I am transgressing on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate.and for that reason I think that Senator Mulvihill should remain and listen to me. I want to refer to a statement which appeared today in the Hobart ‘Mercury’. Although I do not always agree with the man who made the statement I believe it is correct. He said that the apple industry in Tasmania had reached its moment of truth. An industry that is worth $15m to a small State like Tasmania with a population of 300,000 people is well worth preserving. It is the biggest primary industy we have in that State. It has been struggling for many years against the gravest financial difficulty and I believe that the Government’s revaluation has just about put the cap on the whole financial aspect of the apple industry in Tasmania. I remember when New Zealand and the United Kingdom both devalued. The then Department of Trade and Industry estimated that that was the equivalent of a 20 per cent reduction in the Australian tariff. Such a view did the then Government take of the position that some primary industries were compensated on that account because of the intense competition and because of the difficulties experienced in exporting primary products to the United Kingdom.
Now this currency change is working the other way. This Government has revalued and it has placed a burden on everything that ;s exported from this country. I believe that unless some concrete assistance is brought to bear on this industry it will be the last straw that breaks the camel’s back.
In the same newspaper in which Mr Brown, the secretary of the industry organisation, made these grim comments there appeared another statement which relates to a 25 per cent rise in the minimum basic wage. I am not arguing about that matter at all, but the statement went on to say that employers of men on the minimum wage will face a total extra wages bill of S200m a year. The newspaper article states:
Federal Cabinet has decided that the Government will join with the ACTU in pressing for a 25 per cent increase in the minimum wage.
The Government is favourable to that proposition and will join with the Australian Council of Trade Unions in pressing for it. This article continues:
This would increase the minimum wage from the present average of SSI. 80 to $65 a week.
I conclude by saying that nearly all of these costs, if not all of them, must be met ultimately from the pockets of the producers. This additional impost and all the other imposts on the community, if they are not met in a more generous manner than that detailed by Senator Wright, will spell the end of the apple industry in Australia. I often look around the Huon Valley and the. Tamar Valley at the closer settlement, the homesteads, the buildings and the people who have gathered there. As far as I know they are living happy lives. Imagine what would happen to those areas if anything drastic happened to this industry. The Government holds the purse strings for the whole Commonwealth. It apparently proposes to go to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and press for a $200m a year increase in the wage bill. As far as the apple industry is concerned the Government should come to life and make the industry a viable proposition.
– I do not wish to delay the Senate for any length of time but I do wish to make it quite clear that as another Tasmanian senator I join Senator Wright and Senator Lillico in expressing concern at the situation of the apple and pear industry in Tasmania. I do not suggest that the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) is unconscious of the problem but I do suggest that perhaps he may have some problems in being able to ileal with the situation adequately when the approach of the Government to the management of the economy is that a pittance shall be meted out - as if it were a social welfare payment - to an industry which is struck down as a result of an economic decision of the Government. I do not challenge that decision which related to revaluation. But as a result of that decision this industry was entitled to real consideration. Instead of that we have the sort of approach which is a social welfare approach.
Almost within a week or so of that decision a decision was made to give 4 weeks annual leave to all Commonwealth public servants. I do not wish to be taken as suggesting in any way that Commonwealth public servants are not entitled to be well treated within the community - but I emphasise within the community’. Everyone knows that the 4 weeks annual leave given to public servants in this way will spread throughout general employment. But will it spread to primary industry, to the small self-employed man who has been struggling for years in Tasmania to keep his orchard going? He would like to get to the stage where he had to work only 80 hours a week - this situation applies to a lot of the orchardists. He would like to get to the stage where he would be able to look forward to having annual holidays and actually pay for them. But the Government has not adopted an attitude which is related to fair compensation for the disability suffered as a result of its acting in the interests of the overall population in making a revaluation. Instead of adequately compensating those who suffer it adopts a social service approach. If one can show that one has filed a bankruptcy petition one gets a pittance out of the Government.
The plight of the industry is such that I would imagine that Senators Devitt, Townley, Wriedt, Poke and O’Byrne would be prepared to join with the honourable senators who have already spoken tonight. I believe that this is a situation where the interests of a Slate are vitally concerned. The interests of a State, as represented by its honourable senators in this chamber, should be heard and should be met. I suggest that this is an occasion when those towns of the apple growing areas of Tasmania which honourable senators from Tasmania and many other honourable senators in this chamber know so well are under a threat of death. This could be overcome as a result of Government action but it will be brought to fruition as a result of Government inaction. Many things can be done. I shall not hold the Senate tonight. I simply express briefly the concern which I hold along with other Liberal senators from Tasmania.
I am sure that the other senators from Tasmania - if they are to be heard - will urge the Minister, who fortunately is a Tasmanian and no doubt has the interests of this Tasmanian industry at heart, to take adequate steps to prevent the sort of situation mentioned by Senator Wright, Senator Lillico and myself, from happening to these towns and people. There are many small, self-employed people. Sometimes they employ a few other people on their orchards for at least part of the year. They are providing employment and an income for themselves. They are keeping the rural towns going. They are keeping going the fabric of a society which has developed over a century. Very soon unless something happens this will be going for good.
– As a Western Australian I cannot allow this debate to go on without a contribution on behalf of my State. I would hate to have a situation in which it was thought that only Tasmania had an apple and pear industry. The concern which has been expressed by the honourable senators from Tasmania is equally a concern in Western Australia. The apple growing industry is a major part of the economy of the south west of Western Australia. All the difficulties which have been mentioned and perhaps some more are experienced by those growers. We are fighting additional costs such as shipping and handling. The cost of packing is eating into the return to the grower so that he is always last on the list. Everyone else seems to be protected. The grower receives what is left.
– I very much regret that I was not aware - I do not blame anybody for this - that it was proposed to launch, at this late stage of the proceedings, a debate on an important question such as this. For reasons of which 1 am not aware at the moment, I was not informed of this proposal. As I say, I acknowledge that it is not necessary for an honourable senator to inform another honourable senator that he intends to speak about a particular matter in the adjournment debate, but surely one would expect that as a matter of common courtesy an honourable senator who rises in his place and challenges other honourable senators to respond - a taunt, as it were - would, in the normal course of events, have given some forewarning. I think the rules of a fair fight normally demand that one at least gives one’s opponent some forewarning so that he does not have his hands in his pockets or something like that.
– They would get a handout
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Brown) - Order! Senator Webster, I have asked you on 3 occasions in the last 3 minutes to refrain from interjecting. I will ask you again to allow Senator Devitt to be heard without these constant interjections.
– Do you think primary producers are having a bonanza?
– lt is typical of the honourable senators who raised this matter without advising other honourable senators that they were raising the matter that they should try to take advantage of the misfortune of the Tasmanian orchardists to score a miserable political point. The point is that the orchardists have had 23 years of misgovernment at a Federal level.
– 1 take a point of order. Mr President, it is offensive to me to hear Senator O’Byrne refer to the hypocrisy of one of my colleagues. The word ‘hypocrisy’ is offensive.
– 1 ask the impudent senator to withdraw that offensive statement.
– You may judge it by your own standards, sir.
– And the whole of primary industry.
– The Government has done a lot of other things fairly quickly. When will it do something about this? Just say when it will do something about it.
– Senator Wright advised me of his intention to speak on this matter tonight, but I confess that I did not envisage that it would develop into this rather lengthy debate at this hour of the night. I thank particularly Senator Devitt and Senator O’Byrne because their comments have covered most of the points. I agree that what has been said tonight by Senator Wright. Senator Rae and perhaps to a lesser extent Senator Lillico, was nothing more than an attempt to make cheap political capital out of a difficult situation which was inherited by this Government. Listening to Senator Wright, one would imagine that the Government was on trial. For his information, in the 1971-72 year in Tasmania the negative net income for fruit growers was $900 for the industry. Was this the result of 23 years of Liberal government? Is this the reason why the Government or I should be on trial after 4 months? Does he imagine that I will solve this problem in that time?
– I did not make such a statement.
– You are relying on grubbing grants, are you?
asked the Minister repre senting the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Senator MURPHY- The Prime Minister has supplied the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question: (1), (2) and (3) The names, designations and salaries of the relevant persons on my own staff are listed below.
Press Secretaries, Public Relations Officers, Speech Writers etc. Appointed by the Prime Minister
Press Secretary - Mr Evan Williams - $12,175 + $3,000 special allowance
Public Relations Officer- Mr Eric
Media Officer- Mr David White- -$9,338
Within the basic staff establishment I have approved for each Minister, there is provision for a Press Secretary.
It is my intention to provide the Parliament with a statement showing the details of personal staff establishment of each Minister and of each Office-holder of the non-Government parties as soon as appointments to these positions have been completed.
asked the Minister represent ing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Senator MURPHY- The Prime Minister has supplied the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question: (1), (2) and (3) A telegram about the international currency situation from the Premier of Western Australia was received in my office on 16th February. In my absence overseas during the following week, the Acting Prime Minister replied to the Premier on 23rd February.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice:
Senator WILLESEE- The Minister for the Capital Territory has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Was the statement, made by the Prime Minister which made public details of the Australian intelligence base in Singapore, in accord with the Labor Government’s announced intention of more open government; if so, consistent with that decision, does the Government intend to inform the Australian public and the world in general of all other Australian intelligence units throughout the world.
Senator MURPHY- The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I refer the honourable senator to my statement in Parliament on 1 March (Hansard, House of Representatives, pages 129-130).
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 15 March 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1973/19730315_senate_28_s55/>.