28th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– My question is directed to the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the resounding victory ofthe Liberal Party Government in the Victorian Slate elections, will he concede that, in the light of the Prime Minister’s promise which he put forward prior to the election in regard to judging the result, the people of Victoria have endorsed the action of the Opposition in the Senate during the present session?
– The question is obviously out of order. Firstly, it has nothing to do with any of the portfolios which I administer. Secondly, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate asked me to concede something. That would be stating an opinion. Therefore, the whole question is out of order.
– I hope that this question and other questions will not be regarded by the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate as being out of order. 1 ask him, as Minister representing the Prime Minister: Is it a fact, as stated by the Labor Premier of South Australia, that subsequent to the Federal election on 2 December 1972 he received an assurance from the Prime Minister that there would be consultation between the Commonwealth and State governments with respect to the legislative authority and sovereignty over the seas and seabed around Australia? Is it also a fact that the promise of the Prime Minister was subsequently dishonoured when Federal Cabinet overruled him and decided that such consultation should not take place? Why is the Government not prepared to enter into meaningful negotiations with the States, as it claims that other persons in disputes should be prepared to do?
– 1 do not know what assurances were given prior to the election. Senator Greenwood knows perfectly well that I will not answer questions about what happened at Cabinet meetings. That is all I can tell him about the matter.
– Is the
Minister representing the Minister for Education aware that some confusion exists about the eligibility of parents who live in isolated areas for Commonwealth assistance for their children? Is it a fact that parents whose children have won bursaries have been advised that this disqualifies them from receiving the new assistance? Will the Minister for Education consider advertising or circularising full details of the scheme to clarify the position for all concerned?
– I think I should explain some of the conditions under which the Commonwealth senior secondary scholarship scheme and the isolated children’s scheme operate. The Minister for Education has advised me that a winner of a senior secondary scholarship is entitled to a basic annual allowance of $150, free of means test. An additional annual allowance of up to $250 is payable, subject to a means test. Where a holder of a senior secondary scholarship is also eligible for assistance under the Australian Government’s isolated children’s scheme, his entitlement to senior secondary benefits is limited to the payment of the basic annual grant of $150. However, the same student may receive up to the maximum assistance of $1,004 per annum under the isolated children’s scheme. This latter scheme provides for the payment of a basic grant of $350 per annum free of means test. The remaining $654 is subject to a means test on the family income. This means that a senior secondary scholar who is an isolated child will receive a minimum of $500 per annum from the Australian Government.In that respect a minimum allowance of $500 is payable by the Australian Government to every senior secondary scholar who is considered to be an isolated child.
I refer now to the second portion of the question asked by the honourable senator. I am advised by my colleague the Minister for Education that to date $9,000 has been spent by the Department of Education to advertise the scheme. In Victoria alone the scheme has been advertised in 117 provincial newspapers. In Western Australia, which doubtless is the State in which the honourable senator has a particular interest, the scheme has been advertised in the ‘West Australian’ and a number of regional weeklies. About 10,000 information statements have been distributed. There has been close co-operation with State departments of education in regard to this matter. The advertisements have informed people that they can obtain further information by contacting officers of the State departments of education. If the honourable senator indicates that he requires further information on the matter I shall ensure that my colleague the Minister for Education provides it for him.
– My question is directed to the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate in his capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Services and Property. In view of the ludicrous situation that has been exposed again by the results of the Victorian State elections, where the Victorian Liberal Government had 46 members elected to the State Parliament by 42 per cent of the vote, whereas 42 per cent of voters supporting the Australian Labor Party enabled that Party to obtain only 18 or 19 seats, will the Minister consider having a White Paper issued by the Commonwealth Electoral Office to point out the grave inequity of the Victorian Electoral distribution and so inform the people of Victoria and the rest of Australia of facts that the Australian Press has suppressed of a cynical, opportunistic, perversion of democratic electoral justice?
– -It must seem very peculiar to people overseas that in Australia one Party can receive more votes than another Party and yet obtain fewer seats. However, we in Australia are used to seeing this take place in the Australian States. I do not know whether the Minister for Services and Property would like to issue a White Paper on this matter. For a long time the Australian Labor Party has said that each person should have one vote and that each vote should have the same value, but the Opposition parties in this place resist the introduction of such a voting system. They laugh about it because in this House at present they are on top. When the Opposition parties refer to corruption in other countries I often wonder whether the gerrymandering which occurs in this country could not be regarded as corruption in very high places.
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Media. Following his statements on the proposed points system for television programs, including a base quota, which could result in some of the most popular programs receiving the lowest points, I ask: Can the Minister state what will happen to a television station that does not reach its base quota? Will its television licence be cancelled or will it be restricted and will much of its operations and programs be controlled by a commission similar to the Australian Broadcasting Commission?
I indicated time after time last week, this matter is one which comes within the responsibility of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, which is the statutory authority established by an Act of Parliament to oversee the standards and programming arrangements of the commercial broadcasting and television stations. This statutory responsibility is given to the Broadcasting Control Board by sections 16 (1) and 99 of the Broadcasting and Television Act. The points system that is in the process of being devised by the Broadcasting Control Board - not, I emphasise, by me - is not based on compulsion; it is based on incentive in that it is designed to provide motivation for stations to try new forms of programming whilst allowing them to retain current programs which are popular.
The points system will act as a stimulus to local production in areas which have been neglected in the past. It will not dictate to any station that it will have to put on specific programs at specific times, but it will provide high levels of incentive for programs that provide comprehensive and balanced viewing. If a station does not comply with the points system as it is ultimately drawn up, I understand that the same situation will exist then as exists at the present time in that when an application for licence renewal is made by a station which is not complying with the broad overall percentage requirement the matter will be looked at by me, as Minister in charge of the administration of the Act, and explanations will be called for as to why the station has not complied with its statutory responsibilities.
– I wish to ask a question of the Minister representing the
Minister for Health. In view of the great public interest in the art of acupuncture, will the Government be prepared to sponsor a visit to Australia by 2 or 3 leading acupuncturists from China?
– I understand that an all-party parliamentary delegation from this Parliament will be going to China later in the year. I cannot say whether any honourable members or honourable senators who are medical practitioners will be going to China on that occasion. Doubtless all members of the delegation will be given the opportunity in China, as I understand Mr Whitlam was given the opportunity when he was there as Leader of the Opposition, to look at the art of acupuncture. The honourable senator has suggested that 2 or 3 people should be brought to Australia to explain this art. [ will certainly refer this matter to the Prime Minister, who is also Minister for Foreign Affairs, and to the Minister for Health and ascertain whether the honourable senator’s suggestion is worthy of consideration.
- >l wish to direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. 1 ask: Is it true that the target rate of growth through voluntary enlistment in the Australian Regular Army is in excess of expectations and that there is now a distinct possibility of an embarrassing surplus of recruits? How does that square with the claims of the previous government that the Army’s establishment could be met only through conscription? What will be the future position as to the strength of the volunteer Army should applications to enlist continue at the current rate? Will the target figure be. raised to accommodate the numbers seeking to join the Army?
– On present indications the Army is increasing at the rate of about 2,000 men a year, which is greater than was anticipated. The rate of re-engagement has indeed been very encouraging. The Australian Labor Party promised to abolish conscription. Successive Liberal-Country Party governments dodged the issue of an all-volunteer Army. In October of last year the present Prime Minister and the present Minister for Defence, in a joint statement, said:
We are committed to the abolition of the present scheme of selective conscription. It is our duty to form an all-volunteer Army.
The Opposition said at the time, as everybody knows, that it could not be done. I think what is happening now proves it can be done. I add that the Defence Forces Structure Committee has reported to the Minister for Defence and he will be making a statement to the Parliament next week in respect to the other matters raised by the honourable senator.
– My question without notice is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. What will be the cruising range of HMAS ‘Sydney’ if and when it acts as refuelling vessel for the RNZ Navy ship which is to visit the French nuclear atmospheric test site in the Pacific Ocean? What will be ‘Sydney’s’ nearest refuelling port? What fear will there be for the ship’s company and/or the ship becoming contaminated with nuclear fallout if it refuels the RNZ Navy ship after that vessel returns from the test site, if there has been a nuclear explosion? What facilities, already tested, will there be on board ‘Sydney’ to ensure complete decontamination of personnel and the ship, if required, prior to its return to Australian ports? Will the Australian Government be responsible for all personnel on board HMAS ‘Sydney’? The. latter question is asked because the Pome Minister has emphasised that all personnel on ‘Sydney’ will be volunteers.
– HMAS ‘Sydney’ will refuel at Auckland. The round voyage from Auckland to rendezvous and return to Auckland will be about 4,500 miles. It is not expected that the Royal New Zealand vessel will become contaminated, but if it did it would take all steps to decontaminate itself forthwith, and certainly before refuelling from HMAS ‘Sydney’. The ship will operate outside the nuclear fallout area. The normal conditions of naval service will apply. If the honourable senator considers that some aspects of his questions have not been answered, I ask him to put them on notice because they must be seriously considered by departmental experts.
– I direct a question without notice to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. In view of the continued massive cash reserves which the Hospitals Contribution Fund of Australia and the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Limited continue to amass, will he consider whether past Ministers for Health were unduly solicitous to the directors of the Funds when the earlier formula was made? What steps have been taken to make the Funds feed back these excessive profits for the benefit of existing contributors?
– The matters involved in the honourable senator’s questions are, 1 think, more for the Minister for Social Security than the Minister for Health, and because I know that the Minister for Social Security is considering these matters I think the best thing for the honourable senator to do would be to place his question on the notice paper so that my colleague in another place can give him a suitable answer.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Is it correct that the Government has decided to make available $20m through the Development Bank for long term rural loans at from 7 per cent to 8 per cent interest? If so, is this not a departure from election promises to make funds available at low interest rates? Was the reason for raising the interest rates in line with statements made by members of the Government that most rural industries were now prosperous and booming and also that they had been feather-bedded for too long by the previous Government at the expense of city dwellers? Finally, has the decision run the gauntlet of the Labor Caucus?
– I have made several statements in the Senate in respect of rural finance and I reiterate the point that this matter is under consideration by the Government. In respect of the particular matter to which the honourable senator refers, this is at the point of a decision and I hope that I will be able to make a statement this coming week. I should point out that under the previous Administration the amounts which were released from the statutory reserve deposits of the private banks and which made up the farm development loan funds of $65m last year were loaned out to rural industry at the going interest rates. There were no preferential rates under those loan arrangements. Perhaps the honourable senator who asked the question and also the Australian Country Party might explain at some time why the previous Government charged those rates.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. No doubt the Minister will recall that earlier in this session I queried whether, in the light of the Government’s decision which in effect reduced the prescription charge on the Pill to 50c, it would investigate the possibility of reducing to 50c also the prescription charge on all medicines required by people more genuinely ill than those on the Pill. Has the Government yet discussed this matter within its ranks? If so, what decision was reached?
– This is obviously a matter for my colleague the Minister for Health who is in another place. The question that has been raised by the honourable senator is one of Government policy. Therefore I ask him to place the question on the notice paper.
– I direct a question to the Special Minister of State who represents the Treasurer. My question relates to the payment of income tax assessments for the income year ended 30 June 1972. It has been brought to my attention that the former practice of granting an extension of time for payment appears to have been discontinued. I refer to assessments issued during March and April for which an extension of time for payment to 30 June could be sought and generally was approved.I ask: Has there been a change in Government policy which affects the established practice of the former Government? If so, does this indicate that Government spending has diminished our economic liquidity?
– The answer to the last part of the honourable senator’s question is no. If Senator Guilfoyle knows of particular cases in which the Taxation Office has not given an extension of time for payment when from her knowledge and experience it should have done so, I suggest that she bring those to the attention of the Treasurer so that they can be matched against what was done previously.
– Has the Minister for the Media yet had an opportunity to read the report on daytime television produced by the Media Women’s Action Group and the Women’s Electoral Lobby? Can he say whether the implications of this report are that housewives who want to watch television during the day are dissatisfied with the programs that television stations provide for them? Will he approach the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to see whether the information contained in the report can be used to produce changes in the points system which the Board is currently considering for the establishment of standards for the Australian content in television?
– I have read the report to which the honourable senator refers and 1 have had discussions with two of the women who were responsible for the compilation of the report. Having studied the report as it was presented to meI must say that it impressed me as being the kind of work that I would like to see done in future by my newly created Department, once the new research section that is being established within it is in operation. J think the Government and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board have a responsibility to find out not just what people are watching but also what they would like to watch, what changes they would like to see in programming arrangements and how the programs they are watching are affecting their lives. I have already referred the report to the Chairman of the Austraiian Broadcasting Control Board, asking the Board to give me its advice on the report. As 1 understand that the data collected for this survey has not yet been fully analysed,I have asked the Board to consider at the same time the possibility of providing some of its facilities to enable a more complete analysis of the facts that have been gathered. It is my personal view that this information could be of considerable use to the Board, to the community and also to my Department.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. Will the Minister ask his colleague in another place when the Parliament may expect a progress report from the commission of inquiry appointed to inquire into a wide range of activities and responsibilities of the Postmaster-General’s Department and the Overseas Telecommunications Commission?
– I will ask my colleague, the Postmaster-General, what the situation is. I am sure that the honourable senator who has asked this question will appreciate that the commission of inquiry that has been appointed, and which is presided over by Sir James Vernon, has been sitting for about one month only. Nonetheless, I will ask the Postmaster-General what progress is being made and to provide the honourable senator with an answer.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation.Is the Minister aware that the Australian Federation of Air Pilots, a body embracing employees of Australian airlines, is not a registered body under the terms of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act ? Is the Minister aware that a body known as the Air Pilots’ Guild is, however, registered as an employee association under that Act? Is it a fact that this registered body has, since registration, been denied any opportunity to enrol members or to make any industrial agreement with Government or private airline operators? Will the Minister give consideration to granting equal opportunities to the Air Pilots’ Guild, and ending the previous Government’s policy of discrimination?
-I have received correspondence from the Air Pilots’ Guild within the last fortnight, I believe. 1 took it that what I received was a circular, copies of which were sent,I gather, to all members of the Parliament; it did not seem to be directed to me as a Minister. I recall replying to the Guild that I would have inquiries made. I forwarded a copy of that circular to the Minister for Civil Aviation for the purpose of making inquiries. I am awaiting a report. What the position is, I do not know. As soon as 1 receive some reply, I will let the honourable senator know.
– I address a question to the
Minister representing the. Treasurer. Is it a fact that the Treasurer has now realised that his intemperate attack upon all Australian permanent building societies was unfair and ill founded in its sweeping coverage? Was the purpose of that attack an attempt to create a run on the funds of building societies and so undermine their otherwise longstanding stability? Does the Minister know that the 4 permanent building societies in Tasmania, which have been in existence for 100 years or more, have recently been accepted by the Tasmanian State Government as trustee investments? Will the Treasurer make a statement withdrawing his allegations and stating the facts in relation to the true stability and community value of these organisations which provide home owning opportunities at reasonable rates to so many Australians? If his allegations are well founded in relation to any building societies, will he identify which building societies and so clear the others from his charges?
– I do not know what the Treasurer will do about some statements that he has made, or whether he will withdraw or change them. I am quite certain that his statements were not intended to set up a run on the funds of building societies, if that has happened, and I doubt whether it has. I was unaware that the 4 building societies in Tasmania had been given the charter that they have.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Science. Is it not a fact that the Atomic Test Safety Committee with Professor Sir Ernest Titterton and the National Radiation Advisory Committee with Sir Philip Baxter have been scrapped recently by the Whitlam Government? ls it not a fact that both these Committees gave scientific advice to the Government in respect of French nuclear testing which did not fit in with the Government’s political tenets? Is it not a fact that Sir Ernest Titterton has also been sacked from his position as head of the Australian National University Research School of Physical Sciences? Is it not a fact that Sir Philip Baxter and Sir Ernest Titterton are two of Australia’s outstanding scientists? Will the Minister deny the fact that no Australian scientist can have security of tenure under this Government unless he feeds it scientific advice which is politically acceptable?
– The reply to the last part of the question is no. I do not know about the qualifications or the comparisons of these 2 scientist’s with other scientists in Australia, but at the end of question time I will be tabling a report on the consultations which took place between the French and Australian scientists when the French visited Australia a couple of weeks ago.
– Does the Acting Leader of the Government recall the concern of the Senate when Senator Murphy, the AttorneyGeneral, in his statement to the Senate on Croatian organisations, asserted that certain Australian citizens whom he named were terrorists? Does he recall the Attorney-General stating in the Senate, in his concern for the civil rights of our citizens, that he would reinvestigate whether some citizens with no charge or conviction ever having been recorded against them, unfortunately had been named by him as terrorists? Does the Acting Leader of the Government recall having stated that he also would have this matter investigated and would bring an answer to the Senate? Has he pursued this matter? Does he understand the need to maintain the civil rights of our citizens? Will he attempt to have question No. 227 on the notice paper, dated 12 April this year, answered this week?
– Yes, I realise the necessity to maintain civil rights in Australia. I shall have a look at question No. 227 and see what I can do about it. I am not aware of it and I have not looked at it.
– You had it a week ago in order to look at it. You had the same question a week ago.
– The answer is that I did refer it to the Department. It is not my Department; it is the Attorney-General’s Department, and I made a special request that it be answered. I have not yet the information. If there is something floating from what 1 said, or if I have omitted something, if I am given a reference I shall certainly take the matter up.
– I refer the Acting Leader of the Government to reported discussions between Dr Cairns and the North Korean Foreign Minister and members of the Provisional Revolutionary Council of South Vietnam in Peking. Were these discussions held with the knowledge and approval of the
Prime Minister? If so, were the subjects discussed approved of by Mr Whitlam? If not, is this another example of Dr Cairns conducting his own foreign policy? Did Dr Cairns express his support for the revolutionary aims of North Korea and the Provisional Revolutionary Council of South Vietnam?
– The honourable senator referred to alleged discussions with North Koreans.
– Reported statements.
– Various reports have appeared suggesting that Dr Cairns has gone beyond Government policy in his statements about North Korea. The facts of the matter, as reported from Peking, are that Dr Cairns was asked 3 questions by the North Korean Ambassador who had asked to call on him. They were: Would Australia recognise North Korea? Could a North Korean trade delegation led by a Minister come to Australia? Would Dr Cairns visit North Korea? In reply to the first 2 questions about recognition and whether a trade delegation could come here, Dr Cairns said that he would refer these matters to Canberra. As for the third question about whether he would visit North Korea, he said that personally he would like to do so.
– My question, addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry, relates to the intention of the Government to reduce and ultimately abolish the existing quotas on table margarine. Is the Minister aware that the margarine industry happily remains substantially in the hands of Australian ownership? Is the Minister aware that the quota system has functioned to restrict the unbridled expansion of foreign controlled companies in the margarine and vegetable oil industry? Is he further aware that the world’s largest producer in this field, Unilever, is long established in Australia and that a second world size foreign company, Proctor and Gamble, has a small toehold in Australia? Since the removal of quotas would enable foreign interests, through the use of massive capital funds and giant marketing techniques, to dominate and even monopolise the Australian vegetable oils industry, what guarantee can the Government give to prevent such a happening?
– 1 would have been happier if Senator Carrick, representing the
Opposition, had been so vocal in his concern about overseas ownership of Australian interests while his Party was in office. It is true that many considerations have to be taken into account in respect of margarine. I think it would be fair to say that the main reason why the quota system has been maintained is not as he enunciated. Quotas are simply to protect the industry. The Government recognised in the discussions which took place at the meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council in February that it would be unreasonable to place an undue imposition on production of the dairy industry at this stage. For that reason the considerations which must be taken in concert with the States, as the honourable senator is well aware, cannot be taken in isolation by the Commonwealth. I presume that this matter will be discussed again at the forthcoming meeting of the Agricultural Council in August. I have no doubt that the same consideration will be given to it then as has been given in the past by both the Commonwealth and the States. However, I must reiterate that any State is at liberty if it so desires to break the agreement. It is not mandatory for any State to observe the quotas. However, until the agreement is varied or terminated by the Agricultural Council the present situation will obtain.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether measurements of sound levels have been taken at the Amberley post office? If so, are the levels within the limits considered by the health authorities as acceptable? If tests have not been made, will the Minister give an assurance that they will be carried out? Is it the intention of the Postmaster-General’s Department to provide a new, brick, airconditioned and soundproof office at the Royal Australian Air Force Base at Amberley for the use of both civilian and Air Force personnel? If not, has any negotiation taken place with the Department of Air for the provision of such a* building?
– The matters raised by the honourable senator are obviously within the administration of the Postmaster-General, who is in another place. As I do not have immediate knowledge of those matters I ask him to place his question on the notice paper.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs aware of the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Malawi, a Commonwealth country and host at the last conference of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association? The persecution is taking place simply because Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse to become members of the one political party permitted in Malawi. 1 was in Malawi last year as a member of the Australian delegation to the conference and at that time I heard rumours of the persecution and since then they have been well documented. Does the Government propose to lodge any protest at this gross violation of political liberty and the inhumane treatment of these people by a fellow member of the Commonwealth? If not. why not?
– I have seen reports of the problem of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Malawi. To my knowledge the Government has not examined whether lodging a protest would be the correct thing to do in the prevailing circumstances. Senator Durack has said that he visited Malawi last year when that country was host to a conference of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. There may be other avenues. It is a matter to be regretted and I will certainly take it up.
– Has the attention of the Minister for the Media been drawn to concern expressed by the Melbourne manager of Reg Grundy Enterprises, an organisation which produces 30½ hours of popular television a week, that adoption of the proposed points system will lead to the loss of jobs of about 200 people and will cost the industry about $750,000 a year? Are these factors being given consideration by the Minister? Is the Minister committed to the points system as announced or will the system be varied to meet the reasonable requirements of the television industry and the popular demand for which.it caters?
– 1 have seen reports that a gentleman known as Mr Reg Grundy does employ a certain number of people and puts a certain amount of money into the television industry. However, I point out to the honourable senator that I think in toto some 120 hours a week are devoted by commercial television stations to quiz programming. If the showing of all those quiz programs was lumped into one television station and that station transmitted from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. each day, it would mean that one television station, if not one network, would be taken up each week, simply in transmitting quiz programs. I mention that merely to indicate the imbalance in the programming arrangements of commercial television stations that has existed for a long time. The attempt made now by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board - not by me - to introduce a points system is a genuine attempt to bring back some balance into the programming arrangements.
The honourable senator asked me whether these factors are being taken into consideration by me as the Minister. The answer to that question is no. Frankly, they are not, because they are not matters within my immediate responsibility. As I stated in reply to Senator Young, they are matters that come purely under the Broadcasting and Television Act and are the responsibility of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. I know that the Board is having discussions with commercial licensees, commercial management, and I also assume with people immediately involved in the industry.I am certain that if Mr Grundy puts a submission to the Board, his points of view will be taken into consideration byit when it finally determines the standards that are to be instituted.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health, relates to today’s announcement by the Minister for Health that $750,000 will be made available to the national drug education program for pamphlets, films and television documentaries. Will he ask his colleague, the Minister for Health, to consider seriously some means for ensuring the availability in every community of some person or organisation of high integrity and goodwill - working on a purely voluntary basis, one would hope - to whom persons may turn, when in difficulty with drugs, for discussion, advice and help and who, in turn, could with a minimum of fuss and bother ensure that the person concerned was provided with protection, encouragement and a ready availability of top level medical advice and treatment?
– I can tell the honourable senator that our colleague, the Minister for Health in another place, is at the present time considering all the matters that have been raised by him in a broad, overall attempt by the Government to combat and overcome the growing drug menace in Australia. If steps are not taken on a social and economic basis now, the problem could become very serious in future years. Dr Everingham is devoting a great deal of his attention to finding a solution of this matter. I know that he has been in contact with the Reverend Ted Nods in Sydney and with other people, including a lady from Parramatta, Mrs Stella Dalton. I know that he is devoting a great deal of attention to this matter. I will refer the honourable senator’s question to my colleague. If he can provide him with any further information,I am sure that he will do so.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Repatriation. Did the Government pledge itself before the last election to make the total and permanent incapacity pension not less than the minimum wage? If so, when will this be done?
– As the honourable senator knows, increases have been provided already in the repatriation field which far exceed the awards made by other governments. The policy to which Senator McManus refers will be considered. We hope that further improvements will be made in the Budget which will consider those propositions and others which come in the repatriation field.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Is it a fact that in August last year the then Minister for the Interior, Mr Hunt, who is a member of the Australian Country Party, initiated discussions with the Australian Margarine Manufacturers Association which resulted in an invitation being extended to all margarine companies to submit proposals for the establishment of a margarine factory in the Australian Capital Territory? If the answer is in the affirmative, can the Minister inform the Senate which companies submitted proposals and which one of them was successful?
– I understand that in substance the honourable senator’s suggestion is correct. I am not sure which company was involved, but I understand that an approach was made and it was eventually referred to the Australian Agricultural Council. I will endeavour to obtain the information requested and advise the honourable senator.
– I ask the Minister assisting the Minister for foreign Affairs whether it is a fact that the Government still has received no explanation of why successive Australian governments were misled by the Yugoslav Government about the execution of 3 Australian citizens? If so, for how long will the Government allow this nation to be treated so contemptuously before it takes some action to express its disapproval?
– I thought Senator Greenwood knew the situation. We are in constant contact with the Yugoslavs. We sent a protest note about this incident, telling them of our dissatisfaction.
– Did you?
– You know perfectly well that we did.
– Was it a protest note?
– The position is well known. Of course we protested about the executions. I would have thought that Senator Greenwood would be the last one to talk about the actions of this Government in relation to the Yugoslav Government. Be that as it may, we have taken this matter up. We have received a reply from the Yugoslav authorities. We have not received all the information that we wanted. Talks are going on through our ambassador. We have referred the whole vexed question of dual nationality to this Parliament for advice. At the same time we have kept pressing the Yugoslav authorities about the situation in Yugoslavia. We have asked for more details about the raid, about the execution of the 3 dual nationals who took part in the raid and about the fact that we were told later that they had been executed. We are taking the whole of this matter up. We have protested and we are trying to act in an unemotional manner to see that similar things do not happen again. At the same time wc are trying to get more information on a situation about which the previous Government did nothing.
– My question, which is “directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, concerns the recently tabled Health Insurance Planning Committee report - the so called Scotton and Deeble report - and the prior statement by the Government that it intended to invite the public to study the report and to make submissions on it. What steps has the Government taken to obtain such submissions? Has the Government invited public submissions by public advertisement? If not, will it now do so? What timetable and what closing date for submissions have been allowed? Has this been publicised? Will the nature and context of the submissions be available for public perusal? Will the Government give to the people of Australia an assurance that it will not take any action to implement the report, in part or in full, until there has been an adequate public examination of it and adequate time for the Government to consider public submissions?
– I speak only from recollection at this stage, but I think that 2,000 copies of the report have been distributed free of charge by the Government to organisations and people who, it is known, are immediately interested in this matter with. I understand, a suggestion that they should furnish details to the Government. I know that a number of additional copies of the Scotton and Deeble report - the Health Insurance Planning Committee report - are being made available by my Department, through the Australian Government Publishing Service, at a cost of $1 per copy in order to get the report as much publicity as may be possible. I am sure the honourable senator will appreciate that my colleague Mr Hayden, the Minister for Social Security, has gone to no end of trouble to encourage public debate and public awareness of what the Government seeks to do on this matter. The Minister has been in constant consultation with members of the Australian Medical Association. I think it was this morning that I saw a report which stated that the Australian Medical Association had asked its members not to engage in any confrontation activities with the Australian Government at this stage because of the current negotiations. I assure the honourable senator that a great deal of trouble has been taken by the Australian Government to make known to the public what is proposed for the national health insurance commission. The views of the Australian people will be considered when the Government eventually determines its policy on this matter.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Overseas Trade. When the Government revalued the Australian dollar last December a great deal of emphasis was placed on one anticipated effect of that decision - that imports would become cheaper. I ask: ls there evidence to show that prices of overseas goods have dropped in the 44 months since revaluation? Also, is there any indication, if imports are cheaper, that the benefit has been passed on to the consumer?
– This matter has been raised since the revaluation decision. I think it is a legitimate question and one which the Government hopes will be referred to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Prices. Tt is a matter of concern that the benefits which should have flowed from imports have not, in some cases, flowed on to the Australian community. This matter does cause concern, However, it is my understanding that it will be referred to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Prices, and from that Committee the facts should be learned.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry: Is it a fact that the various States, whether Labor controlled or antiSocialist controlled, under the auspices of the Australian Agricultural Council have had a united view on the control of margarine production over many years and have agreed on a quota system? Is it a fact that Mr Enderby, the Minister for the Capital Territory, has announced that a margarine manufacturing company is to set up business in the Australian Capital Territory and will produce margarine here? Has the Minister for the Capital Territory taken over the responsibilities of the Minister for Primary Industry, or does the Minister for Primary Industry agree with the action that the Minister for the Capital Territory is taking?
-I do not think Mr Enderby would claim to have taken over the responsibilities of the Minister for Primary Industry. At the February meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council Mr Enderby raised the question of the Australian Capital Territory being given a quota for the production of margarine. The Council deliberated on that matter. It is my understanding that no objection was raised to such a quota being granted. Mr Enderby approached me after the Council meeting and asked whether I had any objection to the production of margarine in the Australian Capital Territory. I indicated that it was my clear understanding that the Council was not in disagreement with this course being adopted.I understand that as a result of what I said he took steps concerning an application to begin the production of margarine in the Australian Capital Territory.
This matter was raised at the Council meeting on Friday. It was resolved that the Australian margarine quota be increased by 300 tons. I say quite clearly that if there was any misunderstanding as to the decision of the Australian Agricultural Council last February, it was mine and not Mr Enderby’s. I acted in good faith in advising Mr Enderby that it was my belief that the Council had in fact decided that he was at liberty to proceed with the production of the quota of 300 tons when he saw fit. That is the current position. Although I do not think it was required, because Mr Enderby was asked, he gave a firm undertaking that he had no intention of starting an all out war by the production of margarine in the Australian Capital Territory. The present quota of 300 tons will stand until such time as the Council decides otherwise.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I ask: Has the Minister seen the statement by the National President of the Housing Industry Association which refers to attacks by the Treasurer on building societies? In view of the Government’s policy statements about housing for all in the community who need it, does he not agree that building societies are meeting a need for housing finance? Will the Minister re-examine the pro posals to restrict building society activities so that housing shortages and a reduction of housing standards will not be aggravated?
– No, I have not seen the report to which the honourable senator referred. The honourable senator asked me about my opinion on something. He should not ask for an opinion at question time.
– I asked the Minister whether he had examined it.
– No, you did not. You asked me whether I agreed with something. If I say I agree, I will be giving an opinion, and it is completely out of order to ask for an opinion.
– I direct a question to the Minister assisting the Prime Minister. Has the Minister seen Press reports that many Australian tourists who are travelling on a package tour with the French airline UTA have been stranded overseas because of an Australian Council of Trade Unions ban on French goods and services, and that UTA has refused to endorse the transfer of the tourists’ air tickets to other airlines? What steps has the Government taken to assist the unfortunate Australian citizens who are the victims of a defiance of the Prime Minister’s requests by trade unions which have taken control of the institution of government?
– No, I have not seen a report that somebody has been stranded by UTA or the reasons for it.
– My question is directed to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister. I refer the Minister to the bans and boycotts imposed by the Australian Council of Trade Unions, and unions subject to its dictates, on trade and communications with France, the recripocal action reported to have been taken by France against Qantas Airways Ltd, the refusal by French authorities to handle mail to Australia and the stranding of numerous Australian citizens in New Caledonia. 1 refer him also to the Prime Minister’s clear indication last week that bans and boycotts of this description were, in the Government’s view, contrary to the national interest. In the light of all those circumstances, I ask: Why is the Government refusing to take any action?
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has asked several questions about what the policy of the Government is going to be on this, that and the other.
-I have. not. I have asked why you are refusing to take action.
– ‘Firstly, nobody has refused to take action. I wish the Deputy Leader of the Opposition would base his question on truth.
– What action have you taken?
– What we might do is make an examination of what the previous Government used to do about strikes and what Senator Greenwood did about Croatian terrorist activities in Australia.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer, refers to the legislation contemplating changes to the Income Tax Assessment Act, including the disallowance of life assurance premiums in respect of policies which are for less than 10 years duration - legislation which has not yet received the assent of the Senate. I ask: Is it a fact that copies of printed tax return forms for the year ended 30 June 1973 which incorporate the proposed amendments as though they were law have already been distributed to tax agents and others throughout Australia? If so, is that not a serious breach of parliamentary privilege and practice by the Treasurer and a further indication that the Labor Government intends to ignore the due processes of Parliament?
-I will ignore the gratuitous remark at the end of the honourable senator’s question. I do not know whether those forms are out.
– I ask that further questions be put on the notice paper, Mr President.
– For the information of honourable senators, pur suant to section 76a of the National Health Act 1953-1972, I present the second Annual Report on the operations of registered medical benefits and hospital benefits organisations for the year ended 30 June 1972.
– For the information of honourable senators I lay upon the table a statement made in the House of Representatives this day by the Minister for Labour, Mr C. R. Cameron, relating to discrimination in employment and occupation. I move:
That the Senate take note of the statement.
Debate (on motion by Senator Willesee) adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators 1 present the report of the meeting between Australian and French scientists on 7, 8 and 9 May at the Australian Academy of Science in Canberra on biological effects of nuclear explosion fallout. The report is in 2 sections. Section A is common to the Australian and French reports. In Section B separate reports are submitted by the Australian scientists and the French scientists.
– For the information of honourable senators I lay upon the table statements made in the House of Representatives last Thursday by the Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, and a Press statement by other Ministers relating to the establishment of a National Estate Task Force. I move:
That the Senate lake note of the statemenls.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wiliesee) adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators 1 present the summary report of the Australian delegation to the plenipotentiary conference to conclude an international convention on trade in certain species of wildlife held in Washington DC from 12 February to 2 March 1973.
– For the information of honourable senators I present transcripts of proceedings of the conference between Commonwealth and State Ministers for Housing held at Canberra on Friday, 23 March 1973 and at Adelaide on Thursday, 5 April 1973.
-I bring up the 44th report of the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances relating to the Commonwealth Scholarships and Awards Regulations.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I move:
I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I bring up the third report of the Publications Committee.
Report - by leave - adopted.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
New South Wales Grant (Flood Mitigation) Bill 1973.
States Grants (Water Resources Measurement) Bill 1973.
Housing Assistance Bill 1973.
Defence Service Homes Bill 1973.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Willesee) read a first time.
Senator WILLESEE (Western Australia-
Special Minister for State) (4.6) - I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to give effect to the undertaking in the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to establish a prices justification tribunal. Before explaining the measures provided for in the Bill, I want to say something about the problem that these measures, among others, are designed to help overcome - the problem of inflation. For many years inflation has been a world-wide phenomenon. A large number of governments believe that it has now become the most formidable and most intractable problem of economic policy.
In Australia we have experienced a marked quickening in the pace of inflation in the 1970s. Through the 1960s the consumer price index rose at an average annual rate of 21 per cent. quickening somewhat in the latter half of the decade. In 1970-71, however, the index rose by nearly 5 per cent and in 1971- 72 by nearly 7 per cent. Such high rates of inflation not only give rise to serious social problems but encourage expectations that they will be maintained indefinitely. There was once a widespread view - it is still held by some - that inflation of prices and costs can be cured by creating a pool of unemployed. Even if this were true, the Government would unhesitatingly reject such an approach - the cure would be worse than the disease. In any case, there is no single solution to the problem of inflation.
In introducing this Bill the Government is certainly not pretending that some simple solution has been revealed to us. We have, it is true, learned a good deal from experiences elsewhere, and one of the most obvious lessons is that policies to contain inflation must be broad and multi-pronged. It is in this context that the present Bill must be viewed. It alone does not constitute a policy for the control of inflation. It is but one element - but a very important element - in a broader strategy.
The Government has already taken, or has foreshadowed, a number of measures to counter inflationary pressures - the revaluation of the Australian dollar, restraints on overseas borrowings, domestic monetary measures including the call to statutory reserve deposits by the Reserve Bank, and the establishment of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Prices. In the longer-term, policies in other fields - for example, on tariffs, restrictive trade practices and consumer protection - will also have a favourable impact.
The Government appreciates fully, from experience here and overseas, that a central and essential element of overall antiinflationary strategy must be effective demand management. In the longer haul the responsibility is to avoid the emergence of overall excess demand, and to aim by budgetary and credit policies to hold total expenditure within the capacity of the economy. I quote from the Government’s submission in the recent national wage hearing: in applying its demand management policies, the Government will aim to facilitate a lift “ in the level of economic activity sufficient to ensure maximum operating efficiency in industry but - and we stress - will not allow excessive pressures on overall resources to develop.
What is the special contribution of the prices justification machinery? In no sense is the rationale of this Bill the wholesale replacement of the market by controls. On the contrary, it is in an important sense directed at improving the functioning of the market. There is in much pricing behaviour, particularly by large firms, a considerable element of discretion - scope to adjust prices without close and detailed discipline of the market. Competition policies, no matter how vigorously pursued, can make only a limited contribution to overcoming this, especially in the short-term. The exploitation by large firms of this scope for price adjustment can obviously accelerate inflation. In being required to justify price increases large firms will be obliged to identify the range of discretion available to them, pay closer attention to the justification of prices and recognise fully the extent of their wider, public responsibilities. The prices justification procedures should increase awareness of the problem of inflation, both in the business community and the public at large.
I turn now to the principal features of the Bill. First is the establishment of the Tribunal itself, which will consist of a chairman and such other numbers of members, either full or part time, as experience shows to be necessary. No qualifications for membership are specified; this will enable persons with a wide variety of experience and skills to be appointed to the Tribunal. Members will hold office for not less than one year, nor more than 5. They will, however, be eligible for re appointment. The functions of the Tribunal are stated quite simply in clause 16 of the Bill. They are to inquire and report to the Minister, in any case where either the Tribunal or the Minister considers it desirable to do so, whether either existing or proposed prices for goods or services are justified - and, if not, what lower prices would be justified. It will be noted that either the Tribunal itself or the Minister will have the power to initiate inquiries.
The Bill lays down certain procedures for companies wishing to increase prices after the Act comes into effect. Broadly, any company to which the Act applies - 1 elaborate on this later - must notify the Tribunal of any proposed price increase - or, in the case of new products or services, of the price it proposes to charge for those products or services. The Tribunal must decide, within 21 days, whether or not to hold an inquiry. If the Tribunal decides not to hold an inquiry, it will inform the company and the company will be free to go ahead and implement its proposed new price. The company will also be free to proceed 21 days after notifying the Tribunal, if by that time the Tribunal has not indicated that it proposes to hold an inquiry. If the tribunal decides to hold an inquiry, the company is not free to implement its proposed new price until the Tribunal has completed its inquiry and reported to the Minister and the Minister has made the Tribunal’s report public. The Tribunal must, however, complete its inquiry within 3 months, although that period can be extended if the company has failed to supply sufficient information to enable the inquiry to be completed, and the Minister must make the Tribunal’s report public within 14 days of receiving it. On publication of the Tribunal’s report, the company will decide whether to proceed with the proposed price increase, and must inform the Minister of its decision within 14 days of the report being published. The Minister will then make public, within a further 14 days, particulars of the company’s decision.
The above procedures will apply in the case of any proposed price increase by a company subject to the Act. However, for this purpose a price increase is defined as the supply of goods or services at a price higher than the highest price charged during the preceding month. This means that a company may reduce its prices for a period of up to a month, and then revert to its normal prices without having to comply with the notification procedure and face the prospect of an inquiry by the Tribunal. We have no wish to discourage price reductions, such as when retail stores hold clearance sales.
The Tribunal’s power to inquire and report will not be confined to proposed price increases subsequent to the date on which the scheme comes into effect. The Tribunal will have the power to inquire into prices being charged by a company at any time. This will enable the Tribunal to investigate cases where circumstances suggest price reductions should have occurred, but have not - and, importantly, to inquire into and report on price increases implemented by companies prior to the measures coming into force in the hope that in this way they would avoid scrutiny. I would expect the Tribunal to devote particular attention to cases of the latter kind in the early period of its existence.
The Tribunal will be required to give public notice of its intention to hold an inquiry, as well as notifying the company concerned. An inquiry might be held by the full Tribunal, or by a division of the Tribunal, which could consist of one or more members. Thus more than one inquiry might be proceeding at the one time. All inquiries will be held in public, with evidence taken in public on oath or affirmation, and submissions made in public. The Tribunal may permit evidence or submissions to be made in writing, but the contents of such statements will also be made public. However, if any party objects to evidence, either oral or written, being given in public, the Tribunal can take such evidence in private if it considers that justified. Any person or body of persons may apply to be made a party to an inquiry, but the Tribunal will have the power to grant or refuse such applications. Parties to an inquiry will be entitled to give evidence, call witnesses, and make submissions. The Act will apply only to companies or groups of companies whose receipts from the supply of goods or services, or both, exceed $20m in the preceding financial year - that is to say, in the last financial year prior to the time at which the company, or group, proposes to increase its prices. In 1970-71, there were over 350 companies in Australia with business receipts in excess of $20m, and their total business receipts aggregated more than $21, 000m. The number of companies involved would now be greater, of course. The limit of $20m has been struck to ensure that the scheme will be administratively manageable, and yet bring under scrutiny prices charged by the major companies which are the price leaders in the community and whose activities can have a significant impact on price levels generally.
It will be apparent that the scheme provided for in this Bill is one of price justification, as distinct from a scheme of price control. Companies will be required to justify their prices and price increases in the eyes of the public. The emphasis will be on full public inquiries and reports by the Tribunal, and there will be reliance on the force of public opinion following publication of the Tribunal’s reports. It will not be mandatory for companies to comply with the Tribunal’s findings. We do not believe compulsion to be necessary. The major companies involved are, we feel sure, conscious of their corporate image and of the impact that their actions can have on the economy, and we would expect them to act responsibly and to have full regard to the Board’s findings and the force of public opinion in deciding their actions. If our confidence in them in this respect turned out to be misplaced, then we would of course consider the matter further. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wriedt) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I introduce this Bill, as announced by His Excellency the Governor-General in his speech at the opening of the current session, to remove any doubt about the exclusive right of the Commonwealth to sovereign control over the resources of the seabed off the coast of Australia and its Territories, from the low water mark to the outer limits of the continental shelf. The Bill, in addition, provides the legislative framework to govern the exploration and exploitation of the mineral resources, other than petroleum, of these submerged lands. The history of this legislation is remarkable enough to dwell upon it for a moment. Over 3 years ago, on 16 April 1970, the former Government presented its Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill. The then Minister for National Development said, when introducing that Bill on behalf of the Acting Minister for External Affairs, that in the Government’s view it would serve Australia’s national and international interests to have the legal position resolved as soon as practicable.
That Bill was never brought before this chamber, but one would have thought that there was general agreement with that point of view. Everybody who spoke on that Bill in another place agreed that it was urgent and that it was in the national interest. Indeed the then Opposition gave the Bill its full support. But, having introduced that important and significant legislation, the former Government Lost its vision and its courage. In spite of all our efforts and, let it be said, in spite of the efforts of some gentlemen now in Opposition, there followed 24 years of stalling and procrastination. In the end that vital Bill was disowned and frustrated by the very people who had sponsored it. The Government now proposes to put that matter right. In this we follow the line we have consistently taken on this matter. We follow the principles laid down in the platform and resolutions of the Australian Labor Party, and we follow the promise, made by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in his election speech, for early passage of this legislation.
As matters stand now, the question of jurisdiction and ownership in offshore areas is in doubt. With the State governments claiming sovereign rights in some of the same areas as the Commonwealth, we find ourselves in the absurd position of having one of the longest coastlines and most extensive continental shelves of all littoral nations, without a clear decision on this most important matter. There are also a number of moves about to take place on the international scene which are of great concern to us - the law of the sea conference, determination of the width of the territorial sea and negotiation of sea boundaries with our neighbours. Although the Commonwealth’s legal power to negotiate international treaties and to enter into agreements and conventions has not been disputed, an intolerable situation may yet arise if wc should have to seek State agreements before ratification. There have, in fact, been instances in the past, when the States have not agreed to the Commonwealth ratifying international conventions or have imposed extreme delay on such action, as was pointed out by the Prime Minister on 18 October last, When he spoke in another place as Leader of the Opposition, on the earlier legislation to which I have referred before.
The natural resources of seabed areas and their exploitation or potential exploitation have become increasingly important in recent years, and with advancing technology that trend, no doubt, will continue at an accelerated pace. In the past, offshore activities have been dominated by the search for oil, while in respect of most other mineral resources we are only at the beginning of development. Even in respect of the more traditional resources, such as sand and gravel dredged from the sea, new problems arise requiring new methods of handling and control. There is a greater awareness these days of the need for conservation of our resources and preservation of our environment, and there is much more urgency to find and adopt suitable methods to prevent or control pollution. All these aspects require careful consideration - consideration on a uniform national level. Moreover, some of them may require quick and decisive action, as in the case of a major pollution threat, with little time for lengthy consultation or for passing of special legislation, as has been necesary in the past, for example, in the case of the stranding on a reef in our northern waters of the tanker Oceanic Grandeur’.
The offshore problems I have indicated are national problems and require national solu-tions. It is for us, here in the national Parliament, to provide the legislative framework which will enable the national Government to exert its sovereign national rights and to speak with authority in national terms on these matters. If there are parties - individuals or governments - who would dispute our right to take the course I now propose, let them challenge this legislation in the courts. We take this stance not in an attitude of provocation, but in the confidence of doing what is clearly right and necessary. Where before in Australian constitutional history could a government rely on a pronouncement by the
Chief Justice on issues vital to proposed legislation? Where before has there been the backing of one of his brother justices, who fully agreed with the sentiments? I am referring to the case of Bonser v. La Macchia. I do not propose to go over the whole ground, but one brief quotation may be worth repeating. This is what the Chief Justice of Australia then said, in part: 11 is quite clear historically, if one examines the descriptions of the territory placed under governorship, that the territory of the original colony of New South Wales except as to certain islands of the Pacific did not extend beyond low water mark . . .
The same can be said of the other Australian colonies.
If anyone wishes to take the matter further, there are the views expressed by no less tha.i the former President of the International Court of Justice, Sir Percy Spender.
The Bill now before the Senate differs in one important aspect from the Bill introduced during the previous session of Parliament. This is the inclusion in Part III of the Bill of provisions relating to off-shore mining, which together with the associated royalty Bill will enable the Commonwealth to exercise control over exploration and mining activities for all minerals other than petroleum on the seabed and in the subsoil of the whole area to which the authority of the Commonwealth extends. The Bill will not affect the existing agreements between the Commonwealth and the States concerning off-shore petroleum however, or the legislation giving effect to those agreements, which will continue lo operate for the present time.
I now turn to some of the specific matters which are sei out in this Bill. Part I of the Bill cites its title, states that it shall come into operation on the day on which it receives the royal assent and extends its provisions to ill the Territories other than the Territory of Papua and the Territory of New Guinea. Part II of the Bill, which deals with sovereignty over the territorial sea and sovereign rights in respect of the continental shelf, is based largely on the earlier Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill which has been mentioned previously. I do not propose to go over that whole area and I suggest leaving until a later stage any detailed examination of its various clauses. However, I would like, to touch briefly on the main aims this Part is intended to achieve.
Firstly, the Bill states the law as we understand it exists, in 3 areas, so as to remove any possible doubt in this direction. Clause 6 makes it clear that sovereignty over the territorial sea, including the airspace above and the seabed and subsoil below, is vested in and exercisable by the Crown in right of the Commonwealth. Similarly clause 11 makes it clear that the sovereign rights of Australia in respect of the exploration and exploitation of the natural resources of the continental shelf are vested in and exercisable by the Crown in right of the Commonwealth. And further, clauses 10 and 14, taken together, make it clear that sovereignty over the internal waters of Australia, including their airspace, bed and sub-soil, is also vested in and exercisable by the Crown in right of the Commonwealth, with the exception, however, of those waters which were internal waters of a State at the time of Federation and which still remain within the limits of the State.
Secondly, the Bill provides, in clause 7, for the delineation of the territorial sea, including determination of the breadth of the territorial sea and of the baselines from which such breadth is to be measured. This is necessary as the claims made by maritime states regarding the breadth of their respective territorial seas vary enormously and range from 3 miles to 200 miles. The disagreement on this point is so great, in fact, that all attempts for the adoption of a uniform distance for inclusion in international conventions have so far been unsuccessful. Although at present a 12 mile limit seems to be most widely favoured, Australia still asserts a 3 mile claim, as do the United Kingdom, the United States and a number of other major countries, and Australia is therefore not bound to recognise wider claims by other states. The territorial sea is measured outwards from baselines along the coast, normally the low water lines. Since most coasts are cut by indentations of varying widths and depths of penetration, however, rules have been established to use as baselines in such cases straight lines drawn from headland to headland along the coast rather than following the twists and turns of the low water mark. The Convention on the Territorial Sea and Contiguous Zone, in article 4, lays down that such straight baselines ‘must not depart to any appreciable extent from the general direction of the coast’. A copy of the Convention is attached as Schedule 1. Clause 8 of the Bill makes provision for the proclamation of historic bays and other historic waters while clause 9 deals with the issue of official charts. Both these matters are also referred to in the Convention at Schedule 1.
Thirdly, the Bill contains, in Division 3 of Part II, certain saving provisions to ensure that the assertion of Commonwealth sovereign rights in the territorial sea will not invalidate existing property rights in wharves and other installations or works, nor limit or exclude the operation of any law of the Commonwealth, a Territory or a State in force at the date of commencement of this legislation or coming into force after that date. This exemption will not extend to any State law in so far as it is expressed to vest any sovereignty or sovereign rights, or make these exercisable otherwise than provided in this Bill. These provisions will allow, as already mentioned, the continued operation of the off-shore petroleum arrangement between the Commonwealth and the States for the present time.
Part III of the Bill will apply a mining code to the off-shore areas, in respect of which Part II of the Bill established Commonwealth authority, lt will enable us to apply the rules under which off-shore mining titles are to be issued and under which the exploration for and exploitation of minerals, other than petroleum, are to be carried out.
World-wide in the off-shore scene, petroleum has dominated both exploration and production. There is, however, increasing interest in other mineral resources of the seabed. Deposits so far identified include construction materials (sand, gravel, limestone, etc.) detrital minerals (tin, gold, platinum, diamonds and the beach sand minerals - magnetite, ilmenite, rutile, zircon, monazite) and phosphorite. Deposits of this nature have all been identified on the continental shelves of the world. In addition, on the abyssal floor of the ocean, manganese nodules, which in addition to manganese contain significant amounts of copper and cobalt, have also been found in widely dispersed areas. In Australia there has been a similar trend with increasing interest in off-shore mineral resources and some exploration work already done and continuing. The value of production of minerals recovered from the seabed so far is small when compared with that of oil and natural gas. It is also interesting to note that taken on a world wide basis, the lion’s share of this value has been contributed by the least glam orous of the minerals concerned, sand and gravel, for which there is a growing and increasingly urgent demand in Australia, as onshore sources of such building materials within economic distances of many centres are becoming depleted.
I must emphasise here that an enormous effort will be required to realise the potential of marine mineral resources of Australia’s offshore area. Mineral discovery and development have always been a slow and difficult process, requiring both imagination and courage in prospecting coupled with a willingness to risk large sums of money in exploration and development. Mineral exploration and production have to be based on a foundation of sound knowledge of local geology and geophysics and the development and application of new technology. The need for this as a base for marine operations has been recognised by the Government and to this end the Division of National Mapping of the Department of Minerals and Energy expects to complete a systematic bathymetric survey of the continental shelf by 1980, while the Bureau of Mineral Resources has already undertaken a geophysical survey of the continental shelf.
The mining code under which companies can be granted titles to explore for and exploit minerals other than petroleum in the submerged parts of the Australian continent is based to some extent on the principles of the off-shore petroleum legislation and the experience gained in its administration. In contrast to that legislation provision has been made, however, to enable the Commonwealth itself to administer the mining code, and allowance has also been made for differences in the technology and in mode of occurrence between off-shore petroleum and other offshore minerals. In addition to a mining code, it is of course essential to apply a general body of law to any off-shore minerals operations, such as an appropriate criminal code, navigational safety regulations, and workers compensation provisions. In these respects it is provided in Division 2 of Part III that the laws of the Australian Capital Territory as in force from time to time should also apply in the off-shore areas.
Particular attention will be directed towards ensuring the conservation and preservation of our natural resources and of the marine and associated environments. To that end clause 88 empowers the Minister to cancel any permit or licence if he considers this to be in the interests of the safety of navigation or the conservation of natural resources or otherwise in the public interest. There is a provision that compensation may be sought in the courts in appropriate cases by the title holders affected. In accordance with modern mining practice the Bill provides for a 2-stage system of titles. An exclusive exploration title, referred to as a ‘permit’, may be followed by a production title, referred to as a ‘licence’. In addition, provision has been made for 2 other, short term, titles. The first is a reconnaissance authority which will allow its holder to explore specified areas for up to 12 months on a non-exclusive basis. The need for such a title is particularly important in the search for minerals in a relatively new and unknown environment, lt will enable operators to carry out the necessary preliminary surveys and testing of techniques before deciding whether an area is worth an application for an exclusive exploration title - a permit. This type of non-exclusive title has been used and found to be effective in Canada. The other short-term title is the access authority which will authorise a title holder to have limited access to areas outside his title area if the Minister is satisfied that this is necessary or desirable for the more effective exercise and proper performance of the rights and duties of the title holder.
Provision is made in clause 33 of the Bill for the Minister either to invite applications for exploration permits or to issue permits without invitation. If an application is received other than in response to an invitation the Minister can grant a permit on such application, or he can reject it and publicly invite permit applications. Such a permit grants its holder an exclusive right to explore for specified minerals in an area not exceeding SOO blocks, that is an area of approximately 575 square miles. The initial permit term is 2 years, and there is provision for renewals, for periods of 2 years each, subject to the permittee’s compliance with the permit conditions and the legislation. Upon each renewal the permittee must relinquish at least one-quarter of the area previously held. Because of the many unknown factors in off-shore mineral technology and different environmental aspects it is not possible to specify precise permit conditions in this Bill. The Minister will therefore need to consider the conditions of each permit according to the circumstances of the case.
Upon discovery of a mineral deposit, a permittee may apply for a production licence, covering no more than 50 blocks, that is an area of approximately 58 square miles, of his previous permit area, as stated in clause 42. If the permittee has complied with the permit conditions and the legislative provisions he has a right to a licence with an initial term of 21 years. Thereafter renewals may be granted at the discretion of the Minister for periods each not exceeding 21 years. It is a requirement of production titles that a holder shall annually expend on exploration or recovery operations an amount calculated at $2,000 per block, that is for a maximum licence area of 50 blocks a total of $100,000 must be spent each year. If minerals are recovered in the licence area in any one year, the value of the minerals recovered is offset against the required expenditure for that licence area for the suceeding year. Any short-fall in tha required expenditure or production value is a debt due to the Crown and is recoverable at law. It is to be noted that under paragraph 4 of clause 51, the Minister may grant an exemption, in whole or in part, from this provision. There is a diversity of minerals and the mode of occurrence of marine mineral resources, and it could eventuate that in some circumstances the level of expenditure required by clause 51 is too high. This is recognised by paragraph 4 of clause 51. I emphasise, however, that this clause requires the Minister to be ‘satisfied that special circumstances exist to justify his doing so’ before he exercises this power of exemption.
It is an important feature of this Bill that applicants, permittees and licensees will be, required to provide adequate information and reports to the Commonwealth. Applicants for the grant or renewal of permits and licences and applications for registration of agreements which create new interests in a title will be required to provide information on Australian equity participation and the involvement of Australian management in the venture. Permittees and licensees will have to make available to the Government proper and regular reports on exploration and production activities and adequate portions of cores, cuttings and samples of the seabed obtained during such activities. The overall geological knowledge of the seabed obtained is important to the Government in its systematic assessment of mineral resources. This store of knowledge is also important to all explorers in that it will avoid the need to duplicate surveys previously carried out. Clause 90 gives the Minister certain discretions regarding the release of information furnished to him. I would point out that the provisions concerning the release of information apply to basic information only and that interpretative data can be released only with the consent of the permittee or licensee concerned.
In accordance with Article 5 of the Convention on the Continental Shelf there is a provision in this Bill in clause 84 for the Minister to consent to mineral exploration in the course of scientific investigations. Such a consent will be subject to such conditions as the Minister thinks fit. Clause 85 is another example of the way in which the Bill ensures that Australia’s obligations under the convention are properly observed. Article 5 of the convention requires that operations on the continental shelf must not result in any unnecessary interference with navigation, fishing or the conservation of the resources of the sea and seabed.
Included in the Bill in clause 111 are provisions for the making of operating and safety regulations. The art and technology of offshore minerals exploration and exploitation are comparatively new and still developing. It is not intended to promulgate regulations immediately because the Government wishes to draw on any experience gained in offshore operations before preparing the proposed legislation in detail. Some companies have already had practical experience in offshore minerals activities, and the Government feels that such industry experience could contribute materially to the content of the proposed regulations.
Pending the promulgation of regulations, the Bill, as does the petroleum legislation, gives the Minister the power under clause 74 to issue directions on any matters with respect to which regulations may be made. The Minister will be required, however, to table in Parliament any ‘direction’ given by him which is inconsistent with the regulations. A further requirement, set out in clause 110, is the preparation and tabling in Parliament of an annual report, on a calendar basis, on the administration of this legislation.
Included in this Bill are transitional provisions which enable holders of certain current State or Territory offshore titles to apply for comparable titles under this legislation. The grant of such a title by the Commonwealth will be subject to such conditions as the Minister thinks fit but it is intended to match as far as possible the conditions of the current titles for the unexpired portions of their terms. As the conditions attached to permits following transition could be somewhat different from those envisaged in the mining code of this Bill, such permits will not be renewed, but after expiry of the remainder of their current term an application may be made for a new title under this legislation.
The Bill provides for the normal requirements associated with mining administration such as keeping a register, the appointment of inspectors and for courts of competent jurisdiction for the prosecution of offences and other proceedings. There are also the usual provisions in the Bill for the variation, suspension of, or exemption from conditions of a title, and for the surrender and cancellation of titles.
I would now like to touch briefly on some financial aspects of this Bill and its associated Royalty Bill. It is our aim to encourage, under Commonwealth control, offshore minerals exploration and exploitation. We realise that these are costly operations and therefore intend to keep fees for such activities at a reasonably low level. Application fees only will be payable and there will be no annual fees on any titles granted under this legislation. This will also simplify its administration. Application fees for reconnaissance or access authorities will be $100 each, while $1,000 will be required for a permit, a licence, or a renewal thereof. Because of the wide variety of minerals, their value and mode of occurrence it has been necessary to provide for a range of royalty rates. The Royalty Bill therefore lays down that the royalty to be paid to the Commonwealth is to be at a rate to be determined by the Minister and specified in the production licence. Such rate is to be not less than one per cent or more than 10 per cent of the value as agreed by the licensee and the Minister or determined by the Minister, usually the gross or mine-head value, and will be subject to redetermination upon renewal of a licence, in the light of the legislative provisions at the time of renewal.
I would like to say that we believe this Bill to be an effective and workable piece of legislation. We believe that it incorporates the most important features of a mining code, which are that the rales should be fair, that they should be as explicit as possible, that they should be consistent without being inflexible and that they should be such as to encourage exploration for and exploitation of offshore minerals under Commonwealth control and supervision. To that end we are endeavouring to enact a code in which the basic parameters are clearly set out. We realise, however, that the art and technology of offshore minerals exploration and exploitation are still comparatively new and at a stage of development. We will not hesitate, therefore, to submit amending legislation for consideration by Parliament if we are satisfied that changes or improvements need to be made. Our main aim will continue to be that this legislation shall encourage efficient and adequate exploration and exploitation of our offshore resources and at the same time control operations in such a way as to ensure the conservation of our natural resources and the preservation of our marine environment to the common good. I commend this Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Wriedt) proposed:
That the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
– I desire to move an amendment to the motion proposed by Senator Wriedt. I move:
I know that this is a most unusual step to take in relation to the passage of a Bill. As the amendment is basically to a procedural motion I realise that at this stage one cannot debate the merits of the Bill. That must be left until the second reading stage which, if this amendment is carried, will occur during the Budget session. The reason for this amendment is quite simple. As I see it the Senate was brought into being to ensure that the House of Representatives, having the majority of its members provided by the most populous States, could not ride roughshod over the less populous States. My Party believes that this is happening at the moment with this Bill. We believe that there is an obligation upon the Senate to make sure that the States have adequate time to hold consultations with each other and, if necessary, to make representations to the Commonwealth Government. The 6 State Premiers - 3 of the Australian Labor Party, 2 of the Liberal Party and one of the Country Party - are united in their opposition to this Bill. For that reason, if for no other reason, this Bill should not be rushed through the Senate. If this amendment is agreed to this Bill will come on for debate in August during the Budget session of the Senate.
The Bill is said to be urgent. The Bill has been urgent for over 3 years, so another 3 months delay will not affect it. The amendment will provide an opportunity for the Federal Government and the 6 State governments to consult one another, particularly in regard to the code contained in Part III of the Bill. I do not think that is an unreasonable proposition. The Senate is more than just a chamber in which to talk about what is loosely and quite inaccurately termed ‘State rights’. It must be a chamber where co-operative federalism is insisted upon. The purpose of the amendment is clearly set out. The amendment is moved for the purpose I have mentioned and none other at this stage. All that my Party is saying is that this Bill should be debated in the Budget session. In the meantime the parties which are most closely affected by the Bill can get together and attempt to come to some sensible conclusions. For those reasons I commend the amendment to the Senate.
– This amendment seeks to have further consideration of the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill 1973 deferred until, as I understand it, 21 August at the earliest.It is important that the question of sovereignty over the territorial sea and continental shelf be determined urgently. Without debating the merits of the Bill presented by the Minister for Primary Industry, Senator Wriedt, 1 think that those honourable senators who have had a look at it will appreciate that in substance it is based upon the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act. The Senate Select Committee on Off-Shore Petroleum Resources studied that legislation for 4 years. Many of the provisions of this Bill have arisen from the recommendations of the Select Committee.
It has been said by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) that there should be consultation between the Commonwealth and the States. That consultation can only be with respect to sovereignty over the area and not with respect to other parts of the Bill, particularly Part II and Part III. Consultation took place between the Commonwealth and the States between 1964 and 1968 on the proposed Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Bill out of which this Bill arises. So, as to the substance of the matter which Senator Wriedt has placed before the Senate, there has been considerable consultation. Not everyone may agree with the proposal that has been put forward by the Minister for Minerals and Energy, Mr Connor, but I do not think that it can be said - I emphasise this point - that consultation has not taken place between the States and the Commonwealth as to the administration of the territorial sea and continental shelf area.
The difference of opinion, to which Senator Withers referred, that is held between the Commonwealth and 3 Labor States, 2 Liberal States and a Country Party State is about who exercises sovereignty over the territorial sea and continental shelf area. That was not decided in the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act. It was stood aside. None of the States of the Commonwealth would surrender any of the rights it thinks it has. The question now is: Who has sovereignty over those areas? I believe it is urgent to determine that question in view of the fact that international conventions are now taking place. It should be remembered that it is the Commonwealth and not the States which has to negotiate with other nations. We have a Bill on the notice paper which seeks to ratify an agreement between the Commonwealth of Australia - not the States - and Indonesia over disputed territories. The States are incapable of negotiating those types of agreements. So it has become a matter of urgency for the present Government, as it should have been for the previous government, to clarify the position as to who operates in these areas.
I am not familiar with what the various States are doing in London at the present time, but it would appear from the news media that they are seeking from the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council an advice certificate as to sovereignty. A binding decision will not be made by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council; it will simply issue an advice certificate. Based upon that advice from the Judicial Committee, I suspect that the States will proceed to the High Court of Australia for a judgment on the matter. I think Senator Withers was stretching the bow a little when he talked about a delay of only 3 months. It is all very well to say that the delay will be only until August, but there will be a Budget to be dealt with in August as well as the legislation that flows from the Budget and the other Government business that will have to be considered. Therefore, consideration of this Bill could be deferred until October or November if this amendment is carried. That would involve a delay of more than 3 months. Whatever the States are doing in London at the present time with the Privy Council about an advice certificate may take a great deal longer than that. How long it takes the Privy Council to give its decision will depend upon the substance of the argument presented to it. If, as a result of the Privy Council’s advice, the States decide to proceed to the High Court for a determination of this matter, it could be 12 or 18 months before the question of sovereignty over off-shore areas is determined in Australia.
I stress that this is a matter which should be resolved as soon as possible. My colleagues who sat with me on the Senate Select Committee on Off-Shore Petroleum Resources will know that the regulation of the petroleum industry is in substance the same as the regulation of other industries in off-shore areas. The mode of operation is clearly laid out in the legislation that was passed in 1967 during the tenure of office of the previous government, subject to the quite substantial recommendations made by the Select Committee. I feel that there is no need for consultation with the States with respect to that part of the Bill. The only part of the Bill that is open to discussion between the Commonwealth and the States is that which seeks to decide sovereignty.
During the debate last week on the proposal by the Australian Democratic Labor Party for an inquiry into privacy it was said that the recent incident was the first occasion on record that pairs had been called off. But I remind the Senate that pairs were called off some 2 years ago during the debate in the House, of Representatives on a Bill introduced by the men Prime Minister, Mr Gorton, and it was necessary for members of Parliament to be brought back from Perth because they had lost their pairing. Some of those people were in aircraft bound for Perth at the time pairs were called off and could not easily be recalled. The substance of the dispute within the Liberal and Country Parties at that time, as enunciated by the then Minister for National Development, Mr Fairbairn, was that there should be consultation with the States before certain legislation was put to the Parliament for enactment. It seems to me a rather shallow move, since the LiberalCountry Party coalition Government had been in office for some 18 months after that dispute between Mr Gorton and Mr Fairbairn over consultation with the States and when no consultations took place during that 18 months period, for the Opposition in this place now to want to defer the Bill until consultations do take place. As a result of the dispute between Mr Fairbairn and Mr Gorton why were not negotiations and consultations with the States put into operation during that period? The situation appears quite farcical to me. While the then Government held office and a dispute was splitting open the ranks of its members over non-consultation with the States, that Government took no action to hold consultations with the States. But now that there has been a change of Government and the present Government wants to take the natural course of asserting its rights by legislation over these off-shore areas, the Opposition moves that the Bill be deferred until consultation takes place.
Pass whatever legislation you like in this place, yon will not determine the issue of sovereignty. Whether legislation is passed now or in 3 months’ time or in 12 months’ time, the question of sovereignty over the off-shore areas will not be determined by this Parliament. It can only be determined by the enactment of other legislation - and the States could have enacted legislation to take control of their areas had they thought their case was strong enough to stand up. Western Australia could have said: ‘This off-shore area belongs to us under the letters patent. We will enact legislation to seize control of it.’ The Commonwealth could then have appealed to the High Court. But none of the States ever thought that its case was strong enough for it to enact legislation.
– Did not the States believe that they had control of the areas without enacting legislation?
– I do not think so, Senator. 1 think they used a lot of bluff. If you look at what they are saying today you will see that they are not saying that they have any authority in the areas outside the territorial sea. They are still arguing that they have certain rights within the territorial sea but they are not arguing that they have rights beyond the territorial sea. On the contrary, during the negotiations when, firstly, Sir Robert Menzies, as he now is and, secondly, Mr Holt, was Prime Minister, and conducting the negotiations with the States, the States were bluffing that under the letters patent they had certain rights to the continental shelf. But it turns out that it was only bluff. During the hearings of the Senate Select Committee on Off-shore Petroleum Resources, I think, it was pointed out that there was a case in Western Australia some time ago - and Senator Durack would know of it - in which the State of Western Australia was defeated and it proposed to appeal to the High Court to settle the question whether it had rights in this area. However, Western Australia was persuaded by the other States not to proceed with that appeal because the other States knew that if that appeal went to the High Court the weakness of their position would be exposed.
I fail to see why we should not proceed with this Bill. I do not know when this Senate is going to adjourn; that decision is not in the hands of the Government but, unfortunately, in the hands of the Opposition. But the Senate will rise at some time for the winter recess. I fail to see why this piece of legislation should not be passed by this Senate at this time to allow the machinery for the settlement of the dispute between the Commonwealth and the States to proceed. I repeat: Pass whatever legislation you like in this place and you gain nothing. All you will do is bring to a head the dispute and the High Court will settle that dispute. The High Court will determine this dispute after hearing arguments. This is different from the Bonser v. La
Macchia case when argument was not presented. One cannot accept the Bonser v. La Macchia case as the determining factor although it does give some indication of the views of 2 of the justices of the High Court. But in substance the argument as to soveriegnty in this area was not argued, and it was requested that it be not argued. So that case is not a binding factor. The only way we shall achieve real settlement of this question is to pass this legislation and to allow the States to proceed, if they think their case is strong enough, to the High Court, and let the High Court determine who has authority in this area. I urge the Senate to let this Bill proceed. It is not so simple as the Leader of the Opposition Senator Withers says, that we shall adjourn this debate for a period of 3 months. It could be adjourned for many more months than 3. I submit that it would not be able to take precedence over legislation arising from the Government’s Budget which I expect will be presented to the Australian Parliament and the Australian people on 21 August. The necessary legislation arising out of the Budget will have to take precedence over this Bill. Therefore the Opposition would be adjourning this debate for a period of 5 to 6 months. I urge the Senate not to do that because even after the Parliament has passed the legislation the States will have to determine whether or not they want to appeal to the High Court. It is my opinion - and 1 stress that this is not the opinion of my Party - that the States will not proceed to the High Court on this legislation. - They have everything to lose and nothing to gain by proceeding to the High Court on this legislation.
Who is exploring for or exploiting minerals other than petroleum off the shores of Australia today? Three States - Tasmania, New South Wales and Queensland - have issued permits to companies to explore in the offshore areas for minerals other than petroleum.
– Is not that evidence that they believe they have control?
– Well, Senator, some of the permits for the exploration for petroleum in the off-shore areas were issued, at least by the State of Western Australia, back in 1951. That State seized the initiative to issue permits in this area while the then Commonwealth Government was asleep. The practical result of course was that practically the whole of the prospective areas, or the most promising of the prospective areas, of the continen tal shelf of Australia were issued to exploration companies in large lots. I do not have to remind Senator Webster of that because he sat on the Committee with me and he knows as well as I do the way in which the States abused the issue of permits in these areas.
– I was trying to understand your thoughts when you said that the States could challenge the Commonwealth if this law were passed. I was trying to ascertain why you do not agree that the Commonwealth can challenge those States which have already issued licences. It does not seem a valid argument.
– The simple fact that the States have issued permits to explore for minerals off their coast - what might be referred to as their adjacent area - is not evidence that they have sovereign rights in that area. The issue of these permits is something that just drifts along, just as the issue of permits to explore for petroleum just drifted along and no one took any notice. During the sittings of the Estimates committees I have asked officers from the Bureau of Mineral Resources questions about the issue of permits by the 3 States which have issued them for the exploration of minerals, other than petroleum. I have been unable to find out the size of the areas for which permits have been issued, to whom the permits have been issued, how many permits have been issued to each of the applicants or the minerals for which they have been permitted to explore. The officers from the Bureau of Mineral Resources have been unable to give me that information.
– Do they know it and are not able to give it to you or do they lack it themselves?
– I think they lack the information themselves. The answers given by the officers of the Bureau of Mineral Resources to my questions were that they did not know. Whether the position was that the States had not supplied them with the information I do not know. As far as I know, there is no obligation upon the States to provide the Bureau with the information. There is an obligation on the States to provide the Commonwealth with information regarding the exploration and exploitation of petroleum, but I know of no obligation on the States to provide information in regard to other minerals.
I conclude on this note: This is not a matter for long argument, but I think that the Senate does not do itself justice by deferring it. It cannot be said that the Senate would want to consider the terms of the Bill because, as I have said earlier, the Bill is based upon the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act which has been well and truly inquired into by a Select Committee of this Senate over a period of 4 years. The only question that arises is one of sovereignty and the sooner the question of sovereignty in this area is resolved the better it will be for this nation. The Committee which inquired into the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act said that to defer making a decision on the matter was not doing a service to Australia.
– Senator Cant, who has just resumed his seat, is recognised by honourable senators on this side of the chamber and by honourable senators in his own Party as being a man who has had a good deal to do with the industry under discussion. We know that he was a member of the Senate Select Committee on Off-shore Petroleum Resources. I listened very intently to what the honourable senator said and I believe that even in his own mind he has some doubts about detailed effects of the provisions of this Bill. I say quite emphatically that my Party has made up its mind on the issues contained in the Bill. I realise that we are not allowed to discuss the issues at the present moment, but I would like to say that the Australian Country Party will not be supporting the Government should the Bill be proceeded with. As the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) said, there is good reason why we should not support it.
The Premiers of the Slates are not satisfied with the present Bill. Even in my own State, the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition, who on other matters have never seen eye to eye, are in agreement on this issue. 1 say to the Government and to Senator Cant that I too believe that the question of offshore sovereignty must be resolved, and that it must be resolved as soon as possible. But I do not believe that in trying to resolve this question we should create a situation in which the States and the Commonwealth are proceeding along separate lines. I believe they should proceed together. The Senate will recall that last August the responsible Ministers from the States met here with Ministers of the then Government, including the AttorneyGeneral and the Minister for National Development. The State Ministers indicated at that time that they did not want long drawn out legal battles; they indicated - Senator Cant also has expressed this view - that such a course is neither desirable nor expedient. Who says that these legal battles will remove the uncertainties in this legislation? The legal people can fight all day, all year, and even for years to come-
– They can fight just as hard as the politicians and they do fight to finality.
– Well, some of us have different ideas. The meeting of last August to which I referred expressed some ideas as to how this matter should be proceeded with. The meeting put forward the suggestion of amending the Constitution. It put forward several other suggestions as to ways in which this matter could be proceeded with. Rather than proceed with this Bill and have the States going away from us, I am quite happy to stand over consideration of the Bill so that we may look at it. Senator Cant said that legislation arising from the Budget will take precedence over this Bill if it is brought on next session and that this would not be a good thing. Let me remind the Senate that on 1 June last year Senator Murphy stood in his place at 4.44 p.m. and asked for leave to move a motion concerning the order of business so that we might know what we were to do. When leave was granted Senator Murphy moved:
That Government business after order of the day No. 10 be postponed to the first day of the next sittings.
The next sittings were the Budget session. The Bills he wanted to discuss were the Softwood Forestry Agreements Bill, which he said involved an important question, the Industrial Research and Development Grants Bill, which he said involved an important question, and the Salaries (Statutory Officers) Adjustment Bill. Consideration of those 3 Bills was put aside at this time last year, so I see no objection to supporting the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition that this Bill be put aside until a later date in August this year. The Country Party is willing to support the amendment.
– I do not believe that a debate on a motion for the adjournment of a matter so important as this should be allowed to conclude with only ons or 2 Government speakers taking part in it. I believe that some important principles are involved in the matter of adjourning the debate. I think perhaps that Senator Drake-Brockman was more revealing than he intended to be because in his last remarks he said that the Australian Country Party in fact is opposed to the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill, in the form in which it is now before the Senate. I think that that can be reasonably interpreted as a total opposition by the Country Party to the Bill. From his point of view, the moving of an amendment proposing that deliberation on the Bill be deferred for some 3 months can be looked upon as perhaps a legitimate parliamentary exercise in preventing the passage of the Bill. But, from the Government’s point of view, the Australian Labor Party believes that it is essential that this matter be dealt with in the order of business as it has been set down before the Parliament.
The Labor Party was elected on 2 December last with a mandate to introduce the legislation that is contained in the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill which is now before the Senate. We clearly have a mandate for this Bill. This, in itself, I believe is a singularly important factor. I do not believe that any opposition can move responsibly to defer legislation of this nature for which an elected government clearly has a mandate.
– You do not think that you may have lost some of that mandate?
– The honourable senator knows that we were elected and given that mandate on 2 December last year. We were elected on the undertaking that we were going to introduce a Bill such as the Bill which is now before the Senate. To engage in a manoeuvre whereby consideration of this Bill is to be deferred for 3 months is a deliberate effort by the Opposition to set aside the will of the Australian people as it was most clearly expressed on 2 December last.
The subject matter of this legislation unfortunately is one of those subjects on which divisions appear to intrude within political parties. A similar problem occurred in the United States of America with regard to the legislation over the tide lands oil, where there was division within the Democratic Party and the Republican Party as to whether the national legislature should have control of these matters or whether they should remain in the hands of the States. There are divisions - certainly there is no point in denying them - both within the Australian Labor Party and within the Liberal Party on this matter. A previous Prime Minister, Mr Gorton, has made his position perfectly clear on this question, as has one of his former Ministers, Mr Killen. As I understand it, one of the more interesting features of last night’s meeting of the parliamentary Liberal Party, when the resolution was carried to rescind its previous decision to support the Bill and a decision was taken to seek to defer it, was the absence of Mr Gorton and Mr Killen from the meeting. 1 may be wrong in making that statement, but that is the information that I have. If 1 am wrong and if they both were present-
– The leaks from your Cabinet are much more accurate than the information you get from our Party room.
– They were both present? If Mr Gorton and Mr Killen were at that meeting, I accept the assurance of the-
– Only one of them was there.
– I thought I was being assured that they were both there. One of them was present. So, either Mr Gorton or Mr Killen was absent when this matter was being discussed. The absence of either of them I would describe as being of some significance.
The amendment calls for consultation with the States. This is a matter which has been canvassed, virtually in its present form, since 1970. The States have had ample opportunity for at least 3 years to say whatever they wanted to say on the Commonwealth’s desire to legislate on matters relating to the continental shelf. There is nothing further that can be said on this matter by the States. I certainly would agree completely with what the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said at his Press conference today. Referring to the off-shore resources legislation, Mr Whitlam said:
Any such talks would have been futile. Mr Gorton found that. We decided to go ahead. The States are completely intransigent on this subject, and in my policy speech . . . The Labor Party declared its attitude towards this legislation-
I think that this is most significant because some State Labor governments are involved in this matter.
At the Federal Conference of the Australian Labor Party in Launceston in June 1971, the proposition was submitted to the Conference in this form:
The Commonwealth to legislate for regulation and exploitation of the continental shelf and off-shore resources.
That is a very clear proposition which I think anybody could understand. Mr Dunstan, the Labor Premier of South Australia, was a delegate to that Conference. I am not revealing anything that happened in confidence; all these matters are on the public record. Mr Dunstan move an amendment to add the words ‘and the States’ after the word ‘Commonwealth’ so that in its proposed amended form the motion would read:
The Commonwealth and the States to legislate for regulation and exploitation of the continental shelf and off-shore resources.
The amendment moved by Mr Dunstan was rejected by the Australian Labor Party’s Federal Conference. It was rejected in the presence not only of Mr Dunstan but also of Mr Tonkin, the Labor Premier of Western Australia and if not in the presence of Mr Reece certainly in the presence of Ministers of the Tasmanian State Labor Government. They know as well as I know what is the platform of the Australian Labor Party on this subject. They had the opportunity to say what they wanted to say about the Federal Labor Party’s policy at the Launceston Conference in 1971. One of them - the Labor Premier of South Australia - moved that amendment and it was rejected.
This policy was adopted by the Australian Labor Party as part of the Federal platform of the Australian Labor Party. In accordance with that platform, the Federal Leader of the Party, Mr Whitlam, put this policy forward quite clearly and explicitly at the campaign for the House of Representatives election which took place on 2 December last. In doing so, although it now appears that he was differing from some State leaders of the Australian Labor Party, as it happens he was agreeing with some important members of the Liberal Party including a former Liberal Party Leader who was a former Prime Minister and is now a member of the front bench of the Liberal Party in another place.
I know that it is impossible for me on this motion to debate the merits of the Bill the adjournment of which is sought. But I felt that it was incumbent on someone to point to the fact that the policy which is contained in this Bill is policy which has been well known now for some years. The matters were debated when Mr Gorton was Prime Minister and when he and certain members of his Government were endeavouring to take action along the same lines as the action proposed by this Bill, lt has been well known to members of the Australian Labor Party and to anybody who is or ought to be as conversant with Labor Party policy as a member of a State Labor government is or ought to be. The States have shown that they will be quite intransigent on this matter. Whatever the merits may be of the argument and whether the nation as a whole should legislate on the matter of the continental shelf or whether the States should retain that control, if in fact they do have that control at the present time, the fact is that this is not a matter which cun be the subject of further negotiation.
Everybody knows exactly where everybody else stands on this issue. There is nothing further that can be said. The adjournment amendment moved by Senator Withers, the Leader of the Opposition, is tantamount to a rejection of the Bill. Nothing can be done within the coming 3 months, or whatever the delay period may be. It may be longer, as I think Senator Cant correctly pointed out, when one remembers that in the next sessional period the Budget will be considered. It may well be 6 months or more before this Bill can be debated properly in the Senate. Nothing can be accomplished, however long the delay, which has not already been accomplished. Everybody knows the position. To carry the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition is equivalent to a rejection of the Bill. The background of the Bill is perfectly well known. The principal points of the Bill were clearly incorporated in the policy of the Federal Labor Party as long ago as the middle of 1971 and were part of the policy presented to the electors of Australia last year when the Australian Labor Party was returned to office in this Parliament.
– The Democratic Labor Party supports the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers). Unfortunately it is quite common knowledge within the Commonwealth that the Australian Federation is undergoing very severe strains and stresses. So severe and so dramatic have those stresses been, and into so many areas do they intrude, that the States have called for a constitutional convention to take a completely new look at the Constitution to see whether some more equitable and more effective distribution of constitutional power cannot be achieved. It would appear that when such a convention is pending and when the steering committees already are operating, little should be done to intrude further on the already difficult situation by exacerbating the position by passing this legislation. If this convention is to be held with the maximum goodwill and if it is to achieve a proper constitutional reconciliation and a proper constitutional division of powers, that can only be accomplished in an atmosphere of mutual goodwill. For the Commonwealth to intrude particularly at this stage with this draconic legislation certainly would have the effect of militating against a successful conclusion to that convention.
Whatever might be our views about this Bill it would be commonly accepted that the preservation of Australia as a viable nation and of the Australian Federation as the means by which the nation operates effectively ai all levels, is something which would be the common purpose of us all. We of the Democratic Labor Party are approaching it on that basis but there are different points of view.
As Senator Wheeldon said, there are different points of view within the Australian Labor Party itself. While Senator Wheeldon pointed to the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) delivered before the last election as granting him a mandate from the Australian people, it must also be said that there are major sections within the Australian Labor Party and the leaders of the State Parties in a number of States who really do not accept that as a decision of the people, and apparently they do not accept it as the policy of the Party.
– Why can we not get to the core of the matter?
– I am not making any political comment on that. I merely am saying that that indicates that there are these stresses and strains within the community and even within a political party as to what should be the correct and proper outcome of this matter. Therefore the suggestion propounded by Senator Withers for a last effort, even though it is a last desperate effort, to be made in co-operation with the States and in the concept of co-operative federalism to achieve some modus operandi which can do equity between the components of the Federation, without creating any further stresses and strains such as those already disrupting the Federation, seems most appropriate at this stage.
I was interested in Senator Cant’s observations about the advisory opinion sought before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. The High Court of Australia is not in a position to make declaratory judgments and the States have taken this matter to the Privy Council for an advisory or declaratory opinion. I take it that that reference would go to the Privy Council sitting, as we might say, in banco; that is, to the general Privy Council.
– The High Court of Australia can make declaratory judgments.
– It can make declaratory judgments on a case brought but it cannot be asked for an advisory opinion judgment. That is the sense in which I use the term declaratory judgment. Therefore I would say that this reference would go to the Privy Council in banco - that is to the general Privy Council - and it no doubt in turn would refer it to a board of the Privy Council, as it is called, being the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council constituted as a board for that purpose. Senator Cant said that what could then happen is that if that advisory opinion is given and legislation is enacted in terms of it or in defiance of it a case could be brought in the High Court of Australia as a litigation at law. It occurs to me that somebody may consider that the Privy Council in banco, instead of referring the matter to a judicial committee comprised of distinguished legal members of the Privy Council in Great Britain, might well refer it to a board of the Privy Council constituted by the judges of the High Court of Australia, all of whom are Privy Councillors. So in fact this opinion would then be given by those who constitute the High Court of Australia. In effect it would be an advisory opinion.
– Why go around in such a circle?
– Senator Cant pointed out that if an advisory opinion were given by the Privy Council it may be only a prelude to litigation subsequently brought before the High Court of Australia. I think that that was the honourable senator’s point, was it not?
– Therefore I am suggesting that this may be a device which would enable the matter initially to come before the High Court of Australia, the judges of it not sitting as a High Court but sitting as a constituted Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. The distinguished members of the High Court could constitute that board. That is something which Her Majesty the Queen-
– I used those terms to show how the delay could be caused.
– I know that that is the point the honourable senator was making. I appreciate that matter. I am answering Senator Georges who points out that that is a long way around. The point made by Senator Cant is that the other way would be a longer way around. I think that is his point. I just mention something that occurs to me. In that case we would have a decision made by the High Court of Australia, the members of which would be sitting as a Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. Then there would really be no point in bringing the matter again before the High Court because the judges who had sat on the Privy Council would constitute the High Court. In effect that would be a final decision. That is only something that has gone through my mind. It might be a practical resolution to this problem. Whether the States would desire it is a matter for them.
I am concerned at the reference made to Part III of the Act which refers to the exploitation of the mineral resources of the continental shelf. Traditionally the exploitation of mineral resources has been a matter within State sovereignty. This Bill appears to me to be a surreptitious mode of arrogating power to the Commonwealth over an area which traditionally, constitutionally and conventionally has been considered to be within the exclusive jurisdiction of the States - quite apart from Federal territories. For those reasons, without unduly prolonging the debate because this is a procedural motion, the Democratic Labor Party believes that the amendment moved by Senator Withers has a great deal to commend it. It might be a last desperate effort to operate within the concept of cooperative federalism. The States obviously are so alerted to the position and so concerned about it that they are taking it to Her Majesty in Council in England. There already are stresses and strains within the Federation and we should lose no opportunity to try, in the interests of the Australian Nation, to put salve onto the wounds which have opened up in Australia. For those reasons I think a delay of 3 months would not be untoward. Senator Cant said that it may be even a few months longer because we will be coming into the Budget session. Room definitely could be found in that session to look at this matter, despite the Budget commitments. I think that that is so important and the contribution that it would make to the functioning of Australian Federalism is so great that a delay or a procrastination of 3 months would not be undue at all. For those reasons the Democratic Labor Party supports the amendment.
– This debate on whether to adjourn discussion on the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill is almost as important as the debate upon the Bill itself. For that reason it should not have been brought on so suddenly and I therefore move:
That the debate be now adjourned.
That the debate be now adjourned.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
– The Opposition has revealed that it is not willing to debate even the adjournment of this Bill. It has exposed its endeavours further to frustrate the program of the Government. Let us not delude ourselves. That is the purpose of seeking deferment. It is obviously a new device which has been thought out by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) to avoid voting against the Bill which was the original intention of the Opposition. It is seeking to defer this Bill and all other legislation so that it will not be forced into a confrontation on more than one Bill. Last week the Opposition frustrated the Government’s program by not passing the Electoral Bill. This week, for some reason, honourable senators opposite have had second thoughts and the device of deferment is being employed.
The Australian Country Party has already indicated to its Leader that it has made up its mind to vote against the legislation. Why should it want to wait 3 months when it has made up its mind? Sufficient time has been given for those people who are interested in the Bill to discuss it. Sufficient time has been given to the State Premiers to make their points of view known. Sufficient time has been given to the Parties to debate the issue in the Party rooms and form their attitudes to the Bill. Yet for some reason the Opposition does not want this measure to be given a speedy passage. A quick conclusion could be reached if a vote were taken and the proposition put to the High Court for a legal decision. 1 think many honourable senators will agree that the matter will finish in the High Court. Irrespective of whether the path suggested by Senator Cant or Senator Byrne, or some other path is taken, the High Court will be asked to decide this matter. Why then should we waste the time of this Parliament? Why should we frustrate the interests of the people as a whole? The interests of the people are very much at stake.
For months 1 have been beating the air in the Senate - that is the only way it can be described - warning the Senate of the need for this legislation in order to protect a large and vital section of the Australian coast, to wit, the Great Barrier Reef. It was hoped that the passage of this legislation would firmly, once and (or all, place responsibility in the hands of the Federal Government so that it alone could determine the future of the wealth in our offshore areas. It is fairly evident that until that point is decided, until the responsibility is placed firmly in the hands of a single authority, the future of some of our vital areas is at stake. I may be transgressing in raising that matter at this stage. I would like to put to the Opposition the importance of making a decision to be followed by a legal interpretation, not by the Privy Council, but within our own land by the High Court itself.
Surely this is a simple and reasonable way for the matter to be resolved. Yet, instead of the Opposition accepting the adjournment of the debate until the next day of sitting, instead of it being willing for the debate to take place perhaps towards the end of this week or next week, it has sought to defer the debate. It is difficult to understand. What is it that the Opposition is afraid of? Is it afraid that some of its members will vote with the Government on this very important proposition? Is it afraid that some of its members may follow the lead of their ex-leader in the other place, the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) who was once Prime Minister, and vote for this important legislation? If this is the Opposition’s fear, why postpone the debate for 3 months? Why not face up to the issue at this moment? What does it seek by the postponement for 3 months? Are discussions sought with the States? The States have already made their attitude clear and the Commonwealth has already made its attitude clear. There is a clear area of dissension, if I may use those 2 words, ‘clear’ and ‘dissension’ in the same sentence. That dissension must be resolved, and it must be resolved quickly because of one or 2 matters that will, of necessity, come out when the Bill is debated. For that reason, I voice my protest at the manner in which the amendment was moved. Also, I voice my objection to the fact that the Opposition did not support my motion for the adjournment of the debate dealing with the postponement of the Bill so that this matter could be fully debated. I am not speaking of the Bill. I am speaking of the motion for the adjournment of this debate and the need to postpone the debate on the Bill for 3 months. The motion for the postponement of the debate needs to be debated fully.
Debate (on motion by Senator Willesee) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wriedt) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time. This Bill is consequential upon the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill which has just been introduced, and I commend it to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Willesee) proposed:
That the adjourned debate be made an order of the day tor the next day of sitting.
– As this Bill is consequential to the other Bill, the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill, I am informed that it would be far tidier if the same amendment were moved in relation to both Bills. So I formally move:
Leave out the words ‘next day of sitting’ and insert: ‘the first day of sitting after 1 August 1973’.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.55 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 17 May (vide page 1727), on motion by Senator Willesee:
That the Bill be now read a second lime.
– This Bill seeks the approval of Parliament to provide a contractual guarantee by the Australian Government for an overseas borrowing by Papua New Guinea. That in itself is a matter of some substantial consequence because we will guarantee an emergent country which has been, I suppose one might say, under our custodianship for a period of time and which is emerging in its own right as an independent nation. I think it is emerging as an independent nation at a much faster rate that it wishes to emerge, because of the pressures of the present Government. The Papua New Guinea Government, in its emergent state, proposes to undertake an overseas borrowing, whereas in previous years it has depended upon the resources being provided to it either by what I might call grants in aid, revenue grants or subsistence in loan form from the Australian Government which, for a period of time, has been its guardian or trustee. I think that is the best way to describe it. I think that the Australian people, through a variety of governments and a variety of political philosophies, have a great deal to be proud of for the the record which they have achieved in connection with the emergent nation of Papua New Guinea under trusteeship, under guardianship or under custodianship - call it what you will. I believe that in the history of the world it will be noted as one of the most outstanding examples of the transference of power and the acceptance of responsibility, including financial responsibility, in what I call a very adult and very fair sense.
No person has really been able to justify any claim of colonial overlordship, colonial sovereignty or offensive attitude displayed by Australia towards the emergent people which it took under its care. This has been sustained in the United Nations and by visiting missions. I think that all honourable senators ought to accept the fact that the Senate, the great House of review, has a record to be proud of for Australia, quite apart from considerations of politics. It is a matter of some consequence in the financial future of the emergent nation that it seeks to borrow in its own right and that it seeks to borrow overseas. Borrowing overseas is a tremendous test of the financial responsibility and the (financial worth of he who seeks to borrow. What is happening in Papua New Guinea is this: The overseas borrowing is being contracted by the emergent nation under a kind of custodianship by the Australian Government and it will be successful not because of the reputation of the emergent nation but because of the reputation of the parent, custodian or guardian and because of the guarantee by that guardian. I think I should simply say this: This is not a political matter. I believe that it is something of which the Australian people, irrespective of their political persuasions, can be proud and will in the years ahead become increasingly proud. That is the consequential matter with which we are dealing.
The proposal is to borrow US$20m which is the equivalent, at current rates of exchange of $A 14.3m. The proceeds of the loan will be made available to finance public works and services in Papua New Guinea. The legislation to authorise the borrowing has already been passed by the Papua New Guinea House of Assembly. A little later 1 will refer to what seems to me to be. a slight inconsistency here. It will be the first loan raised by Papua New Guinea on the international capital market, but it is not the first time that we, as a parliament, have been asked to approve borrowings by Papua New Guinea. We have done this on previous occasions in respect of borrowings from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and from the Asian Development Bank. Of both borrowings we approved. We supported them although we sought some clarification of them. To the Treasurer (Mr Crean) I must pay a personal compliment and say that he responded to ray queries about the currency situation when the Senate was debating the Papua New Guinea Loan (Asian Development Bank) Bill. He sent me an explanation of the relative positions of the currency of Papua New Guinea as it is now and what it might be in the future that was quite satisfactory to me. Borrowings by Papua New Guinea internally or on the Australian market carry a statutory guarantee.
One thing which would give one slight cause for concern and which would allow the Senate to set this Bill to one side would be the proposition contained in that portion of the second reading speech of the Special Minister of State (Senator Willesee) which states: lt is expected that arrangements for the borrowing for which this Bill provides a guarantee will be concluded before the end of this financial year.
So we are being asked to give a guarantee for a borrowing which is not yet concluded.
– You did that when you were a Minister.
– It is not quite right to say: ‘You did that when you were a Minister’. I am conscious of the fact that when I was responding for the then Treasurer from time to time I explained adequately to the Parliament why this kind of thing was happening.
– You never did.
– That is not true.
– You dodged the issue every time we asked you about Papua New Guinea.
– That is not correct. If the honourable senator refers to the record I think he will find that his observations are completely improper. What he needs to do is to leave the chamber and read the Hansards and he will find that I have always taken some care and some trouble to explain these situations. If it is good enough for me to pay a tribute to the present Treasurer for giving information to me, it is good enough for the honourable senator to do the same for me. This guarantee is sought ahead of the borrowing but I think it is proper for the Senate to allow it to pass. If Senator Keeffe would restrain himself in his enthusiasm to knock people over he might have allowed me to proceed without interruption. I think it is quite proper in these circumstances to allow this measure to pass.
A new situation is developing. Papua New Guinea is investigating the possibility of raising its loan in deutsche marks. One would understand the negotiating problems. One would understand that perhaps the thing to be considered here is that Papua New Guinea needs to have implicit in its negotiations the understanding that Australia will underwrite it. I think that that would be fair enough. I can understand . that happening. Therefore I think the Senate is properly entitled, in accordance with past practice, to give Papua New Guinea that implicit understanding as it proceeds towards finalising the negotiations, particularly on an overseas market in a part of the world which is .new to it. I think it is fair enough to do that. In effect, the parliamentary approval is for a guarantee to be given ahead of the time that the loan is negotiated, but we understand that the negotiating is so far advanced that the matter is likely to be concluded by the end of the financial year - 30 June. The various certificates which are called for by the Attorney-General’s Department have been provided. I do not think one would have any quarrel with that.
There is a comment in the second reading speech that there would be insufficient time to seek parliamentary approval for the guarantee after the agreement has been signed. That is understandable. One can see how this might well happen. The Parliament might not be sitting when the final negotiations are completed and the money is available, and one would not want to hold that up. The comment has been made that the Bill is purposely couched in general terms in respect of the currency and the precise format of the proposed borrowing, that it- is done so as not to restrict the choice of Papua New Guinea in borrowing on a particular overseas capital market from which it may finally decide to arrange its loan. Speaking on behalf of the Liberal Party - the other Opposition parties can add their own comments - I think the Senate is entitled to accept that understanding and to allow that latitude be available to those who negotiate the loan.
The comment was that in present circumstances it seems probable that the cost of overseas borrowing by Papua New Guinea will not differ greatly from the cost of borrowing a comparable term loan from an institutional source in Australia. I am extremely pleased to hear that comment. 1 am delighted to hear that Papua New Guinea will not have to pay more interest on the money that it borrows than it would have to pay if the money were borrowed from a normal Australian source which may have some bond with Papua New Guinea. If that is the case, I think that to some extent it is probably due to the fact that Papua New Guinea has an Australian guarantee and an Australian underwriting. One would wish Papua New Guinea to have that guarantee and underwriting so that it can obtain the lowest effective rate of interest possible in the international capital markets.
The point has been made - I think it is a good point - that Papua New Guinea needs to establish its standing as a borrower in the international capital market. That view seems to me to be quite sensible and I believe that Papua New Guinea should be supported in that respect. In establishing itself as a borrower Papua New Guinea will depend upon the quality of its guarantor. In this particular case Australia will be the guarantor. Legislation authorising that has already been passed by the Papua New Guinea House of Assembly. It is likely that by the end of this financial year Papua New Guinea will receive a deutsche mark loan on which the interest rate is not higher than the rate at which a loan would be available from an Australian source. I think one. could regard the Australian capital situation today as being of such magnitude, due to the wise and efficient operations of the economy by the previous Government, that the Government could permit a capital loan to be made to the Government of Papua New Guinea. But Papua New Guinea has alternative ways of obtaining money. One alternative has been to seek a loan overseas. For the reasons I have mentioned Papua New Guinea needs to establish itself internationally as a borrower. So the view of the Liberal Party is that this is a good measure, that it is worthy of support and ought to be passed without much delay.
I have studied the provisions of the Bill and they seem to me to be quite unexceptional. There is nothing in the Bill to cause worry about a varied currency determination at a later point of time. That mater is dealt with in clause 5 (1) (a) and (b) which deals with the currency relationship to the US dollar. 1 suppose the obligation in the end for a currency change as against the US dollar lies in th. hands of the borrower. That is part of the risk the borrower must take. Australia is standing as a guarantor to a country of which we are very proud, for which many Australians not only have worked but also have fought, and for which some have given their lives. It is my view that the measure is well worthy of support.
– The Democratic Labor Party supports the measure. 1 do not propose to speak to it at any length. There are one or two minor matters to which I shall refer. Papua New Guinea is a nation which is emerging towards not only political independence but also, to a large measure, economic and social independence. This measure will provide ongoing finance to Papua New Guinea in its present state and the contractual implications will continue with the new Papua New Guinea in its independent situation. I would be obliged if the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) would indicate what the position will be when the contract is held by a new nation with a new political relationship to Australia. I think that aspect will be of some significance. Also I would be interested to know what will be the future policy of Australia in relation to further finance being made available to the independent nation of Papua New Guinea. I would like to know whether this Bill is to be the first of a series of ongoing financial provisions of a particular kind so that Australia may persist in its solicitude for Papua New Guinea, or whether it will be the last provision of this character to be made available, after which Papua New Guinea will be internationally a nation that can go on to the world market and secure its own loans. I would like to know whether it is proposed that in some way Australia will underwrite, support or fortify the borrowing capacity of the new nation.
When 1 speak of Papua New Guinea having political, financial and economic independence I do so in a theoretical sense. Obviously the nation still will require tremendous financial support. I would like to know whether Australia will consider that the new nation is to be completely on its own, pursuing its own destiny and negotiating its own international currency and financial relationships. Will Australia still act in some condition of patrimony towards Papua New Guinea? Those matters are important. It is important for Papua New Guinea to know the answers to those questions and for this Parliament to know them. For that reason I would be obliged if the Minister, in his reply, will indicate what is to be the future financial relationship between the emerging nation of Papua New Guinea and Australia. The DLP approves thoroughly of this Bill and trusts that the amount of money which is to be provided will assist greatly in the development of an area which is so close to Australia geographically, which is so close to our hearts and whose future will always continue to be very close to our destiny and warrant the care and solicitude of the Australian nation.
– The Australian Country Party supports this measure. I do not think I need to traverse the grounds that have been stated by Senator Cotton and Senator Byrne. The Australian Country Party thoroughly agrees with the measure.
– in reply - I agree with the comments made by Senator Cotton. There are probably few Australians and certainly, I am sure, no honourable senator who would oppose this legislation. I am pleased to know that the Opposition parties are in fact supporting the Bill. As Senator Cotton mentioned, this measure is an important step which has the wholehearted support of the Australian Parliament. I do not intend to elaborate on any of the particular points raised. I think they were mainly in the nature of comments, with the exception of matters raised by Senator Byrne. I cannot supply Senator Byrne with specific answers to the questions he raised. However, I am quite confident that, with the passage of time, not withstanding the events which we know will be forthcoming shortly, the Australian Government will not abrogate its responsibility towards Papua New Guinea. In his closing remarks Senator Byrne made the comment that Australia shared a sense of responsibility with Papua New Guinea. One could almost say it is a feeling of kinship. Australia certainly will continue to afford whatever assistance it can to the development of the new nation. 1 will obtain information on the specific points raised by Senator Byrne and furnish it to him. I thank the Opposition parties for allowing the speedy passage of this legislation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 9 May (vide page 14S9), on motion by Senator Murphy:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This Bill seeks to amend the Crimes Act by, to put it shortly, repealing certain provisions which have been a part of the Crimes Act since 1926. I say at the outset that the Opposition supports this Bill - supports it wholeheartedly and supports it consistently with the view which was expressed by me, as Attorney-General, on behalf of the former Government over the last 2 years of its term of office. The Bill seeks to repeal provisions which give to the Attorney-General the power to deport persons who are not natural born Australians - notwithstanding the fact that they may be naturalised Australians - and who have committed certain offences under the Crimes Act. The Bill seeks to assert the principle that all Australians, irrespective of whether they are natural born or naturalised, have an equality under the law and should be treated equally. With that proposition the Opposition is thoroughly in accord.
– That is for offences against Australian law, of course.
– Naturally. I accept what Senator Byrne has said. In principle the objectives sought by the Bill are quite unexceptional and warrant, and will receive, the full support of the Opposition.
What provisions does the Bill seek to repeal? They are provisions which were inserted in the Crimes Act in 1926 with the support of the Australian Labor Party of the day. Section 30c makes it an offence for a person, by speech or in writing, to advocate or encourage the overthrow of the Constitution of the Commonwealth by revolution or sabotage, the overthrow by force or violence of the established government of the Commonwealth or of a State or of any other civilised country or of organised government, or the destruction or injury of property of the Commonwealth or of property used in trade or commerce with other countries or among the States. The section also states, notwithstanding that a person who is guilty of such an offence shall be subject to the penalties of the legislation, that that person may in addition, if he was not born in Australia, be Liable to deportation by order of the AttorneyGeneral, as provided in the Act.
Sections 30l, 30m, 30n, 30p and 30q are substantially consequential provisions flowing from that proscription which is contained in section 30c. I should also say that section 30l creates a power which the Attorney-General may exercise to deport any person who is declared to be a member of an unlawful organisation by the High Court of Australia or the Supreme Court of a State on an application by the Attorney-General - an application which he may make by use of the averment provisions. As T have said, the Bill seeks to repeal those provisions. The Opposition supports the repeal of those provisions. The agreement which we have to the repeal of these provisions is consistent with the agreement which was expressed in 1926 by the then Government and by the then Opposition that these provisions should be a part of our law.
– Why did you not do something while you were in power?
- Senator Georges asks why we did not do anything about this matter when we were in power. It is true to say that nothing was done. I shall advert to what I said about our attitude when we were in power. But, if there is a point in what Senator Georges has said, I ask him: Why did the Labor Government which was in power under the leadership of Mr Scullin not do something about it? Why did the Labor Government which was in power under the leadership of Mr Curtin not do something about it? Why did the Labor Government which was in power under the leadership of Mr Chifley not do something about it? The basic reason is because all those governments, as with non-Labor governments over the greater part of that period, considered that these provisions were appropriately a part of our law.
– I am talking about last year when you were Attorney-General.
– 1 accept what Senator Georges has said. I shall address myself to answering what he has said. I think it is fair to indicate what I said on 8 September 1971 when 1 held the office of AttorneyGeneral during the course of an adjournment debate which was initiated by Senator Mulvihill. Senator Mulvihill raised the question of whether the provisions which are now sought to be repealed by this Bill were consistent with that equality of treatment which we ought to concede to all Australians irrespective of whether they were natura] born or naturalised. 1 think that the case which Senator Mulvihill then put was one which clearly and unmistakably argued for the repeal of these provisions. I do not think, on reflection, that Senator Mulvihill would seek to withdraw anything he said on that occasion. I replied, I think reasonably and soberly, to the case which he had raised. Without going through the whole of the fairly lengthy reply which I gave to him. I wish to indicate that after endorsing the general proposition which he put I said:
It is quite clear that whatever might have been the merit of those provisions in the 1920s, whatever might have been the thinking in those days which regarded provisions of that character as having merit and whatever might have been the facilities of those days whereby the countries to which these persons might be deported would be prepared to receive them, I think In each of those areas our thinking these days has changed. I would believe that we are in a position where, if a person is an Australian citizen, whether he be an Australian citizen by the fact that he has been born in Australia or whether he is an Australian citizen by virtue of the fact that he has been naturalised, there ought to be an equality of treatment and these provisions do offend against that concept.
I went on to say: . . there has not been lo my knowledge any occasion on which any of these provisions has been used to have a person deported from this country. As 1 understand it there has never been any suggestion that these provisions are likely to be used.
In conclusion I said:
I have noted what Senator Mulvihill has said and I have indicated to him clearly my own thinking. On the other hand I do not feel that it is appropriate at this stage to introduce legislation to repeal these provisions.
I interpolate simply to say that with the legislative program which the Government then had I did not feel it appropriate to introduce legislation simply to repeal a few provisions which had never been availed of in the 40-odd years of their existence and in respect to which for my part there was never any possibility that they could be used. I went on to say:
They will be taken into account in a consideration of the Crimes Act when that takes place. 1 emphasise that what these conditions do is to distinguish between Australians who are natural born and Australians who are naturalised.
– The existing provisions.
– That is, the existing provisions; I accept what Senator Byrne says. Those existing provisions, acknowledging that there was a different attitude in the 1920s, were not acceptable to Australia and Australians in the 1960s and are not acceptable in the 1970s. We believe that naturalisation gives to an Australian citizen absolutely and without equivocation the same rights under the law as natural born Australians possess under that very same law. It is anolomous and offensive to suggest that some Australian citizens who are not natural born may be deported at the discretion of the Attorney-General and we welcome therefore the opportunity when it is presented to us to indicate our complete support of the Government in the repeal of these provisions.
I have related what I have said to indicate the consistency of a point of view. I would emphasise, however, that these provisions were never used either by any of the earlier Labor Party governments which took office after March 1926 or by the Liberal-Country Party governments or Nationalist governments which took office at or after that time. May I say that under a Liberal Party government, at least in the 23 years of government which Sir Robert Menzies initiated, there was never any likelihood that these provisions would be used. Accordingly the approach of the Liberal Government was to leave the question of amendment of the Crimes Act to be incorporated in a general review, and therefore general amendments of the Crimes Act, when those amendments were presented to the Parliament. I am not talking in terms of some thing which may have occurred indefinitely, some time maybe in the future, because during the time that I was Attorney-General it is apparent from the records which would be available to Senator Murphy that this question of a prospective reform of many provisions of the Crimes Act was under consideration by the Department. Many provisions of the Crimes Act do require amendment. The pro visions relating to search without warrant, which, I imagine, a committee of this Senate will probe fairly thoroughly in the near future and in respect of which I make no assessment of what it might find, do need amendment. Provisions relating to the enforcement of penalties clearly need amendment. Sections relating to offences against government are couched in language more appropriate to the 19th century than to the late 20th century; I have no doubt that they require amendment. Provisions which are broadly categorised as the Official Secrets Provisions require amendment.” 1 hope that Senator Murphy can be given a rest from his travails in other matters to give attention to the need for amendment in these areas. Other aspects of the Crimes Act also require amendment.
The difference between the Labor Party government and the Liberal Party government is that the Labor Party government will bring forward any amendment, almost at the drop of a hat, on the basis that it is desirable. It has the advantage of course that it adds to the statistics. A Labor government can say: We have passed 60, 70, 80 Bills this session’ - and it has done so by way of, say, an amendment to the Social Services Act by Social Services Bill No. 1, then an amendment by means of Social Services Bill No. 2, then Social Services Bill No. 3 - and I am doubtful that we shall deal with Bill No. 4 or Bill No. 5 before this session is out. But that is the manner in which the Labor Party deals with its amendments. We on the Libera] side were prepared to put our proposals forward as a comprehensive amendment of a particular Act unless there was an urgent requirement for a particular amendment to be brought forward.
I have no doubt that by the end of this year there will be approximately 6 amendments to the Electoral Act, introduced by the Labor Party simply to illustrate that it is dealing with this matter piecemeal with a view to deluding the Australian people that each of those amendments in itself is worthwhile; but as a comprehensive whole the people will not realise that the electorate is being gerrymandered to foster the interests of the Labor Parly. For our part, in the way we approach amendments we would put them all together and say: These are the amendments we propose for a particular piece of legislation and we suggest they should all be dealt with at the one lime.’ It was that style and type of approach which characterised our attitude to amendments to the Crimes Act. The fact that the Labor Party has done it in the way it has is no reason why when the legislation is put forward we should indicate warmly and wholeheartedly our complete support for the measure which has been introduced.
But - and this is another point which I suggest might arouse some concern in the Government ranks - the reason for this Bill is the Government’s legitimate, wholly justified and, may I say, completely necessary desire to allay the fears of a number of people that they may be deported, lt is entirely proper for the Government to wish to allay these fears for it has been the Australian Labor Party Government which over the past 4 or 5 months has aroused in the minds of a considerable number of the 2 million or more migrants in this country the fear that some of them may be deported. It is because of that fear and the realisation by the Government that this fear exists that this Bill has been introduced. I think that Senator Murphy’s second reading speech virtually says so - for what have we seen this year? We have seen almost from the time that Senator Murphy assumed the cloak of the AttorneyGeneralship
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Deputy President. I would like to ask you to draw the attention of the honourable senator to the fact that he is diverging from the subject matter of the Bill before the Senate and ask him to return to the Bill.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - I cannot sustain the point of order.
– I am sorry that Senator O’Byrne should have felt there was no relevance in what I was saying about the purposes of this Bill. He would realise that Senator Murphy earlier this year was to be heard on numerous occasions asserting the need for the strongest possible action to be taken against those whom he described as ter rorists - and I leave aside the question whether evidence was relevant to justify whether or not that allegation was correct. Of course, the strongest possible action that he was talking about was the deportation of these people. I suggest that Senator O’Byrne should read Senator Murphy’s second reading speech when introducing this measure to see whether there is relevance in what I am saying to what this Bill confirms, namely, that we in the Opposition ranks are concerned to indicate why this Bill is desirable.
On 27 March Senator Murphy categorised in this Senate certain organisations to be terrorist organisations. He produced no evidence, to justify his assertion, but his categorisations were produced and published throughout the length and breadth of Australia. These organisations, on his say-so, have been so categorised. There is a provision in the Crimes Act which says that any member of such an organisation may be deported by the Attorney-General. No wonder thousands of Australians were apprehensive at what might be the consequences of Senator Murphy’s statement and were fearful of what Senator Murphy might do. It is no wonder that the Government feels it is necessary to introduce a Bill such as this, in effect, to curb Senator Murphy’s powers. I believe that given the power, given the opportunity and given the licence, there is no saying what he might have done. What he said in this Senate was to suggest that many thousands of Australians were potentially liable to deportation. Because this Bill removes the power of the AttorneyGeneral to deport those people we emphatically support it.
We are pleased that in the Government of Australia the same elements in the Labor Party are prepared to see this as a step which must be taken. We have seen examples of what Senator Murphy has said and from that we can draw examples of what he might have done. There was a gentleman - I mention him only because he has been mentioned before in this Senate - called Zdenko Marincic who, I have stated, must be assumed to be a person who went overseas and who either was gullible or was prepared to engage in violent activities overseas. He was apprehended on his return to this country because of certain weapons, guns and silencers which he had hidden in a toy koala. He was apprehended by the officers of the Department of Customs and Excise and was sentenced by a court on evidence presented to the court to a term of imprisonment, i do not question for one moment the legitimacy or the- propriety of the penalty which he experienced. This man was the subject of some questioning last year as to whether he should be deported.
The record is available to show that 1 took the view that this man should not be deported because he had not been guilty of any act of violence in this country, that if he were to be deported because of the offence which he had committed not only would he be subjected to a double penalty but also he would be sent back to Yugoslavia to a communist totalitarian government which has proved beyond question that not only will it mislead governments which have dealings with it but also it will execute in secret persons whom it has led other governments to believe have already been killed in the course of an armed invasion. It is a government in which deception is part of the practice which it follows and in respect of which our own Government in Australia is supinely neglectful of the way in which it should approach its relations with that government. I said in regard to this man Marincic that there is a paramount obligation in the type of society in which we live always to err - if erring it is - in favour of individual liberty and individual rights and not in favour of the public interest of some totalitarian country.
I believe that we should limit as closely as we can the power which we have to deport people from this country. I know that deportation is a power which a nation possesses with regard to persons who are not its nationals, and it is a power which every country possesses. But once we confer the citizenship of this country upon a person who has come to this country as an immigrant and who has resided in this country we owe to that person 2 things: We owe him the obligation, firstly, that we will treat him as an equal of persons who are natural-born Australians and subject him to no penalties, prohibitions or disabilities which are different from those to which the natural-born citizens are subjected; and, secondly, that we will not deport him to a country where he may be dealt with not on the basis of his conduct but simply on the basis of his political opinions. Because this Bill makes it abundantly clear in legislative form that that is the position to which we subscribe, the Opposition warmly and wholeheartedly supports the principle of the Bill.
Because of the frequent and unexplained references to deportation in the Press over recent weeks the fear to which I have referred is one which we know exists amongst the migrant community. What we have been lacking is a clear Government statement as to when and in what circumstances it will deport, who are the people who may feel that they are liable to deportation and who are the people who are not liable to deportation. I have no doubt that this Government has created a climate of fear in this country amongst a great number of people, and that climate of fear has not been eradicated by the many words of which Mr Grassby is capable. Certainly it has not been eradicated by Senator Murphy’s conduct. We have seen a host of non-natural-born Australians subjected to police raids and police searches over the past weeks, the like of which this country has never experienced in the whole of its history. No wonder there is concern.
– Not since the convict days.
- Senator Hannan says: ‘Not since the convict days’. He has probably made a study of what happened in the convict days. I have not, but certainly we would have to go as far back as that to find anything comparable to what happened in Canberra in early March of this year and in Sydney on the morning of 1 April. The Opposition supports this Bill, doubting that in the ordinary circumstances it would have been necessary because the provisions of the Act have never been utilised, were never likely to be utilised, and because the provisions of the Bill could have been dealt with as part of a comprehensive amendment to the Crimes Act which would have occurred in due course. We support the Bill because there is clearly a need to allay the fears which this Government has created amongst a lot of people that naturalised Australian citizens will not be deported and there is no law which will enable them to be deported. We know that there are other provisions under which people may be deported. Those provisions are contained in the Migration Act and they are the only provisions Which hereafter will exist in this country under which people can be deported. Those provisions are of 2 characters: The first is where a person has been convicted of a serious offence and where the Minister feels the offence is of such a character that the person should not be allowed to’ remain in this country, he may be deported; and the other character is where a person’s conduct is such that the Minister feels he should be deported. In that category of cases the person about to be deported has the right to appeal to the commissioner, whom the Act establishes as the person who may hear those appeals.
In 23 years of Liberal-Country Party Government there was never any question that injustice would have occurred in those areas. The question is now present and a lot of people know that it is present. I hope that this Government will make it abundantly Clear that any person who is deported from this country or is about to be deported from this country has rights and that those rights will be exercised. If there are persons who are to be deported, not because they have been proven guilty of an offence but because the Government of the day wants to have them deported, I hope the fact that that type of action is being taken will be made known to this Senate. We will not have the usual prevarication and unwillingness to answer questions which is so characteristic of Ministers in this Government. We will be told the facts so that there can be an opportunity for those people who would raise a voice in their defence to raise that voice. I have not any faith in the so called civil liberty values of this Government. I think that what has happened in the past few months justifies the doubt which T have. All T say is that this is an area of which I think the Government ought to take notice. The Opposition will be closely scrutinising it. It is furthermore an area in which, 1 think, if sincerity is what the Government is here showing, it ought to be prepared to initiate legislation with respect to the deportation provisions in the Migration Act also.
I conclude simply by saying that the provisions of the Crimes Act were introduced in 1.926 at a time when Australia was confronted with assaults to its established order and when both political parties agreed that there was a necessity to approve the principle of deportation in order that the Australian community should be protected. I do not read what I. have here which is a copy of the speech which Sir John Latham made at the time when he introduced the Bill. I simply state that at the time when the Bill was introduced it had the support of both Parties in the Parliament. Attitudes have changed and the Government and the Opposition are as one in maintaining that there is an absolute equality of treatment which must be accorded to all Australian citizens irrespective of whether they be natural born or naturalised and that Australian’s who are not natural born Australians should not be deported.
The Opposition agrees therefore with the repeal of these provisions. But we go further. We say that we regret that the Australian Labor Party has created in this country an environment and a climate of opinion in which a need is felt to repeal this provision in order to allay apprehension and fears. We hope that the Labor Party Government will go further and will examine the provisions of the Migration Act to ensure that under those provisions people who may be deported are adequately protected and that the rights which they have will not be dealt with in secret and possibly not revealed to the people of this country until after they have been deported.
These are vital matters. I belong to a Party and my membership of it derives from my belief originally that that Party, above all other parties in this country, is dedicated to the concept of political liberty and the preservation of the civil liberties of all Australians. The fact that we have never had to fight this issue strongly in 23 years is an indication of the integrity with which we adhered to our principles in the time that we were in Government. It is amazing that, after only 6 months of a new government, these issues have again become live issues in the country. This discloses in a way that I think Australians never believed this would become disclosed the truly authoritarian trends and the dictatorial trends in the Labor Party about which Mr Whitlam warned before he ever became Prime Minister but which have become so paramount and prominent in so many actions of the Ministers of this Government. We support this Bill, and we support it for the right reasons.
– J regard the consideration of this Bill tonight as a most historic occasion. The question deserves not merely the Dr Jekyll-Mr Hyde approach indulged in by Senator
Greenwood in dealing with this matter. 1 know that he had an invidious role to play. If we say that the provisions of the 1926 Act were never implemented, we have an example of the need not merely to be just but to appear to be just. Let me explain one of the reasons why we are concerned about this matter. It is very easy for any honourable senator, no matter to which Party he belongs, on occasions to talk about the thirst for liberty and the thirst for justice. A senator is protected by the accoutrements of his office and of the establishment. We feel concern for people who are not of Anglo-Saxon extraction or name who may agitate for some reform which is not popular. Quite apart from the fact that these people may be called cranks or something else, we are concerned about the other epithets and the threats made against these people. I do not know what the provisions of the Statute of Limitations are with respect to gaining access to Cabinet documents. I would very much like to look at some of the submissions which came from the Attorney-General of the day - he was not a member of the Labor Party - who had to deal with the case of 2 maritime trade union leaders, one of Scandinavian origin and the other of Irish origin.
– Walsh and Johansson.
– That is right. The fact of the matter is that the time when a little bit of pressure is applied to people is the time when spleen is vent. Even if the government of that day did not actually deport anybody, it must have indulged in some type of perverted McCarthyist approach involving the origin of those persons because this legislation was introduced at that time, placed on the statute book and remained there.
Traversing history and coming to the period of office of the Scullin Government, we see the obvious fact that that Government was faced with a Senate majority of the type that the Labor Government faces today. In any case, the more important task then was to provide jobs and Food for the Australian people rather than to worry about these other aspects of civil liberties. I know that if research were carried out on what had to be done in this respect during the war years it would reveal that the Labor Government at that time had to deal courageously with the situations facing it. Here I draw a comparison with the actions of one of the leading jurists of the United States of America, Chief Jus tice Earl Warren ot the United States Supreme Court who is eulogised by honourable senators opposite. It could possibly be said that he made mistakes with respect to actions in relation to Californians of Japanese origin. It is true that what occurred then happened at a time of war. This was one of the problems that the Australian Government had to meet in wartime.
The crunch came in post-war Australia. I refer to the situation in the 1950s. We may be a little lenient as to how long it took for the tocsin sound to reach the ears of members of the then Government. I recall attending a Citizenship Convention some 8 years ago. Per. haps the time when the existence of this provision in the legislation did manifest itself on the ethnic group was when Mr Oppermann, as he then was, was Minister for Immigration. At that time, decided agitation for the reform contained in this Bill was heard. Let us be fair with one another in relation to any Bill with omnibus provisions which might be introduced to deal expressly with the provisions of the Crimes Act. The next time the Labor Government introduces a Bill to amend the provisions of the Crimes Act, honourable senators opposite will create a Roman holiday situation in which they will try to crucify Bob Hawke, Jack Mundey and others whom they would equate with those gentlemen. So much thunder will be heard on the ethics of trade unionism that very little time will be given to the facet of the Crimes Act now under consideration.
To take the matter a little further, I do not think that anybody in this chamber can preen himself completely with respect to his views on this matter. At least Senator Murphy has always argued in support of what is proposed by this legislation. Several years ago. I attended a Greek rally in the company of Senator Murphy. Even then, the manifestations of fascism in Athens were already being felt. I know that Senator Georges on the Brisbane front was playing a role similar to that played by Senator Murphy on this occasion, more than 3 years ago at this rally held in a Greek club in Paddington. The building in which the club was housed was formerly a picture theatre. Senator Murphy said then that a Labor government would see that inbuilt prejudices of the type that we are discussing would not be able to be used against migrant people no matter where they came from.
Tt is true, as honourable senators opposite continue to remind us, that nobody was ever deported under this legislation. In the next breath they urge people of non-Anglo-Saxon origin to take their place in public life. I imagine that all of us at times have suffered snide taunts as to what our fathers did, what our origins were and questions of that type. No doubt exists that a number of people in these ethnic groups have had to do battle in post-war years with taunts such as I have mentioned. Whether one was a spokesman for some vegetable growers co-operative or a shop steward in a trade union - believe me. plenty of taunts have been thrown at people in the latter category-one found that there were some people who have the desire to sneer at and to hurt members of these ethnic groups. These taunters are to be found in all sections of our community. Furthermore, we see examples of editors writing in newspapers that certain recent arrivals ought to be deported from this country. Fortunately, editorials of this, what I would call, madcap nature in our newspapers are in the minority.
These are the things that once and for all this amendment to the Crimes Act will remove. That is the reason why we welcome it. Following on from the Oppermann era when the citizenship convention and the ethnic groups were crying out. the fact is - 1 have said it previously and I reiterate it tonight - that there was constant agitation as part of election issues for the removal of these discriminatory clauses. I went to many rallies and at very few were there Liberal Party representatives. This point was put to us constantly and we gave an affirmative answer. I suppose that this is one of those stories that can be told. 1 used to listen to Senator Greenwood say that his Government wanted to deal with the Crimes Act in its entirety. I thought what a peculiar strategist he was. As a matter of fact 1 wrote an article for one publication and in it drew a parallel with the reforms of the Roosevelt era in the United States of America in respect of ethnic groups and of how those people flocked to the Democrats and returned a long series of Roosevelt administrations. 1 drew a parallel with the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam).
Unfortunately, Senator Greenwood put all his eggs in one basket and dealt’ with what a minute section of the Croatian community was thinking. If he read ‘Jugoslovenski Glas’
Nova Dobra’, ‘La Fiamma’ and the ‘Hellenic Herald’, the Dutch publication, he would find that they are all applauding us for what we are doing. If we deal with the majority of the people those people will welcome it. The casualties of this discrimination are the people who agitate for reforms against their local councils, their trade unions and some of the rural co-operatives. They are the people who run up against the establishment. It is when people run up against the establishment that others use these hurtful taunts.
As for this minute Croatian group that Senator Greenwood talks about, the only observation I would make at this stage of the game, in deference to you. Mr Deputy President, is thai if some of those people had spent more time agitating for the removal of this discrimination, had got into the main stream of the political affairs in this country and had not tried to redraw the boundaries ot Eastern Europe, they would have been in a much stronger position. When 1 looked .it some of the documents that Senator McManus tabled in the Senate there was a recurring theme among a number of people concerned who were crying out for justice and questioning quite mistakenly the attitude of the present Government. One or two of them said that they were concerned about justice and about their Australian rights. This is on the record. One fellow said: ‘Yes, I sought citizenship, but I never had time to go around for my citizenship ceremony’. I am in no way a jingoistic person but I think thai a man like that falls into that category of people who are using this country only as a sort of staging house from which to indulge in some of their marauding expeditions in Eastern Europe. I repeat that this Bill is providing protection for the people who want to play a part in this country.
If we want to talk about civil liberties, there was one notable omission from what the previous Attorney-General, Senator Greenwood, said tonight. By way of interjection Senator O’Byrne tossed across a Mills bomb when he referred to Srecko Rover and the honourable senator could not get away from it quick enough. There is a lot of talk about the power of governments. In fact the Attorney-General. Sena.or Murphy, and the Minister for Immigration, Mr Grassby, have yet to be nailed about taking away a person’s passport. Honourable senators opposite talk about expeditions to find the truth. It will be a very memorable day in the case of Srecko Rover, with all his search for justice, if he appears one day before a group of senators and has to tell us why his passport was taken from him. 1 think it will be like what happened at the apostles’ last supper, when they said: ‘lt was not I, Lord’. I can imagine that Senator Greenwood will say that he did not do it and thai Mr Lynch, the former Minister for Immigration, also will say that he did not take his passport from him. I wonder if some prominent public servant will be given the dump.
By all means let us have our nostalgic references to whatever part of the world we came from to this country, or the part of the world our ancestors came from. However, in this Bill we are primarily concerned with providing effective political rights for people to become not merely members of the community but if needs be militant advocates. Honourable senators talk about redressing the balance. 1 sympathise with the present Minister for Immigration when 1 think of the people who were denied citizenship. There was no clamour about an appeal system such as they have in Canada. There was not one word. I know of a citizen in Canberra who is of Spanish origin. His wife is naturalised. This story has a familiar ring. Simply because this man subscribed to a variety of papers from the far left and to the far right in Europe, he was denied citizenship. I went along to the then Minister for Immigration. Since we are all baring our souls here tonight I shall tell this interesting story because it concerns the gentleman who is now Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party in the other place, Mr Lynch. Being a simple man, 1 said to the Minister: ‘This is the Spanish applicant. I had him over here for lunch and I have grilled htm about his political affinities. He has told me that he demonstrated outside the Spanish embassy’. Note that it was the Spanish embassy: this illustrates the double standard. If he had demonstrated outside the Soviet Legation the then Government probably would have given him a special pension as it did in the case of Lesic. But that is the problem honourable senators opposite have to face. Getting back to this Spanish gentleman, he was with me in the Minister’s office. I leant across to the then Minister, the honourable Phillip Lynch and 1 said: ‘Look Phil, your name is Lynch and mine is Mulvihill and if we went back far enough I am sure that our ancestors must have tangled with authority, whether here or in the country from which they came.’ He looked at me and said, ‘My people were always law-abiding people’. This shows the type of super-people that honourable senators opposite claim to be. They claim to be people who are above this sort of thing.
– Born to rule.
– Exactly. They seem to have this sort of exalted importance about them. I have never forgotten that story. I remember another occasion when a particular headmaster lectured me and asked where I was going to finish up. He reckoned that a lot of my views were very radical. We had been dealing with the French revolution and perhaps I had some sympathy with the action that had to be taken. I really am pulling my punches tonight. I know that the Opposition is not going to sabotage or reject this Bill. It will bring a lot of happiness to many families. I hope that within the trade union movement and even in the Chamber of Manufactures and other employer groups there will be people who will inject their attitudes and cultures into those bodies without feeling that at some stage someone will call them Bait soandso’s and say: ‘We will have you deported*. It is as simple as that. A lol of people suffered those epithets on the workshop floor before Senator Murphy grasped the nettle of a very difficult situation. Within a week of Mr Grassby becoming Minister for Immigration I took a delegation to see him and the first thing its members put up was that they wanted the removal of these iniquitious provisions of the Crimes Act. Tonight we see that becoming a reality.
– The Democratic Labor Party supports this Bill. I personally support it wilh great enthusiasm. I always Iia ve strongly resented this differentiation in the status of people in the community. My mind goes back to the situation during the war when there was that strange designation of naturalised aliens of enemy origin. Whatever may have been necessary in furtherance of our defence when Australia was engaged in war, particularly in this area, nevertheless it put naturalised Australians in a very peculiar category. As a result they were subject to internment and things of that character. Going back as far as that and even beyond, I always have thought that the paramountcy of the certificate of naturalisation conferring citizenship should be acknowledged at all times and in all circumstances. It is rather like the paramountcy of the certificate of title under the Torrens system of land registration. Once that certificate is issued all other things are laid aside and from then on the certificate of tide is the title, to the land. All other mortgages and charges are laid aside at that stage and you read the certificate from then on as indicating the ownership and title to the land. I have always thought that citizenship should be in that category.
These provisions in the Crimes Act have persisted for too long. People came out here accepting Australian ctizenship but in particular circumstances they have been subject to this discrimination and to being deported to the land from which they came, often going to a fate that was worse than any we might have administered to them. That is something I have always resented and I really welcome the presentation of this repealing legislation. It is interesting that in more recent days and rather more dramatic circumstances the Senate has adverted to the citizenship of new Australians in relation to what we will call the ‘Croatian situation’. The Senate Select Committee which has been constituted to look at the whole matter has before it as one of its terms of reference:
The problems and perils created for members of the Australian migrant community by the concept of dual nationality and appropriate measures which may be taken to eliminate them.
In other words, we adverted to the fact that although migrants may obtain Australian citizenship, if they have come from certain countries they still retain the nationality and citizenship of that country. They face all the risks, vulnerability and dangers that are attendant upon defiance or breach of the law of that country from which they came. The Senate has indicated that it is particularly concerned and remains concerned about the existence of dual nationality. Tonight we are expressing our concern about another area of citizenship. It is interesting to recall that it is only in more recent years that the status of Australian citizenship has received recognition. Only a few years ago we were of British nationality. Australian citizenship has come in the recent lifetime of most honourable senators. That is in the past but circumstances involving dual nationality are still under dis cussion, as is discrimination regarding deportation which is being eliminated by this measure.
I do not wish to take up any more time of the Senate. The Senate is enthusiastically supporting the Bill for many reasons, some of which have been advanced by honourable senators who have spoken on matters which lie very close to the hearts of every honourable senator and every member of the Parliament. I welcome the presentation of the legislation which I and my Party are pleased to accord a quick passage through this chamber.
– I welcome the rather belated enthusiasm accorded this measure by the Opposition. I was particularly interested in the words of Senator Greenwood, the previous AttorneyGeneral, who indicated that he had proposed that certain changes should be made - changes that are now incorporated in this Bill. However, he had decided that they were not important enough at that time and that they would be dealt with when he eventually got around to amending the Crimes Act. I believe he is guilty of giving lip service to those propositions and of doing nothing about them, although tonight he has said that the changes are of prime importance.
I wish to remind Senator Greenwood and other supporters of the previous Government of its actions which amounted to intimidation of migrant communities. For a long time Senator Byrne supported honourable senators opposite when they were in office. Tonight I remind him and Senator Greenwood that their enthusiastic speeches in this debate are belied by their actions in previous times. By the application of the Crimes Act the previous Government was guilty of the worst type of intimidation of sections of the migrant community, if not the whole of the migrant community. I have in mind the continued refusal of the previous government to naturalise certain migrants because of their political activities.
– What has this got to do with the Bill?
– It has quite a deal to do with the Bill and with the material that Senator Greenwood introduced into the debate. I am showing just how hypocritical was his attitude as a supporter of the previous government.
-I rise to a point of order, but not to reply to the personal matters raised by Senator Georges. 1 can take all those things. I point out that the Bill deals with the question of deportation, not the circumstances in which people should become or may become naturalised. WhilstI know the area of discussion is wide, the honourable senator is dealing with a particular area which is not covered in any way by the Bill.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - The point of order is not sustained.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy President. I was about to anticipate your ruling. The action of Senator Greenwood does him no credit. He extended the debate by expounding on how we have created a climate in which this legislation becomes necessary, but when he and his colleagues were in office they created substantial fears in the migrant communities by refusing naturalisation to certain migrants because of political activity or political thinking contrary to the views of the Government. They intimidated the whole of the migrant community because migrants value their rights as citizens of this country. Migrants value and seek the privilege of citizenship. The previous Government intimidated migrants by creating in them the fear that if they participated in the normal political activities of this country they would be refused naturalisation. 1 clearly remember the words of a young migrant at a meeting in Darwin which was addressed by Senator Mulvihill. The young migrant said to me: ‘Yesterday I was naturalised. Today I can speak my mind’. That reflects the kind of fear which the previous Government has established and which it continued to establish right to the day it was defeated. Very soon after the previous government was defeated one of the first acts of the Department of Immigration was to naturalise a migrant who had been refused naturalisation for about 19 years. I support bis naturalisation and the subsequent naturalisation of many people who previously had been refused naturalisation, for political ‘ reasons.
I also support the provisions of this Bill, which was introduced on behalf of the Government by the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy).In spite of the enthusiasm for this measure shown by Senator Greenwood, the previous Attorney-General, and by Senator
Byrne, I remind them that it had to wait until the present Attorney-General was appointed before it could be introduced. This legislation anticipates the investigation to be conducted by the committee which has been set up on the motion of the Opposition. By this one piece of amending legislation the Government is doing more towards establishing the civil liberties of migrants than the whole of that investigation will do. The investigation is to inquire into the civil liberties of migrants. This Bill indicates the intentions of this Government in respect of migrants.
I have already indicated that people who have been refused naturalisation are now being naturalised. I am not referring to one or two people, but to over 200 peoplewho have been refused naturalisation for political reasons. This Bill takes the attitude of the Government even further. For the reasons I have given I am rather cynical about the enthusiastic support of the Opposition. I welcome it only because it will ensure a speedy passage for this Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– 1 wish to ask a question only for elucidation. I notice that one of the provisions of the Crimes Act which has been repealed is section 91. Obviously, section 91 is an ancillary facilitating provision which enables a person authorised by the Minister to take certain action to apprehend a person suspected of being a deportee or a prospective deportee. I notice that section 91 that is to be repealed states that it shall apply:
Where an order for the deportation of any person from the Commonwealth has been made under this Act or under any other Act . . . 1 know that the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) who is in charge of this Bill is overseas. However, I ask the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) who is now in charge of it whether he can ascertain from the departmental officers whether there are other provisions which will enable these powers to be exercised if there is an order for deportation made under the Migration Act. I do not know whether this is a slip which may have occurred, whether there are other provisions or, if there are no other provisions, whether as a matter of policy the intention is that this provision should be repealed. I think that the Minister will understand that if the provision is repealed it may be that there will be a lack of an effective enforcement provision in circumstances where it is desirable that there should be this type of enforcement provision available. It is simply to obtain a response as to what the reason or the intention is that I ask the question.
– I am not able to give an answer immediately to the question, raised by Senator Greenwood. I shall obtain the necessary information for him. I understand that this matter was given consideration by the Attorney-General’s Department but I am not in a position to say precisely what that was. The honourable senator will have to allow me to get the information for him.
– My remarks are not meant in any way as trying to obstruct or oppose. This is not opposition because, whatever be the purpose of the amendment, it does seem to me that it is worth subscribing to the general purposes of the Bill. But I think that it is important to know what consideration the Department has given to this. If the result is that under the Migration Act there is no power to take action to arrest a deportee who may be on a ship, in a house or who is otherwise evading arrest and it is necessary for someone to apprehend him, then it does become a serious matter. I am sure that if that were the position it could be overcome by subsequent legislation. It is in that area that I am interested to know what the Government has in mind.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wriedt) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 9 May (vide page 1460), on motion by Senator Murphy:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition supports this Bill. It is the culmination of a number of steps that were taken by the previous Government. The Opposition welcomes the recognition of the efficacy of what had been done by the previous Government and the fact that legislative form has been given to a convention which it signed in October of last year. Of course, this Bill provides for the accession by the Commonwealth Government to the Montreal Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts in relation to Aircraft. In effect, it is for the unlawful acts against the safety of civil aviation. It is, I think, the fourth significant legislative step which has been taken by the Commonwealth Government to combat what is essentially a modern problem. That is the problem that arises from time to time of the hijacking of aircraft, the commission of crimes upon aircraft and the facilities which the various governments of the world have to cope with the offenders in what is essentially an international type of crime.
Air piracy and air hijacking are part of the frightening phenomenon to which travellers in aircraft periodically are liable to be subjected. One of the great advantages and benefits that we in Australia have is that we are not and we have not been subjected to the type of intimidation to which so many people and airlines overseas have been subjected in recent years. Of course, there has been an occasional incident in Australia which, fortunately, has been frustrated or thwarted by the action of the authorities. No real problem has arisen. But we know from recent memory that there have been the occasional incidents which have caused concern to all. That is no reason why the Australian Government should not play its full part with the other governments of the world in taking the most positive action that is available to it to associate us with the governments of other countries in taking united action against those who would engage in air piracy, aircraft hijacking and crimes of violence against those who travel in aircraft. The real point and necessity of international agreements is that the governments who participate in these conventions and take some part in the formulation of the terms of the agreement should be prepared to accept the terms and indicate by their own legislation their willingness to enforce the terms of the convention as part of their own law. Of course, that willingness should be translated into action as the occasion arises. I think that Australia over the years has been well to the fore in indicating its preparedness to take action against those who would commit crimes on aircraft and to associate itself with the various international conventions which represent the consensus of world opinion as to how this action should be taken. I know that the officers of the Attorney-General’s Department, together with the officers of other departments, have been active and in the forefront in the work that has been done.
When the Crimes (Aircraft) Bill was before the Senate in October of last year I recall that I set out the various steps that had been taken by the Australian Government as part of a worldwide plan to cope with international offenders with respect to aircraft. The first step which was not really part of an international agreement - nevertheless, it was a unilateral act by the Government to indicate its concern - occurred in 1963. The 1963 Crimes (Aircraft) Act created what might be described as the Commonwealth offence of aircraft crime, lt made the aircraft on which the crimes were committed Australian territory, in effect. Aircraft to which this Act applied were aircraft which were engaged in interstate flights, Commonwealth owned aircraft and those international flights which ended in Australia or which commenced in Australia. The Act provided that if certain crimes which were part of the Australian law occurred on such aircraft they were offences notwithstanding that they occurred in the aircraft. The Act created particular offences with relation to aircraft. They are incorporated, I would think, in the present Bill. That Act was the first Act in relation to crimes on aircraft, and it came into operation in 1963. It was an earnest of the Government’s intention to deal with this problem seriously.
The second step was the Civil Aviation (Offenders on International Aircraft) Bill which was enacted in 1970 and which gave effect to the Tokyo Convention. It did not create any offence, but it provided that offenders against laws could be dealt with expeditiously. As 1 recall it, it contained provisions that the commanders of certain aircraft could deal with persons who committed offences in their aircraft, and it enabled those commanders to deliver the offenders to the authorities in the State in which the aircraft landed. It also placed an obligation on parties to the Convention to receive persons who were restrained by the commanders of aircraft and to deal with them in accordance with the provisions of the Act so that they were dealt with either in the country in which the aircraft landed or in the country which had the superior claim to deal with them.
The third Bill was the Bill which was introduced in 1972 and which gave effect to The Hague Convention which, in effect, established the offence of hijacking aircraft. Where a person unlawfully or by force, threat or other form of intimidation seized and exercised control of an aircraft, an offence was created. The 1972 Act approved the accession by Australia to The Hague Convention which created the offence, as I have called it, of hijacking and which provided the means by which the people who were accused of that offence could be dealt with, ft also extended certain areas of Commonwealth crime with regard to aircraft. As was indicated in 1972 in the course of the introduction of the Bill which ratified The Hague Convention, Australia at that time had participated in the Montreal Convention. I think that the day after the Bill was introduced Australia became a party to the Montreal Convention. That Convention provides that certain world wide offences which are offences on aircraft become part of the law of a country if that country is prepared to accede to the Convention and to make, by legislation, those offences part of its law. This is what the Bill does. Clause 7 sets out the terms of the Montreal Convention and the offences which render a person who commits them liable to Australian law. A person who unlawfully and intentionally is prepared to engage in acts of violence on an aircraft, to wreck or destroy it, to damage or in any way interfere with air navigation facilities or air communications, if it is the type of offence to which the Australian law applies, is guilty of an offence. I think it complements the earlier legislation which the Government has introduced and provides a complete code under which Australia will be able to take its place with the countries of the world in asserting that it has a comprehensive code with regard to offences on aircraft.
The Opposition supports the Bill. We acknowledge the recognition, by the present Government of the steps which the preceding Government has taken and in which we take some pride and we naturally would support the Bill. All honourable senators ought to take pride in the fact that generally there has been a bipartisan approach in regard to this type of aircraft offence, and it is only natural that the Opposition would wish this Bill a speedy passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 9 May (vide page 1462), on motion by Senator Murphy:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This is the third Bill which was introduced by Senator Murphy and which is apparently proceeding to a speedy passage in his absence. The Opposition supports this Bill also. It has the effect of reducing the age at which people may be married, without requiring the consent of their parents or the authorities prescribed by law, from 21 years of age to 18 years of age. Certain other matters are raised in the Bill about which I hope to ask questions during the Committee stage in order to ascertain the purposes for which these amendments have been sought. 1 notice that Senator Murphy, in the course of his second reading speech, indicated that he proposed to deal with these amendments in the Committee stage, and I propose to pursue that intention and to seek an explanation of why these amendments have been sought. From my examination of the Bill, I suspect that the reasons for most of these amendments are patent. At the same time I feel that it is appropriate, in the light of what Senator Murphy said and in the absence of any reason in the second reading speech, to ask the questions with a view to having the reasons given and put on record. 1 refer now to the substantive purpose of this Bill. The Opposition recognises and acknowledges that there is now a general acceptance - though I do not think it should be considered as universal - that persons who have reached the age of 18 years should be regarded as having reached adulthood. The age of adulthood for many years in terms of what the law recognised was 21 years of age. For example, it was at the age of 21 that a person was entitled to exercise the franchise and to vote in a democracy at elections. It was at the age of 21 that a person who had entered into contracts and had accepted legal obligations was regarded as being bound by his contracts and by his legal obligations. Under the age of 21 a person had certain rights of avoiding the consequences of obligations which he had entered into unless it could be established against him that the contract or obligation which he had made ought to be regarded as being for his benefit or something which was necessary for his sustenance and development.
Until recently, it was at the age of 21 that wills could be made. Notwithstanding that the age of 21 from times immemorial was regarded as the age of adulthood, there were certain exceptions to that provision. I imagine that it was in the way of dispensation or indulgence that persons at the age of 18 were allowed to be seen at the public bar of a public house. It was at the age of 18 that a person could drive a motor car and risk his own and other people’s lives on the highway. It was at the age of 18 that it was expected that a person would, if called upon, take up arms to defend his country or undertake the commitments of service which a , nation entered into in the interests of world peace. These commitments have their origin in history. The position concerning the age of marriage is not quite in the same category as the other provisions with respect to the age of adulthood. Whether the English law or the law of other countries is considered, there is no tradition or pattern which indicates the age at which a person should be regarded as eligible to marry is 21 years.
I think the law of England provided, until 1753, that any person over the age of 14 years was capable of what is known as free marriage. It was only thereafter, as I understand it to protect the property and the lives of the affluent people in society, that action was taken to ensure that those persons who were over the age of 14 years and under the age of 21 years and did wish to marry required the consent of their guardians or wards. Therefore, there is no traditional historical pattern which says that the age at which a person should be married is 21 years. In terms of the English law which has been adapted in Australia it is of relatively recent origin.
Therefore, much of the. argument which is raised these days suggesting generally that the age of adulthood should be reduced from 21 years to 18 years has no direct application to a measure such as this which seeks to reduce the age of marriage without consent from 21 years to 18 years. I have no doubt that the tenor and trend of recent opinion has an impact on the indirect and persuasive relevance of such argument. I think that one must acknowledge, in dealing with the question of what is an approporiate marriageable age, that the opinion of recent years has undergone a quite remarkable transformation. 1 think that is best evidenced by the fact that the Act which this Bill seeks to amend, namely, the Marriage Act, was passed by the Parliament in 1961. The Hansard debate reveals that although the marriage age provided for in the Bill was 21 years, no question was raised by anybody who spoke to the Bill that the marriageable age should be reduced from 2.1 years to 18 years. A great deal of comment was made as to whether under 18 years of age was an appropriate marriageable age.
The requirement for consent between the ages of 18 and 21 does not appear to me to have been a matter which excited comment in 1961. 1 think a radical transformation has occurred in the intervening 12 years. T imagine opinions would differ but my view today is that there is not the same ready acceptance that 21 years must be the age at which a person is entitled to be married without consent. 1 do not know whether that attitude has been encouraged by the Latey report. Certainly the report indicates the attitudes which have developed in recent years. The Latey report is the report of the Committee on the Age of Majority which was presented to the English Parliament in July 1967. It is a report to which Senator Murphy referred in the course of his second reading speech. He referred specifically to the conclusion which is to be found in paragraph 165 of the report, which states:
We have concluded on every ground that it is not wise to demand parental consent to marriage past the age of 18. We can only end by saying that this is not because we think parents should never discourage their children’s marriages but because this is not the way to do it; not because we think well of marriages made in defiance of parents but because we think the law now contributes to the defiance; not because the family is too weak to us: this weapon but because it is strong enough to do without it.
That is a view which has commended itself to the Government. It is a view which equally commends itself to the Opposition. Accordingly the Opposition parties do not oppose the pas sage of this Bill nor do they seek to challenge the implicit principle to which the Bill gives recognition. There must be, and unquestionably there will be, some disquiet in the community as to whether it is right and proper to reduce from 21 to 18 years the age at which people can marry, if the criterion of marriage in those circumstances is without parental consent. I think it is useful to raise, simply for the statement of them and for the rebuttal of them, the arguments that people who may think that way would use. The Latey report, in paragraphs 104 to 106, states:
There have been 2 solid arguments put forward for keeping the requirement of parental consent up to 21. Both have a lot to be said for them.
The first is that this requirement of the law does Slop a great many unwise marriages from taking place. However as we have already shown, we believe that when this happens (and we have no doubt it often does) it is the force of parental persuasion that does the trick, not the stick which the sanction of the law puts into the parent’s hand.
The second, and a deeply disturbing one, is that removing the requirement of parental consent would have the effect of undermining parental authority still further; and even of encouraging bad parents to wash their hands of their children at the first signs of teenage trouble. We all firmly believe in the importance of the family and the last thing we would want to do is to pull the rug from under it; but after much thought we have come to the conclusion that this argument does not stand up. Good parents do nol cease to be such when the sun rises on a 21st birthday; indeed their continuing care and concern is confidently gambled upon by the government when it requires a financial contribution to a child’s further and further education even up to the age of 25.
We believe that in this field at least the law is useless as a strengthener of family ties, and indeed by the friction it causes between the generations may well help to wear them through.
I think there is a lot of plain common sense in what is there stated because the things that encourage, induce or attract young people to marry are not the inducements which prevailed in a much earlier generation. Compatability, romantic love, a sense of freedom felt by those who are mutually accepting ties, and a sense of willingness to share the fortunes of life together are all factors which can and do impinge upon the minds and the actions of a younger generation which increasingly feels its greater independence and its greater selfreliance. When those attitudes are present, it appears to me that the mutual attraction and the desire to accept a life together through marriage will prevail irrespective of what the law says. It appears to me unlikely that one will find a parent who refuses to give consent, and therefore a need to have recourse to a magistrate, where young people between the ages of IS and 21 have set their minds upon marriage. Indeed, why should a parent, no matter how well meaning he or she may be and no matter how concerned he or she may be for the welfare of the children, set himself or herself up as the judge of whether an appropriate marriage of young people, one of whom is over the age of 18, albeit under the age of 21, is going to be a successful marriage. lt is a tremendously difficult situation.
I should think that most people who are confronted with that situation would feel that the appropriate course to take was not for the parent to insist upon the parent’s will being enforced but to hope that the young people would make a future which is successful and which is as they would desire it. I believe that that is the attitude which people would take. Indeed, from speaking to one or two lawyers who practise in the field, I have gathered that the general pattern is for fewer applications for a magistrate’s consent to occur in respect of people between the ages of 1.8 and 21 years than in cases where the young people concerned are. nr one of them is, under the age of 18 years. Those factors are factors of some persuasion to me. There is no doubt in my mind that people these days, if the English experience is an example - and it is the English experience upon which the Latey report draws - are marrying younger, ft is clearly a modern experience that people are regarded as maturing younger. Certainly lots of people do mature younger. Certainly most people mature younger physically. There does appear to be a greater self-reliance on and acceptance of independence and a great facility, through governmental and social activities, for people to strike out on their own and to become completely independent of their parents, whether it be in the jobs they take or in the educational institutions in which they derive their learning. All those factors are factors which to my way of thinking justify a reduction in the age at which people may marry without their parents’ consent from 21 years to 18 years.
What will be the consequences of this measure when it becomes the law? I do not feel that there will be any significant change whatever in the position that has prevailed. It may be that some people will marry younger because there is now a freedom recognised - indeed, encouraged - by the law. But I wonder whether there will be many such people. After all the right to marry under the age of 21 years has always been recognised. All that was required was either the parents’ consent or the consent of a magistrate if the parents’ consent was not forthcoming. I should have thought that for those persons to whom the consent of the parents was important and for those parents who really had a concern, the reduction in the age of marrying from 21 years to 18 years would have little impact and would have little effect whatever on whether or not the actual marriage took place. What is important is that people should be trained, should be educated and should have a feeling and an acceptance of the responsibilities which each is undertaking to the other and for their children when they marry. Those qualities are not derived from or encouraged by the law but by the type of approach which they inculcate through the various influences to which they are subjected. If our society can endeavour to inculcate those types of influences, I should have thought that, as in a much earlier age, we might find that the reduction in the age at which people may marry without consent from 21 years to 18 years will be wholly beneficial. What I have said represents in some respects a purely personal approach to this subject. As I have indicated, the Opposition has adopted the general view that it will not oppose - indeed, it will support - this Bill.
– The Australian Democratic Labor Party supports this Bill. Obviously in a sense the measure is a gamble. One has only to look at the records of the divorce courts to see that an overwhelming proportion of divorces occur in marriages which have taken place at a very young age. That applied when the age limit was 21 years. The same possibilities exist in the case of the 18-year-olds. But, as against that, it must be agreed that times have changed. We have decided that 18-year-olds should have the right to vote and we have decided that they should have other privileges. Under those circumstances it seems that justification can be claimed in this case for reducing the age.
I hope everything will turn out all right. But, as I said before, when people marry very young, when people who are immature are carried away by a temporary attraction, the possibilities exist that the marriage will not be a success. However, in the times in which we live young people are obviously more mature in some ways than their counterparts were 30, 40 or 50 years ago. For that reason, my Party has decided to support the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
- Senator Greenwood referred in his speech on the motion for the second reading of the Bill to that part of the second reading speech of the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) which states:
The opportunity is being taken to make a number of useful amendments to the Act, regarded as necessary or desirable as a result of 10 years experience of the operation of the Act. They are for the most part of comparatively minor importance, and I can deal with them in Committee.
If I go through the clauses this may, as Senator Greenwood said, put on the record the reasons why they were inserted. I have looked through them and I would describe them as technical amendments; but if I refer to them and put them on the record, that might meet what Senator Greenwood requires. Firstly, clause 3. This will give effect to the decision to lower the minimum age of marriage without parental consent from 21 years to 18 years by changing the definition of ‘minor’ to mean ‘a person who has not attained the age of eighteen years’. That of course is the gravamen of the Bill. I do not refer to that amendment as being technical. The others, I think, are more technical. Clause 4 deals with the difference existing now between the Territories and the States. Under the Act the minimum age at which a person may marry is 18 years for males and 16 years for females. However, a judge or a magistrate in a State but only a judge in a Territory, if he is satisfied that the circumstances of the case are so exceptional or unusual as to justify his doing so, may authorise a male between 16 years and 18 years of age or a female between 14 and 16 years to marry a particular person of marriageable age. This provision will enable magistrates in Territories to authorise such marriages. It is clear that at the moment the Territories are at that disadvantage and this corrects that situation.
Clause 5 concerns the question of witnessing of consent to marriage hi overseas countries. This provision will extend the class of persons who may witness the signing of a consent to marry by a person in an overseas country to include ministers of religion. This will mean an addition to ‘an Australian diplomatic or consular officer, a judge of a court, magistrate, justice of the peace of that country or a notary public. The amendment enlarges that group to include ‘a minister of religion’. Next is clause 6. This provision will abolish the existing requirement for the approval of the Attorney-General to the registration of a minister of religion who is not a British subject as a marriage celebrant.
Clause 7 deals with the furnishing of information by registering authorities to the Attorney-General’s Department. The existing section 38 of the Act requires each registering authority to furnish a monthly return to the Attorney-General’s Department of new ministers of religion registered as marriage celebrants and changes recorded in the details of existing marriage celebrants. This provision will relax the requirements so that the information need be furnished only when requested by the Department.
Clause 8 concerns notice of an intended marriage. Paragraph (a) substitutes a period of 3 months for the present period of 90 days after which a notice becomes stale, as being easier to calculate. Paragraph (b) extends the class of person who can witness the signing of a notice of intended marriage to include a barrister or solicitor, a legally qualified medical practitioner or a member of the police force of the Commonwealth or of the State or Territory. That is in addition to an authorised celebrant, a commissioner for declarations or a justice of the peace. Next is clause 9. The present provision requires 2 official marriage certificates to be prepared. Only one is in fact required where the marriage is solemnised by a registering authority, for example, in the RegistrarGeneral’s Office in Sydney. This provision is included to enable these officials to prepare one certificate only. This provision also requires marriage celebrants other than the officials referred to earlier to forward one of the official certificates and the other documents relating to the marriage to the appropriate registering authority within 14 days after solemnising the marriage.
Clause 10 will enable an authorised officer to require the parties to a marriage that is void to surrender possession, of the certificate of marriage that was issued to them. Clause 11 will enable (a) the first marriage to be proved in bigamy proceedings by means of the original or a certified copy of a certificate or other record of the marriage. It is designed to facilitate proof of marriages contracted overseas. Identification of the parties will, of course, still be necessary. Similar provisions are in the Matrimonial Causes Act 1959 and the Australian Capital Territory Evidence Ordinance.
Clause 12 relates to marrying a person who is a minor without consent. It is a defence under the Act to the charge of having married a minor without the required parental or other consent if the accused proves that he believed on reasonable grounds that the person with whom he went through the form of marriage had attained to the age of 21 years. This provision will change the age for this purpose to 18 years. Clause 13 would substitute a new Part I of the schedule to the Act in place of the existing Part I and Part II. The purpose is to remove as far as possible the distinction between children born in wedlock and children born out of wedlock. There will be some consequential changes in the law in that the consent of the father of a child who is not married to the mother will be required in certain circumstances where he is living with the mother or where the minor is living with him. The existing necessity for obtaining consent of guardians where one parent had died has been dropped in some cases.
– I am indebted to Senator Willesee. In Opposition one misses the explanatory notes and doubtless he, in Government, finds them helpful. It may be that many of these things can be overcome if this sort of material is available. 1 just mention that in passing. I am grateful for what he has said. However, I want to raise a couple of questions. I would have thought that the amendment proposed by clause 5, which enables a minister of religion to be an attesting witness in an overseas country, may create a lot of problems. It may be that if one. of the requirements of the legislation is that a document be properly attested the question whether or not a person is in fact and in taw a minister of religion, where that fact or that law is something which an overseas country lays down, may not be easily ascertainable to someone faced with the need tor establishing it or, conceivably, the need to denying it in this country.
The other officers who are mentioned and who were in the legislation prior to the amendment clearly would be identifiable as holding the positions which are there set out.
I just raise the question: Is not this a provision which is liable to be abused and how does the Minister and those who have advised him seek to overcome the. possibility of abuse or difficulty if that does occur?
I refer also to clause 6. It does appear to me to be a fairly appropriate and desirable amendment to remove the requirement that persons who are to be ministers of religion should be British subjects. Obviously there must have been some purpose originally, and indeed as recently as 1961, for having this provision in the legislation. It is now sought to be removed absolutely. One could have ideas why it is to be removed, but I simply ask: Why is it that this particular provision has been removed? Equally clause 7 removes a requirement that a monthly return of certain statistics should be forwarded to the Secretary of the Attorney-General’s Department. J may assume that there is one reason, which may appear to be valid why that should be changed, so that the material should be forwarded only if the Secretary of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department requests it. It may be that statistical information would cease to be as relevant or as regular as otherwise it should be. I invite the Minister to explain why clause 7 has been introduced.
My next point concerns clause 9. I notice that the original provision requires that a person who solemnises a marriage has to prepare 2 official certificates. Obviously 2 official certificates have performed a function in the past. I imagine that there was reason why that function should be performed. Hereafter there is to be only one official certificate. I would be grateful to know how the original function which 2 certificates were to perform is now to be served by one certificate. I suppose the Minister can give me that information readily.
Finally, clause 13 changes the Schedule. I notice what Senator Murphy had to say in his second reading speech as to the general intention of the change in the Schedule with regard to the nature of the consents which are required. Point was made of the fact that the distinction between legitimate and illegitimate children is removed. But why do we persist with having this distinction between adopted children and children who are not adopted? If there is to be a difficulty in definition of ‘parent’, surely that can be taken account of in the provisions of the legislation by way of definition/But I feel it is a curious change to remove the distinction between legitimate and illegitimate children and still preserve the distinction between adopted and non-adopted children. I invite the Minister’s explanation as to why it has been felt necessary to retain that distinction. Would it not be possible to remove the distinction by an amendment of the legislation? Will he not give an indication that this is what he will arrange to be considered, namely, that the Department will try to avoid the distinction between adopted and non-adopted children? It seems to me unnecessary that that distinction should be made.
These are the points which 1 raise, acknowledging the general technical informaton which Senator Willesee has given but doing so because we were not given this information in the course of Senator Murphy’s second reading speech and because they do appear to be matters of reasonable questioning in the light of what the Bil) proposes.
– Before the Special Minister of State (Senator Willesee) rises to reply to the points raised by Senator Greenwood I want some explanation of the provision which is obliterating the distinction between legitimate and illegitimate children. I understand that this Bill is an amendment to the Marriage Act. Therefore it would relate to the constitutional position of marriage. I would doubt whether in a Bill such as this we have the constitutional right to alter the legitimacy of children for the purpose of inheritance. I raise that query, but I want to know what the Bill is doing in relation to obliterating the distinction between legitimate and illegitimate children. I would have thought that one of the very purposes of the law in the legalisation of the relationship of marriage is to give legitimacy to the children which, of course, gives them rights against the parents and the parents’ property. Usually in a situation such as we have in his country, it is an exclusive right not shared by all the bastards tha! a parent might drop along the way. I suggest that we have to be careful to preserve the rights of children against the indiscretions of parents, if I may put it in that form to open up the debate.
– The first point to which Senator Greenwood adverted concerned clause 5 of the Bill. He raised the query or the theory of how we would identify a minister of religion overseas. This could be a problem in some countries, but the same situation would arise if we were trying to identify a Justice of the Peace overseas. I refer the honourable senator to Senator Murphy’s words that this situation has come about in the course of 10 years of experience. In some countries, particularly in places such as Greece and to a lesser extent Italy, priests are always performing these sorts of duties. They are expected to do so; it is the system adopted in those countries and the people grow up to expect it. From experience it has been considered that this provision ought to be extended beyond the scope of a diplomat, a consular officer, a judge, a magistrate, a justice of the peace and a notary public. It was considered that ministers of religion who traditionally perform marriages should also be authorised to be witnesses to the consent of marriage.
Clause 6 abolishes the existing requirement for the approval of the Attorney-General of the registration of a minister of religion who is not a British subject. The fact is that this provision never really operated. Approval has never been refused. We thought that while this Act was being amended we should take the opportunity to put into law what has been the practice over many years.
Clause 7 deals with the compilation of a list of celebrants. After the list was compiled it was kept but it was not necessary to have it brought up to date or for monthly records to be compiled. The Department was not that interested in them. So it is provided that in the situation when it comes to notice that there is some irregularity it can get the list and make a check of it.
The situation with regard to clause 9 is that in the central registration office - the one mentioned is the Registrar-General’s Office, Sydney - there is no necessity to make out 2 certificates. I understand that in practice this has not been done at the central office. In offices other than the central office 2 certificates are still being prepared. One copy is kept for the regional office and the other is sent to the central office. Obviously it is not necessary to prepare 2 certificates in the central office.
– What were 2 certificates used for when they were made out?
– I understand one was used for the record of the regional office and one was forwarded to the central office where the central registry was kept. For instance, the registrar in a country town would make out 2 certificates, one being for his records and one to be sent to the central office. I suppose, since they are government certificates, we ought to be thankful that they were not prepared in triplicate. 1 think the next point raised by Senator Greenwood concerned clause 13 relating to the Schedule to the Act. If the honourable senator will look at the heading of the Schedule he will see that clause 13 is concerned with persons whose consent is required to a marriage of a minor; it has nothing to do With the question of property. It merely deals with this question of certification. This could be clone in some of the ways suggested by Senator Greenwood, but there was a worry that Commonwealth law could override State law in this matter. Because of that consideration this amendment is proposed. As 1 say, it is not a question of property; it is a question of who shall have the right to consent to the marriage of a minor. In certain circumstances the father of an illegitimate child would have just as much interest in this situation as the mother. That is why, as the honourable senator will remember, the last sentence that I used was:
The existing necessity for .obtaining consents of guardians where one parent has died has been dropped in some cases.
If the honourable senator looks at the schedule he will see in what cases this requirement is still being retained. I repeat that there are, I suppose, all sorts of theories as to the ways in which this could be done. After 10 years of experience it has been found that in some cases this provision has not been applied. Therefore, it has been taken out of the Act. It is in the light of the experience of the Department in those years that these rather minor amendments are made to the Act.
– 1 am sorry if 1 missed, it, but I did not hear any explanation of the inquiry Senator Greenwood made as to why the distinction between an adopted child and a natural, legitimate child is preserved?
– I did mention this matter. It is a bit confusing. Concern was felt about the provisions of State law. The Government was worried that Commonwealth legislation would override State law. So, the legislation has been lined up with State law to provide that adopting parents can give consent. I repeat that this deals only with consent to marriage. As I said at the outset, perhaps there are other ways of doing it, but the decision has been made to come down on the side of what we propose. Regard has been had to the provisions of State law and these amendments are those which will line up best with State law.
– May I inquire of the Special Minister of State (Senator Willesee) whether the law that it was feared might be infringed in the State sphere is the Adoption of Children Act? I cannot see why, for the purpose of consenting to a marriage, a parent who has become a parent by adoption is in any position different from the parent of a legal and natural child.
– The situation as I understand it is that we have retained this provision in the Act which states that the adopting parents are the people who have the right to consent to marriage. This is the way that we think it is best clone.
– Is this provision in the principal Act?
– Yes. The provision is in the principal Act. Your criticism is that we have not altered it, is it?
– lt is not a criticism; it is an inquiry.
– Your inquiry is why we have not altered it. We have not. It stays the same in that regard.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Willesee) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 3 May (vide page 1314).
– The consideration of this Bill was adjourned at the Committee stage to enable the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) to provide some information 1 sought as to whether book bounty had been paid on the Little Red School Book’ and, if so, the total of that bounty.
– I have some information which has been given to me in pursuance of the query raised by Senator Wright. During the Committee stage of consideration of the Book Bounty Bill, Senator Wright asked Senator Murphy whether the term ‘literary’ used in the Act means a book of literary quality in the sense that it is not rubbishy, indecent pornography. Senator Wright asked Senator Murphy to lay on the table a short opinion from the SolicitorGeneral or any other authority. Apparently Senator Wright has forgotten that he asked almost the same question of the previous Minister for Customs and Excise, Mr Chipp, in connection with bounty on the Little Red School Book’ and then he in a reply dated 13 June 1972 after receiving an opinion from the former Attorney-General. Senator Greenwood, said, inter alia:
Literary excellence or merit is of no consequence in deciding literary character.
Because of the point raised by Senator Wright on the question of ‘literary character’, an uptodate opinion has been obtained from the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor which confirms the advice of the Former Minister, Mr Chipp, to the honourable senator. In accordance with Senator Wright’s wishes, I table the advice of the Crown Silicitor
– Have you the amount of the bounty paid on the ‘Little Red School Book’?
– I am informed that the amount of bounty paid on any book is confidential as between the printer and the Department.
– There is a report tabled in Parliament-
– Another mutiny on the Bounty’!
– Yes. I have 3 matters that 1 wish to mention, but I may not have time to deal with them before the formal question relating to the adjournment of the Senate is put. The Book Bounty Act provides that there shall be tabled in Parliament a return of all this matter. If there is an attempt to restrict the amount that is payable in respect of any publication, this is a matter for another most energetic and brief Senate Committee.
– Or a renewed plea for open government.
– Yes. The Book Bounty Act provides in section 18: (1.) The Comptroller-General shall, as soon as practicable after the end of each financial year, furnish to the Minister a return setting forth:
In the light of those 2 provisions and going no further, I ask: Where can the Government obtain any protection for the action of suppressing information as to the number of books in respect of which bounties have been paid to a particular person? If the Minister wishes to arm himself with authority to give us information, I remind him that section 18 (1.) continues:
These matters ought to be prescribed. With respect to the other matters, I am sure, Mr Temporary Chairman, that you would wish me as a matter of convenience to defer my remarks until tomorrow.
– Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I put the question:
That the Temporary Chairman do now leave the Chair and report to the Senate.
– Perhaps it might meet the convenience of the Senate if we finish this Bill. It originated in the Senate. The idea today was to get these Bills off the notice paper. Perhaps I could move some motion which would enable us to carry on for another five or ten minutes in order to finish dealing with this Bill. It appears that the Opposition would agree to that course being followed.
– Perhaps we could negative the question and you could proceed on the basis you outlined.
– Order! I have put the question.
Question resolved in the negative.
– As I understand the situation, the amount of bounty paid on any particular book is confidential to the Department and to the printer. The annual return referred to by Senator Wright relates only to the total amount paid to any printer, not in respect of individual books. Such information would provide commercial intelligence to each printer’s competitors. The Act was introduced by the previous Government.
– Yes, I know, but the previous Government does not claim to be, as experience unfolds, completely without fault. Firstly, with regard to the interpretation of ‘literary’ to which reference has been made, I am a simple person and go to the Oxford dictionary. In it I find that ‘Literary’ means: ‘Of or pertaining to, or of the nature of, literature, polite learning; or books and written compositions’, especially of the kind valued for form. I would have thought that one would be straining to promote pornography if one were to get out of that definition the authority to pay a bounty on ‘The Little Red School Book’. The next matter I wish to refer to is the question of this return and individual books. Seeing that the debate is being compressed into summary form tonight I hope that the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Willesee) will be good enough to supply me with half a page of explanatory notes as to where from the Act the Government gets justification to protect competitors by withholding information to which Parliament is entitled. I urge that request. I have looked at the report that we received. I wish to preface my remarks by saying that the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt), a Tasmanian who sits in this chamber, when he came to make compensation available in the nature of bounty for devaluation of exchange, saw fit to limit an orchardist who may have employed 20 or 40 employees to $1,500 for the whole of his crop, whereas if it were applied on a per case basis proper compensation may amount to $20,000. But when I refer to the list of bounty paid in 1970-71, I find on page 3 of this booklet that Halstead Press Pty Ltd receives $296,771.29.
– For what?
– For bounty on books that it produced.
– What was the book?
– That is not stated. I have asked the Minister to be good enough to justify that payment. Another payment was to Wilke and Co. Ltd which received $271,128.02. Another company, Watson Ferguson and Co., received $104,726.49, and Griffin Press Ltd received $325,109.42. These amounts are not chicken feed. These are subsidies to secondary industry, not to primary industry. These bounties have never been before the Tariff Board, so far as I know, and we want to know what sort of industry we are subsidising by granting payments of that dimension.
– You subsidised them.
– We started it and now I am making public criticism of the practice. It is now the Government’s responsibility. I shall move, if the occasion requires and unless I get some indication of a little proper consideration instead of provocative interruption, that we depart from the usual vice in this Parliament of allowing permanent appropriations to absorb probably 40 per cent of our revenue, whereas in other British parliaments the limit is about 20 per cent. Section 20 of the Book Bounty Act states:
Bounty is payable out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is appropriated accordingly.
The words ‘which is appropriated accordingly’ should be deleted and the amount of this bounty should come before us as an annual appropriation each year to be studied along with the Estimates. I hope that the Minister will leave me with the impression that real consideration will be given to the points I have raised. I promise him that my interest in the matter will survive to the stage where with proper inquiry and procedures I shall ask the Senate to ensure that subsidies of this nature are properly scrutinised and justified and are payable only in respect of products, not rubbish.
– We seem to be getting very excited over a Book Bounty Bill. We have seen Senator Wright come full turn. Before he was a Minister he used to speak as he did tonight. Then for 5 long weary years he sat there, and never a peep out of him.
– As was my duty.
– As was his duty.
– Do you think that he never spoke like that when he was a Minister?
– No, not as a Minister; not against his own Government. Now he is back to the old role of criticising his Government, his mates.
– Mates! What a conception for a leader of a party.
– Do not twist what I am saying. Your mates should be in the Liberal Party and they are the first people you attack. Mateship means something to me.
– You wait.
– I think the honourable senator will have to get a bit of weight off, will he not? The situation is that this Act was introduced by the previous Government and Senator Wright had plenty of chances to criticise it then, if his criticisms were valid. It was the previous Government which inserted the definition of literary character and the Crown Solicitor has stated quite clearly that quality is of no importance at all. Senator Wright asked that we get a legal opinion of the situation. Now we have it and now that old blood pressure of his is starting to get very high again. The Crown Solicitor said:
There is nothing in the definition of ‘book’, or in my opinion, in the Act when read as a whole, which requires or from which it could be inferred that only books having literary quality are intended to be bountiable.
Senator Wright has said that he has never heard of the Tariff Board’s having a look at this situation but it was his Party’s Government that introduced this Bill as an interim measure to give the Tariff Board an opportunity to look at the whole question of the printing industry. It is expected that in August of this year the report of the Tariff Board, of which Senator Wright has never heard, will be brought down. The purpose of the measure was to introduce an interim bounty to enable the industry to carry on. Surely Senator Wright is not suggesting that the book bounty should cease and that all of our printing should be done overseas. That is where his argument leads him. If payment of a bounty is refused on books such as ‘The Little Red School Book’, it means that the publisher will have it printed in Hong Kong or some other place and imported into Australia duty free. In such circumstances the net loser is the Australian printing industry. That is why the Tariff Board is inquiring into the printing industry in Australia and reporting on it to this Parliament. When’ the report is received I would like to hear from Senator Wright criticism, agreement - although I could not imagine his agreeing - disagreement or sensible argument on that report.
– ft is rarely that one receives such impertinence from a Minister when he is replying to a decent inquiry. I have risen only to put understanding of the Minister’s explanation into focus. If ‘The Little Red School Book’ were printed in Hong Kong it would be the subject of importation and therefore prohibited. It was produced in Melbourne and the Minister claimed that it was therefore not under the incidental power to suppress it - incidental to importation.- That is the first point to be made about that sort of literature being produced abroad. I am well aware that the purpose of the book bounty is to allow the printing industry in Australia to survive against Hong Kong competition.
I have been amusing myself by the idea that we should promote employment for the undeveloped countries by allowing books to be printed there. In this way ‘The Little Red School Book’ could be produced at a price advantageous to the Australian purchaser rather than to the advantage of the mammoth Melbourne and Sydney publishers. This would be a humanitarian social policy but the Government, of course, is ruled by the trade unions.
– I rise only because my interest has been aroused. I ask Senator Willesee whether he would mind reading again the part of the Crown Solicitor’s opinion to which he referred. I do so because, as I understand the legislation, it states quite specifically that a book’ means a publication of a literary or educational character that is in book form’. I think that is what the opinion stated. As to the measure we are now considering, am I to understand that what the Minister is now saying is that publications of the type of ‘The Little Red School Book’ will not hereafter qualify for bounty, or have I misunderstood him?
- Senator Greenwood has misunderstood me. I was asked to quote paragraph 5 of the opinion which I have tabled. It reads:
There is nothing in the definition of ‘book’, or in my opinion, in the Act when read as a whole, which requires or from which it could be inferred that only books having literary quality are intended to be bountiable.
– I thought I heard the Minister read that but I did not wish to interrupt him because I thought he must have misread it or I must have misheard him. There is nothing in the Act to require as a condition of payment of bounty that a book should be of literary quality? The original definition of a book which qualified for bounty was practically the same as that in the amendment. It states that bounty is not payable in respect of a bookthat it not a publication of literary or educational character. What is the difference between quality and character? Even turning to the original definition of an eligible book, one finds there that ‘book means a publication of a literary or educational character’. Are we to be fed with this cabbage and nonsense that there is nothing in the Act to require a book to be of literary quality?
– Is the Minister prepared to table, incorporate in Hansard or make available on some basis the opinion he has from the Crown Solicitor?
– lt has been tabled.
– I am sorry. 1 do not have it in front of me.
– I took it back in order to quote from it. It belongs to the table.
– I am grateful, because my query arises from the fact that it is difficult to see - 1 follow what Senator Wright said - that an opinion can be expressed in the light of what the Act at present provides before it is amended, namely, that book’ means a publication of a literary or educational character that is in book form. As I understood paragraph 5 of the opinion, which the Minister quoted, the Crown Solicitor’s opinion appeared - I say only ‘appeared’ - to be contradictory to what is in the legislation. I was not aware that the opinion had been tabled. I would like to have a look at it. I do not know whether this discussion will be taken further, but perhaps the Minister feels that if we all have a look at it we might get some clarification which we will not get from an interchange across the table. Perhaps progress could be reported. I make that suggestion earnestly.
– I understand that passage of this Bill was held up the other day when Senator Wright asked for an opinion. I have given the opinion. I have placed it on the table. As I have pointed out, we are dealing with a temporary situation pending a report of the Tariff Board. I suggest that we proceed to a vote at the Committee stage.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Willesee) read a third time.
Senate adjourned at 10.49 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, upon notice:
The Minister has supplied the following answer:
There are two aspects to this question:
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
What was the cost of the security arrangements made for the visit to Australia by the Prime Minister of Yugoslavia, Mr Bijedic.
Senator WILLESEE - The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I am informed that the cost of the security arrangements provided during the recent visit by Mr Bijedic is estimated at approximately $90,000.
-LEY asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
Will the Treasurer examine the possibility of minting (a)a one dollar coin each year; and (b) a silver one dollar coin in special years for sale, at a premium, if necessary.
Senator WILLESEE- The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
Will the Postmaster-General, in view of the modern trendto preserve all aspects of the environment, inform the Senate as to why underground connecting wires for telephone installations in homes in some northern suburbs of Melbourne are being replaced with unsightly overhead connections.
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLAND- The
Postmaster-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
In older housing areas in the northern suburbs of Melbourne it was the practice to provide for telephone services by a system of fully underground cable distribution. Unlike modern practice which requires the provision of pipe to facilitate the subsequent installation and replacement of cables, these older cables were buried directly in the ground.
Renewal of these older cables, many of which have reached the end of their economic life, therefore presents a considerable engineering problem and inconvenience to the public since the areas are now fully developed, footpaths made up and serviced, and gardens established.
In recent years the Department has negotiated agreements for the sharing of power poles for both overhead electricity and telephone distribution, and replacement of the deteriorated underground telephone cables by aerial distribution in accordance with these agreements obviates the need to excavate the made up surfaces and gardens and is considerably less costly than the underground alternative.
Whilst the Department is appreciative of the desirability of preserving the living environments from unsightly aerial construction, the erection of comparatively light unobtrusive telephone leads on existing power routes does little to add to the disfigurement of the environment.
A similar reply has already been made to Question No. 178 on the same subject which related specifically to the suburbs of Preston and Reservoir.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour, upon notice:
Since the coming into force of the Public Service Arbitration Act 1959, how many requests to the Arbitrator have been made pursuant to sub-sections (3.) and (4.) of section 15a of the Public Service Arbitration Act 1920-1972.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 22 May 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1973/19730522_senate_28_s56/>.