28th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
The continuing oversight in examining the prices of goods and services of the following aspects in relation to the cost of those goods and services:
Relative rise of wages to the rise in productivity over periods of time as determined by the Committee.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Did the Minister for Defence tell the National Press Club on 15 March that he was not happy with the present deployment of the Army in Australia? I ask him also whether he made this statement:
To say that we are going to have all our forces located in one area on the eastern seaboard is simply not logic.
In view of these statements and his announcement yesterday that an inquiry had commenced concerning the future disposition of bases and facilities, is there any reason to believe that a task force base will be established in Western Australia?
-I am not able to answer that question precisely. I think that I should direct it to the Minister for Defence. Of course the honourable senator is already aware of the statements of the Minister about the reviews and what the Government claims to be the viability of our forces resulting from examinations that the Minister has made. But I will ask him to supply an answer to the specific question that the honourable senator has asked.
-I desire to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. I ask it at the request of my colleague Senator Byrne who has had to return to Brisbane for a dental operation. The question arises from an on-site deputation to Senator Byrne last Monday from residents of the lower Nudgee area in Brisbane who live near the proposed extensions to the Brisbane Airport. Is the Minister aware of the very grave hardship being inflicted en residents in this area, including people who are small crop farmers, ex-servicemen and widows, by the delay by the Department of Transport in determining exactly the northern and western boundaries of the airport extensions? Is the Minister aware of the hardship which has resulted to these people as the land has not been acquired and therefore they cannot commence negotiations for compensation? Will the Minister indicate the projected boundaries and, if he does, will he make an immediate announcement of the proposed acquisitions? If at this point he cannot indicate what the boundaries will be will he announce to the Senate how long it will be before he can make such an announcement on the boundaries?
– Let me first express my sympathy to Senator Byrne. A jaw injury to a politician is rather serious. It is acknowledged that hardship and inconvenience are caused to those who do not know whether their land will be acquired. I am informed that the Minister for Transport will finalise within 3 weeks the boundaries of land which is to be acquired for re-development of this airport. He will then advise the Department of Services and Property. At this stage further work and a programming study have to be done by my Department. This will require a further 2 weeks. Therefore it will be some 5 weeks before we will know, and the information then will be transmitted to the Department of Services and Property for the purpose of acquiring the land. At that stage I hope to be able to announce to the Senate the actual boundaries.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry. No doubt farmers will be pleased with the announcement by the Minister and the Treasurer yesterday of continuous involvement of the Federal Government in rural financing. However, as the funds supplied by the Commonwealth are made available to farmers through the Commonwealth Development Bank of Australia, does this mean that farmers will have to forego the right to use private enterprise banks? Will they be forced to bank Commonwealth to be able to take advantage of the funds being made available by the Government?
– No, farmers will not be required to be under any specific obligation to the Commonwealth Development Bank of Australia. Any farmer who has already made arrangements with a private bank for loan purposes will be at liberty to continue with those arrangements and, if he so desires, to avail himself of the rural (finances available through the Commonwealth Development Bank. That would be an arrangement he would make over and above his normal private banking arrangements.
– I ask the Minister for the Media whether he is aware that the Adelaide Festival Theatre which was built with the support of the citizens of South Australia and of the previous Gorton government will be officially opened on Saturday night. Adelaide’s Festival of Arts has become renowned, both nationally and internationally, for its high standards in the various arts and cultures. With the establishment of a cultural theatre in South Australia will the Minister ask the Government to give assistance to both Australian and overseas performers, so that they may take advantage of the new theatre, and thus give further encouragement to the performing arts in this country?
– I am aware that the Adelaide Festival Theatre will be officially opened next Saturday night. The Prime Minister, who is the Minister in charge of the arts m the Federal Government, will be attending the opening, as will I as Minister for the Media. I congratulate the people of South Australia and the South Australian Government on their achievements in this regard because the Theatre will give a tremendous fillip to the development of our creative and performing talents. The honourable senator also asked whether the Federal Government will give assistance towards obtaining Australian and overseas performers to perform in the Theatre in the future. This matter naturally comes within the ambit of the Prime Minister and I shall refer that portion of the question to him. So far as I personally am concerned in my capacity as Minister for the Media, it is my desire, and the Government’s desire, to create outlets for Australians who have outstanding creative and performing ability. For my part, if I can do anything to assist in that regard, it certainly will be done.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether he will examine the ethics that should apply to the custody of a post office mail box and see whether the Immigration Control Association which operates post office box 322, Crows Nest, New South Wales, can continue to use postal facilities for the purpose of perverted racialism. Will he also ask the PostmasterGeneral when I can expect an answer to an earlier question involving another element operating from a post office at Paddington?
– In reply to the last portion of the honourable senator’s question, I think he will find that an answer was given to his question last Tuesday when, for some unforeseen circumstance, the honourable senator was not able to be present. Certainly a copy of that answer should have been transmitted to the honourable senator. I know that the Postmaster-General said in short that because the person operating the post box at Paddington was known to have had a criminal record the facility of the box would not be made available to that person. The Crows Nest aspect of the honourable senator’s question also naturally is a matter for my colleague in another place and I shall refer it to Mr Lionel Bowen to see whether I can obtain an early reply.
– My question is addressed to the Minister assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Are the gratuitously insulting statements which the Prime Minister made yesterday concerning the American presidency and the congressional system of government the personal statements of Mr Whitlam or are they supported by the Federal
Government? Since the Federal Government professes to find the American political institution and its leadership so odious, what possible use can there be in attempting to force an invitation from the American President? Are the Prime Minister’s statements an indication of support for Labor’s foreign policies, enunciated by Mr Bill Hartley on the television program ‘Federal File’, which include the destruction of ANZUS? Finally, who is the true Mr Whitlam - the person who in his recent foreign affairs statement strongly commended the United States President for his visionary statesmanship or the person who now reviles him? In short, will the true Mr Whitlam please stand up?
-Obviously the gratuitous remarks about Mr Whitlam have nothing to do with any of the portfolios that I represent.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Media. Now that the Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations has agreed with the Australian Broadcasting Control Board that the points system for Australian content is workable, can the Minister inform the Senate whether this system provides fewer points for repeat programs? Can he say what the Government intends to do about the problem of repeats on television which so many members of the public find so irritating?
– I should say, first of all, that I was very pleased to hear the news last night that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations have agreed that the points system as proposed and as drawn up by the Board is workable in principle. I note that the Board and the television station representatives are to have further discussions on amendments to the system but this is a natural corollary because the proposal initially drawn up by the Board was a tentative proposal. It was always indicated that the matter was open to discussion and that the proposal could be modified. As I understand it the initial approach by the Board to the television stations was one seeking their advice on a number of features of the system which at that time, pending discussions, remained uncertain. I cannot at this stage make public details of the points system because part of the agreement entered into between the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the Federation of Australian Commercial Television stations yesterday was that details should be kept confidential until the matter is finally settled.
However, I can say in relation to the second portion of the honourable senator’s question - that dealing with repeats - that the Government and the Broadcasting Control Board are concerned about the irritation to members of the viewing public created by repeat programs. I have received advice this morning from the Australian Broadcasting Commission that as from 18 June next it will be adopting a policy of indicating to viewers that a program is a repeat program by superimposing the words ‘repeat program’ over the beginning of all such productions. I congratulate the Commission for its responsibility in that regard. I am able also to advise the honourable senator and the Senate that I am given to understand that one of the results of the meeting yesterday between the Broadcasting Control Board and the commercial television stations is that the stations agree in principle that they also should adopt some system of notifying viewers when their program schedules contain repeat programs. I understand that the stations expect to adopt a notification system, be it on the screen or in advertisements, of their program schedules in the newspapers. I understand that they will be indicating adoption of this system within the next four or five weeks.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence concerns VIP aircraft. Can the Minister give an account of the total cost of VIP aircraft over the last 6 months? What is the estimated cost of the BACIII flight to be undertaken by the Minister for Defence, Mr Barnard, Sir Arthur Tange, Admiral Sir Victor Smith and their wives, and what would be comparable cost of their travel in commercial aircraft? If the Minister has not an estimate of the cost of the BACIII flight, does this mean that the Government has okayed the use of this aircraft in an open-ended way?
– In relation to the first part of the question, I am sure that the honourable senator would not expect me to have with me here details of the cost of operation ofthe VIP flight or, more precisely, the cost of the proposed flight by Mr Barnard. However, may I point out that the criteria used now in respect of the use of the VIP aircraft are no different from the criteria adopted when this matter was under the control of Senator Drake-Brockman and other Liberal or Country Party Ministers. As to the suggestion that the criteria used to determine those who are eligible to travel on these aircraft are different from the criteria adopted by the previous Government, I point out that there is no difference in respect of internal flights. Like other people, while on parliamentary trips T have been on Royal Australian Air Force flights which were approved by former Liberal Ministers when we might well have travelled by the commercial airlines. But I accept that the position is - I think most honourable senators accept it - that in respect of such flights a calculation has to be made as to the most convenient form of transport for the party involved and for the trip involved.
I think I said clearly yesterday that there are good reasons why in respect of these very important discussions between Mr Barnard, on behalf of the Labor Government, and the other governments with which we are associated in the Five Power Defence Arrangement we should have a self-contained group of specialists, including the Defence heads. If Mr Barnard had embarked on such a mission without taking these specialists, the Opposition would have been critical. It seems to me that there is another aspect. We have a highly specialised group of airmen in the VIP flight. I am quite sure that those airmen would be pleased and competent to expand their activities, because’ the experience adds to their abilities. They have been used previously. They have been used by previous governments. I cannot understand the present objection. The only objection which might be taken is that in this instance the wives of some officers will be on the flight.
– Why cannot the wives of members go?
– Senator Turnbull has raised a good point. Senator Gair and, I think, Senator Turnbull have complained previously, if I remember correctly, about the VIP flights not being made available to persons other than those mentioned in the arrangements which this Government and the previous governments have laid down. Recently Senator Withers asked Senator
Murphy whether he would consider modified criteria which would allow senators to use these flights.
– I think they should be able to use them.
– Senator Murphy has just assured me that his opinion is that senators should be able to use the flights. So, it would seem to me that there is some acceptance that it is essential that VIP flights be maintained. The only remaining information - I cannot give it to the honourable senator off the cuff but I will get it - is an estimate of the cost involved. If Senator Townley wants the manifests in respect of previous flights laid on the table, I will table them.
– I direct a question to the Special Minister of State. I refer to a report that the former Taiwan Embassy has a credit account of $300 in the Keppel Territory land rent account. Does the Government accept the fact that this money belongs to the Government of Taiwan? If so, will it arrange for the money to be remitted to Taiwan or does it intend to seek the views of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China as to what action it should take in regard to this money?
– The part of the question which can be answered - without the gratuitous remarks at the end of it - is that part which relates to the $300 in an account. That position is being looked at.
– Is the AttorneyGeneral aware that some States have enacted legislation which, in some circumstances, permits the tapping of private telephones? Referring to recent questions directed to the Attorney-General about the limited number of approvals given by the Commonwealth, does the Minister concede that the will of the Commonwealth is being breached by some State authorities? Can the Minister inform the Senate whether the States have any legal rights to intercept private telephone calls? If not, what action can be taken to protect the privacy of telephone conversations?
– It is quite clear that the Commonwealth Parliament, in the exercise of its constitutional powers, enacted the Telephonic Communications (Interception) Act which was intended to cover and to state exhaustively the circumstances in which telephones could be tapped - to use the popular expression - by authority. To tap them without such authority is an offence against that law. It is clear - I think it has been conceded in the last few days by a number of State Ministers - that no State legislation has encroached or could encroach upon this position. The Commonwealth is competent to state, and state definitively, the circumstances. It has done so. I understand that a State Minister has suggested that the State police have been authorised to tap. As far as I am aware they certainly do not have any existing authority under the Federal legislation to tap telephones. I am not aware whether they have ever been authorised under the Act to do so. I shall find out. The States have been told, if not by my predecessors then by a certain Minister or Ministers of the previous Government, I understand, that there is no right for any State officers, be they police or otherwise, to tap telephones other than in accordance with the Federal Act. This has been made clear by me in the last few days and I repeat it.
The way in which the privacy of individuals can be protected is by prosecution under the Federal enactment. That law must be upheld. It is apparently notorious that there has been a great deal of unauthorised telephone tapping, leaving aside the question of whether any has been done under some colour of authority of State Acts. I think it is generally accepted that there has been a great deal of unauthorised telephone tapping and I propose to instruct that steps be taken as far as they can be to ensure that the provisions of the Federal Act are carried out and that if those provisions are broken by anyone proceedings will be instituted against that person.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Does the Minister recall his Leader’s statement a few days ago in another place that relations between Australia and the United States of America had been strengthened by the Whitlam Government? I ask the Minister: Was this a serious statement of the Government’s achievements? Has this strengthening been brought about by the intemperate criticism of President Nixon by 3 senior Ministers of the Government on the
Hanoi bombing and by the Prime Minister’s own letter? Has this strengthening been effected by Mr Whitlam’s recent contumelious remarks about President Nixon which seem to have resulted in the withdrawal of the welcome mat for him - a welcome which was always there for Liberal Prime Ministers?
– The question is directed to me. Speaking from my own knowledge of the matter, all I can say is that in January of this year I visited the United States of America and, on behalf of the Government, I attended the funeral of the late President Johnson and also had discussions with a number of United States Government officers. I found that the United States Government was completely cordial and cooperative. Every assistance was forthcoming. 1 found that the relationship between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Australia was all that one could hope for. I hope that cordial relations will continue. I suggest to the honourable senator that he should not endeavour to stir up any kind of mischief or create troubled waters. Sometimes certain things are said in this chamber or in chambers in other countries. If the honourable senator reflects upon the matter he might think that it is better for him not to endeavour to create any kind of discord between this country and the United States of America.
– I direct my question to the Attorney-General. Is it a fact that during the Federal election campaign last November leaders of the Australian Labor Party promised Tasmanian electors that early steps would be taken to recreate the Inter-State Commission with the objective, inter aiia, of assisting to overcome Tasmania’s transport disabilities? Have any steps been taken to recreate the Inter-State Commission?
– i think that what the honourable senator says is correct - that these statements were made. It is the intention of the Government to set up the Inter-State Commission. As the honourable senator is aware, section 101 of the Constitution provides in mandatory terms:
There shall be an Inter-State Commission with such powers of adjudication and administration as the Parliament deems necessary far the execution and maintenance, within the Commonwealth, of the provisions of this Constitution relating to trade and commerce, and of all laws made thereunder.
As I understand it, this is closely wrapped up with the Government’s proposals in regard to matters of transport, aviation and shipping. All those matters, including even, I think, the establishment of a pipeline authority, the interstate conveyance of goods and so on, should come within the area of the Inter-State Commission. Studies are being made of this matter. It is the Government’s intention to establish the Commission.
The honourable senator will be aware that an attempt was made in the early days of the Commonwealth to carry out this provision of the Constitution. The Commission was established and for some reason it was found to be not constitutional. The Commission was in conflict with the proper separation of power because it was given certain functions which would not stand up constitutionally. It is the Government’s intention to proceed with the implementation of its statement not only to the people of Tasmania but to the Australian people as a whole that it will establish such a Commission.
– 1 direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I think I am correct in reminding the Leader that on the Thursday night prior to his departure for Europe he, without notice, repudiated pairs for an important vote in this Senate and asserted that it was in accordance with parliamentary practice that pairs should be withdrawn on a vote of confidence. I ask the Minister whether he treated the subsequent vote on that motion as a vote of confidence. Oan the Minister refer the Senate to any authority for the statement that pairs are off on votes of confidence, I having failed to find any.
– The honourable senator is not asking me questions except insofar as he is purporting to ask a question about the law of Parliament. I do not propose to go into the matter again. The honourable senator has had his chance to say anything he wishes about the happenings of that evening. I do not accept his version of them at all, and I do not propose to enter further into the matter. It is quite obvious what is taking place in the Senate, and I do not intend to deal with a situation which I trust will be corrected at the next election when the numbers in this place will be changed and no longer will the Government be able to be trampled by the weight of numbers of the Opposition which has succeeded in breaking down all the conventions and the proper operation of the Senate and the respect which the previous Opposition had for the operation of the Senate.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Services and Property consult with Senator Wright, Senator Greenwood, Senator Webster and Senator Kane with a view to setting up secretarial facilities on Kangaroo Island which would seem to be a most suitable place for the holding of kangaroo courts?
– Order! I think, Senator O’Byrne, that you have used question time to make a satirical speech rather than to ask a question.
– The Minister for Services and Property whom I represent in this chamber will, of course, read Hansard. I would hesitate to pass a question like that on to the Minister because that Minister is Mr Daly, and we all know his infinite wit. I do not know what sort of an answer we might get back.
– Does the Minister for Primary Industry recall a statement by the then shadow Minister for Primary Industry, Dr Rex Patterson, when outlining the Australian Labor Party’s rural policy prior to the last election? He stated:
The ALP would ease immediately the cost price squeeze on producers of wool, meat, wheat, dairy products, sugar and fruit. This would be achieved by recognising the need for income compensation for producers who sold a large proportion of their products overseas, particularly on free markets.
In view of the disadvantages caused to these industries by the revaluation of the Australian dollar in December, the realignment with the American dollar in February and the galloping inflation which is pushing up costs to these industries, what does the Government propose to do to honour this election promise by the responsible Labor Party spokesman on rural matters during the last election campaign?
– The statement to which the honourable senator refers was in no way a commitment on the present Government, and I think that he is fully aware of that. On numerous occasions in the past I have answered questions along the same lines. I stated then, and I state again now, that the Government’s policy was laid out quite clearly in Mr Whitlam’s policy speech and also in the rural booklet which was published specifically for the election campaign. I think time will prove that, despite the sorts of questions which have been asked by members of the Australian Country Party, the wisdom of the policies being pursued by this Government will prove to be of greater benefit than those of the previous Administration.
– I preface my question, which I address to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, by saying that it is obvious that many road accidents are caused by inexperienced drivers driving highpowered cars which they should never be allowed to own. Will the Minister introduce a system of graduated licences for drivers so that inexperienced drivers will not be allowed to drive or to own high-powered cars unless they have previously proved, by passing an improved drivers test, that they are capable of controlling a high-powered car? Will the Minister consider introducing a law requiring that the driver’s photograph shall be attached to all drivers’ licences in order to avoid abuse, that those licences shall be issued on a graduated speed scale, and that each driver must pass a further test before being issued with a higher grade licence? If the Minister decides to introduce graduated licences for drivers will he also include windscreen stickers coloured according to the grade held by drivers? Will the Minister give this matter his urgent attention and by so doing help to reduce deaths on the road.
– The question of road safety, which is causing concern to us all, is essentially a matter for the States. The Commonwealth power relates only to the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory.
– We can do it here.
– That is so. Because of a desire to move on a national basis an expert group on road safety has been set up on which are representatives .of the Commonwealth and the States. A lot of work has been done on this problem, but I admit that a solution has not been found. I think most aspects have been considered. I do not know whether the group has considered the points raised by the honourable senator. I shall refer them to the Minister so that he may decide whether any or all of them should be referred to the group for consideration.
– Is the Minister representing the Treasurer able to indicate the initial amount and source of funds which will be provided by the proposed National Petroleum and Minerals Authority? Is it a fact that the proposed Authority will not make funds available for initial search and exploration? In the encouragement of a greater participation by Australian investors in the discovery and exploration of our resources will the Minister consider carefully the need for incentives to attract domestic investment capital for this purpose?
– I do not know the answer to the honourable senator’s question. I will find out and let her know.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry: Is it a fact that the Minister has promised to proceed to Kangaroo Island to discuss with soldier settlers there problems peculiar to them and for which financial provision for betterment has been made by the Parliament? I point out that his presence on Kangaroo Island would provide an opportunity for a court of a type badly needed by settlers at present and in keeping with the dignity of the island. When does the Minister propose to visit the island?
– I received a request from certain settlers on Kangaroo Island to discuss some of their problems with them. I indicated at the time that I was not able to go. I have since replied and said that I would make contact with them the next time I am in the area. I gave no undertaking to do it immediately. I said I would talk to them at the first opportunity. It is unfortunate that they may have gained the impression from my letter that I was going there immediately. That is not the case.
– I address my question to the Minister assisting the Minister for
Foreign Affairs. Is it true that the Australian Government has become one of the last of the big time spenders in real estate in New York as reported in the Melbourne ‘Herald’ of Wednesday, 30 May? If so, why and when were the leases of luxury space approved for the Australian mission to the United Nations? As it is reported that Australian and French government officials will be moving into the same building at approximately the same time, I ask whether Senator Murphy, the Attorney-General, took any part in negotiations with the. French Government during his recent visits to Europe?
– I do not think that he did. It is not a part of Senator Murphy’s Department. I am sure that he would have conferred with officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs before he did that. Dealing with the matter seriously, I may say that there was a newspaper item on this. The position is that before moving into the new accommodation the Australian mission in New York, since 1958, had accommodation at 750 Third Avenue. Space available in that building amounted to just under 9,000 square feet at a cost of $5.50 per square foot. This accommodation became inadequate and it was demonstrated that some 13,300 square feet would be required. An extensive search was conducted for suitable accommodation in the vicinity of the United Nations headquarters. The accommodation now occupied at No. 1 Dag Hammarskjold Plaza was the most suitable and the price paid - $9.95 per square foot all inclusive - is quite normal for accommodation in the desired area. The very fact that the French mission is also in the same building would suggest that we can hardly be the last of the big spenders. It is essential for the effective operation of the Mission that it be situated near the United Nations headquarters and within ready reach of other foreign missions.
When I became associated with the Department of Foreign Affairs this was one of the first things that I had to look at. The whole question of overseas properties - they are quite considerable - had fallen into a chaotic situation. We had properties on which we could not get buildings constructed and we had buildings on which we could not get anything done. There was quite a history over the previous 4 years of the Department supposed to be handling this but not doing so. We have bad to start virtually from scratch to build our own organisation. I would hope that within 12 months or so - bearing in mind that we have started on one building - we will be able to build up our own organisation with Australian thought, Australian architects and Australian designers instead of having to run from one department to another. Sometimes, in Asian and in African countries we have had difficulty in obtaining architects and matters have had to be dealt with between the Department of Works, the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Immigration and all the rest of the people concerned. It was quite obvious what had to be done. There should be a very small body of people with these skills who could work on buildings overseas all the time. This is one of the things on which we have virtually had to start from scratch.
– I refer to the Minister for Primary Industry an article published in the March issue of ‘Wigging News’, a publication issued by the ‘keep the wool industry free campaign’. Is he aware that the following statement appeared in that article?
The situation developing in Victoria to get exclusive control of the $3m a year wool reclassing market needs careful watching. A co-operative initially to be made up of the 500 employed in the reclassing industry known as the Wool Classers Cooperative has been set up.
I ask him also whether he is aware that Mr Landeryou, the Victorian Secretary of the Storemen and Packers Union made this statement in Melbourne?
If the Federal Government introduces an acquisition scheme for the wool clip, the Co-operative would seek a contract from the Government to resort the entire Victorian wool clip, except that sorted on private property.
He went on to say-
– Order! The honourable senator will ask his question.
– Mr Landeryou went on to say that he intended to meet the Minister for Primary Industry. I want to know whether the Minister did meet this gentleman. If so, what was the outcome of the discussions?
– I have not seen the article to which the honourable senator referred but I met Mr Landeryou some 3 months ago. He referred to a plan by his union to establish a co-operative enterprise for the purpose of wool classing. I have not spoken to him since and I do not know what has transpired in regard to that venture. In view of the fact that the honourable senator has asked a question, I will check up on the latest position to see what progress has been made. I will advise the honourable senator accordingly.
– Is the Minister for the Media aware that plans are well under way for the production of a third daily newspaper in Perth? Has he been informed of resistance to it from the established newspapers in the provision of news services and newsprint? What measures, if any, can he take to prevent discriminatory or restrictive practices in this respect?
– I understand that moves have been made in Western Australia to establish a third newspaper in Perth. I must tell the honourable senator that the control of newspapers does not come within my Ministerial responsibility. I am given to understand that newspapers are registered under the respective newspaper Acts of the various States. I think that if there is discrimination in Western Australia in providing news services and newsprint this is a matter for the Attorney-General of Western Australia. I am certain also that it is a matter which would be of interest to our colleague the Federal Attorney-General. I most certainly will discuss this question with him.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Labour. Will the Government give consideration to making representations so that Noumea may not be included in the series of bans being operated in Australia, particularly by the Australian Waterside Workers Federation? Will the Government take into consideration the fact that Noumea is a colony and that its people have no control over the decision in regard to atomic explosions but, on the contrary, Noumea is one of the Pacific Islands for which Australia says it is intervening at The Hague? In these circumstances all the bans mean is that the people of Noumea are going to be penalised and we will be losing valuable trade. Will the Government remove from the alleged victims in Noumea of these explosions the additional disadvantage of the foolish bans being imposed upon them?
– The honourable senator raises an issue over which I do not think we have any positive control. I shall examine his question and reflect on it to see to what extent any officer of mine might be made available to follow up the matter. I think that the general proposition has been answered by the Minister for Labour previously but I shall review the question when I see it in print.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether it is a fact that one significant and vital protection of the rights and liberties of citizens lies in the inability of police to enter private property except with search warrants issued by a magistrate on affidavit material. Is it not also a fact that unless citizens can see the search warrants and the affidavit material upon which they are obtained their rights could be nullified. Why, therefore, does the Attorney-General consistently refuse to. table the warrants and affidavit material upon which they were obtained, under the alleged authority of which Commonwealth Police raided many homes in Sydney suburbs in the early morning of 1 April? Has not a member of a House of Parliament a right to know whether the police are acting lawfully?
– I think the proposition which the honourable senator put in the first part of his question is a correct proposition in general. It is right that a very important part of the rights of citizens is that their homes should not be entered except with a search warrant based on proper information. That has been the general protection of the citizen throughout the ages. Unfortunately, as I have indicated, there has been some breaking down of that right by the previous Administration in various areas. But in general it is the great protection of the citizen. As I understand it the next proposition which was put was that a citizen ought to be entitled to know on what basis a warrant was issued. I think that in general that certainly ought to be correct. I do not know of any reason, on the face of it, why any citizen should not know. I think he ought to be entitled to know. I certainly would want to know what reason there would be for any citizen not to know the basis on which a warrant was issued. There may be reasons but I cannot think of any. If some citizen asked for the reason he would be told.
But I do not know that the honourable senator’s home has been entered. I do not know that he has the right to purport to act on behalf of other persons and insist, when they have not asked him to do so, on acting as their agent in this regard. The honourable senator’s proposition was that the citizen has a right to know. Assuming that that is correct, the citizen may make the application to obtain the reason. I have indicated, and a moment’s reflection would confirm, that it may well be that some citizens would not appreciate at all the circumstances and reasons for the issue of a warrant in respect of their premises being tabled in the Parliament and made public. The honourable senator seems to be confusing his rights with those of the citizen.
– The Minister for the Media will recall that before the last Federal election the Prime Minister indicated that he would initiate an investigation into the viability and the practicability of the introduction of frequency modulation broadcasts. I would ask the Minister whether the Broadcasting Control Board or any other authority has carried out this investigation? What is the present position with regard to frequency modulation?
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLANDTrue it is that during the course of the last Federal election campaign the Prime Minister said, amongst other things, that when a Labor Government was elected to office it would adhere to the timetable for the introduction of colour television as laid down by the previous Government and that it would endeavour to expedite the introduction of frequency modulation radio broadcasts in Australia. The Government certainly intends to see that frequency modulation radio is introduced and it would like to see it introduced as quickly as possible because I am sure that most honourable senators would be aware that FM radio has distinct advantages over radio as we know it today which is based on the amplitude modulation system. According to information supplied to me by the technical officers of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board - they are officers for whom I have the greatest respect and admiration - at present there appears to be a number of technical difficulties in the way of an immediate introduction ofFM radio largely caused by the decision of the previous Government to allocate that section of the very high frequency band normally used for FM broadcasts to 3 television channels. That decision which was made some 10 years or so ago is one which makes the future of FM radio rather uncertain.
– There are only 2 channels, not 3 channels.
– The honourable senator might be right.I was speaking from recollection. I thought it was three. Anyway, be it 2 channels or be it 3 channels, it was a decision made by the previous Government some 10 or 12 years ago and it is creating considerable difficulty now. The present advice thatI have received from the Broadcasting Control Board is that the best way to introduce frequency modulation radio would be to abandon all attempts to use the VHF band and to proceed immediately to use the ultra high frequency band. This would involve the development of completely new forms of receivers. Work in this area has already been commenced by the Board, and it has begun work on establishing technical standards necessary for such a step to be taken. I must say that even if by some means or another it was found at the last minute that it was possible to use the VHF band for FM radio broadcasts, this developmental work which is now proceeding would nonetheless still be necessary. The UHF band is being looked to more and more by other countries as a means of providing new services. It seems inevitable that it will be used here in the not too distant future. I might add that the disadvantages of having to develop new equipment for UHF transmissions might be offset to some extent by the fact that if we are to introduce frequency modulation radio at this stage we will almost certainly have to move to stereophonic or quadraphonic broadcasting. These features would require major technical developments which are not incorporated in transmitters or receivers that are usually available here. I know that the Board is putting in a lot of work in this regard. Its technical officers are working day and night. As soon as I can convey any more information to the honourable senator I will do so.
– I ask the
Minister for Primary Industry: Is it a fact that the Minister for Immigration in an election advertisement last year stated that $500m provided to farmers at 3 per cent interest would cost the Government only $15m to subsidise the interest rate? Was this consistent in principle with pre-election statements made by some other Labor candidates in rural areas? Did Mr Whitlam say in his policy speech that Jong term low interest loans were fundamental to Labor’s rural policy? In view of these statements, does the Government intend to subsidise the 7 per cent to 8 per cent interest rate to be charged under the $20m rural finance arrangement announced yesterday?
– I am not aware of the statement to which Senator Drake-Brockman has referred. I have said before, and can only repeat, that the Government’s rural policy in respect of this matter has been clearly spelled out. It was only earlier this week that I quoted from speeches made by Senator Drake-Brockman’s own Party Leader in the last 2 or 3 years, and again in the House of Representatives last week, concerning the Country Party’s policy on interest rates. By interjection, Senator Maunsell at the time said something to the effect: That is our policy’. I do not know the point in pursuing this question of low interest rates. The Government has made its position clear. We are providing long term finance at the lowest possible rate consistent with the rate that is prevailing in the community at present. That is exactly the same principle as was applied by the previous Government.
- Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on the notice paper.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a report from the National Hospitals and Health Services Commission Interim Committee titled ‘A Community Health Program For Australia.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a report of the assessment panel on the Australian Capital Territory Education Authority on a design for the governance and organisation of education in the Australian Capital Territory.
-Pursuant to section 10 of the International Monetary Agreements Act 1947, I present the report on the operations of that Act and of the operations, insofar as they relate to Australia, of the International Monetary Fund and of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development for the year ended 30 June 1972.
– For the information of honourable senators I lay upon the table of the Senate a report of the Council of the National Library of Australia. The report is by the Scientific and Technological Information Services Inquiry Committee which was established by the Council. The report is dated May 1973. I ask for leave to make a short statement in regard to that report.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I now table the first volume of the STISEC report. This is the report of the Scientific and Technological Information Services Inquiry Committee which was established in February 1971 by the Council of the National Library of Australia. The Committee was established in recognition that there were, perhaps, considerable deficiencies in the collection, dissemination and use of scientific and technological information in Australia, but that proper and detailed study was needed before the Council of the National Library could prudently take action at the national level to effect improvements. The Committee’s purpose was to investigate the national need for scientific and technological information services and to suggest to the Council of the National Library how, in the national interest, any inadequacies identified by its inquiries might best be overcome. The Committee comprised eminent men selected to represent Federal and State interests, public and private interests, and library and user interests. It was chaired first, until he was regrettably forced by ill-health to resign, by Sir Peter Crisp, and later by Sir Samuel Jones.
The report has now been passed to me by the National Library Council together with its comments and recommendations. Volume 1 of the report, which I have tabled, contains a summary of the evidence obtained, the Committee’s findings and conclusions, and its recommendations. The detailed evidence and data considered by the Committee will be published at a later date as Volume 2. I will take an early opportunity to submit to the Government recommendations for action on this important matter.
– For the information of honourable senators 1 lay on the table 3 plans for the proposed construction of an off-shore high security animal quarantine station. The plans show the 3 alternative islands which will be investigated, subject to the matter being referred to the Public Works Committee.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report on the Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers with Responsibilities for Wildlife Conservation held at Melbourne on 9 March 1973.
– On behalf of the Public Accounts Committee I present the one hundred and forty-fourth report of that Committee. I commend the report to honourable senators.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I seek leave to have a statement incorporated in Hansard.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
Honourable senators will recall that last Thursday, 24 May, I tabled the 143rd report of the Public Accounts Committee covering Treasury Minutes on the Committee’s 121st, 127th and 134th reports. The document which I am tabling today relates to an inquiry conducted in 1971-72 into the management and financial administration of the then Department of Education and Science. In pursuing this inquiry and preparing its report, the Committee has been conscious of the considerable interest shown by senators in all matters relating to education - especially the Commonwealth’s role and responsibilities in this field. Accordingly, the Public Accounts Committee has been concerned not only to report on the financial aspects of departmental management, but also to provide a detailed commentary on the policies, structure and workings of the Department. Although there have been considerable changes in the structure of the Department of Education and Science since the Committee conducted its inquiry, the information contained in the 144th report provides a useful background for further study of current educational trends and policies. 1 suggest to all honourable senators that they study the report, particularly where it outlines problems encountered by the Department of Education and Science in building up a satisfactory structure to carry out its various tasks. Matters relating to internal audit, staff training and recruitment and retention of specialist staff are examples of the difficulties encountered. This Parliament’s public accounts Committee believes that these problems are common to the Public Service as a whole and are directly relevant to efficient administration in all its aspects. The Committee intends to return to these subjects from time to time when its program of activities permits, and, of course, will report its findings on those occasions to the Parliament. Frankly, the numbers and classifications of staff available to the Committee do not allow an investigation of the type outlined in this report to be done in very great depth. A thorough organisation and methods investigation is, for instance, at the present time a function of the Public Service Board. However, we believe that the work which has been done is valuable for reasons already given and because such an inquiry stimulates the department concerned into a thorough selfexamination.
– Order! Is notice of motion No. 1, Government Business, standing in the name of Senator Cavanagh, formal or not formal?
Motion (By Senator Cavanagh) agreed to:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-72, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report:
Construction of an off-shore high security animal quarantine station.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That the Business of the Senate be postponed until the next day of sitting and that Government Business take precedence of General Business after 8 p.m. this day.
Debate resumed from 30 May (vide page 2118), on motion by Senator Bishop:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Mr President, in order to save time it might be useful in the debate of Appropriation Bill (No. 5) to advert also to Appropriation Bill (No. 6).
– Is there any objection? This procedureis agreed to by the Government.
– Naturally, the Bills will be put separately. So today we will be considering Appropriation Bill (No. 5) and Appropriation Bill (No. 6). Earlier in the session we dealt with Appropriation Bill (No. 3) and Appropriation Bill (No. 4) which substantially were Bills to cover the initial costs of setting up a range of new departments of State without, as I said at the time, the necessary parliamentary authority or approval although this was conferred later by the passage of those Bills, with a consequential amendment, by the Senate. Reference was made to the expenditure during the discussions of the appropriate Estimates Committees, and I shall refer to that later.
Appropriation Bill (No. 5) deals substantially with what might be called additional operating expenditure for a variety of reasons for the year ending 31 June and Appropriation Bill (No. 6) sets out substantially what might be called the capital program for the same area. As I recall my earlier comments on this without reference to Hansard or my notes, it seemed that the setting-up of the new departments of State would involve an annual cost of $10m. At the time I wondered about the wisdom of this course of action, and I still do. But I do not propose to deal with this at length because we have a lot of work before the Senate. One can take it up again when more evidence is available about what is really happening in this most confused scene of the new Government’s administration with responsibility spread over 37 areas instead of the previous 27 areas. As I have said, one can make a case for a substantial reduction in the number of departments but no case for a substantial increase such as has been effected.
The figures in Appropriation Bill (No. 5) are given in summary form in the material which is attached to the Bill and which has been made available to honourable senators. This expenditure has been examined by the Estimates Committees in detail and is available for honourable senators to consider. I can see little purpose in again adverting to it in detail since it is set out in the material that has been supplied. A similar comment applies to Appropriation Bill (No. 6), which concerns the area of capital expenditure.
It might be easier and time saving if I were to refer to the second reading speeches made on the Bills now before us. The total appropriation sought by Appropriation Bill (No. 5) is $129m. It is likely that expenditure will be substantially less than that amount because of the net effect of savings made by non-utilised areas of expenditure, by changes and by some savings that have been made in the system. But as has been quite properly explained in the second reading speech, expected savings of that style cannot be appropriated to meet new appropriations. The process therefore must come to adjustment later. This is a further reason why one would want to see set out in their total sense the figures for the financial year 1972-73 at the end of June and projected forward for the coming year in the Budget session so that one would be able to examine more critically what this Government is seeking to do in its administrative processes.
It will be noted that the additional requirement for departmental salaries is $ 15.4m. That appropriation provides for increases in salaries arising from arbitration determinations, reclassification of offices and additional staff provisions. One might say, as has been said on many occasions, that the Government bears a huge responsibility for its actions in the process of inflation and its impact on the whole monetary and economic system. The Government must have responsibility in the first place for the wages, hours of work and conditions of employment that it grants to its own public servants. It seems to me that we are getting into a situation in Australia in which the Public Service not only has immense security and protection by way of superannuation, leave and hours of work but also has exceptionally good conditions and rates of pay. There used to be a stage in the Australian situation at which the rate of pay for a comparable job in what I call the market economy - the open system, as distinct from Government employment - was a little higher than that offering in the Public Service for the same talent, the same ability and the same responsibility. The reason that salaries were perhaps at a higher level in the market place was that that job sometimes offered less security and less benefit than did Public Service employment. It seems that the Public Service is now in a position to provide great benefit, great rates of pay, great security and great opportunity. This, without doubt, adds to the general impact of inflation in the Australian system and the Government must bear and accept the responsibility for this situation because it has brought about a number of these changes itself.
Further appropriations totalling $ 15.7m are required to meet administrative expenses. These include $2m for overseas representation and various other considerations for rents and so on. There is an additional appropriation of $41. 4m for various other services, including $700,000 for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and $8.6m for the Department of Education, $5m of which is provided for Commonwealth scholarships. A consequential and sensible amount of money is appropriated to cover food aid in the recent difficulties in Papua New Guinea. There is extra expenditure for the Colombo Plan, and for broadcasting and television services. As I said earlier, these appropriations are subject to examination in more detail in the light of expenditure in a full year and when the consequences of that expenditure in a year can be seen. An additional substantial amount of money is sought for the defence services.
There are some interesting aspects to Appropriation Bill (No. 6) 1972-73. The total expenditure proposed by Appropriation Bill (No. 6) - as I said earlier, this is concerned with the capital works area - is $54.4m. But there are savings of $43.4m in various unappropriated and unexpended areas, so the net amount sought is Slim, not of immense consequence. Some of the principles involved in certain items in this Appropriation Bill are interesting. One wonders about the $7m appropriated for the purchase of a site for a new chancery in Paris. I imagine that the Estimates Committee concerned considered that proposal. It seems to be an immense amount of money just for the purchase of a site in the capital city of a nation with which we seem to be working extremely hard to create the maximum possible bad relations. But there it is; $7m for the site alone. Australian people might perhaps wonder whether some of our ideas are not becoming a little grandiose for a country of our size. More attention will be given to that aspect later.
An amount of money is appropriated for additional payments to the States. There is a grant of money to Queensland, and various other appropriations for departmental services and assistance to children in isolated areas. I think all of those propositions are very good in their own right. As I said at the beginning of my speech, my point was not to make a long job of this debate because we do not have time for long jobs of that kind. In general, one ought to say once again that Government expenditure adds to the pressure on demand and on resources. Under this Government there has been a most noticeable increase in what I call the total expenditure pattern. It has been very substantial. It is not a bit of good for the Treasurer (Mr Crean) to say that this pattern was begun by the previous Government. His own published material denies what he says, and it is available for those who want to read it.
I personally am concerned about the order of Government expenditure in the total body of Australian expenditure, and the pressure that this creates on resources. I believe that it is producing a condition of demand inflation which has added to the already serious position of cost inflation, and the responsibilities for this properly rest with the Government because it has been the body that has added so substantially to the total expenditure. So I suggest that the Government ought to be looking quite seriously at this matter in its own interests as well as in the interests of the community at large.
These estimates have ‘been examined by the Senate Estimates Committees. The particular details have been given to us and the finalised reports are available. In my own case, I advert briefly to the questions that I addressed to the Treasury in hearings before Senate Estimates Committee B. The Special Minister of State (Senator Willesee), who was the responding Minister, was most courteous and helpful to the Committee in its deliberations and its examination of the Estimates, and I acknowledge to him that I have received from the Treasury in writing appropriate answers to the questions that I asked of Treasury.
I do not wish to add anything more except to reiterate what I believe to be a fundamental truth. In a situation such as Australia is in at the present time, where there has been a heavy increase in the money supply of the country well over the increase in the gross national product, where the demand has been fully stretched anyway, and where there are cost pressures on the situation which are causing very marked inflation, the Government will have to have regard to its own level of expenditure in the system if it does not want to get itself into a position of some gravity later.
It is not the purpose of a debate in the Senate on the Appropriation Bills to have what I call a slanging match. I have always taken the view - I expressed this long before I was a Minister, and I think even when I was a Minister - that the Senate is a very proper place for the consideration of economic and monetary policies through what I call a span pf time. It has a longer continuity of office. Monetary and economic policies do not cease on 30 June and begin anew on 1 July; they are continuing items, they go on through time.
The effect of the present Government’s actions in adding to both cost pressures and demand pressures by its policies of economic management are, in my considered view, yet to be properly felt in the system, and they will be felt. Therefore, the Senate ought to be Sinking very seriously about these matters because it will have a responsibility for a long time to consider the effects of all this in the Australian monetary and economic system. In the end, people’s living standards, their well being and their welfare are substantially bound up with sound economic management. It is my view that the present Government is not yet demonstrating any real capacity for what I call sound economic management. It is demonstrating a substantial capacity to spend money and to proliferate but, as I say, it is not demonstrating any sound capacity for economic management. Fortunately, in Australia we have had for many years an extremely competent Treasury, which is well staffed, highly dedicated and most able.
I close by saying that I have been extremely disturbed to see created within the Department of the Prime Minister a section of people - headed by Dr Coombs and now with Professor Gruen and, I should imagine, others added - who will, it seems, become some kind of an economic overlord of the Treasury’s general inspectorship and control of the monetary and economic system. That I deplore. If that is what is going to happen - and the indications are that that is what is going to happen - it is a very grave and most unwise departure from the principles of sound economic and monetary management which have developed in the Australian system over a long time.
Senator WEBSTER (Victoria) /1,1 .54) - Speaking to the Estimates relating .to Appropriation Bill (No. 5) and Appropriation Bill (No. 6), I wish to deal with only one area. Firstly, may I say that the. questions which Senate Estimates Committee F asked about the estimates that were considered by it received very sound answers from the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt), who was in charge of the estimates considered by that Committee, and from the officers who, on all occasions, dealt with us with efficiency. I believe that they provided to the best of their ability all the information requested by the Committee. According to my calculations the total sum to be provided under Appropriation Bill (No. 5) is in excess of $3m. It is interesting to note that savings in respect of Appropriation Bill (No. 1) and Appropriation Bill (No. 2) amounted to about $6m. Regard was had to the economies that have been effected by the Government in what appeared to be a splitting or proliferation of departments as occurred in the
Department of National Development. One would have imagined that the creation of the Department of Minerals and Energy would have caused some extra expense. I was comforted that in fact no extra expense was incurred, or at least was not shown in the appropriations before us., although there had been a splitting of departments and a possible increase in departmental activity. I give credit to the Government for the fact that, from a study of the appropriations, there appeared to be sound control over the financial affairs of the departments.
A matter of greater importance to which I wish now to refer relates to Appropriation Bill (No. 6). Other matters are referred to in the report of our Committee, Estimates Committee F. The report is signed by Senator Cant, our excellent chairman. It was presented to the Senate within the last few days. I direct the attention of honourable senators to paragraph 4 of the report. The Committee thought that several items should be reported to the Senate but I will leave the other items to be noted by honourable senators. I wish to refer to the estimates of the Department of Minerals and Energy and particularly to Division 865, Capital Works and Services - subdivision 1, Plant and Equipment - item 05, purchases of pipe and associated equipment for Moomba-Sydney pipeline, $14m. In citing that figure I remind honourable senators that Estimates Committee F considered appropriations amounting to $3,115,900 on my calculation, and noted savings of about $6,153,200, again on my calculation. Of the financial obligations studied by the Committee the appropriation of $14m requested by the Department of Minerals and Energy was by far the greatest amount. It appeared to me as a simple senator that it made a very interesting proposition.
Honourable senators will appreciate that only last evening establishment of a pipeline authority was approved by the Senate, yet before that approval was given an amount of $14m was requested for the purchase of pipe and associated equipment. It is obvious that provision would have to be made after reading newspaper reports and statements by the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) that a national pipeline was to be constructed as a grid throughout Australia. It was general information that some pipes were to be taken over as they arrived in Australia. I had information a week or so before the
Committee sat that a substantial payment had already been made for the purchase of pipe. Having that knowledge, it interested me to know from where this money could rightfully come. Substantial amounts are involved. I posed questions in relation to the matter to the Minister who had with him his officers to answer those questions. I wish to read to the Senate these few lines from the fourth paragraph of the report of Senate Estimates Committee F:
The Committee draws the attention of the Senate to the Department of Minerals and Energy, Division 865, Item 05 - $14m to purchase pipe for the MoombaSydney pipeline and to the detailed explanation provided by the Minister (See Appendix to this Report), in reply to information sought which shows that the total for pipes will be $48. 5m.
That was a matter of interest to all the members of Senate Estimates Committee F. It was presented to us in Appropriation Bill (No. 6) 1972-73. It is an item which suggested that the Government required $14m for capital works and services whereas, in fact, discussion with the Minister and his officers brought out the fact that there was actually an obligation, apparently, to purchase $48. 5m worth of pipe. I think that honourable senators will readily see the question that was raised in our minds regarding this. It appeared to me that at the time the Commonwealth Government was forming these appropriations it could have sought a much greater amount because in actual fact it is now obligated to an expenditure of about $48. 5m. The situation appeared to me to be a little understated. No doubt, I did not have the confined knowledge that has been given to us by the Minister. It was information available to the Senate some 6 months ago that the Moomba to Sydney pipeline would cost the Australian Gas Light Co., as I understand it for the purchase of pipes, in excess of $140m. Of course, the questioning that I undertook was directed to that fact.
I raise another important matter which ties up the whole proposition. The Senate, having asked Senate Estimates Committee F to investigate the appropriations that the Government had asked for, obviously needed to give its attention to what were the facts in relation to the letting of a contract for $14m by the Commonwealth Authority. With whom was the Commonwealth contracting? It is all very well to have before us an item involving the expenditure of$1 4m for the purchase of pipes. But there is scant information about with whom the Commonwealth had contracted. What was the arrangement regarding the delivery and purchase of pipe? More importantly, when one has regard to the debate that ensued in the Senate some 6 months ago in relation to the Australian Gas Light Co’s proposal for the purchase of pipe for the Moomba to Sydney pipeline, the Commonwealth should be secure in the contract into which it had entered. It appeared to me from anything that I have read that there was no positive statement laid down by the Minister for Minerals and Energy, Mr Connor, in relation to the security of the contract which the Commonwealth had entered into.
Indeed, the reply given by officers of the Department would give one greater concern about what the Commonwealth is in actual fact doing on this matter. For instance, if the Committee received the reply from the departmental officers that in actual fact the Commonwealth is standing in the shoes of what could be a $5 company - 1 do not wish to overestimate the capital of the company about which I am speaking-
– It is actually contracting with a $5 company.
– If I used the wrong words, the honourable senator’s legal experience assists me a great deal.
– But it makes the position all the more alarming.
– This is the manner in which 1 am taking this argument: Firstly, there has been no statement by the Minister as to what the Commonwealth was doing. One could be reasonably assured, perhaps, if a major company such as the Australian Gas Light- Co. had entered into some proposition initially for the purchase of gas, that guarantees existed that gas was available in sufficient quantities to warrant the expenditure of an amount which we understand could be of the magnitude of $300m just for the provision of that gas pipeline and work associated with it. But with whom was the Commonwealth contracting? These are matters on which the Minister might well say: ‘Have confidence in the Department and in the Ministers that we know what we are doing. We are not entering into this contract lightly or inadvisedly’. But we have the situation as outlined by Mr Tredinnick, the officer who was answering questions on this matter. At page 209 of the
Hansard record of Senate Estimates Committee F it is shown that I asked:
I take it you are telling us that the Conkmonwealth has entered into an arrangement to take over contracts of some millions of dollars with a S3 company?
Mr Tredinnick replied:
With a $5 company that is probably owned by AGL, yes.
I further asked:
Can you tell us with whom the Commonwealth is contracting?
Mr Tredinnick replied:
All the arrangements have been with East-Australia Pipeline Corporation. I do not know whether there is a contract as such.
Obviously, that led me to say:
It is fairly important in the whole basis of contracting in this field, where we have a $14m figure before us, to know with whom we are contracting. I would not be aware, sir, as to whether that particular company has genuine guarantees from the company from whom it is making its purchase. I am aware that purchases from Japan previously for pipe have meant, in the instance of at least the Bass Strait field, an expenditure of Sim as a minimum by Japanese companies to repair the pipes that they sent to Australia. Now, if we are approving a $14m purchase by the Commonwealth, either the Minister or the officers should be able to assure this Committee that they have investigated this matter properly, (hat they are not purely taking over guarantees which certainly no Japanese company would give to a $4 company.
I should have said ‘a $5 company’ - 1 am quite sure that they are exercising proper restraint and proper investigation as to all the ambits of the contract.
I think honourable senators will see that this is a matter which should concern the Senate. We are commencing with the National Pipeline Authority an enormous undertaking. It is suggested that finally over $6,000m will be expended by it. The basis of contracting at the present time is particularly important. The wording of the evidence before the Committee indicated quite clearly that the Commonwealth was dealing with a company with only a few dollars of paid-up capital. I have heard Labor Party members in the Parliament say in the past how critical they would be of any Commonwealth authority that dealt with a company such as this. I fully realise that if the Australian Gas Light Co., as I believe it to be, is the owner in full of all the shareholding of East-Australia Pipeline Corporation, some further guarantee is achieved from the Australian Gas Light Co. But this is a fairly important matter.
Guarantees must have been given by the Japanese manufacturer for .the 680 miles of pipe which are coming to Australia. Do those guarantees or does the contract stipulate that in a transferring of the shareholding of the company to someone else the guarantees which .were obviously available to the initial contracting company will be maintained? Often there is small writing in contracts which prohibits the transfer of shareholdings. Incidentally, the only wording which the officials before us used was in relation to 3 shiploads of pipes which had been received from Japan. Further to that, I am aware that some considerable time ago payments were made to Australian manufacturers. That evidence was not forthcoming to the Committee. I heartily congratulate whoever was responsible for the Australian producer of the pipe receiving prompt payment. But a very sad story is to be told here as far as the Australian interest in the manufacture of the pipe is concerned. Of course the Senate is aware that some 80 miles of this major pipeline was to be provided by Australian manufacturers. The Australian manufacturers made it quite clear that they would be able to supply so much more of the pipe if they were given some extra few months in which to meet a delivery date. But apparently we have the Federal Government confirming the arrangements of East Australian Pipeline Corporation Ltd in relation to its purchase of overseas pipe. 1 think that that arrangement is regrettable.
Perhaps I can curtail my comments, having alerted the Senate to the problems we faced as a Committee in relation to this major item of expenditure which was sought by the Commonwealth. I hope that the Public Accounts Committee will look closely at how a government, prior to the establishment of any Authority which will exercise control over some capital works such as this, is able to find the funds to pay the staff which was recruited early in the piece. That must be a reasonably major item which certainly should be accepted by the Senate. But the Authority also is able to pay out something in excess of $7m prior to any approval being .given for an appropriation for this item. As a former member of the Public Accounts Committee I believe that that item requires close scrutiny by that excellent Committee. I shall read, to put into the record, answers which were received from .the Department of Minerals and Energy and which last Friday honourable senators who were members of Senate Estimates Committee F were anxious to obtain. I note the fact that on Friday after 1.30 hi the afternoon we were still attempting to establish the facts in this matter. Again I say that no officer nor the Minister was anxious to exclude from the Committee any information which it sought. But we had a short time in which to get the proper facts. A question was asked relating to the purchase of pipes and associated consumables for the MoombaSydney pipeline. The first question was:
How much has been expended?
This question related to a time before the appropriation was even approved. The answer was:
Other items were freight and the cost of cables. In total the expenditure already amounted to $7,138,359.93. The second question was:
How much is the value of the contracts for pipe taken over? What is the limit of the contract?
Anyone who has listened to my comments will know that the honourable senators had in the back of their minds that they were probably dealing with the commencement of contracts which certainly would run to about $150m. Certainly the volume was greater than the contract for $14m which we had before us. These figures are of interest. The answer is:
Total value of pipe delivered Australian ports:
Japanese contract has limits of minus 5 per cent and plus 20 per cent.
Split between Australian Gas Light Company and Commonwealth is:
That made a grand total of $48.4m. The next question was:
With whom is the Commonwealth contracting for the supply of pipe?
The answer is:
East-Australia Pipeline Corporation Ltd.
The next question asked was:
What guarantees have we of performance of pipe?
– The company has capital of $5?
– I hope the Senate is alert to the fact that the previous answer indicates a split between the Australian Gas Light Company and the Commonwealth. The answer to the question: With whom is the Commonwealth contracting?’ was: ‘EastAustralia Pipeline Corporation Ltd’.
– Did the honourable member say that this is a company with $5 capital?
– My comment was that that was the answer given to the Committee. But let us look at the proposition reasonably. ‘I imagine that if the Australian Gas Light Company as a major Australian company were going to .build a pipeline in its own interests it may wish to have a company with nominal capital building the pipeline. It seems ridiculous, as Senator McManus says, that contracts may exist with a Japanese firm for the supply of $32m worth or more of pipe to a company which has $5 capital. Surely that cannot be. Surely the Japanese are not so foolish. They must hold guarantees from someone. That is the question which Senator Durack, I and other members of the Committee sought to have answered.
– The honourable senator got no answer?
– I say that the Minister and the officers gave us the answers as well as they could. I realise that we want to proceed with this matter. I think it is most important. The Hansard record which came from that Committee indicates the questions which we asked in the interests of the Senate and the answers which we obtained. No officer or the Minister attempted to withhold answers from us. But a matter of importance and something which I queried was:
What guarantees have we of performance of pipe?
– if I may address the honourable senator, Mr Deputy President - that our question there related to what guarantees the Commonwealth would have in relation to the performance of this pipe for which this $5 company was contracting. There is an enormous volume of contracting. No commercial undertaking would buy out a $5 company unless the company was supported by enormous guarantees from its major parent company. Some asked about guarantees. The answer we were given was a very good one:
Pipe inspected in Japanese and Australian mills by inspectors of international repute. Inspection includes high level hydrostatic test ultrasonic and radiographic examination.
This is of great interest to me. The next guarantee was:
After backfill in trench pipe will be given further hydrostatic test up to 115 per cent specified minimum yield. All failures due to mill defects will be replaced by pipe manufacturer at his cost.
I regret that that is going to be done after the backfill has taken place. The answer continues:
Pipe to meet API Standard 5LX-X65 grade and conform with the Betelle Institute notch test recommendation.
The reply given to our further query was an excellent one. We asked:
What is the Australian content of the contracts? What is the foreign content of the contracts?
The answer supplied is as follows:
Pipe material 208 miles Australia, 707 miles foreign. Total project value $165m of which 75 per cent Australian content.
The Australian content, of course, refers to the laying of the pipe and, I take it, in the final delivery of the completed project. There is much that could be said on the commercial aspect of the matters covered in this report of Estimates Committee F. I refer the Senate to the Hansard report which will be available. I would ask the Public Accounts Committee to follow up our queries and look very closely at this arrangement that has been made by the Commonwealth.
– >I wish to take advantage of the forms of the Senate to press upon the Government the desirability of examining as soon as possible some method of removing from the Post Office the overall control which it possesses in regard to the allocation of electronic frequencies. It is my belief that we should proceed as quickly as possible with the setting up of a Federal communications commission in this country. One of the great difficulties in the allocation of bands of frequency by the Post Office is, of course, that the Post Office itself is a user of frequency bands, and no body or no person who actually uses frequencies ought to be given the benefit of allotting them to itself. I realise that our Federal Constitution in Australia varies considerably in many respects from that of the United States of America, but there are sufficient similarities to make it desirable, in my view, to examine mutatis mutandis the setting up in this country of a Federal communications commission which would be completely responsible for the control of electro magnetic radiation.
I yield to no man in my admiration of the intelligence, the acumen and the ability of the Post Office engineers. I think we in this country have been extremely fortunate to have Post Office engineers who rank with the world’s best. But because of the previous Administrations and the current Administration - I make no distinction between political panties - the Post Office willy nilly has become a dictatorship, particularly in regard to these matters. I listened with interest when the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) this morning was discussing the difficulties which he is having in regard to the rapid implementation of frequency modulation broadcasting. I think it is true to say that some of the Minister’s difficulties and some of the industry’s difficulties are caused by the fact that frequency allocation in this country was done on an ad hoc basis.
In 1961 a special committee - the Huxley Committee - was set up. It brought forward certain recommendations which set out a plan for the control of radio frequency allocation in Australia. I do not blame the Committee itself and I do not resile from the fact that the report was adopted by the Government which I supported. I simply say I think that adoption was wrong. I think the Committee was given a task to do which it should never have been given. I think we have found that in the pursuit of economic and commercial convenience, we have sold a great deal of the very valuable very high frequency space which is just as much one of the - I think I could use this term - mineral resources of this country as is uranium or anything else.
I am not the least bit embarrassed in commending the Minister for the Media on the zeal and the intelligence which he has shown in pursuing this very significant matter in regard to the culture of the nation. I have no hesitation at all in saying that taxi trucks and the like should not occupy the VHF band; it is far too valuable. Let them go up to the ultra high frequency band. I also want to draw the Minister’s attention to the fact that in relation to the very new area - I use the expression ‘new area’ in regard to normal radio frequency radiation at about 470 megahertz and above - I have been informed on credible authority that some areas in this band have already been allotted by the Post Office. I ask the Minister: Who is responsible legally for the control of frequencies in this important area? It is important now and it will become much more important in the near future when, as seems possible, the frequency modulation transmitters will operate in the ultra high frequency band. I hope that the Minister will be able to give us some enlightenment on this matter. For what it is worth, as a senator in the third row back in the Opposition, I assure him of such support as I can give in seeing that the control of frequencies is put under one sane permanent authority and that it is not split up between 3 authorities as it is at the moment.
When we get up in the 470 megs area we find that, while commercial organisations have done work in this area, a great deal of work has been done by amateur organisations. The Minister will be aware from his knowledge of the history of broadcasting and electronic work in this country that the amateurs have contributed an enormous amount both to the entertainment of the public and the cultural and economic use of frequencies in this nation. I can recall that in the late 1920s the Government of the day was setting up at enormous expense - it was an enormous expense for those days; I think about £2m was involved - a special high-powered longwave transmitter for communication with Chelmsford in England. As a result of the work of amateurs in transmissions on what was then called the short wave band, it was discovered that easy, simple and cheap communication could be established in this frequency region. As a result of amateur experiments the government of the day was saved approximately £2m which, of course, was quite a lot of money in those days.
I will not run through the other areas in which amateurs have worked for the benefit of this country, such as the work they have done in times of flood and fire - I cannot add in famine. But at times of national emergency, when the Post Office has been unable to establish communication, in very many instances it has been established, without charge and completely on a voluntary basis, by members of the amateur fraternity. I might add that one of the ironies of the situation is that messages passed voluntarily by amateurs in time of emergency have been charged a fee by the Post Office. If that is not a dictatorship, I would like to know what is.
In addition, these men who do so much research work are landed with an iniquitous 27i per cent sales tax on their electronic equipment. True it is that certain transmitting equipment is exempt from sales tax but, in the bulk, amateurs are compelled to pay this 27i per cent. I think it is right that surf clubs should be given assistance in the way of sales tax remissions, but I think that this other section of the community is just as valuable and it should have just as many opportunities of receiving the benefit of sales tax remissions as other voluntary organisations. With these few thoughts I leave the matter to the Minister for the Media. I commend him for the energy which he is showing in establishing his new portfolio. I hope that before the matter is ended we will have one sane intelligent frequency allocation body operating in the country, and that there will be one sane permanent operating body which will control all radio, all broadcasting, commercial and national, in this country.
– These Appropriation Bills reflect the very sharp increases in expenditure arising primarily from a heavy proliferation of departments and an increase in the. number of public servants. They reflect the elegance, the expansiveness, the luxury of style of this new socialist Government, this Government of the workers, a style which in its Bacchanalian excesses, in its nepotism, by contrast makes the members of the previous Government look like Trappist monks in retreat. I say this because this mushroom growth in expenditure by the public sector will place very heavy pressure upon the economy and will add very severely to the inflationary tendencies which are ‘now themselves of serious consequence and will increase and, therefore, will hurt the little people who are not subject to what has been defined as Cough’s Law. As we understand it, the Prime ‘Minister (Mr Whitlam) has defined the law to govern the conduct of this country, using his words, in this way: Only the best is good enough for the socialist Prime Minister of Australia and paraphrasing him - very little less than the best is good enough for bis Ministers. However, if this pressure continues in the Public
Service, if Gough’s Law works, the little, people of Australia will be punished by the robbing of their pockets, by the robbing of their hank books and by inflation. The rapid growth in .the public sector, therefore, is a serious inflationary trend.
There is a more serious characteristic evolving out of this proliferation of departments, a characteristic which, incidentally, has some curious features. At this stage of the debate I feel that we should inquire about absent friends and loved ones, those Ministers who, whether overseas now or temporarily pausing in Australia on world tours, seem to have kept an almost total silence, except in their gratuitous remarks on foreign affairs, since this Government was initiated. I would like to be assured that at least half a dozen of the Ministers who have said nothing of consequence since the Government was elected are alive and well. I seek that assurance because there has been wrought on the Australian people the greatest piece of hypocrisy, something that only socialists can do. Leaving aside Gough’s Law, because under Gough’s Law he is, of course, the first amongst equals, and all 27 Ministers are. equal amongst equals although some are more equal than others, the fact is that some 4 Ministers through the use of committees and devices are running this country while the rest are pretending to do so.
However, a far more insidious thing has crept into the Government of this country which, if perpetuated, will destroy the Westminster system of government, the democratic or parliamentary style of government to which we are pledged. I refer to the growth of the special adviser system. I must say that in a moment of aberration, or in the Doctor Jekyll side and not the Mr Hyde side of the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister said that this was the type of idea which was so successful in America where there are special advisers. The other day he talked about his Wilenski matching Mr Nixon’s Kissinger. Nothing could be further from the truth than to suggest that there is a parallel between the special advisers insinuated into the Westminster system in Australia and the special advisers who are fundamental to the congressional system in America. The public of Australia must understand the white-anting and the destruction of the Westminster system which is taking place and the development of a new breed of faceless men who must be flushed out. I say nothing about individuals who may be people of high quality and who, in their own academic and other fields of experience, are people of great capacity. 1 refer to the principle of this matter.
The fact is that in America the special adviser is a public figure known to the public. Every nook and cranny of his public and private life is known to the public, and he can be brought ‘before congressional committees for examination. He is the subject of Press and media inquiries day by day. He is subject to public inquisition into what he is thinking, what he is recommending and his style. The whole philosophy is capable of examination by the public. The Senate and House of Representatives Committees in Washington are capable of bringing special advisers before them. What is happening in (his country is a far more insidious thing. People have been insinuated between the Minister and his departmental head ‘as buffers, as indeed protectors, to prevent the department from giving its authentic and responsible view to the Minister. The special advisers are apparently immune. The advice that they give does not have to be recorded; it does not have to be documented; it is not capable in general terms of being examined by the public. 1 ask that in future the special advisers be present, along .with the departmental officers at Estimates Committee hearings and that they be made available for examination through the Minister just as are departmental officers.
The test of the system is simple. If it is true, as Labor senators in this chamber said when in Opposition, that the idea of the Senate Estimates Committee is, ‘through the Ministers, to be able to draw out of the departmental officers the facts, the thinking of the departments, to get a participatory democracy between members of the Public Service and this Parliament, then the Government of the day cannot have any alibi for preventing the special advisers being brought into the open and being subject to scrutiny. The special advisers should be available for examination by Senate standing and select committees. They should have no more immunity, no more protection, than has any departmental head or departmental officer. If the Westminster system is to be preserved, we need to know who are these people who have put a blockade between the departments, the departmental heads and the Ministers. It is notorious throughout Canberra today that the Public Service is wholly dissatisfied because of this system and because of the refusal of Ministers to even understand or implement the Westminster system.
It is notorious that the relationship between the Ministers and their departments is one of lack of communication. Indeed the legislation that comes before this Senate reflects this hopeless lack of communication. Nobody could have produced this kind of legislation if the departments had been given their chance. If the Attorney-General’s Department, for example, had been given the job of drafting the regulations for divorce law reform we would not have had the botch which resulted from the use of special advisers. We do not know from day to day who will be the next special adviser.
I invite the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) to consider notifying Parliament each time an adviser is appointed. One day we wake up and discover that a Mr Milte has been a special adviser. Unless we had probed it, we would not have known. We wake up and discover that Professor Messel was a scientific adviser. The Government has the whole of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the whole of the Academy of Science and all the various scientific committees available to it, yet it has special advisers. If it intends to continue this practice, could I make the plea that it bring out into the open who these people are? I do not denigate any individual. The individuals may be and probably are people of high quality. I attack the principle which, in a Westminster system of government, allows a faceless people to be in the system to provide a protection or a defence of the Minister against his departments and to have absolute immunity from probing. Incidentally, I do not believe that they have that immunity. If they do, it will be the defensive mechanism of the Government.
The Senate should look with very considerable concern at this whole concept of the special adviser. One of the serious things that this Parliament and this Government will face in the months ahead is the clear intention of the Prime Minister and the Treasurer (Mr Crean) to have Dr Coombs supplant the Treasury as the Treasury adviser to this Government and to this Parliament. There is no doubt in the world that Dr Coombs is supplanting the Under-Secretary of the Treasury and his advisers, men who have given magnificent service to this country over the years. People are being appointed advisers and the reason claimed for their appointment is that they are carrying out a specific function of the Government of the day. If there is to be a breaking down of Treasury and a breaking down of departments one by one, there will be a destruction of the kind of government which we have come to find is of absolute importance. Running throughout the whole structure of the appropriations - the estimates which we have been examining - has been the entire imbalance or the entire power grab of the Whitlam Ministry. There is very little difference between the Ministry today and the Whitlam 2-man government of the early weeks of December. Today there is the concentration of effective power in the hands of 3 or 4 or, at the most, 5 Ministers. To all intents and purposes, the others are merely trailers on the scene. There is a pretence that the power is spread.
There has been no explanation why one man, the Prime Minister should be a parttime Prime Minister and a part-time Foreign Minister. No wonder the events of yesterday occurred. No wonder that the Washington contretemps occurred, when we say that we regard the foreign affairs policy of Australia as only the part-time duty of a man who ought to be full-time Prime Minister. It is a gratuitous insult to the people of the world. The Foreign Minister should spend a very substantial part of his time outside this country. How can we reconcile the fact that the Foreign Minister should be outside this country for most of the time with the fact that the Prime Minister has the bounden duty to be in this country for most of the time, whether on 4 engines or 2? Gough’s law says: On the gradation scale, 4 engines for Gough but 2 engines for anyone else’. If we take the socialist gradation scale further, how can the Deputy Prime Minister combine with the Deputy Prime Minister’s job 5 other portfolios? How can an embattled man, the nonDefence Minister - I think his statement showed him to be a person who is dismantling defences - look after the Army, Navy, Air Force, Defence, Supply and the Deputy Prime Minister’s job on 2 engines?
How can two very large departments, Transport and Civil Aviation, be amalgamated? How can a growing department such as Transport have added to it a vital department such as Civil Aviation? Let me make this clear: This country has been blessed with the best civil aviation service which any country has had. If there should be any diminution of this service, it will be a serious reflection on and responsibility of this Government. It would be quite impossible for one Minister to look after the whole of the transport concept. It would be a complete impossibility, particularly as the Minister for Civil Aviation will, of necessity, have to be overseas and not here upon occasion. We have seen a classic example in this chamber of the failure of the combination of 3 or 4 portfolios.’ I refer to the combination of the portfolios of AttorneyGeneral and Customs and Excise. For the past 5 months the portfolio of Customs and Excise has been one of almost total silence. Almost nothing has emanated from the ministerial lips of Customs and Excise because of the Minister’s preoccupation with other things - a preoccupation with the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, with the leadership of this chamber until recently and with world travel.
How can this situation be justified when the Ministers come before the people of Australia and say: ‘These are our extra appropriations. These are to initiate the new policies which we received a mandate in December to implement’? It is quite clear that one could say of the 6, 7 or 8 Ministers who form that silent tail of the Ministry, to paraphrase Churchill, that never has so little been done for so long by so many at such a huge cost. The people of Australia would not know that half a dozen of these Ministers exist because the jobs that they have to do are such that they are not in the public view each day. I refer to the important portfolio of Aboriginal Affairs. I recognise its importance. If the Government continues its proliferation of bureaucracy in this portfolio and does not get round to dealing with the real issues - treating Aborigines as dignified Australians who are equal to other Australians and not people to be patronised or simply representing a social welfare situation, as New Zealand did with its Maoris for a long while, much to its regret - very soon there will be as many public servants looking after Aborigines as there are Aborigines. This is the growth of bureaucracy which we have.
I speak on the Appropriation Bills because of this huge increase in expenditure which will increase the public sector and inflation and which will draw employees away from the private sector where there is now a demand for employment exceeding supply. The Labor Party must run away, for the time being, from its Launceston decision. The Labor Party cannot accept what Mr Grassby is leading it into on immigration. At this moment the Labor Party is copying the previous Government by going around the world and bringing in migrants by government selection. That is the only way in which industry can be expanded, the only way in which there can be full employment and the only way in which we can get growth and, therefore, prosperity in this country. We ask whether there has been a change in policy, remembering what Mr Whitlam said some months ago. He said: Tt is not the job of a socialist government, it is not the job of a Labor Government to go around the world selecting migrants for Australia. That is not Labor Party policy. We will have a policy which depends upon existing migrants in Australia sponsoring other migrants’. This has of course been a hopeless failure - but Mr Hartley, given the chance, will no doubt have something to say on it on ‘Federal File’ and in the end no doubt the whole structure will be forced around to the Left again. There is such an acute shortage of labour that the steelworks of Australia which are so vital to this country are denied the capacity to expand; they are pressured in every way - on price, capital expansion and labour. This Government is taking more and more people into the public sector and more and more people are pressing upon the inflationary content of this country’s economy. Inflation is already running at from 7 per cent to 8 per cent. It is already running at danger point. We are over-heating the economy and the inflation rate is likely to be 9 per cent or 10 per cent by the end of this year. If this Government really meant to help the people of Australia and not merely to record in social services payments the upward march of inflation, which is what it is doing, it would look to the efficient use of the public service.
I conclude by saying that the main purpose of my rising in this debate was to draw the attention of this Senate to the grave danger of the special adviser system which is destroying the Westminster system of government in this country and to the need, if this is to be a true Senate whether in Committee of the Whole o: In part, to inquire into the estimates, to probe appropriations, to flush out these people, and for this Government to make them available. If the Wilenskis are to be the Kissingers of this country then the Government should make them available for public scrutiny so that the spotlight of communication and examination may be placed upon them. If we are to have a democratic system in this country nobody should be immune from public scrutiny. What is happening today is that the Hotel Kingston episode of the faceless men has been replaced by more faceless men and a group of special advisers who owe no responsibility to anyone. To use Disraeli’s statement, like the courtesans of old - and I think he was referring to the newspapers - I would say they have absolute power with no responsibility. This is intolerable in the Westminster system of government.
– For the first time in the Commonwealth Estimates the public is being asked to provide funds by way of appropriation for one of the silliest and absolutely puerile stunts that has ever been initiated by a Commonwealth Minister. I refer to the inexpert committee which the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass) has started travelling to inquire into the Lake Pedder project in Tasmania. Criticism of this matter has been voiced because of its impact upon the environment. We all know that the substitution of the minilake of previous days has proceeded to the stage where the new lake has been constructed and contains a great deal of water.
I have brought into the Senate 6 photographs which will illustrate the reflections of the new lake and which, I hope, will attract the interest of honourable senators and others to what is called now the destruction of the environment. Honourable senators will see portrayed by the camera - an examination of the photographs will show the accuracy of the portrayal - the most beautiful scenic reflections that could be seen anywhere in the world. They are reflections produced by the new lake which has been constructed by man for the purpose of producing electricity for warmth and power in Tasmania. In the words of the Labor Minister for Economic Development, the Honourable Roy Fagan, at a function which I attended a couple of years ago, this is an industry which does not produce deteriorating fumes but in which every cupful of water that comes through the turbines produces no offensive gas and is of perfect purity for drinking at every stage of its flow.
The estimates for Dr Cass’s committee have been bundled together with the other appropriations of millions of dollars that are now before us. I heard Senator Carrick refer to the Westminster system of government. I have ensured that the matter which my friend Senator Webster so thoughtfully referred to - a new item of policy relating to the Pipeline Authority - came within the amendable Bill. Honourable senators will understand with interest this reference that I make because we had the privilege of serving on a committee some 10 or 12 years ago which established the defence of that part of the system. But here under the Westminster system we have bundled together with other appropriations of millions of dollars a little item of $3,700, which is the initial step on this road to insanity, to provide for the travelling allowances and transport costs of the committee which has been established to inquire into the flooding of Lake Pedder. Of course, I reproach the system because if we were to send a request about the $3,700 back to the House of Representatives, which is the limit of our authority, or if we were to amend this provision in the amendable Bill, the Government of the day could not sustain its appearance of confidence without insisting upon the passage of appropriation legislation in its entirety. It is that system that is being built up which requires very close consideration if the Westminster system is to be effective. 1 have referred to this matter because it is well known that events in recent weeks have so exasperated the Labor Government in Tasmania that the Premier, Mr Reece, simply said to the Committee on its last visit to Hobart: ‘I have finished, I will give no further assistance to this inquiry. None of the officers of the Hydro-Electric Commission will be available, nor will the Minister for Conservation and Attorney-General, Mr Everett, who had previously promised to give evidence to the inquiry.’
– That is from one Labor Government to another.
– Exactly. The Commonwealth Government has been insane to such a degree that Mr Reece took that attitude after having patiently engaged in communications with his opposite numbers here in Canberra for the last 4 months in an effort to secure a little reason. I raise the matter on its first appearance in the Estimates because if I did not, within the next 3 months the Government would say: ‘You have already appropriated the initial sum.’ I raise the matter also because my colleague, Senator Marriott, recently elicited the answer that the fees that are being paid to these gentry who with an entourage of staff are engaging themselves in Melbourne or elsewhere, not having access to the offices in Tasmania, are piling up expenditure that is not relatively insignificant but so stupid that we are bound to protest.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– The law of Tasmania provides that the statutory authority there charged with hydro-electric development should, before it proceeds with any project, submit a report to Parliament. The law also provides that no project should be developed by the Hydro-Electric Commission until Parliament has authorised it. A report under the legislation was submitted on the proposed Gordon River scheme on 1 May 1967. That report showed that the area concerned was a very valuable power source and that power could be developed at very favourable rates.
Prior to making that report the Commission invited Dr Bryden, the Director of the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, and Mr Ellis, the Director of the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, to arrange for a biological survey to be carried out in the Lake Pedder area. Members of the scientific staff of the. 2 museums visited the area as long ago as 1967, collecting specimens and making observations of wildlife and natural features. The findings of that survey were that no substantial loss or destruction to species of flora or fauna would occur.
It is interesting to observe, in the face of the ignorant criticism which has come since in regard to this matter, that one of the first things that the Commission did was to have an expert botanical and biological survey made of the area by undoubted authorities. The status of those 2 gentlemen in the world of science will not be disputed. It is to be noted that the lake covers an area of 3i square miles and at no place exceeds 10 feet in depth. The lake has a rather special feature; in the dry season the beach that has been formed there extends as wide as 600 yards. Although Lake Pedder is in a scenery preservation area, the Board in control of scenery preservation was consulted and did not object. The Board was of the opinion that the overall advantages of the scheme outweighed the disadvantages. Already other natural lakes in Tasmania - Lake St Clair, for example - are incorporated in power schemes.
The scheme was duly brought before the State Parliament. In the lower House, it was supported by both sides, the Labor Government and the then Liberal Opposition. When the matter went before the Legislative Council that body adopted the practice that this Senate sometimes adopts and appointed a select committee. That select committee examined the proposals fully and found in favour of the scheme in the form recommended by the Commission, but only after considering a variety of alternative proposals. All proposals brought forward recently by conservationists were in fact presented to that select committee of the Tasmanian Parliament as long ago as 1967. They were rejected by the committee, not only because they involved loss of power output but also because they had objectionable features from the amenity point of view. I will not go into the various alternatives. Suffice to say that they would have involved an economic loss of more than $30m. Work proceeded on planning the scheme and construction commenced in 1968. The expenditure that had been incurred on this project to the early half of 1972 was $43m. Construction of the works affecting Lake Pedder are now virtually complete and represent almost one-half of the total Gordon River scheme.
It is claimed by critics of the scheme that the inundation of the existing Lake Pedder constitutes a ruin of one of Tasmania’s tourist assets. Lake Pedder is one of several hundred lakes in Tasmania’s high rainfall area. Many of them are rarely, if ever, visited by tourists. It is only since the Gordon River access road brought Lake Pedder within 8 miles walking distance that any appreciable number of visitors have gone to the lake. The access road was financed in 1963 with the aid of a grant of $5m from the Federal Government. Before this grant was made the scheme of development contemplated by the Commission was the subject of investigation by an authority which we often praise, the then Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. That Authority reported favourably on the scheme, describing it as a well conceived plan.
I am first to acknowledge that the original Lake Pedder was a little gem of beauty. My disappointment at its being submerged disappears completely when I think of the vast new lake that will be substituted for the little lake which, as I have said, covers an area of 3f square miles and at no place is more than 10 feet deep. Lake Pedder will be supplemented by a lake of an area of about 27 square miles - I forget the exact size - which will hold an amount of water equivalent to 27 times the volume held by Sydney Harbour. The more extensive new Lake Pedder will mirror the magnificent Frankland Ranges together with other peaks and numerous islands, far more effectively than does the existing small sheet of water. Also, it will provide access for boat and water recreation unsurpassed anywhere in Australia or in the southern hemisphere. The expanse of the new Lake Pedder is demonstrated in all its beauty by the photographs that I have brought for the viewing of honourable senators.
I think that the hydro-electric development there is a magnificent project showing how, by prudent management, man can improve the environment, greatly enhance the human enjoyment of the area and contribute to the quality of life in an unsurpassed manner. Recently I received a document titled: ‘Lake Pedder - Why A National Park Must Go.’ The body that produced this document reveals a few factors and emphasises that new discoveries are being made as to the forms of wildlife and natural life that will be affected by this project. Previously the main emphasis had been on 2 little worms about half the width of a thumbnail long. We are told the worms escaped millions of years ago from other parts of the world. Dr Cass has been fascinated by those little forms of life. The document says that the most common animal of the button grass is the land crayfish, the yabbie. It continues:
Two frogs endemic to Tasmania also find the conditions of the South-West most to their liking.
Then I come to the king hit by which I am greatly convinced that Dr Cass is displaying the responsibility of a prudent Minister for the Environment and Conservation when he is asking us to spend money on an inquiry into a project on which $43m has been committed out of a total, I believe, of nearly $107m, and tries to criticise a scheme that has been so adequately canvassed. This is the final king hit by which we are to be persuaded. The document states:
Native rats are quite common in the South-Wes and belongs to a subclass of mammals, the eutheria, in which a pouch is absent and the young are born in an advanced state of development after a relatively long gestation period. Common rodent-like mammals of the South-West are: Velvet-furred rat, Broad-toothed rat, Long-tailed rat, Little Tasmanian mouse, Dusky marsupial mouse.
Having said that, I put in parenthesis ‘Dr Cass*.
– I intended to enter the debate mainly to reply to some of the excursions on the Government’s immigration program that emerged from the speech by Senator Carrick. But before doing that, I think that I would be singularly remiss in my duties if I did not reply to the scornful attack which Senator Wright made on the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass). We can argue about certain projects and refer to a materialistic concept. We can refer to the concepts of the conservationists. But the fact of the matter is that, whether we like it or not at the present time the Department which Dr Cass has formed has limited financial viability, but I hope that it will not be in that position for too long. I visualise that in time Dr Cass will be the custodian of money which will be used to provide substantial financial grants to the States, quite apart from what the Commonwealth spends on acquiring land for conservation purposes.
Whatever the domestic issues involved in the Lake Pedder argument are, I can say to Senator Wright that the vast majority of the younger voters and those who will be getting their franchise very shortly have heard the tocsin sounded about battling with big industry for proper planning. The plain fact of the matter is that as the years go on we will find that the conservation Ministry or the Ministry responsible for environmental and feasibility studies will grow. Whatever the limitations may have been in the past, it is significant to note today that Senator Wright is questioning an expedition by that Ministry. At least, it is not like the apology for a department that we had under the previous Government. We could never get any information from that department; there was nothing being done at all. Of course, the weakness in the conservation Ministry is that it has to rely on the co-operation of State Premiers of various political persuasions and also on other Cabinet Ministers, and I say that quite sincerely.
I know that at times Senator Wright goes on a marauding expedition. He is welcome to do that sort of thing. I think that I am as pragmatic as he is, but the only difference is that as a socialist I believe that we have to accept planning, and sometimes to Senator Wright ‘planning’ is a dirty word. I simply say that as the years go on we will find that the portfolio that Dr Moss Cass is pioneering will become an established fact in Australian life. Conservationists recognise that sometimes they will have to battle within their own party, with big business, and with all sorts of people. Probably on occasions they will have to battle with small segments of the trade union movement. But if one looks at the history of the United States and of Britain one sees that many of these battles have to be fought a second time. I simply say that Senator Wright is entitled to his viewpoint, but it is completely wrong to destroy the vision splendid that Dr Cass and his advisers have painted. That is an attitude that is not shared by a growing section of the Australian voting community.
Now I want to reply to the statements made by Senator Carrick in relation to the Government’s immigration policy. Let us be real about it. If there had not been an election, or even if we had not been returned as the Government, I am sure that what is now the Opposition would have realised that our work force policy would have had to be kept under review. We had to make a decision about our immigration inflow. We had to decide whether we would leave the tap a little more open or close the valve a little bit to ensure that we had a ratio of more jobs than people to fill those jobs. We chose the latter course, and we did it for a number of reasons.
The previous Government had two or three feasibilities studies in operation. The then Minister for Labour and National Service had an investigation into the effect of automation and all the other kindred changes taking place in industry. We knew that these situations were developing. But we as a Government, and the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) - and for that matter the whole Ministry - are not dazzled by statistics alone. I have gone out with mixed parties of parliamentarians and had a look at the assembly lines of the
British Motor Corporation and of other motor manufacturers. I have never been dazzled by what is happening today. 1 look at a man of about 28 years of age and think whether he will be wanted in 10 years time. That is the situation to which we have deliberately geared our thinking. it is not the guest worker system which exists in Europe where maybe a factory employs people for a couple of years and then those people go back outside the country’s borders. If we accept the concept that people should become permanent citizens - and each of the various governments has done this - we have an added obligation to ensure that there is permanency in employment. As a matter of fact; if one gets too dogmatic about that, one says: ‘If this industry closes down, can the employees find immediate vacancies?’ We know that with the seasonal fluctuations in Australia that is just not possible. It is possible that we can cure or cushion the effect by providing a certain level of unemployment benefit, but one of the cardinal features of our policy is that, if people are going through a period of transition, they are less likely to be exploited if they have, as it were, the hearth side of their own home. That was the reason why in the early life of this Government we endeavoured to accelerate the reuniting of families.
I leave that aspect. There is no major project which we, as a Government, inherited which is comparable with the Snowy Mountains scheme which the Menzies Government inherited from the Chifley Government. It is in this area today that changes are taking place. One finds that in northern Australia, or even in Western Australia, the idea of a person being reasonably sure of work lasting for 5 years is not on, because of the very idea of employing subcontractors. This is the field that Senator Carrick is always eulogising, but he cannot have it both ways. If a subcontractor works on a job for a given period - 8, 9 or perhaps 12 months - it is very nice to say that he has done his particular part of the work program and he is paid for it. But I do not think that at times some honourable senators realise what will happen to the operative. Where is his next job. One classic illustration of the utilisation of the mobile work force came to light when I was in northern Australia last year with my colleague, Senator Keeffe, on the Senate Select Committee on Social Environment. In conversations around
Wyndham and other areas, State officials talked about the unemployment benefit and we found the unsung heroes of our work force are the people who move on and do not even claim the unemployment benefit. In fact, last year there was an amount of about $5,000 unclaimed in unemployment benefit. It is to the credit of the new Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) that he has said he will look at some of these situations.
What 1 am trying to point out for the benefit and edification of Senator Carrick is that our work force pattern is uncertain at the present time. It is true that Britain’s entry into the Common Market will not have the impact on our rural industries that it would have had 5 years ago. The plain fact is that we have always had a nomadic rural work force. At the present time this Government has to decide whether certain rural employer interests are working on guest worker concepts. We have to look at the other problems. Do we infuse into the work force a greater ratio of our mounting Aboriginal workers? In the semi-skilled labour sector - I am not denigrating anybody because of skin colour - one can draw a parallel between the Mexican worker in the Californian fruit and vegetable industry and the increasing Aboriginal population who have job opportunities. Are we to accept the Aboriginal factor - I think we should - or are we blindly to increase the number of migrants we obtain from Europe? It is a complex question and not one to which Party labels should be attached. 1 think Senator Carrick did a singular disservice by his stirring. He uses a technique that he thinks is very effective. He picks at random the remarks of a trade union secretary and says: There you are. His viewpoint is contrary to that of the Labor Party.’ I think he was hoist with his own petard when he dealt with the request by Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd for the recruitment of additional labour. He should have thought of Mr Laurie Short, the National Secretary, and officials of the Federated Ironworkers Association. They are very worried about the double standards of BHP. One hears talk about the concept of the poverty line. Many workers employed by BHP would be in dire straits if they were not able to work overtime to earn extra money. I will take it further and deal with an aspect of which my colleague Senator Murphy is well aware. Some migrants are preyed upon by smart-aleck cai salesmen and crook hire purchase companies. In Western Australia part of the mining community has also been exploiting migrants. 1 return to the Laurie Short syndroms. The Federated Ironworkers Association rightly argues that if there is labour redundancy in Newcastle BHP should pay for the transfer of workers to Wollongong or even to Whyalla. When I mention Whyalla I am reminded of Senator McLaren, my extremely knowledgeable colleague from South Australia. He would tell you that the position in Whyalla is almost parallel with that of about 20 years ago in the deep south of the United States where textile manufacturers got labour on the cheap. Then they tried to make a deal to switch the textile industries to the southern States. It is to the credit of the South Australian Premier, Mr Dunstan, the Federated Ironworkers Association and the Commonwealth Labor Government that these things are not on.
I repeat that in the field of labour conditions we are determined that if a big organisation like BHP has redundant labour in one area it should create far more attractive working conditions elsewhere. I can hear Senator Jessop floundering in the background on some particular point. He is trying to ask me: What does the Labor Government do? Again I refer to Senator Carrick and give him something to chew on. On occasions he has eulogised the late Joe Cahill, former Premier of New South Wales to suit his own line. I remind him that on one occasion certain miners were becoming redundant. We did not say to them: ‘Fend for yourself.’ Arrangements were made for the Hunter River water scheme to commence and there was also an injection of workers into BHP. We did not say: ‘You have a job. That is up to you.’ Action was taken through the Joint Coal Board to protect the equity of miners in their homes. Opposition senators seem to forget these things. It is easy to talk about a mobile work force. I concede that certain steps are necessary in the rural and mining industries. In a semi-capitalist world where labour saving devices and comforts such as push button refrigerators and luxury furniture are advertised it is not possible to assess in money terms what it is worth to seasonal workers to work on distant projects away from their homes.
Sometimes I read articles in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ and also articles by Peter Samuels in .the ‘Bulletin’ in which references are made to the switching of workers. Surely we have not forgotten human values. I repeat that irrespective of whether we have in mind the Labor Ministry, the Minister for Immigration, Mr Grassby, his committee, or the whole Caucus, we may have to take a calculated risk in the field of immigration and perhaps face the accusation by employers that there are not enough workers. We will take that risk rather than have the situation of men sitting in Commonwealth hostels with no work to do, twiddling their thumbs. In that circumstance, when they start to agitate there are cries that it is a Marxist plot to get them stirred up. It happened with the previous Government but it will not happen with this Government.
I had not intended to delay the Senate. I wanted to put the record straight in relation to our immigration policy. I suppose it would be superfluous to talk about contentment. We have also adopted secondary objectives in relation to amendments to the Crimes Act and the portability of pensions. In the not far distant future one or two other Ministers will have reforms to announce. I had better stop on that note or 1 might anticipate something. The Minister and the Government have no apologies to make about our industrial relations policy. History was made on Tuesday with the presentation of the Australian Arbitration Inspectorate report. Mr Sinclair, the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party, implied in another place that it was a case of Big Brother. Let us be realistic about it. Wage injustices occur in small sections. It does not mean that the employer will go to gaol, but it does mean under the Clyde Cameron syndrome that every establishment will be visited once in 2 or 3 years. That is all that is required in this field. When we are talking about an obligation to migrants and to the Australian work force I think it should be noted that what we have done since last December is a fitting monument to better industrial relations.
– I wish to address myself to a lack of expenditure by the Department of Tourism and Recreation. In all other areas I would severely criticise the Government for the amount of spending it has been doing, but I will talk about that on another day. Right now I want to refer to the lack of spending in relation to sport and recreation. Honourable senators who know me well will realise that sport is a subject in which I am very interested and have been interested in from about the age of 16 years. In a lot of ways I am quite sorry that I did not become interested in fitness earlier than the age of 16 years. Perhaps if there had been facilities to encourage the youth of my day, my early years and those of many others would have been more enjoyable. Nowadays about half the deaths in this country result from heart disease and heart attacks. Part of the blame for these deaths - which often occur at an age when the individuals are at their most productive - can be laid on lack of exercise. The cost to the nation in providing medical facilities to cope with this type of illness and the waste of manpower is enormous and makes any investment in preventative measures well worth while.
We need to get people off their seats and to get them to participate in some type of sport or recreation involving physical activity. The facilities must be there to encourage them. Australia is at the stage where we need an active Federal portfolio to look after sport and culture. Other countries, without the wonderful weather we have, have a portfolio catering for these activities and interests. Even a country like Turkey spends about one-tenth of one per cent of its Budget on its Ministry for Youth and Sports. If we adopted a similar practice we would spend between $8m and $10m a year in that area. I admit that a Federal Minister for Tourism and Recreation has been appointed, but as yet we cannot be sure that his portfolio will include sport and culture to the degree that many of us and many sports folk would like to see. It is to be hoped that it will, but so far we have seen no action. We have heard a lot of talk but we have seen no action.
Sport in Australia is a huge industry. Various forms of racing, athletics and team games all have thousands of followers and participants. The National Fitness Council and other organisations are doing a good job with the small amount of money they receive. From memory, the current Federal grant is a measly $500,000 a year. The type of money that the National Fitness Council needs is low interest capital for buildings. Once the buildings are up, they are usually self supporting and vandalism in the area is likely to decrease. So the money that is spent on community national fitness halls is saved, at least in part, in reduced repair costs due to less vandalism. As I mentioned a moment ago, the cost to our nation due to illness is enormous but could be reduced by the provision of national fitness facilities. Really, we cannot afford not to spend this money.
What type of facilities do we need? Probably in the national fitness field, Tasmania is well to the fore and, although Tasmania could use twice as many national fitness halls, probably already it has more per head of population than the other States. The type of centres that I envisage are required all across the country. They would be combined with facilities catering for squash, basketball, badminton, and volley-ball, perhaps with associated meeting-rooms. A national design could be arrived at easily and the centres located alongside most schools, particularly secondary schools. Schools are usually somewhere near the focal point of our communities. To ensure the utmost utilisation of the centres I suggest that the schools use them during the daytime and that they be made available to the public outside school hours. In Tasmania this is done already in some areas that I can think of and I know of other schools that are ideally suited to this type of co-operation between the Department of Education and the National Fitness Council. I feel that this is an urgent need of all States.
When it comes to our overseas image, our sportsmen and women are probably our best advertisement. It is now a myth that Australia is a sporting nation, a myth that is propped up by the success of a few of our star competitors, while the actual rate of active participation in sports is falling. But still, a visit of an Australian swimming team with people such as Shane Gould probably would receive much more attention in overseas countries than would a ministerial visit. I think that it is a good idea to provide a certain number of travelling scholarships for worthy sportsfolk but that is outside the realm of my discussion today. On the cultural side, Australia produces great artists. We have a great ballet and singers. But in these fields, as well as in the sporting fields, organisation is often haphazard. Australia would benefit if they were coordinated under a ministry which would be able to enlist the advice of various experts from around the country.
To sum up, Australia is sadly lacking in sporting facilities for most of the public. We have all heard cries about the low standard of fitness of our secondary school students. But our adults need help, perhaps even more so. We are living in a country of growing affluence. A great many of us eat too much. We live in our motor cars. We have many labour saving devices and soon, I suspect, we will have to work only 35 hours a week. We are becoming more and more sedentary with associated health problems. We need the provision of millions of dollars worth of sporting facilities each year. The aim of the Government must be to have a gymnasium or national fitness centre - call it what you will. We must aim for a centre associated with all secondary school at least and available to the public at other than school times. I am convinced that if a ministry of sport and recreation implemented such a policy it would lead, within a year or two, towards Australians being more involved in sport again and we would rightly be able to call ourselves this sporting nation’.
– Last Tuesday I spoke about a matter of national concern, the national health scheme. I pointed out that we had forgotten completely the main ingredient, the patient. Today 1 want to talk about another national enterprise which again has forgotten the very people that it serves. I refer to Qantas Airways Ltd. Also, I want to talk about an associated matter, that of customs. Firstly, I will deal with Qantas. Most of the sting of my remarks has been taken away by the fact that the Government has, quite rightly I think, altered the board of Qantas. Really, it was a dreary board of old, tired men who had been given their rewards. I see recent criticism of one Labor appointment as being a reward. 1 do not know why the other members of the board were appointed by the previous Government if it was not a reward.
– At least he will be an active member.
– I hope so because I am rather tired of this image of Qantas being an efficient Australian airline. I do not want to bore honourable senators by telling them what happened in just one personal experience last year. I think that there were 8 different complaints of inefficiency in one trip that 1 made, This happens all the time because Qantas is not interested in the customer. It is interested in being in the big league. It wants to be the big noise of overseas travel. It has no interest whatever in the person who wants to use its aircraft. I think that it was Senator Murphy who pointed out that when people travel tourist class these days they are treated like cattle. This is so, and the remark applies not just to Qantas. Qantas is trying to stay in the big league when it has no right to do so. I think that it is now 10 years since I first advocated that Qantas should get out of the International Air Transport Association. Not one innovation has been introduced by Qantas without its waiting for someone else to show it the way. As with any other Government department, if any suggestion is made to it as to how to improve its services, you are always wrong because it knows best. In due course, it filters through to the airline that perhaps it does not know best and it does something.
I now refer to the cheap tourist fares to London. Obviously, millions of people in Australia want to take a cheap return trip to Europe or London. Yet nothing was done for them until the last year or so. Admittedly, this state of affairs has been altered. But again, because Qantas insisted on staying with IATA, people do not receive the service that they could receive from, say, Singapore Airlines. The contrast between the 2 airlines is so great that one wonders whether any member of the Qantas board has ever travelled tourist class. If he had, he would be ashamed of himself. If a person travels by Singapore Airlines or Malaysia Airlines, as it was, or even by Thai Airways International he is treated as a person. I am treated as a person on such flights conducted by Qantas only because I happen to be a senator. If I were not a senator, I would not receive half the privileges I do receive when travelling tourist.
Let us face the position: It is only because we are senators and because Ministers hold the positions they hold that everything is pushed our way. But the ordinary man in the street receives nothing. As I said, if you travel by Singapore Airlines, they treat you as someone. In fact, the airline over-feeds you. Qantas has the nasty habit quite often of serving sandwiches. The position is the reverse with Singapore Airlines. Every time an aircraft goes into the air - it may have been flying for only 4 hours - a meal is served. Little facilities, such as hot towels, are provided. These little things help you on your way. Qantas might give you one, then forget about you for the rest of the journey. Every time an aircraft of Singapore Airlines takes off the passengers are given hot towels. Also, passengers are served with cold drinks. Before every meal - as I said, there are far too many of them - passengers are served with a choice of champagne or beer.
I am not talking about first-class. I am talking about economy-class. When it is suggested to Qantas that it would be a good idea to serve Australian wines to boost their consumption, the answer received is that it cannot do that because it has an agreement with LATA. All the time we are told that Qantas has to be a member of IATA. What has IATA done for Qantas? All it has done is get the airline into debt. When a meal is served on a Singapore Airlines flight it is accompanied by French wines. There is a choice of 2 wines - red or white. They are excellent wines. Passengers do not receive that at all in Qantas tourist class. So I think quite definitely that the time has come when Qantas should part from IATA. There is not one reason why it should stay with IATA except to establish Qantas as one of the fraternity of airline companies. But it does not help the customer. That is the person I am talking about. We could have much lower fares. But every time we talk about low fares Qantas says that it cannot be done. Then, when other airlines do it, it finds that it can be done and it follows suit.
There is also another matter I wish to raise, that of early bird travel or, as I think it is called now, ‘advanced booking’. A traveller can fly from London to New York on advance booking for about $100 return or some such phenomenal sum. When we ask Qantas why it cannot provide a similar service between Australia and London, we are told that IATA has not agreed to it and that it has to wait for IATA. When good service and low fares are provided, aircraft are full. Let honourable senators try to travel on Singapore Airlines. This is the point I am trying to make: Now we have a new board for Qantas. The only thing I have against Sir Donald Anderson was that he had no right to wear 2 caps. Now that they have taken one away from him I hope that he will do a decent job. I think that he will if he will get out and travel tourist class occasionally to see what it is like to be one of the herd. The basis of all good management is to know what the customers are suffering or benefiting from. My main theme, of course, is that it is time we had lower fares. We should be able to get them much lower than they are today.
I hope the Qantas management is not gulled by cries about the environment. To a certain extent I am a conservationist, but I realise it is the in thing now to be a conservationist. The local controversy here makes me laugh. It is about - what is it called? - Black Mountain. I have seen people parading out in front of Parliament House because the Government is going to put a concrete tower up there. There are 2 towers on Black Mountain already.
– There are other towers elsewhere too.
– That is right. What is the difference between putting up a concrete tower and an ordinary tower? I am only using this as an example to show that conservation is going haywire. This brings me to the point about Qantas: If ever a country needed an aircraft such as the Concorde it is Australia. This is one country in the world which should have that aircraft because we are so far away from everyone else. The Concorde, whatever may be said against it, at least will get us where we are going more quickly. We have to balance our environmental factors and our utility factors. I hope that Qantas is not pressured by the Minister for the Environment (Dr Cass) into not accepting the Concorde, because I think it is needed.
– What is the speed of the Concorde?
– Do not ask me. It is 1,200 miles per hour, I think. It is somewhere about that. It is about twice the speed of sound. This is the sort of plane which we need for Australia. If travel were cheap on that plane just imagine how it would be filled. There are many people here with relations in other countries. A related matter about which I want to speak is what happens when one gets off an aircraft. I have already spoken about the nonsensical, stupid and irrelevant method of spraying a plane when it lands in Australia. I do not want to harp on this subject but, as I have said before, this is one of the stupidest things I have ever seen. One is hot and tired. The plane lands but one waits for 2 able bodied men, each with 2 cans in their hands, to walk along the aircraft and spray it. When I asked why the hostesses could not do the job as they do in other countries I was told: ‘No, we are not going to let any disease into Australia’. The doors have been opened already and the little insects have been crawling out while the men have been walking in. The aircrafts all have lockers now so the men are spraying the lockers instead of the inside shelves. This is completely fatuous and stupid. But we keep on doing it. At least this shows that the Department of Health is on its toes and looking after our interests completely. Other countries do not do this at all. If they do their air hostesses do it before the plane lands. Why cannot the captain of an aircraft be responsible enough to see that this is done, as one of his jobs on landing - like putting the wheels down. He could have the plane sprayed. But of course we cannot do that here because I presume it would cause a reduction in the staff of the Department of Civil Aviation. The Department would have to take about 10 men from each aerodrome.
– It is the Department of Health.
– I am sorry, the Department of Health.
– It is nice to be accurate occasionally.
– Yes, the honourable senator is right. I have attacked the Department of Civil Aviation on this point but it is a Department of Health matter. The passenger gets off the plane and goes through Customs. I mentioned this matter several years ago and I was ridiculed in this chamber. I was told that what I suggested was utter nonsense and could not be done. Within 9 months the then Minister promptly did it. When I reminded him he said: ‘We were going to do it anyhow’.
– That is quite true.
– No, it was not Senator Cotton. It was the Minister who preceded him. I am going to ask the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Murphy) to come with me to the airport one Sunday morning when about three 707 aircraft arrive at the same time so that he can see the crowds trying to get through Customs. We had the form altered. We were told that this could not be done but it has been done. Now one has to sign a form which states what one is not allowed to bring in. One reads this form. I happened to be next to a man at the Customs desk at the airport. The Customs officer asked him whether he had this, that or the other. He said no. The Customs man said OK. I said to him: ‘I have not got them either.’ He said: T am sorry, but I have to ask you the exact questions.’ I said: ‘But I have already signed this document saying that I have not got these things.’ The Customs officer said: ‘That does not matter. I have to ask you.’ So he proceeded to ask the 3 questions. That is bureaucracy. I said: ‘Why do you have to ask me when I have already signed the form?’ He answered: ‘It is to impress upon you that you are not to bring these things in.’ I said: T have just read it.’ Why cannot Australia do this like any other sophisticated nation, for example the United Kingdom? When one goes there there is a big notice which states that one is not allowed to bring in certain things. If one does not have them one goes one way but if one does have them one goes another way. There is a red door and a green door. Customs officers do only a spot check. The country does not suffer any loss of revenue. 1 think there were an adequate number of Customs officers at the airport. There must have been 12 or 14. But because of all the planes coming in together, behind each officer there were about 20 or 30 passengers. Each one had to be asked these 3 or 4 questions by the officers. Is there anything more stupid than that? This is a simple suggestion but it would help to get people through. Why do they have to be asked? They have signed the form. If spot checks were done on a few passengers the crowds would be passed through quickly. One really has to go to the airport to see the inefficiency. People are expecting passengers off an aircraft. No announcement is made about the door through which the passengers are coming. The people who are expecting the passengers are wondering through which door they will come. They may be watching one door and the passenger comes out the other door and he is missed altogether. The whole set-up needs looking at. But do honourable senators think that I can get anyone to do anything about it, I know that these are all simple things but they are all irritant. They are bureaucratic. They should be abolished. I have just raised those points. The main point, is that I hope that Qantas will provide us with fares even lower than we have now.
– I want to make one or two remarks which have been prompted by the speech which Senator Mulvihill mr.de earlier. He chose to criticise Senator Carrick because the honourable senator referred to the way in which this present Government was frustrating the attempts of Broken Hill Pty Co Ltd to attract employees from overseas. I think that Senator Carrick quite properly drew the attention of the Senate to this matter. Senator Mulvihill criticised BHP in many ways, particularly with respect to the transfer of employees to other parts of Australia. At this time BHP at Whyalla requires ISO engineering tradesmen and 300 married unskilled workers. I think the honourable senator also referred to the meagre wages which were paid. I have figures here which indicate that the gross average weekly wage for the 6 weeks ending 20 February this year was $140 for tradesmen and $90 for unskilled workers. It is interesting also to know that the steelworks has about 2,500 persons employed there who have been brought from overseas. I think it is also necessary for me to enlighten Senator Mulvihill and other honourable senators here by telling them that the BHP helps people from both overeas and within Australia with travelling expenses and fares. I think it will be interesting to honourable senators if I just tell them the details of this. Financial assistance is available under agreement to tradesmen and married unskilled workers recruited in Australia for actual costs of fares and furniture removal fees. Married tradesmen are allowed $300, married unskilled workers are allowed $150, and the fare only is allowed to single tradesmen.
The loan is interest free and is not handled in cash. It is normally arranged ‘through the branch office nearest the applicant’s home. The branch office concerned will arrange tickets and bookings for the family concerned and the balance of the moneys remaining after tickets have been purchased can be used to assist with the cost of furniture removal. The loan advanced under agreement is repaid at $6 a week for tradesmen and $3 a week for unskilled workers until such time as it is finalised. Then after the completion of 18 months continuous service with the company the money advanced and repaid is refunded free of any obligation. The company does stress that the loan can be used only for fares and the cost of furniture removal. As an alternative to this, an approved applicant can pay the cost involved in removing his family, and furniture and present his receipts on arrival in Whyalla and be reimbursed under this agreement. I think that this scheme does indicate that the BHP company has regard for the people who wish to gain employment in Whyalla and have to travel from other parts of Australia.
I would remind the Senate that the reason the BHP company was forced to ask for permission to bring workers from Spain and other parts of Europe was that its repeated advertisements in Australia, locally and interstate, failed to attract anywhere near the number of employees required. In fact, I understand that BHP received approximately 25 applicants, some of whom were unsatisfactory. They are a few of the facts that I believe Senator Mulvihill and other honourable senators on the Government side should consider before they criticise BHP, an Australian company providing tremendous development opportunities to Australia as well as providing employment at one of the highest levels in Australia. Many of the shareholders in BHP are working people in Australia. I think that before the Government criticises this company it should consider the facts in more detail.
– I rise to take part in this debate to deal with a few of the remarks that were made against the departments of the Ministers I represent in this place. Firstly, the debate is concerned with the additional appropriations which will provide the Government with the necessary finances to complete its program for this financial year. The debate has wandered far of the mark. Senator Jessop has shown that he has been well briefed to defend Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd in Whyalla. Having spent a considerable amount of time in Whyalla, I can say that BHP cannot obtain employees because the wages paid for the hours worked do not compare favourably with those in other industries in the locality. Another factor is the industrial conscription that is imposed by the company. In other words, the employees do not have freedom of expression. If they offend the company they are banished from the town. This has always applied and if a person does not work for BHP he does not work for anyone. If a person offends the company he simply cannot get a job in
Whyalla. However, that is a matter for the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) whom I do not represent in this chamber.
In relation to a matter concerned with the portfolio of a Minister I do represent, Senator Turnbull repeatedly comes along with complaints which he recites while giving very little verification. One would have thought today that he was reciting a commercial for Singapore Airlines. I must be more affluent than Senator Turnbull because I have always travelled first class with Qantas Airways Ltd. I have not experienced the service offered in economy class. I was very impressed with the service that one gets at least in first class when travelling with Qantas. I have travelled with other airlines but I have never received service and attention as good as that offered by Qantas. I do not know whether this applies only to first class passengers, but I was always treated as a person and the other people on the flight were treated as persons. But apparently in the experience of Senator Turnbull one is not treated as a person when travelling economy class. I refuse to accept this. I think Qantas has a good reputation for service. The meals were served all too frequently for me, but Senator Turnbull complained about the number of meals he received. Hot towels were offered more frequently than I desired to use them. If there was a lack of wine, I did not notice it because I am not a wine drinker. In first class, drinks were available at any time at no additional charge.
However, we have now appointed a full time Chairman and this should overcome any defects there may have been in the service offered by Qantas. Senator Turnbull complained that Qantas joined the International Air Transport Association only after other airlines had done so. Obviously it is not the fact that Qantas is a member of IATA that has brought about progress; another suggestion would be that Qantas has been reluctant to accept the conditions that have been accepted by other airlines. Senator Turnbull is the only person who repeatedly complains about the service offered by Qantas. No one else complains and most politicians do fly Qantas. I think the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Charles Jones) will appreciate the complaints. I can assure Senator Turnbull, who has now left the chamber, that I will refer his remarks to the Minister who can make an inquiry into the details of his com plaints and perhaps give him a reply as to the truth or otherwise of the situation. If there is a need to rectify the position, that can be done.
Another matter I wish to mention concerns the ridicule of the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass) whom I represent in this chamber, in the most offensive terms that the abundant vocabulary of the eloquent senator from Tasmania could supply, by expressing his fascination for 2 little worms in Tasmania. 1 do not know to whom Senator Wright was referring. He spoke about the expense of the inquiry into Lake Pedder. Obviously it is necessary to point out that the purpose of the inquiry into Lake Pedder was not to preserve 2 little worms and the various rats that Senator Wright, found there. The whole position in relation to Lake Pedder is illustrated in the photographs that have been displayed in the Senate chamber. We have transformed Lake Pedder from a small natural lake into a big lake which will enable water sports such as boating and skiing, and other activities to be undertaken. Many of our citizens throughout Australia prefer the natural environment of the little lake with the animal life that assembles there. I am not saying that this is right but there is a growing section of the community - it is now a large section - which is for preserving the environment and not sacrificing it, as Senator Mulvihill has said, for commercial achievements. Whether this is right or wrong and where we should draw the line, I do not know.
The decision to flood Lake Pedder has caused a complete division of citizens in Australia. There have been demonstrations in all capital cities, on the mainland as well as in Tasmania. This reaction was repeated following the decision to put an architectural ornamentation on Black Mountain. The election of the Federal Government came too late to do anything about Lake Pedder even if it had been discovered that it was more desirous to keep the. environment as it was than to have a hydro-electric scheme there. The inquiry is to determine what went wrong with Lake Pedder and to ensure that in the future the questions which now have arisen are determined before, and not after, a decision is made to do something that could create the turmoil and hostility that the Lake Pedder project has created. Can we. satisfy public opinion? Did we conduct sufficient investigation into the Lake
Pedder scheme to determine whether we should permit the project to proceed or halt the project or at least satisfy those who would have protested whatever was decided about Lake Pedder? With the environmental consciousness of the people today we must get a system for justifying our advances on every occasion when man destroys the natural environment of some description. We must get some system to show the merits of and justification for a project, and avoid such things as threats to blow the place up and threats to stop work on a job, thus dividing our nation. This is the purpose of the inquiry. Can anyone say that it is not justified if we can learn from what was done to Lake Pedder and ensure that it is not repeated on other occasions?
– What have you learned about Black Mountain? There are still demonstrations despite the inquiry that was made on it.
– No. A decision was taken in respect of Black Mountain, though not by this Government, on the basis that we need the disc system to transmit television from Sydney to Melbourne.. It was claimed that that justified the Black Mountain tower.
– And radio connections.
– We needed it for radio connections, too. Then we got the protests. Whether they are justified I do not know, but I am not one who accepts the protest. I have been to Black Mountain and I do not think that the preservation of the environment is a consideration which should stop the building of the tower. But the. basis of the protests has changed. The agitation now is not about the environment but about my Department forgetting to put an extra staircase into the tower to meet fire prevention requirements.
– Are you supporting those who will not work on the Black Mountain project?
– ‘No, I am not, but some people feel so keenly about the preservation of the environment that they will stop a project by refusing their labour. Can we prevent this in the future? That is the purpose of the inquiry. Insufficient information was given to the public and unsufficient inquiry was made before we made a decision on Black Mountain. The reaction and the hostility we have faced over the Black Mountain tower, and the threatened stoppage of work on the tower have all arisen because we did not settle all the questions before the decision was made to build on Black Mountain. The same situation applies to Lake Pedder. If there is justification for going ahead with the project it has to be explained to the public. We must have, complete and open discussion. But how do we do this? This is the question that has to be answered and this is why we need an inquiry.
How do we get this across to the people? It is the people who count. They are the important ones in our society. We have to convince them that we are taking action not to destroy their environment but for the, advancement of our way of life in Australia. Therefore, the Department felt justified in spending $3,700 on fares, air and bus charter, travel allowances and car hire for the committee of inquiry on Lake Pedder. I notice that there is a further $2,700 for which provision has been made in respect of sitting fees and administrative costs associated with the. inquiry into the flooding of Lake Pedder. However, this was not used. That is the expenditure of the Department, and what I have put to the Senate is the justification for the Department incurring it. Do not let Senator Wright come here and say that the expenditure, is not justified because Lake Pedder is an accomplished fact, a reality. Mistakes have been made in respect of Lake Pedder. Let us see that they do not happen on future occasions. If this committee can do anything to assist in that direction this is money well spent.
– I want to refer briefly to the comments that Senator Jessop made in respect to the labour requirements of Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd at Whyalla. I refer to a report put out by the Minister for Labour, Mr Clyde Cameron, in April. This report was prepared by the Department of Labour in the middle of April and is an accurate statement of the position at that date. So that everybody will know exactly what is the position following what Senator Jessop said, I will read some of the comments from that statement which will answer some of the honourable senator’s questions. In that statement, which I understand has been circulated elsewhere, the following appears:
The clear fact is that the Company is obliged to delay bringing to Whyalla married personnel recruited in Australia when flights of migrants are expected. This is hardly conducive to achieving a smooth flow of locally-recruited workers even though the Company’s officers maintain that many Australians prefer to precede their families and stay in the single men’s hostel in order to ‘look Whyalla over’ before bringing their families.
It goes on:
As to the Company’s efforts to recruit local labour, during the last three months the first advertisement in Whyalla for unskilled workers was on 28 February 1973, which sought a tally woman and junior employees. This is the first time that junior employees have been considered by the Company for this work. Although the advertisement was in the singular, BHP had 12 vacancies as tally clerks which were open to women. The positions were not attractive as shift work over seven days was involved and the work was open-air work. There is also an arithmetical test and medical examination involved and to date only three placements have been made and one referral is pending. As to juniors, some 40 have been placed and BHP is willing to take six juniors per week in future and to consider the employment of Aborigines.
In Adelaide, advertising for labourers has been infrequent although there has been a number of skilled vacancy advertisements. Representatives of BHP have attended District Offices in Pt Pirie, Pt Lincoln and at the Agency at Wallaroo, without success.
In Victoria, the only advertisement for unskilled labourers in the last three months appeared on 31 January 1973. This advertisement brought forward 34 applicants of whom the Company offered employment to only 11; the remainder either were unprepared to consider the jobs or were unacceptable to the Company.
The statement then refers to these factors and makes some comparisons between wage rates paid by other employers and those paid by BHP. The statement then continues:
This shows that no Adelaide firm pays, as a base rate, the Minimum Wage as does BHP and taking into account over award payments, bonuses and shift allowances, only where no shift work is involved does the total paid in Adelaide fall below the $60.40 paid by BHP, but in those cases the difference is less than the shift allowance paid by BHP.
This certainly, together with the dusty, dirty and hot working conditions at Whyalla, does not show any attempt by the Company to attract unskilled labour from Adelaide. The same applies and perhaps even more so to labour in other capital cities. When compared with rates of pay for labourers of $96.46 for a 40-hour week at Mount Isa Mines, admittedly a more remote centre than Whyalla, but still a decentralised location, it is hard to imagine BHP competing successfully for Australian workers.
I will not read the whole document. It is available. On page 5 the Department makes this observation:
Overall, it would seem that BHP could have been doing more to attract labour. By comparison with firms in Adelaide, the Company is offering less inducement to labour to go to Whyalla than those other firms are offering to their employees in Adelaide. It is also considered that the offers of reimbursing travel and removal costs from interstate sources and the availability of housing fall well short of what could be considered an added inducement to undertake arduous work in hot and dusty conditions in a remote location with little in the way of employment for women.
I simply quoted those results of the departmental examination which I mentioned so that Senator Jessop’s remarks might be related to the comments which were made by the Department.
– My colleague, Senator Willesee, opened this debate on behalf of the Government. Because he is now engaged on urgent Government business as Special Minister of State, it is my responsibility, on behalf of the Government, to close the debate, subject to any other senator indicating to me at this stage that he might wish to speak.
– Do you intend to make any comment about the pipeline development?
– No. I have not been briefed on the pipeline development.
– It is not much good asking whether any senator wishes to speak when you are ignoring completely the point which was made in the first 2 speeches today.
- Senator Webster might wish to raise that matter in the Committee stage. Senator Wriedt represents the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor). I assume that Senator Wriedt will be able to reply to anything that might have been said during the course of the second reading debate.
– Usually Ministers reply to speeches which have been made during the debate.
– I shall reply to those matters which come within the responsibility of the portfolios which I represent. If Senator Wriedt is not present and therefore is not able to reply to
Senator Webster’s queries. I can assure Senator Webster that the matters which he has raised will be referred to the appropriate Minister. I shall see that answers are supplied to the honourable senator. I wish to say one or two things about the comments of some honourable senators who have spoken today which have not been adverted to by my ministerial colleagues who have replied on behalf of Ministers whom they represent.
Firstly, let me deal briefly with the remarks made by Senator Carrick who, it appeared to me, made a rambling, political speech in which he complained about the growth of bureaucracy, the appointment of special advisers and a great multiplicity of other matters. I think it fair to say that he spoke in the generality. He referred generally to the appointment of special advisers, but he singled out Dr Coombs who is a special adviser to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). If my interpretation of Senator Carrick’s remarks is correct, he was expressing concern as to how Treasury officials must feel about the appointment of a special adviser in this category. Dr Coombs is a special adviser to the present Prime Minister, as he was a special adviser to the previous Prime Minister, appointed by that right honourable gentleman. I can well recall that Mr McMahon, when he went overseas, I think last year, as the Australian Prime Minister, especially singled out and took Dr Coombs with him to give him special advice. Dr Coombs was Chairman of the Australian Council for the Arts under the previous administration. He is Chairman of the Australian Council for the Arts under this Administration. With great respect to Senator Carrick, I thought it was a little unfair of him to single out a man of the credibility, of the capacity and of the sincerity of Dr Coombs. He is an eminent Australian, a man with a great social awareness, an outstanding economist and a former Chairman of the Reserve Bank of Australia. 1 believe that he is a very great Australian.
Despite any faults which there might have been in our method of administration since we were elected to Government on 2 December last - I suppose it is only natural that there must be faults because we are mere mortals - this Government is getting on with the job of building a nation. It is getting things done. It is not shilly-shallying and procrastinating and delaying, as did the previous government and conservative govern ments which went before it. That is what the record will show. So much for Senator Carrick’s remarks. If I spend any more of my time on this subject I fear that the debate will last for some considerable time.
I now refer briefly to the remarks made by Senator Townley, the independent senator from Tasmania, who made a speech about the inadequacy of sporting facilities in Australia and who wondered what the Ministry of Tourism and Recreation was all about. He said, among other things, that Australia is sadly lacking in sporting facilities for the benefit of the Australian public. The fact that Australia is sadly lacking in such facilities is the very reason why the Ministry of Tourism and Recreation was established by this Government. If Senator Townley had attended meetings of Senate Estimates Committee C he would have learned that the Department is in a very embryonic state at this stage. I speak purely from recollection, but I think that of about 44 positions now in the establishment only 13 or 14 have been filled. Only last week I, on behalf of the Minister for Tourism and Recreation (Mr Stewart), tabled in the Senate a document which was compiled by Professor John Bloomfield. It is titled ‘The Role, Scope and Development of Recreation in Australia’. It is a very detailed document. I hope Senator Townley will refer to that document, particularly pages 64 and 65 which state:
The writer suggests that there is no need to develop more courses in physical education in Australia for at least another decade. The suggestion was also supported by many , persons interviewed in the various States of Australia. What is needed however, is a massive infusion of money to supply top level staff and to provide adequate facilities in the already existing colleges in order to cater for future specialists in this area.
Additional financial aid must also be made available for more scholarships and grants-in-aid to students in physical education. There is no shortage of potential students, but there are not enough places in the current institutions to adequately supply professionals in the field for the immediate future. There is also a shortage of scholarships for them. If awards are not available as they are for many other professions then this area will not attract the vital young leaders it so badly needs.
What is said in this report is in brief exactly what Senator Townley has said; but Senator Townley in his remarks was more critical of the lack of action by previous governments than of action by this Government which has already established a Ministry and is about to tackle the task which has been laid out in blueprint form for it - ‘by Professor Bloomfield.
I now want to say a few words in reply to the very constructive speech made by Senator Hannan on frequencies and the introduction of frequency modulation. I think it is fair to say, that as far as I personally am concerned it was the most constructive speech I have heard from the honourable senator in this chamber. For that reason, and knowing that he was at one time a part-time member of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and therefore spoke with some authority on the subject, I as the Minister in charge of the area to which he addressed his remarks believe that I have some responsibility to say something about some of the matters that he has raised. Senator Hannan wanted to know, firstly, I think who is responsible for the allocation of frequencies.
– In globo, I mean.
– Yes. I think that the honourable senator suggested that because the Postmaster-General’s Department is itself a great user of frequencies it should not be the allocating department. Be that as it may, the simple fact is that the Postmaster-General’s Department is responsible for frequency allocations except in the broadcasting band. As the Minister for the Media I have had discussions with my colleague, the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen) about frequency allocations in the UHF band particularly the area from 470 megahertz to 520 megahertz which presently is not available for broadcasting purposes, as the honourable senator would be well aware.
– That is something of which I was not sure.
– Yes. At the moment that band particularly between 470 MHz and 520 MHz is not presently available for broadcasting purposes.
– Is that due to the Post Office?
– It is due to international arrangements and to the Post Office and to a multiplicity of other things. But at the moment that is the situation. In other countries this area of the UHF band is allocated for broadcasting purposes. But because of the allocations made by the Huxley Committee, which put 3 channels in the VHF band - not 2 channels as the honourable senator suggested - in about 1962 or 1963 very serious difficulties exist so far as frequencies are concerned. I would suggest very strongly that honourable senators who are interested in this subject should refer to the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board on Frequency Modulation Broadcasting which was presented to the Parliament in June 1972. I can say that one member of the Board, Mr D. McDonald, who unfortunately retires in the very near future, is one of the world’s experts on frequencies and frequency bands. I should like to quote one or two paragraphs from that report which might be of interest to honourable senators. Firstly, paragraph 84 points out that in June 1961 the experimental FM transmissions that were previously mentioned in the report were terminated, and that in announcing the termination of the FM experimental services, the then Postmaster-General said:
It is not possible to have 13 channels for television in the VHF band, and, at the same time, make adequate provision for the development of fixed and mobile radio services without closing down the FM broadcasting transmissions which have never been on anything but an experimental basis. Even were it practicable to continue operation of the FM stations in the VHF band, it would be quite impracticable to expand the service throughout the Commonwealth in that band because of the requirements for television and other services.
I shall not bore the Senate by reading all salient paragraphs in the report but I would suggest that pages 19, 20, 21, 22 and 23 are very pertinent to the points raised this morning by Senator Hannan. I would like to read paragraph 96 in particular.
– I will hope against hope.
– I suggest that the honourable senator should read this report in detail. I think it is an excellent report especially since I have had private conversations with the technical officers on and have had recourse to the technical expertise available to the previous Government and which were available to this Government. I should like to read into the record paragraph 96. It states:
I have read that paragraph simply to indicate some of the enormous problems which face the departmental officers but more particularly which affect the public in any adjustment of frequencies that might take place. EarlierI referred to the 475 MHz to 520 MHz area. This is an area which the technical advisers assure me is most suitable for radio because it is the lowest end of the frequency with lower frequencies which travel further than higher frequencies.
– Does it belong to the Broadcasting Control Board or to the Post Office at the moment?
– At the moment it belongs to the Post Office. As I said earlier, that area is used for broadcasting purposes in other countries but in Australia it has not been used for broadcasting purposes. At present allocation of this area has been to fixed and mobile services, to which Senator Hannan referred this morning and which are controlled by the Postmaster-General’s Department. Some services have been established here. I appreciate, as I am sure Senator Hannan would appreciate, that it would be difficult to move these services. I believe - I think it is fair to say that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board believes this too - that it would be best if a re-arrangement could be made. We have had a long delay in introducing frequency modulation.
– That does not explain my point concerning the necessity for a single frequency allocation body, does it? If that had been done this imbroglio would not have arisen.
– I am trying to amplify my remarks to show the honourable senator that I have some sympathy with the point of view that he put forward this morning. I am sure he will agree that there has been a very long delay - whatever be the reason, procrastination and putting off the fatal day - in the introduction of frequency modulation. It would be nice to think that when frequency modulation is introduced it will be done in the best way possible. As I have said, not only today but also in reply to questions that have been asked of me from time to time on this subject at question time, I have had some talks already on this matter with the PostmasterGeneral and officers of his Department. The Postmaster-General’s Department, my Department and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board will be continuing discussions in the near future on this subject.
I appreciate what Senator Hannan has said on the matter. I assure him that the whole question of the allocation of frequencies is one that concerns me. I will be pursuing it in the future in friendly discussions with the Postmaster-General. I think those discussions will be further pursued soon after the Parliament rises. I appreciate the remarks that have been made by honourable senators in the course of this debate. I would now suggest that the Senate should proceed to a vote on the question before it.
– Because of the point raised by Senator Webster, I think I should make 2 very brief comments. Senator. Cotton in the course of criticisms of the expenditure by new departments and general government expenditure mentioned a block of land which had been bought by tender in Paris for $7m. It does sound a lot of money but I am sure that Senator Cotton, as a businessman, would recognise that when one is in the market, the market price is what one has to live by. I glanced quickly at the Canberra Times’ during the luncheon adjournment and noticed that somebody had paid $4.4m yesterday for a block of land in Civic. Canberra is one of the smallest cities in the world and Paris one of the largest. I do not even claim that that is probably a very good analogy.
I think the honourable senator understands that that is what happens in business. I think the Government would be criticised if it continued the policy of the previous Government which was to rent properties overseas. We would be told: ‘Well, there you are. You are still renting properties. They are old; they are unsuitable; they are in the central business district’ and so on. It is one of those matters on which a government cannot win. If it buys the property it will be criticised; if it does not buy the property it will be criticised. I believe that the properties in which we have invested around the world can be classed as pretty good buys when property values are considered. I say that in passing.
I regretted that Senator Cotton said that this Government which is purchasing the site for an embassy in Paris is seeking to create bad relations with France. Of course, he does not really mean that. He knows perfectly well that the Government is not seeking bad relations. The fact is that we have an outstanding disagreement with France at the moment concerning French nuclear testing. The Leader of his Party, Mr Snedden, and other members of his Party have agreed with our stand. The more that problem can be isolated the better.
Senator Webster raised the question this morning of the company which the Government wanted to take over to do the work for the proposed Pipeline Authority. The paid up capital of that company is $5. I am advised that the suggestion of the Australian Gas Light Company is that this is the best commercial way to go about our proposal. It is not the only way. It could probably be done in another half a dozen ways. The $5 company is merely the instrument which the Australian Gas Light Company has set up. The takeover will be made in a normal commercial way with normal safeguards. It will be a most substantial company with assets and liabilities of millions of dollars. When that company is taken over money will be owing to the Australian Gas Light Company. The Commonwealth Government will become the director of the company. This will be ‘he operating company.
I refer now to the question of buying pipes. I am advised that had we refused to take over the buying of the pipes already contracted for we could have been up for a breach of contract. The existing contracts which the Australian Gas Light Company and EastAustralia Pipeline Corporation Ltd have with the Japanese will be taken over at the time of the acquisition of the company. As I have said, it need not have been done in this manner. It could have been done in any other way. I Understand that what is proposed is a simple, common commercial operation which was suggested by the Australian Gas Light Company. I agree with Senator Douglas McClelland that it is time that the question before the Senate was determined. The Bill has to be passed through the Committee stage. We would like the Bill passed today; otherwise people will not get their salaries tomorrow.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Motion (by Senator Willesee) agreed to:
– To assist the Committee, might I point out by way of interjection that the memorandum requested by Senator Wright last evening has been worked out fairly quickly by the department. The appropriations for the Attorney-General’s Department are shown to total$125,100,950. I inform honourable senators that the correct figure for the Attorney-General’s Department should be $30,334,900.
– We now proceed to deal with the group of departments covered by Estimates Committee A. The question is:
That the votes for the group of departments covered by Estimates Committee A be now passed without requests.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
– We now proceed to deal with the group of departments covered by Estimates Committee B. The question is:
That the votes for the group of departments covered by Estimates Committee B be now passed without requests.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
– We now proceed to deal with the group of departments covered by Estimates Committee C. The question is:
That the votes for the group of departments covered by Estimates Committee C be now passed without requests.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
– We now proceed to deal with the group of departments covered by Estimates Committee D. The question is:
That the votes for the group of departments covered by Estimates Committee D be now passed without requests.
Proposed expenditures agreed to:
– We now proceed to deal with the group of departments covered by Estimates Committee E. The question is:
That the votes for the group of departments covered by Estimates Committee E be now passed without requests.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
– We now proceed to deal with the group of departments covered by Estimates Committee F. The question is:
That the votes for the group of departments covered by Estimates Committee F be now passed without requests.
– I apologise to the Committee for rising at this stage asI had intended to speak in the course of the second reading debate on a matter which is revealed by the report of Estimates Committee F. Senator Webster in the second reading debate on this Bill mentioned the agreement which the Australian Government has entered into with a subsidiary of the Australian Gas Light Co. to acquire $48m worth of pipe which that company had intended to use for the pipeline. The Government has taken over the contract which it now intends to hand over to the proposed Pipeline Authority.
There is a question regarding the method by which the Parliament is asked to fund that agreement and also the 2 other agreements which the Government entered into in regard to payments to the States and which are referred to in the report of Estimates Committee F. One of the items relates to the payment of approximately $2m to various States to assist co-operative fruit canneries to make payments to growers. The other item relates to the Department of Northern Development and to the appropriation of $1.5m to provide funds for a grant by the Australian Government towards the cost of constructing the Ross River dam near Townsville.
I did not rise to criticise in any way the assistance which has been given to the fruit canneries or to the State of Queensland for the purpose of constructing a dam on the Ross River. But I rise to emphasise my concern, which of course to some extent is shared by Estimates Committee F in its report, at the method by which these appropriations are sought from the Parliament. In each case honourable senators will see that the Government has entered into an agreement: In one case, an agreement with a private company to take over liabilities of more than $40m, and in the other case an agreement with the States to provide grants or loans to those States under the provisions of section 96 of the Constitution. The matter of concern to me, and I think the matter of crit icism, relates, asI have said, to the method by which the Government has moved in these matters.
The position is that the Government having made agreements, assumed a liability under the agreements. In particular that would apply to the agreement which has been made with the private company, East-Australia Pipeline Corporation Ltd and I suppose that the Government is honour bound to the agreement which it has made with the State governments. The Government having entered into all these commitments to which the Government is legally or morally bound to adhere then comes to this Parliament and puts into the Appropriation Bills the requirement for funds to meetthe agreements that it has already entered into. That, I believe, is a very serious and highly undesirable practice for any government to follow because it is, in effect, holding a gun at Parliament’s head. The Government is coming to Parliament and saying: We have these commitments’. In one case the Government has actually paid out the money under the private agreement, and I think that Senator Webster very clearly covered that. In the other case the Government has paid the money or some of it to the State governments. The Parliament is then put in what I consider to be the impossible position of having to meet the legal or moral obligation which the Government has assumed, regardless of what the Parliament might think as a matter of policy about what the Government has done. So in these cases the Government, by this procedure, is virtually pre-empting the decision of the Parliament on the appropriation of money.
There is also the fact that these agreements are entered into and no real information is given to the Parliament or to the public as to what the nature of the agreements are; as to whether they are a loan or a grant. If they are a loan, what are the terms of repayment? We had to extract all this information from the Minister or his departmental advisers in the course of the hearing of Estimates Committee F. Even the Committee’s explanatory notes did not provide an answer as to whether the money given to the States was a loan or a grant. Fortunately, as a result of the Senate having set up these Estimate Committees, and providing an opportunity to question Ministers, and particularly the departmental officers, we have been able to provide this Parliament with this type of information.
It seems to me deplorable that the Government which has been elected on the principle of open government should operate in this fashion of closed government. Here the Government is making agreements without providing public information, without providing the opportunity for public scrutiny before the agreements are made, and in some cases before the money is paid, and without providing an opportunity for public debate, and then coming to the Parliament and saying: We have entered into the agreements. We have a legal commitment. We have a moral commitment. We want the money.’ As I have said, in the information which was at first available to the Estimates Committee, we were not given anything but the barest details of what this money was required for.
I believe that a serious matter of principle has been revealed here. I doubt very much whether this procedure is constitutional where it involves payments to the States. I doubt very much whether this procedure is even valid under the Constitution. It is certainly quite contrary to the spirit of section 96 of the Constitution, which states:
It does not provide that the Commonwealth Government can give money to a State government and then some and ask the Parliament to ratify it and provide the money for it. This section clearly says that it is the Parliament that makes financial grants to the States on the conditions that the Parliament thinks fit - not the Government. I was even more astounded by some advice that the Government received from the Parliamentary Counsel in regard to one of these payments. Perhaps I should not be astounded that the Government should act on the advice, but 1 was certainly very surprised at the nature of the advice. I refer to page 6 of the report of Estimates Committee F, which states:
The Counsel advised further that there would be no legal impediment to the Government proceeding, as in 1971, to enact specific legislation.
That is in relation to the fruit canneries. The Committee may remember that we passed some specific legislation in the proper form under the previous Government, and in it the Parliament voted money to the States for this purpose. So this was very interesting advice. It does not seem very original advice that the Counsel gave, that there would be no legal impediment to the Government “proceeding, ag the previous Government did in 1971. The report continued:
I would think it a highly gratuitous piece qf advice by Counsel and highly dubious advice in regard to the clear terms of section 96 of., the Constitution. Because they believe that only appearances will be involved here, they think they can just sneak in the amounts required in the Appropriation Bill and hope, suppose, that nobody will take it up. This, seems to me to be an absolute flouting ofconstitutional practice and of the provisions of the Constitution. It is a matter with which the Senate should be seriously concerned.
– I noted Senator Willesee’s comments on the land in Paris. Perhaps he could let me know in due course the size of the land acquired in Paris for $7m and the comparable area of land in Canberra to which he referred. There is no hurry about it.
- I thank the Special Minister of State (Senator Willesee) for his comments on the matters I raised in relation to the taking over of contracts to purchase pipe. Undoubtedly he is aware that he referred to only one particular area - perhaps a significant one. That is the taking over, as we understood it and as it appears in the Hansard report of our Senate Committee hearings, of a $5 company. That was to be the basis for the whole operation and performance of contracts in the purchase of pipe, either here or overseas. I referred to a number of other particularly important matters. I will not go through them now because the Minister and the Senate are anxious to get through this Bill. However, I remind honourable senators that it is a very significant matter. In Appropriation Bill (No. 6) the second highest amount to be appropriated is $14m for pipe. The Department of Defence has an appropriation of $S6m but no other department requires anything near the amount to be appropriated for the purchase of pipe.
The Minister did not comment on the legality of the situation, on whether within the Commonwealth sphere it is legal to pay out over $7m before the relevant appropriation is ever put before the Parliament. That is what took place and it seems to me that as it has been raised, the Senate should examine it. Officers of the Department have been available this morning and this afternoon. They could have referred to the legality of what has been done. The terms of the contract between the Commonwealth and the company with which it is dealing appear to me to be another very important matter. I do not think the Senate should delve into the exact terms of the contract but I seek an assurance from the Minister not only on the terms of the contract but also particularly on the terms of the guarantee of the quality of the article we are apparently purchasing.
We are spending not $14m; apparently we have entered into contracts to spend $48m. This information had to be drawn out by our Estimates Committee F. Now the Minister does not even bother to reply in the Senate to questions about the deal. It is a fairly important matter. I have great confidence in the officers of the Department of Minerals and Energy. I am particularly delighted that the Government in its wisdom selected James Donald as the executive officer pro tern. He has a particularly fine record in the commercial field of private enterprise. I am delighted that selectioin has been made of Mr Jim Donald, the former managing director of Marfleet & Weight Ltd. I think he was president of the Heavy Engineering Manufacturers Association. In my view he is the ideal man for the job. I am seeking assurances about the terms of the contract, the terms of the guarantee, and the arrangement by which the Commonwealth can look to legal performance of the contract.
When we are told of the taking over of a $5 company to get all this, I raise my eyebrows. Undoubtedly some investigation has been made but I would like the Minister or officers of the Department to give the Senate a complete assurance that there has been a detailed and complete investigation of all the matters raised by me in the Senate. I want the Parliament to be assured that no stone has been left unturned by officers or by the Minister to see that no defects exist in this particularly important contract that is now being entered into by the Commonwealth.
– I support what has fallen from Senator Durack and Senator Webster. I note with satisfaction that this item has been introduced into the amendable Bill. Being an item of new policy it is required by our constitutional practice to be introduced in the amendable Bill. For the Senate to amend an Appropriation Bill is a very important step. It involves rejection of a government appropriation. In our constitutional situation that would require the Government to force the measure through here or go to the country. The Senate would rarely take the course of rejecting an Appropriation Bill. It would do so only in reserve cases. That point highlights the claim that my colleagues are making, that these new proposals reflecting new policy have to be initiated by a special Bill inviting the Parliament specifically to authorise the project involved. Then the Parliament can vote upon the project on its merits unembarrassed by the fact that it is simply one of the component items of a Budget involving $500m to $600m.
To illustrate my point I refer to a piece of legislation that we will have before us before we rise. There is on the notice paper of another place- -and perhaps on our notice paper for all I know - a Bill to approve an agreement between Tasmania and the Commonwealth for a midget item of $1.3m. Why? It is because the Tasmanian Parliament .would never think of authorising expenditure on a project without an agreement. In this case it is an agreement for wharf improvements at Grassy on King Island. The item we are discussing should not be included in the Appropriation Bill for new policy expenditure, whether it is Sim, $14m or $45, unless there is a specific Bill to authorise it. This is particularly important when there is reference to shares in a company with a paid up capital of $5. It may be just a bogus company or, as Senator Willesee said, it may be a substantial and well endowed company. But let us suppose that the company owns assets worth $150m. Let us suppose that they consist of pipes, pipelines, motor cars, bad debts and all the rest of it. If the Commonwealth has to pay $150m for those shares which have a nominal value of $5, it increases our anxiety about the methods of valuation of the shares. The facility with which a couple of shares with a nominal value of no more than $5 can be transferred by the use of a transfer form no bigger than an envelope in exchange for a cheque of $150m makes it imperative that the actual market value of the assets, less the liabilities of the company sustain the price that is paid.
Those are the 3 points that I wanted to take up on this matter. I hope that the Minister will acknowledge this in respect of future transactions in the Senate that it is imperative that a request for an appropriation should be preceded by a special Act so that the Parliament may be given an opportunity to say whether it approves of the special new policy. I submit that it is more important for that to be conveyed to the Parliamentary Counsel than to the Minister. When the Parliamentary Counsel talks of these agreements as having their chief importance in creating an appearance of formalising legally a transaction, I think that that is a piece of penmanship on the part of a professional parliamentary counsel which needs reconsideration. 1 say no more on the matter because it concerns an officer of the Executive and the Minister has to take responsibility for this. But the actual expression appears in the parliamentary papers. I regret very much to hear anybody suggesting that a formal legal agreement is put forward only to give the appearance of legal formality to the transaction.
– There appear to be 2 matters which concern members of the Opposition. I think that the first could almost be described as an accusation of concealment on the part of the Government in respect of the moneys appropriated for this Pipeline Authority. That is simply not true. I think it was Senator Durack who commented that it was a significant amount. That is true. But it is a significant project. It is one which the Government stated clearly as part of its policy. It stated that it would enact legislation of this nature to do the things that are contained in the Pipeline Authority Bill. Clearly, if the Government was to take the step at this time that it was necessary to take, it had to avail itself of the methods that are available to it. I refer both Senator Durack and Senator Wright to page 17 of the Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1972-73 where it is stated:
Division 920.- ADVANCE TO THE TREASURER
To enable the Treasurer -
to make advances that will be recovered during the financial year;
to make moneys available for expenditure, particulars of .which will afterwards be submitted to the Parliament, . . .
The amount shown for that Division is S3 Om. The fact is that the flexibility which has been exercised in this case is provided for in the Appropriation Bill. I understand that this has been established for some years - goodness knows for how many years. So all the talk about new moves being taken and different methods being adopted as a subterfuge, on investigation, simply does not hold water. The steps that were taken by the Government were taken properly.
– The Pipeline Authority has not even been set up yet.
– That is all right. The honourable senator’s question was: Why was this money being expended without an appropriation? I am pointing out to him that it is provided for in the Advance to the Treasurer as the honourable senator was told during the hearing of the Senate Estimates Committee when he originally inquired. This is why I am surprised that he has raised the matter now. So perhaps it is necessary to restate the position and the liberty that the Government had in making available this money.
– That is not what we were complaining about.
– Certainly, it was my understanding of what both the honourable senator and Senator Wright were saying. Provision is made in the Appropriation Act (No. 2) 1972-73 to take the step. Other matters were mentioned. Senator Durack also raised the question of guarantees which he raised during the hearing of the Senate Estimates Committee. On page 2 of the report of Senate Estimates Committee F we find a full and detailed statement concerning the guarantees. I do not profess to be an engineer or other authority in this area. We are dealing with highly technical material. But stated here in detail are the various forms of electronic tests and so on to which the pipe is subjected before it is accepted. I would have thought that that was a totally adequate explanation of the matters that were raised by Senator Durack as regards guarantees.
I think that it was Senator Webster who asked for some unqualified statement concerning the fact that all proper procedures had been taken in respect of the dealings with the company. 1 can give him an assurance that all reasonable steps have been taken. It gives me some concern that not only Senator Webster but also, I think, Senator Wright seem to feel that there was some degree of incompetence or possible incompetence on the part of the officers or the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor).
– I never suggested any such thing in regard to the officers.
– The honourable senator has called into question the deliberations and the discussions that took place between the Commonwealth and the company. He knows that the departmental officers were intimately involved as was the Minister. The Minister’s advisers are departmental officers. If the honourable senator casts an aspersion in the general sense, obviously he must be doing the same towards the officers of the Department.
– 1 did not cast an aspersion at the officers at all.
– In that case, if aspersions were not cast at the officers, we must assume that they were cast at the Minister. The Minister acts, to a large extent, on the advice of his officers, as honourable senators well know. Many people are involved. I have no doubt in my mind that the actions of both the Minister and officers have been carried out with competence and with good judgment. It is quite apparent - I indicated this even during the hearing of the Senate Estimates Committee - that some of the matters raised by Senator Durack and, I think Senator Webster, were legitimate questions. They were entitled to know. I had no hesitation in making an offer immediately to obtain that information for them and I did obtain it. It is here in the record. But it becomes a matter of no more than political tactics to go beyond that and try to cast aspersions in the direction of those who have been responsible for the discussions that have taken place.
– We were criticising constitutional practice. The Minister must realise that that is the criticism. The criticism bad nothing to do with what the Minister is saying.
– Judging from the honourable senator’s comments earlier, I would have thought that he was concerned about the fact that the Government had no right to make this appropriation without reference to Parliament. Surely that was precisely the message spelt out by Senator Wright and by the honourable senator. I am trying to point out to the honourable senator that the liberty to do that was provided for already in the Bill.
– Perhaps the honourable senator had better have a look at the Bill. Then he would be convinced. To sum up, it is quite apparent that all reasonable steps have been taken by the government with the purpose of setting up an authority which will be of benefit to the Australian people. In view of the support that was given to this proposal during the second reading debate on the Bill, it surprises me that Opposition senators now should be dragging red herrings across the trail.
-4 regret that the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) is developing a characteristic of embroiling every question raised in the Senate in a low political form of discussion. In my submissions I referred only to constitutional principles that should govern the presentation of Appropriation Bills, particularly in regard to those that present new policy expenditure for the first time. I urged that in such cases there should be a special authorising Act before the Appropriation Bill was introduced. Senator Durack referred to the payment of money before the Appropriation Bill is passed. The Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) answered by invoking the general dragnet item of $30m in the Appropriation Bill which is the Advance to the Treasurer for unforeseen or miscellaneous matters. This covers items which are not specifically itemised in any Appropriation Bill. When the Minister speaks as he does to other experienced politicians about that item, suggesting it is a matter of novelty, and indicating the degree to which it impressed him, I point out that that item has always been watched in the Appropriation Bills with great vigilance by parliamentarians because it is intended to be used only in an emergency, only for small matters and only for matters in which parliamentary adoption of policy has been obtained.
– Has already been obtained.
– Yes, exactly. Suppose that we pass the approving measure in March, the transaction is finished on 1 April and the Appropriation Bill is brought in in May. If it is a small matter the money could be paid out and appropriation could be taken under the Advance to the Treasurer. But it is not to be used in this way. We will watch the item more carefully in future now that it has been disclosed that this dragnet, residuary item has been used to initiate special major policy for the first time. That is not in accordance with proper constitutional practice. It authorises the strict legality, but when Parliament makes that appropriation it usually gives special attention to the amount to see that it does not grow and grow so that departments and Ministers can spend money and snap their fingers at Parliamentary control of the money. That is a residuary dragnet vote which should never be used for major, original items.
– I thank the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) for the reply he has given. Undoubtedly that is the information which he has before him. From the experience which I had on the Joint Committee on Public Accounts I feel that the comment made as to where this $6m for capital expenditure could come from was not in conformity with the reply which the Minister has given. But he may be right. The matter will be looked at with interest. I regret also that the Minister or his advisers were not able to take up or understand the point which any reasonable person may make when speaking about guarantees for the performance of work such as this. Of course, there has been no reference to the fact that some fellow or equipment in Japan or Australia may test the pipe. This Parliament is now agreeing to a substantial payment of $14m which is part of a contract of over $45m and undoubtedly it will escalate to$150m. But whatI am looking for is where in this whole ambit of contracting we find the guarantees covering the performance of the pipe once it is delivered to Australia. That is a matter which has been completely overlooked. I accept the Minister’s comment that apparently to the best of his ability and that of the Department they have looked into these matters.I would appreciate it if the officers, even in a separate note, were able to supply me with the information as to where the guarantees of performance do flow.
– I shall be very brief.I do not want to re-open this matter again other than to comment on Senator Wright’s remark about my turning these matters into political tactics.I suppose it is my job to argue the politics of these matters but I have not yet reached the stage where every time I get to my feet I become personally involved with people. Senator Wright made a comment this afternoon about Dr Cass being analagous to certain types of rats in Tasmania. I have not reached that stage yet. I do get up and argue on politics. I do that because I believe that that is what I am supposed to do in defending the Government’s position. But I have not yet reached the stage which has been reached by Senator Wright. These days he seems incapable of getting up and making statements unless there is a personal element in them. I think that the point which Senator Webster raised is mainly a matter of machinery. I am not sure but I think it is a matter of procedure in relation to the facts contained in the Estimates report. I do not think it is really basic to the question which he has raised.I think that the guarantees have been spelt out with reasonable force. For that reason I hope that he will be satisfied.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
Schedule agreed to.
Clauses 1 to 5 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wriedt) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 30 May (vide page 2119), on motion by Senator Bishop:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 29 May (vide page 2025), on motion by Senator Cavanagh:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
– Is it agreed that these Bills be taken as cognate Bills for all purposes?
– The Opposition’s attitude in relation to these Bills was -made clear in the House of Representatives and is affirmed in this chamber. We are taking 3 Bills together and briefly I remind the Senate that the principal Bill with which we are concerned is the Housing Agreement Bill, and that is the one to which I intend to address my remarks. However, I do think it important to refer very briefly to the effect of one of the other Bills, namely, the States Grants (Housing Assistance) Bill which provides for funds to be allocated for welfare housing for the first 6 months of 1973-74. The important point to which I direct attention in relation to that Bill is that the amount being provided is the same as the amount provided last year. Although we have heard much from the new Government about the tremendous importance of housing and the tremendous importance which is given to the adequacy of housing finance from the Commonwealth, at this stage it is not increasing the amount available to the States under this legislation; it is simply providing the same amount as was provided by the Australian Loan Council for housing purposes for 1972-73.
I do think it important to draw attention to that matter before proceeding to discuss in more detail the housing agreement which is provided for in the Housing Agreement Bill. It is not as though the Commonwealth Government were providing some bonanza at this stage. I think in fairness, though, I should make it quite clear that the Commonwealth Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) has indicated that it is the Commonwealth’s intention to increase the amount to be made available for housing and that it will do so at some future date. Presumably that is the reason for the limited period of 6 months provided for in the States Grants (Housing Assistance) Bill.
I again emphasise that at this stage we are not dealing with a huge increase; what we are concerned with principally is the Bill which refers in very brief terms to the housing agreement which is annexed by way of a Schedule to the Housing Agreement Bill. The Bill provides that the Commonwealth may execute an agreement between the Commonwealth and any State or States substantially in accordance with the form contained in the Schedule. It provides further:
The- Treasurer may, out of moneys lawfully available for the purpose, make advances to a State in accordance with an agreement executed in pursuance of this Act . . .
So what we are really concerned with is the agreement itself or what is said to be the agreement. But it is interesting to note that it is far from being an agreement. A conference, attended by the Commonwealth and State Ministers for Housing held at Adelaide on Thursday, 5 April 1973, passed a motion to the effect that as an expression of the feeling of the State Ministers at that conference a different figure should be provided in relation to one particularly important aspect of the agreement. The difference in the figure was very substantial and I shall go on to explain that difference. The point I make at this stage is that to this date there has not been agreement between the Commonwealth and the States.
There have been 2 meetings of the Ministers, a record of the full proceedings of which was in the pursuit of the laudable objective of open government, tabled in both Houses of the Parliament and made available to us. It makes very interesting reading and I would commend it to any honourable senator interested in seeing the extent to which the Commonwealth under this new Government is prepared to lord it over the States and force on to them things which they do not wish to have. The particular parts of the transcript to which I direct attention are those concerned with the latter part of the conference on 5 April when the Victorian Minister in particular, supported by the Housing Minister from Western Australia, the Housing Minister from Tasmania, and sympathetically supported by the 2 Ministers from the eastern States of Queensland and New South Wales made quite clear the disastrous effects which would be forced upon the States if the Commonwealth insisted on its pigheaded adherence to one particular point.
– He is being a bit emotional.
– Do not let us put you off.
– As a matter of fact, I was just wondering how interested are some of the Labor senators in this particularly important matter of housing. I think there are four of them in the chamber at the moment and two of them are prattling like galahs. Otherwise nobody from that side is showing any interest in this matter.
– You cannot even count.
– 1 am sorry, I was not counting Senator. Gietzelt as being present, but I see that he is now awake. The proposal with which we are particularly concerned - there were others about which the States expressed concern - is clause 19 of the agreement which provides:
Subject to sub-clause (2.) of this clause, the Housing Authority of a State shall not sell more than 30 per centum of the family dwellings for the provision of which Housing Authority advances have been used and which are completed or purchased during the period of five years-
I emphasise the term of 5 years - commencing on the first day of January 1974.
This means that the principle of home ownership followed to a very substantial extent by a number of the States, the principle believed in by the Liberal Party as being fundamental to the development of a desirable type of society, the principle believed in also by members of the Labor governments of Western Austra’ia and Tasmania, the principle believed in I think by a very large number of Australians is to be curtailed to a very significant extent for at least a period of 5 years. It was with concern that the Liberal Party found that this situation was being adhered to by the Commonwealth Government, notwithstanding the debate which took place in the House of Representatives. The Government was not prepared to accept an amendment moved by the Opposition. We find that the Government’s attitude perhaps is expressed by the Press release of the Minister for Housing for 5 April, the day of the conference in Adelaide, in which he stated that agreement was reached on the major items. Obviously he did not regard the percentage of home ownership as being a major item. His Press release continues:
The Federal Minister for Housing, Mr Les Johnson, speaking after the meeting - which lasted from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. - said that the desire by some Ministers for the limit on the sale of houses to be increased to 50 per cent would be taken into account by the Commonwealth when it drew up a final set of submissions to be put to the States.
That statement was interesting. It gave the States some encouragement. But what happened? The Commonwealth did not take it into account in any tangible way when it presented the agreement just 48 hours before it presented the Bill in the House of Representatives. This was not done in the circumstance of there being a further conference at which the States could put their view and at which further negotiations could have taken place. The intransigent attitude adopted by the Federal Minister at the conference in Adelaide was continued in the consideration which he suggested he was giving in his Press statement afterwards. We find that there was no agreement by the States in relation to this matter. It is a matter of sufficient concern that, I understand, further meetings of the State Ministers are to be held to discuss just what is to happen in an endeavour to reach a true agreement.
Obviously the fundamental question involved here is whether the Commonwealth is entitled to dictate to the States on a basis of saying: ‘Whereas you used to be able to get this money which was made available through the Loan Council arrangements, we are now going to make it available under an agreement in relation to which we fix the terms, and you can take it or you can go without.’ Apparently that is the approach adopted by the Commonwealth Government in relation to this matter. Are the States in an area such as housing, which it is their constitutional right to administer, to be dictated to in this way? It would be different if the normal terms of Commonwealth assistance to the States were being imposed but this goes to the very fundamentals of whether there is any discretion in relation to the administration of a scheme to be left to the States which have very strong and reasonable objections to being dictated to. My colleague, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Greenwood, will be speaking on this Bill and will elaborate in particular upon the Victorian situation and the difficulty which Victoria will find itself in if it is forced to subscribe to an agreement’ - I put the word in inverted commas - such as is proposed by this Bill.
After the debate in the House of Representatives the Liberal Party and the Executive of the Liberal Party both considered what should happen in relation to this Bill. We asked ourselves should we pursue the amendment? Do we regard it as sufficiently important an interference with States rights and with a principle which is believed to be’ fundamental to the general philosophy of the Liberal Party and the good of this country that we should take this action? lt is as a consequence of those discussions to which I have referred that I indicate that in the Committee stage I will be pursuing that amendment. It is the principle of home ownership which, above ail else, is of concern to the Opposition in this Chamber. We believe that the people of Australia will be best served by having an adequate opportunity to purchase through housing schemes the homes in which they intend to reside. The incentive which is provided to those people to look after and develop their homes; the incentive to take pride in ownership; the incentive to look after the development of the area in which they reside; the feeling of belonging; the community spirit which can develop from home ownership are incentives which are regarded as socially desirable. lt is also important to consider what will happen if the Commonwealth Government’s proposals are adhered to. Will there be a decrease in the availability of low rental housing? To what extent is the Commonwealth Government really dealing with a need, as it claims to be, for the provision of rental housing as opposed to housing available for purchase? Those States which have pursued the philosophy adopted by the Opposition in this chamber of endeavouring to provide people with the opportunity to own their own home and, amongst other things, to have some hedge against inflation, something which will become an increasing problem as we on this side of the chamber are all too well aware, an increasing problem as this reckless Government rushes on its way down the path of inflation, do not wish to see people, particularly people whose circumstances we regard as needy, not given any opportunity to obtain that hedge against inflation, to build up funds which may perhaps give them a deposit on a house at some later stage should they wish to move to some other place. No, it is to be insisted upon that 70 per cent of the funds available is for rental housing and only 30 per cent for homes to be purchased. lt is interesting to note from the transcript of proceedings of a meeting of people who can reasonably be expected to know, that is, the Ministers for Housing in the States, that they believe the demand for homes for purchase is greater than the demand for rental homes and that the need for rental homes can be satisfied if the division provided for each category in the agreement is SO-SO. I think that they can be regarded as being at least in a responsible position to be able to state what is the need, but big brother in the image of the Minister for Housing, Mr Les Johnson, decides, contrary to what he is told by the States and the people directly responsible, that in his view and in the view of the Commonwealth Government the situation is different from what they say it is. He even claimed that the Commonwealth Government had a mandate. ‘Mandate’ is a word that we have become almost nauseated from hearing. Let me give back to the Government a little bit of that. Mr Les Johnson has suggested that the Commonwealth Government has a mandate to do this. There has just been an election in Victoria in which the people of that State made it very clear which party they would prefer to have in government in Victoria, a State in which one of the important aspects of the policy put by the Victorian Government to the people was homeownership. The people overwhelmingly endorsed that policy and gave the Victorian Minister for Housing and the Victorian Premier a clear mandate to insist upon this provision being altered from 30 per cent to 50 per cent.
If the Labor Party wishes to talk about mandates let it take into account the other side of the coin which is that there is a clear mandate, at least as far as the Victorian Government is concerned in respect of its constitutional right to govern its own housing. The people of Victoria expressed themselves on this in the same way as they accepted the invitation of the Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, to express themselves upon the actions of the Senate. This should be remembered if this principle of a mandate is to be pursued. However, I have not heard much of that argument since 19 May. It may well be said that if the amendment I propose to move at the committee stage, which if carried will alter the housing agreement to provide not 30 per cent but 50 per cent of funds for homes to be purchased, goes back to the House of Representatives and that House decides that it will not deal with it, and agree to it. today before it rises some problems may arise in regard to funds for housing. I can say only that Mr Les Johnson himself has answered that point.
I refer to the transcript of the proceedings of the meeting between Federal and State Ministers in Adelaide on 5 April. Mr Les Johnson was asked what would happen if Victoria refused to sign any agreement providing for only 30 per cent of funds for housing for purchases. Mr Dickie, the Victorian
Minister, said that Victoria would refuse to accept that proposition. Mr Les Johnson said, as recorded at page 125 of the transcript:
If after an agreement has been prepared and Victoria, for example, chooses not to be a party to it as a recipient of the concessional advances on the terms and conditions proposed by the Commonwealth, several things could happen. I suppose the status quo could prevail in regard to that State, the matter would become the prerogative of the Loan Council-
I pause there to emphasise that he said the prerogative would become that of the Loan Council - or of discussions between the Premier and the Prime Minister. I would not regard myself as being competent to identify the potential area of compromise or of new arrangements. It would be a matter to be followed up, if we reach that position.
What is made clear by the Minister for Housing, Mr Les Johnson, is that if this agreement is not approved at this stage it is still possible for the Loan Council, meeting very shortly, to make the necessary arrangements, as it has in the past, for the provision of housing finance for the next 6 months, which is all that will happen anyway. What the Commonwealth is doing is insisting on this House passing an agreement which is objected to by all the States, some more strongly than others, and giving no funds over and above the arrangements which have existed up to the time of this agreement, that is, $84. 5m to be provided by the Loan Council.
As I have said, when we reach the Committee stage I will be moving that amendment. I do so in the interests of equity to the States and equity to the people of Australia, and in order to provide an opportunity for them to have an adequate chance, through the common fund out of the public purse and through the State housing authorities, to purchase a home if they wish to do so instead of being required in the vast majority of cases to rent a home.
Because other speakers will deal with this matter and because a large body of legislation has to be dealt with, I shall refrain from delving further into some of the iniquities that are proposed. I simply draw attention to the fact that in the House of Representatives a number of them were pointed out by various speakers on behalf of the Opposition. I remind the Minister for Works (Senator Cavanagh) that these matters have been pointed out. It is to be hoped that at some time in the future the Minister for Housing will pay some attention to them.
I refer now to the double standards which are being applied, and I think it is interesting to read from the transcript of the proceedings of the conference to which I referred. In the initial agreement the Commonwealth wished to impose certain restrictions in relation to environmental matters. Because the new Commonwealth Government is not particularly concerned about the environment and because the regard which it has for the environment is only a matter of window dressing and flag waving, the Minister gave way in relation to that. But he would not give way in relation to the proportion of total homes which can be sold. He regarded it as absolutely vital that the States could not, as a matter of their own discretion, allot funds for rental as opposed to purchase or for purchase as opposed to rental.
This seems to me to indicate a peculiar attitude on the part of the Commonwealth Cabinet because at the conference the Commonwealth Minister said that he had instructions from Cabinet about what he could agree to and what he could not agree to. He was quite prepared to give way in relation to environmental matters but not in relation to something as fundamental as this matter. The refusal to allow a discretion to allot funds in whatever way the States think fit is objected to by the States. Perhaps this shows where the Commonwealth’s priorities lie. It is prepared to override the States in relation to the fundamental administration of the Agreement, but is not prepared to override them in relation to environmental matters. The only objection by the States to the environmental matters was that it was only another form of Commonwealth interference. The Commonwealth gave way in one instance but was not prepared to give way in another.
I suggest that the Bills are yet another example of the product of a government which is determined to take from the States the right to determine their future even in areas in which they have clear constitutional power to determine their future. The people of those States have expressed themselves clearly as to what they want to happen in a particular area such as that of housing.
– The Australian Country Party supports the amendment which was moved in the House of Representatives and which will be moved in the Committee stage here. There is not a great deal of difference between the general terms of this Agreement and those which applied previously. I refer to finance available and interest rates. But there are major changes in the way in which the matter is being presented to the Senate. 1 ask the Minister for Works (Senator Cavanagh) whether, when he replies, he will give the Senate an assurance, that an agreement in line with the provisions of the Agreement which he tables has been reached with the States. It is regrettable that, as far as I know, the Commonwealth is purporting to say that there is an agreement which is based on an agreement between the States and the. Commonwealth, and that agreement does not exist. 1 know that Victoria is not clear about many items associated with the Agreement. I understand that there is to be a meeting of Commonwealth and State Ministers in the next week or so to see whether a basis for agreement can be worked out. 1 believe that it is particularly unfair of the Commonwealth to seek to have an agreement passed by the Parliament so that it can say to the States: ‘This has been agreed by the House of Representatives and the Senate. We demand that you fall in with the provisions of the Bill’.
There are a number of provisions with which the States disagree, but the main one concerns the percentage of the money which will be made available under this Agreement for the building of low cost housing which will be made available for purchase. As has been stated previously on other housing matters, here is where the socialist Labor Party and the anti-socialist parties disagree. I believe that there has been a tendency throughout Australia, which should De encouraged, for the individual to find pride and pleasure in being the owner of his own home. This is not the view which the socialists take. 1 wish the Labor Party would alter its view and encourage pride and pleasure in owning a home or a block of land. This is not the view of the Labor Party. To realise that, one has only to reflect on what it attempted to do in relation to the National Urban and Regional Development Authority. Money will be made available by the Cities Commission provided freehold property can be converted into leasehold property. A person will never be the owner of his own land. The Labor Party will ensure that some monolithic social authority owns the whole of the show. Private enterprise and private ownerhip will be. cut out. That is stupid and against the interests of the small man, but the Labor Party has included this in the Housing Agreement.
The Labor Party is trying to force on the Victorian Government and, I understand, even on the Labor State governments the proviso that not more than 30 per cent of the money allocated to the States for the building of homes can be made available for homes which will be sold. According to the second reading speech of the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson), the Labor Government in Tasmania has a record of selling over 50 per cent of the homes that it has been building. That Government has been able to recycle the money so that it can make money available for further building, which surely is an important thing, and it has Tasmanians anxious to take over the homes and to look after them as property of their own. The Minister indicated the attitude which he takes by saying that in the first year or so the Commonwealth will allow 50 per cent of the money to be used for home ownership but that thereafter it will draw that back, ft will not let Tasmania have its own way. After that period only 40 per cent of the money which it grants will be. made available for home ownership. After that the Commonwealth wants it brought back to 30 per cent. It is an absolute disgrace to hear a government of this nature putting up such a proposition. The Victorian Government holds exactly the same view that I do.
What are the benefits for the private person who would seek to purchase a home? Is the Government aware or does it take any notice of the fact that in New South Wales, for instance, as at April of this year the rental figure which would be required of a person renting a house which, together with the land, cost approximately $16,000 would be approximately $22.50 a week? That amount would have to be paid for the rest of that person’s, life. He would not have purchased anything for himself. A prudent person who could save $200 as a deposit on a home costing the same amount, and who paid an extra $2.50 for stamp duty, would have a weekly repayment of $20.80 over 45 years if he wanted to purchase that home. I do not wish to state anything which is contrary to the facts, and I admit that a person who is purchasing his home may have to meet a maintenance cost and would have to pay rates and insurance which he would not have to pay if he were renting.
I note that the Housing Commission of New South Wales estimates that maintenance would cost approximately $1.90 a week, rates $3.50 and insurance 70c. But for approximately the equivalent of a rental home the New South Wales Housing Commission is able to offer a person the purchase of a home with repayments spread over 45 years so that at the end of that period he has an asset. Why does this socialist Labor Government deny the State the right to do that?
– Get off the soap box.
– ‘Get off the soapbox’ one hears from one of the great left wing members of the Labor Party. He does not want the ordinary person ever to own anything. That is why he says ‘Get off the soap box’. He wants a socialist-communist control placed over this country for the rest of the time - something to which I object. What I have said is within the provisions of the Bill. I can see Senator Gietzelt twisting in his seat. He does not like to hear the facts.
– How many copies of this speech will you send to people in Victoria?
– If I were to send copies of my speech to people in South Australia I would not be able to find any who support the honourable senator who interjects. I believe that over the years Victoria has probably developed the highest rate of home ownership of any State in the Commonwealth. In Victoria a person can purchase a 3-bedroom home worth about $13,200 for a deposit of $200 and a weekly amount of about $16 spread over 45 years. Further, no legal fees are charged. A monthly payment is required. The rental figure for an equivalent home in the metropolitan area is about $13 a week, there being a cheaper rate in country areas. I cannot understand why the Government should try to press the view through the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) that home ownership is so unnecessary and why he seems to think that the greater percentage of money should be made available to people so that they can rent homes for the rest of their lives. If any of those individuals, having lived in the affluent society which has been built up in Australia - I certainly believe that the Labor Party feels that it will improve on this affluence - wishes to change from a rental home to purchase his own home, why should he not be allowed to do so? We see in the action that the Federal Government is taking on so many matters that it will force its view on the States. I, as a representative of the State of Victoria, am unable to go along with the views of this Government.
We heard the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) say when he visited Victoria that he believed that every house in the Dandenong ranges should be removed. The Minister wishes to force his view on the private home owners there. In the Pipeline Authority Bill, which I believe is to come back to the Senate very shortly, our amendment having been rejected in another place, we find that the Pipeline Authority is intended to override the States and that it will give State authorities only 7 days notice of the acquisitions it intends to make. No Federal arrangement that exists with the States in regard to submerged lands is to be countenanced by the Pipeline Authority. We heard of the Torres Strait islanders’ wishes being overridden by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant) in his original statements. Reverting to the Department for Urban and Regional Development, all land which is to be purchased by the Federal Government will revert to leasehold title. In the Submerged Lands Bill which is to come before the Senate, again the Commonwealth wishes to press its view, with the States having no rights. This Senate must reject some of the measures which are being put forward by this Federal Labor Government.
On the 3 housing Bills which are now before the Senate and which embrace a very wide subject I say no more than that, in relation to the 30 per cent which the Commonwealth demands should be available for home purchase, I have the greatest pleasure in saying that I will support the amendment which will convert that proportion to 50 per cent.
– I wish to speak to the Bill. The Democratic Labor Party is of course well known for its stand on home ownership. We take second place to none on that. On a personal note, I can say that many years ago some colleagues in the trade union movement and myself formed almost the impetus for the establishment of a co-operative housing society in the State which I represent. We believe that there are many forms and ways in which home ownership can be obtained and that people should be encouraged to accept the responsibility of home ownership rather than what sometimes appeals to be the easier but ultimately more expensive form of housing, certainly the least inspiring, that is of rental housing. But we recognise that there is a need within the community for houses built for rental purposes. We recognise too the need in a modern society for a State housing authority to do some of the management and planning for this type of dwelling which can be rented or purchased. But we do not necessarily subscribe to the philosophy that a State housing authority is the ideal provider of homes for either purpose, in particular for homes for ownership.
We are conscious of the conflict that has taken place between the States, particularly the State of Victoria which had positive points of view, and the Commonwealth over this particular housing agreement. It is true that in the beginning the Commonwealth wanted to go a lot further than it has gone in this particular Bill. Indeed the terms that have now been suggested are more in accordance with the desires of the States than those suggested originally. However, they do not meet the requirements of the State Housing Authority in Victoria in particular. But overriding that consideration is the responsibility of an elected Government to govern according to its own philosophy. The philosophy of this Government apparently does not match my philosophy on home ownership. The Government considers it more important to meet the needs in other areas, although in some respects there are encouraging signs that it may be preparing to assist home ownership in ways other than through State housing authorities.
– They want to make the Australian Council of Trade Unions the biggest landlord in Australia.
– There is nothing wrong with the ACTU or the trade unions running co-operative housing societies and sharing in the general schemes. In fact trade unions, having a community interest, are among the ideal bodies to run very successful co-operatives including housing co-operatives. The Federated Clerks Union of Australia of which I have been a member for many years runs a great number of housing co-operatives, particularly in Victoria. These co-operatives have enabled thousands of young people to purchase homes - they may never have got such an opportunity in other circumstances - at slightly lower rates of interest, though not low enough, than the current rates of interest. They have done so under supervision which has enabled them to avoid some of the traps into which a person without experience who goes into a straight housing deal can fall. I do not want to take away from the ACTU the right to run a co-operative housing society. However, as the trade union of trade unions the ACTU might over-involve itself in commercial enterprises. As a member of 2 trade unions part of my subscription fees ultimately goes to the ACTU and my counsel to the ACTU would be: ‘Do not stretch yourself too far in areas in which you have not had experience. You may come a cropper’. However, as I am only one who contributes I do not think it is beholden upon me to attempt to change the policies of the ACTU. I do not take away from the ACTU, or from anyone else, the right to operate in this area if it is doing the right thing and helping people to obtain their own homes. Helping some people to accept the philosophy of wanting to buy their own homes should be a project which should be entered into by trade unions and other interested organisations as well. Some people lack the initiative to do so. They appear to be scared by the responsibility of what seems to be rather a big deal when they first consider purchasing a home. They are scared off to their own detriment later in life. 1 have noticed with some concern that the Government is taking a big interest from the wrong aspect, it seems to me, in credit foncier and other schemes, which assist people towards home ownership. We will be discussing at a future stage a Bill that the Government has introduced. It must be mentioned in any discussion of housing when we are trying to measure the depth of the general philosophy of this Government, now charged with the responsibility to govern, towards housing in general. The Government has introduced its young couples home purchase plan in which it is to sell housing certificates. Those certificates when they mature will be of great benefit to those young people who invest in them. They will be of greater benefit to parents who have the foresight to invest in them as gifts for their children long before the children have reached maturity. Great assistance in home ownership could flow from this same Government which seeks to limit in its State housing agreement the percentage of homes which will be made available for purchase.
The Australian Democratic Labor Party is not prepared to support the amendment that has been foreshadowed by Senator Rae. By this we do not say that the Federal Government is right in seeking to impose its will on those States which have not gone along completely with the new agreement. But we are conceding to the elected Government the right to have a philosophy different from our own. We are prepared to offer the Government advice. The Government should, I believe, take cognisance of one of the pleas made by Senator Webster, namely, that whatever may be the purpose for which a house is built by a State housing authority, and whatever may be the required period for which rental must be paid on that house before its purchase can be proposed - let us assume 5 years - after that period the person renting the property should be conceded the right to purchase it if he wishes so to do.
Anybody who has traced the history of housing from the bad old days of landlordism will recognise that families can become attached to the area and the surroundings in which they live as well as the friendships formed in their district. If a family has lived in a housing commission home in a certain suburb of one of our principal cities for 4 years, 5 years or 6 years; if the children of that family have grown up in the companionship of neighbouring children; if that family has reached the stage at which it may wish to venture into home ownership, it should not be mandatory upon that family to pull up its roots from that district and move somewhere else in order to buy a home because the law makes it impossible for that family to buy the dwelling in which it has been living for several years.
The provisions of the agreement could have a cumulative effect. State housing authorities could be powerless to sell a home to a person whose family has been living in that home for 4 years, 5 years or 6 years because the 30 per cent of family dwellings built by the State housing authority had been absorbed already in sales. I draw this matter to the attention of the Government because I do not believe that part of its philosophy is that people in this situation should not be able to purchase homes in which they have lived for several years. I appeal to the Government to give this matter consideration and consider future action on it, if it is not possible to correct that situation by amendment to this legis lation. These matters ase always fluid. These agreements can always be renegotiated. These problems can always be given attention.
I urge upon the Government that philosophy’ which emanates particularly from the remarks made by Senator Webster who said that here we do not want purely and simply a figure deal of 30 per cent and 50 per cent. The fact that those percentages have been reached is no reason why they should be rigid and no allowance made for important human factors which may arise as time goes on.
The Government of Victoria is particularly displeased with the 30 per cent/ 50 per cent principle. I believe that it has threatened that it will not accept the ultimate proposal. Whether it carries out that threat would be its own responsibility. A great deal of difference does not exist between 30 per cent and 50 per cent when the philosophy involved in this matter is considered. If the difference of 20 per cent is to be made up by this Government offering assistance in other areas of home ownership, I see no great housing crisis resulting because of the terms of the proposed agreement. I see no great injustice to those people who wish to become home owners. Indeed, I think it would be far better if the money were made available through the channels of private housing rather than purchases through government housing authorities which have been established really to provide emergency types of accommodation.
These authorities when first established were to provide emergency types of accommodation for those people who were in a situation in which they just could not obtain houses of their own anywhere or where the purchase of a home was completely beyond their reach. Those people were living either with in-laws or in slum situations, rooms or accommodation such as that. This is no way for young people particularly to start a marriage. I have been gravely concerned for many years in trying to assist young people who, in the early stages of marriage with perhaps one or two children, are forced to live with in-laws. Perhaps some of the couples have married close to the birth of their first child. The great tragedy arises from the attempts made to blend the personalities of all the people living in the one dwelling. The situation arises because these young couples through the disadvantageous start to their married life are not in a position to obtain accommodation anywhere else. lt is of no use talking to young people in that situation about home ownership. As to the renting of housing commission homes, they reach the stage of putting their names on a housing list and waiting for years for a housing commission home. When after a period of years they finally qualify for such a home, no further requirement remains for the home because the marriage has ceased to exist as a result of the circumstances that prevailed early in married life and the type of housing available to them at that stage. Any possibility of the marriage being successful has gone. Many such marriages break up with the result that the requirement for a house disappears.
It seems to me that there is an enormous shortage of houses for rental as well as a shortage of houses for purchase. The provision that State housing authorities may allocate up to 30 per cent of their dwellings for home ownership purposes is not far short of requirements. I would like to see the percentage raised. My Party would like to see the percentage increased. But the philosophy of the elected Government does not lean that way at present. We do not think that this is a question on which we should ignore what this Government is prepared to do for housing in other areas, but we urge upon the Government the absolute necessity for it, because of the restrictions that may creep into home ownership in this area, to redouble its efforts to make money available in other areas for the purchase of homes by those people who are prepared to accept the responsibility, which is better from the point of view of the nation, of owning their own homes, and so achieve a better way of life and enjoy a greater potential for a successful family life. This is so important not only to the parents and children in a family but also to any government which may need to meet commitments arising from those problems which can develop out of bad family backgrounds and which can flow very often from the simple fact that people do not have the opportunity to own their own home. ‘In presenting those views to the Government, I advise it that the Australian Democratic Labor Party on this occason will support the Bill.
– The Government, of course, will reject the proposed amendment to be moved by Senator Rae. The Government welcomes the support which the Australian Democratic
Labor Party will give to it on this Bill. It is a matter of regret that the honourable senators who have spoken representing the Liberal Party and the Country Party viewpoint have adopted such a backward approach to the whole question of public housing. This is nothing new. If one likes to examine the speeches that were made in the period of office of the immediate post war Labor Government which introduced a CommonwealthState housing agreement which was an endeavour to establish public housing on a firm basis, one would feel that one was listening today to the ghosts of those people who opposed that agreement on behalf of the Liberal Party and Country Party in that era. Senator Webster has repeated all the old cliches and platitudes of that period. What he and the Opposition parties clearly do not appreciate is that there are now, some 25 years after the introduction of the original legislation which was carried on, to some extent, by the Menzies and subsequent Administrations, more people wanting public housing than ever before in our history. Surveys that have been conducted both by public housing authorities and by this Government have shown very conclusively that we have a responsibility, as Senator Little said, to give specific Commonwealth assistance in order to overcome the very acute shortage of public housing that exists.
What is our point of emphasis? The emphasis is to give opportunities for 0W income groups - those earning about $86 a week and less - to have access to public funds which will be provided by the Commonwealth to the States so that these people will be able to live in a reasonable home in a reasonable area and pay reasonable rent. The Bill establishes some new incentives. It seeks also for the first time to provide accommodation for single persons. Hitherto, persons in this category have been seriously discriminated against. We propose to take into consideration people who are not able to accumulate sufficient funds and resources with which privately to provide for their needs and who therefore need assistance from public authorities.
It is also desirable - this is provided for in the legislation - to extend the provisions of the Bill to aged and invalid persons. No one could suggest that these people would ever have the wherewithal or the means with which to acquire a home through the private sector or to purchase a home from the public housing authorities. Senator Webster usually has a slap at the Ministers who are involved in matters which we are discussing. He clearly does not understand the philosophical approach of the Government or of the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson). On his accession to office the Minister made numerous statements in which he said that he felt public housing authorities had a responsibility to provide housing for young married couples. Senator Little referred to this matter. But when the Minister had an opportunity to look at the surveys which showed that there Was an acute shortage of housing for the low income groups, he had to forego his personal views about public housing authorities providing facilities for young married couples. Whilst he and the Labor Government accepted the principle that young married couples should be provided for in the new Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement, there was a greater need to provide accommodation for the low income groups with families and the other persons to whom I have referred.
What the Government is seeking to do is really to look after the low income groups, the little people. Senator Webster always wants to talk about the little people - this great socialist monster that he seems to paint. He lives in this dream time that he is experiencing. The position is quite the reverse to what he has stated it to be. It is the Labor Government’s expressed intention in this legislation to provide for the low income groups, those who have not got the means with which to go to the private sector to solve their housing or accommodation problems. That is contrary to what has been stated by Senator Webster and by some of his colleagues in the other place. The previous Government must accept some of the responsibility - and as a supporter of the previous Government, Senator Webster must accept some of the responsibility - for the fact that during the last 23 years the Liberal-Country Party coalition Government deliberately - I accuse it of having done this deliberately - reduced the amount of funds available to the public housing authorities in the States; it allowed their financial position to decline almost to the point of withering on the vine. Of course, this is what we said when we debated the renewal of the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement a year or so ago.
So it is just not true for Opposition speakers to suggest that it is not our intent and philosophical objective to provide greater sums of money to meet the greater need for public housing. Of course, what the legislation also does is seek to provide money to the State housing authorities at a reduced rate of interest for the express purpose of reducing rents for those people who are not able to provide their accommodation from their own means and who have to resort to the State public housing authorities. I can assure honourable senators opposite, who take delight in trying to suggest that the legislation will be unpopular, that the officials of the public housing authorities in the various States are jubilant at this new Government’s approach to public housing because they see an opportunity to meet the accommodation needs of people.
One can imagine the forlorn job with which the housing commission officers had to contend every day of their lives. The Members in the State parliamentary sphere, no matter to what political party they belonged, had people lining up outside their rooms and in the parliamentary chambers pleading for Lousing commission accommodation. This happens in New South Wales and probably in the other States. So it begs the question to hear honourable senators opposite suggesting that we are not concerned about the problems of the little people. I wish to heaven that the Opposition parties in Victoria would hurry up and solve their pre-selection blues, and then we would have less soap box oratory and more detailed examination of the Government’s legislative program. We are not interested in the contest; we are interested in the legislative processes of this place.
The proposals to increase the percentage of houses that may be sold by public housing authorities from 30 per cent to 50 per ecn? is an attempt by Senator Rae to extend the concession that the Commonwealth Minister for Housing made to meet the Tasmanian situation. The emphasis in that State was on providing great numbers of housing commission homes for sale, but the Government took the broader view and said: ‘We are prepared to give you a period of time to scale that down so that they will ultimately bring every State into harmony with the Government’s philosophical position’.
Senator Rae clearly does not understand the reason why the Government is taking these steps. They are based on the experiences, particularly in the more developed States of New South Wales and Victoria. What has happened is that Commonwealth funds which were given to the States for the purpose of public housing 25 years ago - I am speaking of my own experience in New South Wales, and I understand that the same principle applies in Victoria - were used by the housing commission to buy blocks of land for the purpose of providing housing commission homes. Those blocks were purchased at that period at prices which ranged from about $100 a block. Today we have to pay $10,000, $12,000 or $14,000 for a block of land.
There has been this inverted situation in New South Wales where the State Government, rightly or wrongly, has been prepared to sell off most of the land, accommodation and homes in the housing commission areas to those who wish to buy them. But what has happened in many cases is that, the moment the sales have been effected to the persons who formerly rented those homes, those persons in so many areas, particularly in the areas closer to the city proper, have hawked those homes around to developers. As a result of land use changes those houses have been pulled down and blocks of flats have been erected upon the land. It is on the basis of that experience that the housing authorities in New South Wales have said: ‘If we have to spend public funds to provide land and accommodation it is proper that these allotments should remain in the hands of public authorities.’ Notwithstanding the need to retain these public lands for future redevelopment if necessary, held in the ownership of a public authority, the Government has said that there is a case as suggested by the 2 previous speakers in this debate for a number of people to have the right to acquire their homes. We do not deny that, so we have agreed to submit to State Housing Ministers that they may sell up to 30 per cent of the homes built with money provided under the Housing Agreement.
– But you made it 50 per cent in Tasmania.
– That is right, but only for a couple of years, to overcome a problem. You accused us of adopting a dogmatic attitude and of imposing conditions upon the State Ministers. Have you had an opportunity to read the minutes of the conferences between the various Ministers? If the honourable senator reads them he. must surely see that Mr Les Johnson, the Minister for Housing, has spent many wearying hours trying to convince the State housing commissioners and Ministers of the need for them to have a proper outlook and to plan future land use. In certain circumstances the Minister has had to say: That is the Government’s policy.’ After all, Federal funds are involved. We welcome the understanding attitude adopted by Senator Little, that the Government is concerned that more people now want public housing than hitherto.
We are concerned to retain ownership of land for those people who want to rent public housing. At the end of the economic life of the houses the public authority will have the right - in 50 to 60 years time when the housing has lost its value and is no longer an economically viable proposition - to dispose of that housing. People who know anything about the growth rate in the major capital cities will appreciate the need to retain public ownership of the land. In Sydney all the planning authorities accept the view that Sydney’s population will double in our lifetime so that every publicly owned block of land currently held will come up for rezoning. Surely it is not denied that that land will have a greater value in the years that lie ahead. Honourable senators opposite do not seem to understand these principles.
Inevitably the population will increase in the major cities where most of the public housing exists, even though as a result of the Government’s decentralisation proposals the growth rate will be slowed down. The Housing Agreement represents a very significant step towards overcoming the grave social problem in the area of accommodation. We believe that we have a mandate for this action. We do not run away from the fact that by our participation we intend to overcome the backlog in public housing as quickly as possible. That is what we are seeking to do. We are making more money available and at a lower rate of interest. We will ensure that the national estate will be retained by public housing authorities in the States so that when the inevitable rezoning takes place the public sector will get the benefit.
– The 3 Bills which the Senate is discussing - the States Grants (Housing Assistance)
Bill, the States Grants (Housing) Bill and the Housing Agreement Bill - represent the policy in the housing field of the new Government. Whilst there appears to be a continuation of a policy which was initiated in 1945, it is apparent on examination that there is a striking departure in these 3 Bills from the pattern which has been built up since 1945. It is a departure which highlights the difference in attitudes of the Opposition Parties and the Labor Party, not only with regard to home ownership but also with regard to the relationship between the Commonwealth and the States. Before I develop that theme I should refer to some of the matters which were mentioned by Senator Gietzelt. I note that after saying some of the things he said he has rapidly left the chamber. He indicated that the previous Government had adopted a backward policy and that the Labor Government is now endeavouring to restore the situation as it saw it in 1945.
His statement that the policy of the Liberal and Country Parties was backward represents an ideological stance which is quite intransigent because the evolution of the housing policies and the Commonwealth and State housing agreements over many years ultimately led to a change in the approach of the Commonwealth in 1971, which meant a growing development of the housing policies in the States, ft gave rise to greater independence and autonomy in the States in the type of housing policies they pursued and greater satisfaction of the needs of people who were looking for various types of housing. When Senator Gietzelt says that the previous Government refused to make money available for public housing he is merely echoing one of the claptraps of Labor policy. It is inaccurate and cannot be sustained. When he states that the present Government has a policy of reducing the rate of interest and conferring a concession, unquestionably it has; but he ignores completely that at the same time there is repeal of the statutes which granted to the States the moneys provided in 1971 under the various Housing Acts as some compensation for the interest concession which previously had existed. As Senator Rae indicated, on balance there is no difference in the amounts which currently are being provided by the Commonwealth to the States.
When Senator Gietzelt says that there is a greater demand than ever for public housing he is again using an expression which is inca- pable of having meaning given to it. I raise for anyone to think about the question of what >the expression ‘public housing’ is really designed to cover. All I suggest is that when he says there is jubilation in State housing authorities over what this Government is providing, it is contradicted by what appears in the transcripts of proceedings of 2 conferences held this year between Commonwealth and State Housing Ministers.
When the Labor Party so often suggests that it and it alone is interested in the little people of this country it is perpetuating one of the greatest frauds which has ever been suggested in our political dialogue because, whilst the Labor Party claims to be interested in the little people, it constantly betrays them. I think the results of the last Victorian election indicate that the people vitally concerned in housing were prepared to support the policies of the Victorian Liberal Government and not the policies of the Labor Party in this place.
– The Labor Party gets as many votes as the Liberal Party. Be honest.
– That is not true. If Senator McLaren looks at the figures instead of listening to his colleagues he will ascertain that not only did the Liberal Party win the election in Victoria with an increase of 8 per cent in the vote, but there was also a drop in the Labor Party’s figures of between 5 per cent and 6 per cent on what it achieved last December. The figures show that the Liberal Party secured 42.3 per cent of the vote and the Labor Party 41.7 per cent. This is a canard that is thrown out from time to time. To state that the Australian Labor Party polled more votes than the Liberal Party at the last State election in Victoria is completely untrue. I suggest that if anyone wants to check the figures he could go to the record. But I was diverted from the speech that I was making. I mentioned the Victorian election only because Mr Johnson, the Federal Minister for Housing, when a difference arose between the States and himself earlier this year, stated - I quote what appears in the Sun-Pictorial’ of Melbourne, 18 January.
The Victorian Government could face electoral defeat if it rejected new housing initiatives, the Federal Housing Minister, Mr Johnson, said yesterday.
We know that in the Victorian election these competing policies in regard to housing were raised for the Victorian electorate. Maybe it was a significant factor in the Liberal Party’s resounding victory that the Victorian Premier made no secret of the fact that he was fundamentally opposed to the approach of the Labor Party. Never let it be thought that Mr Whitlam himself was not prepared before the election to let the electorate of Victoria pass judgment on what he had been doing for 5 months. It certainly passed that judgment. The policies which have emerged over the past few years are policies in which the Commonwealth has utilised its power under section 96 of the Constitution. The Constitution gives to the Commonwealth no power to make laws with respect to housing. The only power that the Commonwealth has to make laws in regard to housing is as an incidental, for example, to the defence powers - the provision of facilities for members of the Services - or in the way of incidental provisions for members of Commonwealth instrumentalities which have been established under other heads of Commonwealth power. In this broad area of public housing, the responsibility, together with the power, rests entirely with the States.
The intrusion of the Commonwealth originally in 1945, and sustained through succeeding years because of the essential problems which were created by a wartime economy, developed because the Commonwealth always has had the funds and the States comparably, have lacked the funds to provide the type of housing which they wished to provide. It is that basis upon which there has been a utilisation of section 96 of the Constitution. But as the power of the Commonwealth under section 96 in that application of funds for housing has evolved, so there has been a transformation from the rigidity with which conditions were imposed in 1945 to almost unconditional grants which characterised the 1971 legislation. That, in itself, is conceded by Mr Les Johnson, the Federal Minister for Housing, in the statement he made when he embarked upon this ideological policy in January of this year. His initial announcement indicated that the agreement he proposed - I will quote him: . . would replace the present system of virtually unconditional grants with a scheme whereby Commonwealth financial aid would be given subject to a number of clearly defined conditions.
So it is the Australian Labor Party, the present Government, which is in essence putting back the clock to the days when the Commonwealth, because it had the funds, imposed upon the States precise conditions upon which the money would be available. I can say only that it is a regrettable step and that it is a step that does not facilitate the growth of cooperation between the Commonwealth and the States. The type of sophistication that we now have must be recognised increasingly if the people of this country are really to receive benefit from the Governmental structure that exists.
What are the conditions which will be imposed? They are stated in the agreement which is annexed to the Housing Agreement Bill. Of course, that agreement has not been signed by the States. It has not even been agreed to by them, although broad principles involved in it have some measure of agreement. This agreement is being given to the States to sign with the threat that if they do not sign it they will not receive any money. This is the type of authoritarianism and, to use an expression so often used, riding roughshod over the States’ rights that characterises the Opposition’s objection to parts of this Bill.
Although there are other clauses to which exception could also be taken, the clause in which the Opposition’s objection is crystallised is clause 19 of the agreement. For the first time, it imposes on Commonwealth-State housing relationships a prohibition or limitation upon home ownership. Even under the 1945 legislation a power was vested in the Slate authorities to sell the homes. It was not a power that was greatly utilised and it was subject to strict conditions. In essence, the money had to be paid forthwith to the Commonwealth if the house was sold. But in all the intervening years there has never been any provision comparable to that contained in clause 19.
– Does the honourable senator have clause 19 handy?
– I do not have the clause of the 1945 legislation.
– No, I am speaking of the prohibition.
– The prohibition contained in clause 19 (1.) of the agreement reads as follows:
Subject to sub-clause (2.) of this clause, the Housing Authority of a State shall not sell more than 30 per centum of the family dwellings for the provision of which Housing Authority advances have been used and which are completed or purchased during the period of 5 years commencing on the first day of January 1974.
This represents the approach of a government which by that prohibition is limiting the ability of a State authority to follow its own housing policies and, if it pleases, to sell to people who are occupying them, homes which they may wish to buy. This is totally consistent with a phrase which will forever remain in Australia’s political history. It emanated from a Minister of an earlier Labor Government who said that the Labor Party was not concerned to build a nation of little capitalists. There is a hang-over of that attitude which was expressed in 1945 and which is still to be seen in 1973.
Apparently, it is to characterise the approach of this Government for as long as it has control of the purse strings in this country. It is not the type of policy which is in the interests of a self-reliant, responsible nation or of people we expect to inherit a self-reliant, responsible nation. Surely the aspiration of people is to be able to purchase a home and a block of land upon which they live and which they can call their own. We in Australia have gone a long way towards establishing that as one of the real aspirations of people in this country. Therefore, it is no surprise that as Mr Hamer was able to indicate during the last State election campaign, 80 per cent of Victorian houses are owned or are being purchased by those who live in them. That is the highest proportion of homeownership in the world. I again quote from what Mr Hamer said in this policy:
We will not accept directions from Canberra to abandon or break down that policy.
That is, a family that qualifies as a housing commission tenant should be able, if it wishes, to buy the home in which it lives instead of frittering away its income by making payments in rent. As Mr Hamer said - and he received the endorsement of the electorate for his promise:
We intend to go further. We will reduce the deposit payable by a Housing Commission tenant who chooses to buy his home from $200 to nothing.
All I can say is that if a State government has the responsibility to develop a housing policy it should be allowed to develop that policy in accordance with the dictates of the electorate. I believe that there is a housing policy in Victoria that is second to none throughout Australia. Now, we have a Commonwealth Government which is bent on pursuing ideological objectives and seeking to control the way in which Victoria’s policy shall be operated. It is not only to limit the policy which Victoria has followed of offering to Housing Commission tenants an opportunity to buy their homes. The direct consequence of this policy, if Victoria has to adhere to it, is that the rentals for those people who want to rent homes will of necessity be increased. When the Victorian Minister has pointed this out time and again he has been met by the response: ‘Well, it is Commonwealth Government policy. It is Labor policy which must be paramount and which will override what you are doing.’ I have read parts of the transcript of the Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers for Housing. I refer anyone who is interested to what appears at page 101 and the following pages of the minutes of the proceedings of the conference held on 5 April this year. Mr Dickie, the Housing Minister in Victoria, stated:
As far as Victoria is concerned, … as a policy, as a State Liberal Party we spell out loud and clear that every person who seeks to own a house shall be given every assistance to do so, and that is the No. 1 policy in our platform. Until this stage, the number of houses we sell would vary. There have been years when it has been up to 52, it has dropped to 35. and it has been 40. We have sold houses to people not by direction but solely because of their desire to own a house, and I come back to the key words of our whole discussions today, namely, that no person can buy a Housing Commission house in Victoria if he is not a needy person and if he does not come within our low needs test of $80. If he earns more than $80 he cannot purchase a Housing Commission house. The Commission has built 72,000 home units and we have sold 33,500 of those. About 200 were sold before Sir Henry Bolte’s Government came in 1955 and 33,:100 have been sold since we came into office.
He pointed out in the succeeding pages of the transcript how the Victorian Government had adopted an averaging policy in order so to adjust the economic rentals according to the cost of constructing these Housing Commission homes that persons will pay equal rents irrespective of the ages of the houses in which they live. If States are bound, as they must be bound, by the provisions of the various Commonwealth-State Housing Agreements to charge a rent based upon the cost of the particular house, we would find that a house built in 1950 would have a rental of $5 a week, a 1960 house would have a rental of $12 a week and for a 1970 house one would pay $15. The general policy which the Victorian Government has pursued is that of averaging out the rentals. If my memory serves’ me correctly the present rental in Victoria is $12.30 a week for a 3-bedroom or 3- unit home. That represents the average rental irrespective of when the home was built.
This is a policy which, whether people agree with it or not, has been adopted by the Victorian Government. It has proved satisfactory and acceptable to the people of Victoria. The Government should have the right to pursue that policy without being told by Canberra that the policy has to be changed. As a direct consequence of having on the market a greater number of homes for rental at the inflated cost values of today, under this averaging system there will be a general increase in rentals right throughout the rental units which are available from the Housing Commission.
This is why Mr Dickie has been saying that the policy of the Labor Party if applied in Victoria will mean that the rentals will go up in Victoria, quite apart from any other considerations which would be applicable. That is why I think as a Victorian senator - apart from being a member of the Liberal Party and in Opposition - that these facts should be pointed out. It is not in the interests of what Senator Gietzelt calls the little people of this country to follow policies which have that disadvantageous effect upon those who are very happy to have a rental unit for $12 and who will be faced with the prospect, under the Labor Party, of having that rental increased by $3, $4, $5 or more a week.
– Is the honourable senator saying that if this Bill is defeated housing rents in Victoria will not go up under the present Victorian Government?
– I do not say that because there will always be an increase in the average rental according to the cost of construction of units. That must be recognised as part of the continuing process of inflation. But what I am saying is that the rents must go up and go up substantially in Victoria as a direct consequence of a policy which this Government is following, lt has been given due notice of one of the consequences which will flow.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was indicating that the new housing policy which the Labor Government was imposing upon the people of Australia was a policy which not only denigrated the virtues of home ownership but also sought to elevate the Commonwealth control of State functions. This is a tendency which reverses what had been the pattern of some 23 years of Liberal-Country Party Government in this country. I had welcomed the 1971 approach as the achievement of a stage in a continuing development which gave to the States the autonomy which their responsibility in relation to housing warranted and which indicated that the Commonwealth’s role was significantly and almost exclusively the provision of finance.
The States Grants (Housing) Act 1971 was a break in the pattern which had prevailed since 1945. The 1971 legislation saw the termination of the Commonwealth-State housing agreements which had characterised the provision of Commonwealth finance in the housing field since 1945. The 1971 legislation provided for direct grants of financial assistance to the States. There was no CommonwealthState housing agreement in the way in which there had been such agreements over each of the preceding 5-year periods. Of course, the States still had the opportunity to go to the Australian Loan Council for the provision of loan funds for their capital works, and the application of such of those capital funds as they obtained by loan for the purposes of housing was still a means of raising finance which was available to them. But the 1971 legislation substituted for the concessional interest rate of 1 per cent below the bond rate which had previously applied a direct grant which was to multiply over a period of some 34 years.
The advantage of that arrangement was that it was clear cut and provided a means of identification of what was the actual Commonwealth assistance being provided. It meant that, with the cash grant of $2.75m - that was in substitution of the concessional deduction of 1 per cent interest each year - cumulatively over a period of some 34 years, the States would receive $412.45m. That was an advantage to the States and, as they understood what was involved, they accepted it. But that did not mean that there was no other advantage to the States, because the proportion of the moneys received from the Loan Council allocation that they applied for housing purposes entitled them to the Commonwealth contribution of 0.25 per cent to the sinking fund arrangements which were established under the 1928 financial agreement.
In addition to those concessions and advantages the 1971 legislation provided a grant of $ 1.25m each year over a 5-year period for the purpose of providing, as the legislation indicated, assistance for needy families and the type of accommodation they wanted. This approach put the provision of housing finance into 2 clear categories. There was the loan fund allocation for capital works, and it was up to the States in their judgment to decide how much of their loan funds they wanted to apply to housing. That gave to the States an autonomy in one of their own areas of responsibility. Secondly, the States were to receive from the Commonwealth clearly, ascertainably and directly amounts which were specified and which anyone who was interested in the area of activity could identify. The conditions which the Commonwealth imposed were limited. There were, in effect, 2 conditions only, and the character of those conditions makes it reasonable to say that the grants given by the Commonwealth were virtually unconditional.
The conditions were, firstly, that, at least 30 per cent of the moneys should be allocated to the home builders’ account so that cooperative building societies, could be provided with funds for the purpose of private home building. That, of course, had been traditionally an area of Commonwealth Government activity under a ‘Liberal Government on the simple Liberal principle that government will always help those who are prepared to help themselves. That, of course, is in contrast to the general attitude which the present Government adopts, namely, that government knows best and government will provide. The other condition was that a certain sum - the small sum of SI. 25m - would be made available for the provision of housing for needy families. That condition was contained in section 1.1 of the 1971 legislation. ,1 would just instance what the legislation provides to illustrate the contrast of approach between differing philosophies and differing governments. Under the 1971 legislation this amount was payable to the States and it was broken up in terms of percentages on which the States had agreed. Section 11 provides:
Mr President, I cannot understand how we can develop this country on the proposition that the Minister for Housing and the bureaucrats in Canberra can determine what are the needs of persons in different places right throughout the length and breadth of the 3,000,000 square miles which constitute Australia. In these areas, when needs have to be considered and, in terms of needs, relief has to be provided, those persons who are on the spot and who have a general, local, autonomous control are better fitted than the people in Canberra to assess and determine those needs. So in 1971 the Commonwealth Government decided that it was up to each State authority, under whatever scheme it provided, to determine how it assessed who was a needy person. The Commonwealth- said: We are providing this amount of money. You shall assess for that purpose, but you shall be the best judges of how it shall be done’. I believe that in terms of development that ought to be the general relationship which exists between the Commonwealth and the States in the determination of these subjective assessments which are part and parcel of the application of finance for social welfare ends. What has been pitt in its place? Does not this typify the whole approach of the Labor Government? I do not challenge that in a very broad way I could find common ground with my colleagues in the Labor Party in sensing that we have an objective that there are welfare needs that have to be met. The differences - I regard them as tremendously significant differences - are the ways in which it is to be done.
I do not believe that the best results are achieved by specifying in Canberra, in accordance with a Party platform and policy, what are to be the conditions of legislation which shall apply across the board uniformly without any differentiation between the particular needs or relevant requirements of particular States. The Labor Party legislation is an agreement which is to be imposed upon the States. The States will be asked to sign that agreement in due course when it is presented to them. It has not yet been presented to the States for their consideration. The agreement will be presented to them for them to take or not as they please. The provision sets out a definition of needy persons, indicates the amount of average weekly earnings which persons have to earn before they cease to be a needy person, and imposes all sorts of requirements upon the State authorities according to Commonwealth prescription. Is it any wonder that the States, be they Liberal governed or Labor governed, object to the idea that Canberra knows best? 1 think that as members of a States House we ought to register our protest about these measures. We have had put to us, and I have sought to convey to the Senate some of the aspects that have been put to us, how particularly a highly successful housing program in Victoria will be adversely affected by the Commonwealth scheme. Fewer people will be able to buy their own homes. Those people who are compelled to pay rental or who want to pay rental will have to pay higher rentals for housing commission homes in Victoria simply because the Labor Government in Canberra is wedded to an ideological principle. Other aspects are involved. Why should Canberra know best as between Sydney and Melbourne, as between Perth and Brisbane, as between Brisbane and Adelaide, what ought to be the relevant needs which single persons have for accommodation? Why should Canberra know best whether the policy to prevail in any of the capital cities is a policy favouring rental accommodation or home purchase accommodation? Is it not significant that in Victoria there is a waiting list of only some 15 per cent of applications for housing commission homes over a particular year, whereas in New South Wales it is something like 40 per cent.
– What is the precise number?
– The honourable senator asks me to probe into the papers I have in front of me and take time to give him the figures. The honourable senator could find the figures if he looked at the transcript of the proceedings of the conference of Housing Ministers held in April of this year. What should be the relevant rentals is a matter for the State governments and not for the Commonwealth Government. These are matters which are highlighted by the type of agreement which is before the Senate at present.
I have taken some time to explain some views. As I said when I commenced my speech, I feel that the whole approach which this current Government is epitomising in this legislation is an approach which emphasises Commonwealth control as against State autonomy. It is an approach which denigrates home ownership in favour of the provision of rental accommodation. It is an approach which indicates what I describe as the general socialist approach as against the Liberal approach which seeks to build up a community of individuals with a sense of responsibility. That sense of responsibility w_I be inculcated by an inability of people to buy their own homes and to achieve through their own efforts something material which is the product of effort. Fundamentally, that attitude has always distinguished my approach to and marked my differences with the Labor Party. That attitude is displayed again in the Government’s housing policy which is being presented. I know that all we can do, acknowledging in a house of review that the Government has certain responsibilities to govern, is to indicate our opposition and to give expression to it in the hope that such seeds as to be found in that expression of opposition will fall on fertile ground. 1 can only regret that members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party who do have, as I know from their policy, a commitment to home ownership and a commitment to State rights as against centralist control, should not see their way clear to support the amendment which we will be moving in the Committee stage of this debate. 1 can only regret that this should happen in the case of Victoria when 2 senators of the DLP are from that State. I would think that what has been disclosed by the Victorian Housing Minister and what has been disclosed simply by examination of the record indicates that the people of Victoria will be far worse off under this scheme than they were under the scheme which existed before this legislation was introduced. These are the points which I think ought to be emphasised in the Senate as a States House. The Opposition does not oppose the second reading of these Bills but we shall move in Committee an amendment which seeks to give expression to views which we believe are quite fundamental in the political play in this country.
– I had no intention of speaking on this Bill but as I am a past registered builder I feel that I can speak with a little authority on the subject. I feel that I should add my contribution to this debate. Senator Greenwood has indicated that in some ways people in Victoria will be worse off because of the passage of this Bill. From my private discussions with him I feel that this matter is entirely up to the Victorian Government. The Victorian Government has evidently introduced a scheme whereby it averages out the rentals paid on its housing commission homes. People have to pay the same rental for a home that was built 25 years ago as people pay for a home built today. To me, as a builder, that is crazy. 1 know that a home built 25 years ago would not cost anywhere near the same amount to construct as would a home today. Therefore, people in a more modern home should have to pay, in all sensibility, a higher rental, not only because of the increased value of that home compared with one built 25 years ago but also because of the fact that their salaries have increased.
I know that these housing commission -homes are allocated only to people on a wage of approximately $80 a week. I would advise anyone on that wage never to try to buy his own home. If he does, he is only making a rod for his own back. I have advised my own son and my own daughter not to buy a home today because of the terrific increase in rates and taxes, and the maintenance costs of a home. A person who rents what I would call a workers home or a home, built by the Government is, in my opinion, paying a very minor rental. The rental on such homes should be set by the Government to allow for the interest which would have to be paid on the money which was borrowed to build that home. No other charges should be made except perhaps for rates, taxes and a small amount of maintenance. Year by year as the home grows older, maintenance costs increase. The costs also increase because of rising wages and higher material costs.
I understand the Victorian Government has a scheme whereby it averages out the rentals paid on its housing commission homes. As I have said, to me that scheme is crazy. The Victorian Government is treating unfairly all people who started to rent a home 25 years ago.
– That is a lot of rubbish.
– The Victorian Government is treating those people completely unfairly. As far as the housing scheme is con cerned I would say that the Federal Government, through the provisions of this Bill, is advancing money to the States and the States can use that money as they see fit in the construction of homes. In my opinion, the Government’s object is to ensure that as many people as possible in the low income group can take the opportunity of renting a home. The Government wants to retain the rental homes for that class of people. 1 know that in Western Australia alone people who many years ago bought what we call workers’ homes have sold them at a terrific profit to someone on a higher wage. I know that it is not supposed to happen, but it does. Provided a person does not own another home in Western Australia he can buy a worker’s home. That means that people on a higher wage can buy a home which is supposed to be for a person in the low income group.
A person who starts to buy a home, thinking in ignorance that he might some day own it, is a silly galoot. All be is doing is contributing to the Government because it will take it from him in death taxes in the finish, as long as death taxes remain. That happens all over Australia. A home is not owned until the death taxes are paid. A person may spend all his life paying off his home and all the time he is paying interest on the purchase price of the home which, instead of costing $10,000, will cost $25,000 because of the interest. My son was trying to buy a block of land in Western Australia. He was buying it through a finance company. He was being charged 14 per cent interest. I told him to sell it as soon as he could, even though the price of land is increasing.
I feel that the present Government is doing a very sensible thing by introducing these Bills. If the Victorian Government feels that a sales rate of 30 per cent from the money provided under the Agreement is not sufficient because it will mean that it will have to increase the rents, as Senator Greenwood suggested, it is up to the Victorian Government to have another look at the situation and decide that a home which was built 25 years ago must, in all fairness and reasonableness, should be available on a lower rent than a home built today. It must be so. It cannot be anything else. I have homes which were built at a cost of £875 about 30 years ago. Today the same home is worth $14,000, $15,000 or $16,000. The interest rate alone means that higher rents are inevitable. I would suggest that the Labor Government has in mind trying to help the people in the low income group. It is trying to do that. 1 wish the Opposition would keep quiet and not keep trying to interject. I did not make a noise while Senator Greenwood was talking. 1 am trying to be constructive but the Opposition is trying to be obstructive. When they finish, Mr President, I will start again. The Minister has said that the interest on the advances will be reduced from 6.5 per cent to approximately 4 per cent. That means that the State governments should be able to reduce their rents, which is a very good thing. From what the previous speaker, Senator Greenwood, said, I understand that a certain amount of money can be distributed to building societies. In my opinion, that should be stopped because the building societies are not short of money today. As a matter of fact, a Perth building society has some millions on hand to distribute for home building. The Government should not distribute money to building societies while the societies have that kind of money because they get it from the Government at 4± per cent and they charge 6i per cent or 7 per cent on their loans.
– There is a difference between terminating building societies and other balding societies.
– You may be right. I appreciate that the Federal Government is trying to help people in the low income group. I would advise those people to continue to rent homes. Only when they have a higher income can they consider buying a home. If rates, taxes and maintenance are added to the rent of a home, people in the low income group cannot afford it. While they are renting a home from the housing commission or whatever it is in the various States, that authority is responsible for the rates, taxes and maintenance of the borne. Therefore all that a person who is renting a home has to do is water and cut the lawns and look after the gardens. They do not have to pay for maintenance of a home which is rented from authorities which are supplied with finance by the Government. I know because I built many of these homes many years ago. I built many good homes. They are very good homes. The Government maintains the homes. Persons renting a home pay .to rates, taxes or maintenance. Anyone in the low income group who tries to buy such a home is not right in the head, although it is nice to own one’s own home. I well remember when I built my first home. I proudly told my brother, who was a Quean’s Counsel, that I had just finished paying for my home. He said: ‘You damn fool. Don’t ever try to pay for your own home’.
– Why did you build homes for other people if it was such a bad deal?
– I agree that it was a bad deal. At that time I thought he was crazy. He said: ‘Owe money if you can, but do not buy something and own it because as sure as eggs, if you own it, someone will take it from you’. I fought against that over the years. Today I own a few homes. But I am telling the Senate that owning a home is not all beer and skittles. You have to pay out money continuously. I strongly support the Government’s Bill. To those honourable senators who have been talking on behalf of Victoria 1 say: ‘Go back to your State and tell your State Government to fall into a sensible line and to charge rents according to today’s value.’
– Nonsense of the sort which we have just heard should not go on the record of the Senate uncontradicted. We have heard from a senator who 20 years ago could build homes for £800 and who today vouches for those homes being worth $16,000; (hat is to say, they have multiplied in capital value 10 times in 20 years. Knowing the attitude of the honourable senator, we can be assured that he has .multiplied his rents in proportion with inflation. If one of these humble people, who attract the compassion of Senator Negus takes his advice today, in 20 years time instead of paying rent appropriate to today’s rates, say on $1.6,000, he will be paying a rent appropriate to an inflated value, which capitalists of the worst sort will ensure, of $32,000. lt is when he builds up those phobias simply because he is an individual with a grasping attitude who condemns the Victorian Government which equalises rents for all participants in the scheme that the honourable senator becomes over concerned about death duties and adopts a miserable, contemptible outlook about home ownership. I despise the speech.
– in reply - The debate started very well but it became overheated in the final analysis. Let me say on behalf of the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) and the Government that I express appreciation to the Democratic Labor Party for the amendment which it will move in the Committee stage.
– For a member of the Labor Party to say such a thing is an offence punishable by expulsion.
– If it is repeated often enough it becomes a justifiable expression. The amendment shows that the DLP has not lost sight of the needs of the small man. That is what the Agreement is all about. That is what is not quite understood by honourable senators opposite. This Government is not against home ownership.
– Not half.
– It has possibly done more for home ownership than any previous Government.’
– When the opposition dies down we will try to look at the facts. The ceiling on credit foncier loans available from the Commonwealth Bank has been released to assist home ownership. The defence services homes scheme provisions have been made easier and even national servicemen can qualify for loans. A graduated form of tax deductions for mortgage interest payments tends to encourage home ownership.
– We have not seen that.
– It is a proposal for graduated taxation deductions.
– Are we going to get it?
– It is in the pipeline somewhere; I do not know at what stage it is. These are some of the genuine attempts being made to encourage home ownership. The home savings grants, about which I have never been happy, are being continued by this Government to encourage young people to provide their own homes. But in this Housing Agreement Bill we are faced with an agreement with the States which expires in June this year.
– There is a housing agreement which expires and we are giving an additional sum of $7. 5m, I believe, to permit it to continue until the end of June. Then the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) will seek to enter into agreement with the States for another 5-year period. The Housing Agreement Bill, now before the House, seeks to permit the Minister to state the terms on which he shall approach the States for that agreement. The agreement must be entered into with the States. If the agreement is not entered into with the States, this Bill will not apply. This is the negotiating term for the Commonwealth. Senator Rae is incorrect when he says that we are not increasing the amount which was offered last year. The second Bill, the States Grants (Housing Assistance) Bill stipulates the amount to be paid to the end of 1973 and the beginning of 1974.
– For the first 6 months.
– For the first 6 months. It has a duration. That was completely explained in the second reading speech. I quote:
The maximum amount payable to each State is set out in the schedule to the Bill and is equivalent to half the amount allocated by each State from its Australian Loan Council program for housing purposes in 1972-73. The advances of these amounts are intended to be made under the Housing Agreement to provide for the States’ needs for housing funds in the early months of 1973-74.
That is all. We do not state the amount. But in my second reading speech I went on to say:
The total amount to be advanced to each Stale in 1973-74 for welfare housing purposes, which is yet to be determined, will be the subject of an authorising BUI to be introduced into Parliament during the Budget sittings.
All we are proposing now is that half the amount of last year will be paid for 6 months of this year. We make no prediction in this particular legislation about what it will be after that. So one cannot say now whether we intend to make more money or less money available.
It is incorrect to say that only 30 per cent of this money is to be made available for house purchase purposes. That is not the wording of the Bill. Of the money made available under the agreement 30 per cent is to be allocated to the home builders’ account to provide finance for home ownership. That is, that 30 per cent must go immediately into the home builders’ account for home ownership. Of the 70 per cent left for the States’ operation, 30 per cent can be permitted to be spent for home purchase. The remainder is to be used for the purposes of rental houses. It is true that some States want the limitation increased. It has been varied somewhat for
Tasmania which previously had a vast number of homes purchased. An agreement has been reached which provides for some concessions to Tasmania. I quote from the transcript of the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers for Housing held at Adelaide on Thursday, 5 April 1973, to show what Mr Lowe, the Tasmanian Housing Minister, said about the offer. This appears at page 115:
Mr LOWE: I find the Commonwealth Minister’s offer acceptable. We sell 70 per cent of our total new construction, including villa, and it means that we drop down in our first year (next year) to 50 per cent, then 40 per cent the following year, and then to 30 per cent. 1 think that is within our capabilities.
So there is no complaint in Victoria.
– I think you will find that there is a complaint.
– I mean no complaint in Tasmania.
– Look at the first part of page 122 which shows that Mr Lowe moved an amendment as an expression of Tasmania’s opinion.
– My good friend, i am referring to page 115 which records the remarks of the Minister himself. The problem - and this is the difference between the Government’s approach and the Opposition’s approach - was stated by Mr Dickie, the Victorian Minister for Housing. Mr Dickie said:
The most difficult family to house is a married man on a tow income with a large family . . .
He is the man to whom we are seeking to give some protection. That is the purpose of this legislation. The means test is to be applied to ensure that the money goes to those with needs. I have mentioned that there is a provision relating to housing for rental purposes. Seventy per cent of the allocation must be used for rental purposes. Here we are catering for the 93,000 applicants for rental homes throughout Australia. Whatever the Opposition may say about achieving home ownership, it cannot deny that 93,000 applications for rental homes are lodged with the vane us housing commissions in Australia.
Statistics showing the number of homes built be the State housing authorities for the period 1947-48 to 1971-72 with the aid of moneys provided under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreements and State Grants (Housing) Acts indicate that some 104,000 have been sold leaving stocks of lettable dwellings held by the housing authorities as at 30 June 1972 at only 60,000. They are all the houses that the States have left to allocate to the needy 93,000 applicants. With some 93,000 applicants on the waiting’ list of State housing authorities to June 1972, this stock is inadequate to cater for the needs of low income people who have no prospects of obtaining suitable housing other than through the State housing authorities. They represent the section of the population which this Bill seeks to house but to whose housing the Liberal Party is opposed. For those who can afford to purchase a home, as I stated in an earlier debate, we have made provision for finance. Those who cannot purchase homes, those who have not the deposit to purchase a home, the family man on a low income with a large family, are among those 93,000 seeking homes. Where are they to get the money? Honourable senators opposite do not care a damn about those individuals. This Party came to power on the pledge in its policy to provide for the needy in Australia. This legislation is part of our action to abolish poverty in Australia. This is what we seek to do.
The Housing Commission of New South Wales has estimated that the cost of replacing the 22,700 rental dwellings in Sydney which were built at a cost of $126m would be approximately $500m today. Those 22,700 rental dwellings which that Government has in stock to house needy people today because of construction costs at present cannot so easily be replaced. What we are trying to d) is ensure that State housing authority ownership is so increased that at all times it can meet the requirements of the needy. We are not alone in this aim. Among the authorities whom I might quote is the honourable member for Bennelong, Sir John Cramer, who, in the House of Representatives on 12 April, in the debate on this Bill, stated-
– The debate on this Bill on 12 April?
– I refer to his remark in the debate on the Housing Assistance Bill 1973. He said:
No doubt everyone who can make out a case wants a subsidised rent from the housing commission. Once a person moves into a housing commission home, no matter how his financial position may improve, neither the Federal government nor any State government would put him out of that home to make room for somebody who could not afford to pay rent elsewhere: This is quite wrong according to the principle of subsidised rent. It is no exaggeration to say that there are tens of thousands of people in homes owned by the State housing commissions who could afford to pay an economic rent. This is a maladjustment of the occupation of homes.
I turn to another authority. On 1 May in the other House, the honourable member for Wentworth, Mr Bury, said:
One of the obvious shortages in the housing field in Australia is housing for rental. We have probably reached the stage where home ownership has been relatively overdone. We now have an increasingly mobile population which needs to shift from place to place and not to undertake long term commitments like buying a house. These people need to rent houses and to be able to move quickly from one place to another and from one job to another. This is a requirement which is most acutely felt amongst the lower income groups.
I believe that public moneys for housing have been in some degrees misapplied. For instance, many houses sold by the State housing commissions have worked out as nice little capital gains for their purchasers. There is a great contrast between the automobiles and the other exhibits of wealth which surround many housing commission homes and the incomes of those within them. In his field I believe that the Minister is right in tilting the housing commission operations much more towards the provision of rental accommodation, which is what Australia badly needs overall.
– Where is that quote from?
– It is an extract from the Hansard report of the speech by Mr Bury on 1 May. The next matter I come to is that of the average rents. Senator Greenwood said that the average rents system is a fair system. We heard Senator Negus say of that system that homes constructed at present are much preferable to homes erected 25 years ago although the same rent must be paid for both. Thoseliving in older homes subsidise the costs and amortisation of capital expenditure associated with the more modern homes. A side effect of the averaging system is that rents which are much less than economic rents are charged of tenants whose financial situation has improved over the years to the point at which they can well afford to pay an economic rent. The cost of this subsidisation is borne by those who cannot afford that cost and who occupy cheaper houses built some years ago. They are subsidising the rents of those who have reached the stage at which at present they could pay higher rent.
Anyone who suggests that a tenant of the Victorian Housing Commission would be worse off under our scheme than would a tenant under the present scheme is not facing up to the facts. If money for housing purposes is made available at an interest rate of 4 per cent compared with the 6 per cent to 6½ per cent which is charged today, those funds play a big part in determining rents to be charged to tenants. The provision of money at cheaper interest rates must result in cheaper rents. The charging of higher rents in respect of dwellings built from those funds is the fault of the State authorities and not the fault of the Commonwealth authorities. Money is provided at a cheaper rate of interest.
The condition of providing that money at a cheaper rate is that it will be used for the purpose of building dwelling to house the needy. We do not impose that condition with respect to money that comes from other sources. This is the reason for the insistence by this Government that by providing money for housing at this cheaper interest rate we are subsidising efforts to construct dwellings for those 93,000 applicants for State housing commission dwellings who have not a home today and who cannot afford to build a home. I thank all honourable senators for indicating their agreement to support the motion forthe second reading of this Bill. The amendment foreshadowed by Senator Rae and to be introduced during the Committee stage has been debated in the course of the second reading debate. I hope that in the Committee stage the amendment will simply be moved and then a vote taken on it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills together read a second time.
– We have 3 Bills before the Committee. An amendment has been circulated to the Housing Agreement Bill 1973. I suggest that the Committee proceed to deal with that Bill first and then deal with the other two Bills together. Is it the wish of the Committee that we follow that procedure? There being no objection, we will proceed on that basis.
Housing Agreement Bill 1973
– I move:
In the Schedule, clause 19, sub-clause (1.), leave out ‘30’, insert ‘50’.
I will speak briefly to my amendment. I remind honourable senators that clause 19(1.) in its present form reads:
Subject to sub-clause (2.) of this clause, the Housing Authority of a State shall not sell more than 30 per centum of the family dwellings for the provision of which housing authority advances have been used and which are completed or purchased during the period of five years commencing on the first day of January 1974.
The amendment proposes to change from 30 per cent to 50 per cent the number of dwellings available for purchase. As the Minister for Works (Senator Cavanagh) has indicated, this aspect has been debated already. The reasons for moving the amendment have been made abundantly clear, I believe, and certainly have not been answered by any real debate other than perhaps the considerations put forward by Senator Little. I pause only to reply to some of the absurdities in what was put otherwise in reply. Senator Wright has commented on the wisdom which fell from the lips of Senator Negus.
I should like to refer to something which the Minister for Works quoted because I think that he may not have read far enough into the transcript of proceedings of the meeting of Housing Ministers on 5 April. So that he can reconsider the position, I simply suggest that he should not read only from page 115 where Mr Lowe, the Tasmanian Minister for Housing, is reported as saying that he thinks Tasmania could live with the situation and that it is within Tasmania’s capabilities to reduce the percentage. But he makes it quite clear that he is not happy about the situation. At page 122 of the transcript he is reported as actually moving an amendment to the motion, the wording of which was:
That, as an expression of the feeling of State Ministers at this conference the figure ‘50’ be inserted.
If that is not making it quite clear that Tasmania was no more happy than the others, then I do not know what would make it clear.
– On what page is that in the transcript?
– lt is on page 122 of the transcript. That amendment was carried, as appears quite clearly from page 123. That was an amendment to a motion which had been moved by Mr Bruxner, the Minister for Housing in New South Wales. Although New South Wales was not particularly inconvenienced by this requirement, it was prepared to resist this infringement of State rights and to support the amendment to the motion which provided for 50 per cent. The amendment was supported by the Western Australian Labor Minister for Housing and subsequently by the other Ministers present. The Chairman, Mr Dunstan, is recorded as not having voted. I simply point that out because I hope that the Minister will reconsider his position, because the States, including the States of the same political persuasion as his own Government, are virtually unanimously against h<m. The States made it quite clear, and I thought’ it would help the Minister if I pointed that out to him.
– I should like to add my support to the amend; ment. It must surely be clear to any member of the Senate who considers himself a State representative, after having heard the comment made by Senator Rae, that in actual fact every State Minister for Housing agreed unanimously that not 30 per cent, but 50 per cent of the dwellings built by housing authorities should be available for sale.
– Did that include Western Australia?
– It includes Western Australia, and I hope that Senator Negus listens to this, if he is able to hear. If he intends to be a representative of his State and not just a representative of the Australian Labor Party, he should understand that every State government opposed the Federal Government’s proposal and supported the proposition that 50 per cent of dwellings built by housing authorities should be available for sale. I have great pleasure in supporting the amendment.
– I do not think there is anything to reply to in the actual wording of the amendment. But in order to put the record straight between Senator Rae and myself, I indicate that I do not think there is any disagreement in what we have said. The quotation to which I referred was a statement by Mr Lowe. He did say, as Senator Rae said, that Tasmania would live with it, that it could get on all right. Then, as Senator Rae stated, Mr Lowe gave notice of an amendment, which was:
That, as an expression of the feeling of State Ministers at this conference the figure ‘SO’ bs inserted.
That appears on page 122 of the transcript. Then apologetically he explained:
In other words, that is for the information of the Commonwealth, not to try to embarrass the Commonwealth Minister but as an expression of how we feel, hoping that the Commonwealth will review the proceedings of today’s conference. It shows how we feel about ‘SO’ being inserted in place of ‘30’. lt is not disputed that the State Ministers would prefer that 50 per cent of dwellings built by housing authorities should be available for sale.
– You are riding rough shod -
– We are trying to bring logic, not stupidities, into this. As I say, the State Ministers would prefer a figure of 50 per cent. But the Commonwealth has a duty to house the needy, and that is the essential thing that we are enforcing in this agreement.
– 1 must say that 1 do not feel that the Australian Labor Party would be prepared to go on to the hustings and try to justify the type of approach which it is asserting in this Bill. We, for our part, will fight any election at any time and any place on the right of the Australian citizen who wants to buy his own home to be able to buy his own home. The Labor Party’s proposal is a denial of the right of the low income earner to buy the house in which he is living. I hope that the Labor Party realises that in pursuit of some old hoary socialist shibboleth it is denying to persons who can get into housing commission homes the opportunity to have their rental applied to the purchase of those homes. I hope that it is writ large in the literature which passes into the hands of the electors throughout Australia, because I believe that it will have the same impact on the Labor Party’s fortunes as did Mr Dedman’s famous phrase of some 28 years ago, ‘that the Labor Party did not want to create a race of little capitalists.
I said earlier that I can not see why there has to be any prohibition at all upon a State authority which wants to sell housing commission homes in which tenants are living and which they want to buy. Why should there be any restriction upon that at all? But the Labor Party imposes a restriction for no better reason than that it is part of its socialist dogma. No better reason is given. Victoria is one State which has gone out of its way to promote the concept of home ownership, and over the years more than 50 per cent of bousing commission homes in that State have been sold. The Federal Government will cut down the number that may be sold. What in effect the Government is doing is denying to some tenants the right to buy their homes. At page 102 of this much quoted transcript of proceedings of the conference which was held in Adelaide between Commonwealth and State Housing Ministers, the Victorian Minister stated - and he was improved upon by the Premier:
It has been spelt out loud and clear as our policy that we believe the low-income earner should be given assistance to buy his house. There is a $200 deposit, and in our policy speech for the forthcoming election we will drop it to $100. 1 said that the Premier bettered him, because the Premier said that there will not have to be any deposit at all.
– Who won that election?
– I am indebted to my colleague. On this issue, which was one of the election issues in Victoria, the Labor Party suffered an enormous drop in its percentage, and the Liberal Party’s percentage has never been higher in some 25 years. That is why we believe in home ownership, quite apart from the philosophical basis which we have to support it. Mr Dickie continued:
We are going to make it so easy for needy people to purchase a house, and we will not have any part of a restriction. This talks about a concession but we know of the famous Press release of 16 January about old stocks. You now say-that the Commonwealth is graciously permitting a concession.
That is a fact. Originally, this Labor Government wanted to deny any right of home ownership to persons who were renting housing commission homes. Such was the outcry, such was the weight of editorial opinion, such was the pressure of the little people whom the Labor Party claims to represent when it really does not represent them at all that they were prepared to make some concessions. They said: ‘We will make the prohibition only to 70 per cent of the homes which are built by the Housing Commission. We will not prohibit it absolutely.’ Mr Dickie said, in respect of the sales of Housing Commission homes:
We have been up to 50 per cent but you will permit us to sell 30 per cent. That is a prohibition upon us.
As Mr Dickie pointed out, in Victoria the only people who can rent Housing Commission homes are people earning $80 a week or less. Therefore they are the only people who can purchase Housing Commission homes. Why should not an opporunity be given to a person earning $80 a week or less to purchase his home if he wants to do so? But that is not for the Labor Party. It says: ‘Sales can be made of 30 per cent of the. houses but the rest of those houses cannot be sold.’ That is the way in which the Labor Party helps the little man, the man on a low income. It would take more than the eloquence of Senator Cavanagh to convince me or anybody else that that is helping the man on low income.. I do not think he can convince me or anybody else of that.
I will illustrate how out of touch this isolated Canberra Government is with its own colleagues who have the responsibility of government in the States by quoting what was said by Mr Bickerton, the Labor Minister for Housing in the Western Australian Government. I adopt every one of his words wholeheartedly. He. said:
I am afraid that I have to go along with Victoria on this. 1 cannot agree that you should restrict the sale of houses. Of course, we find that the more people that buy, houses the better the situation financially, as far as we are concerned; it does away with maintenance, and that is a big thing. Also, it greatly assists the sociological side of it. One of the things we keep emphasising, in an effort to get away from slum areas, is the need to have a mixture right throughout the community, and there is no better way to achieve this than when a person who has lived in a rental home decides to purchase it and when there is home ownership in the rental areas, this being one of the fundamental things in a Housing Commission settlement.
I remind honourable senators that I am quoting the words of a Labor Minister, a man with the responsibility on the spot. How does this square with the ideological nonsense which comes out of the Labor Party here? Mr Bickerton went on:
To say you will put a percentage on the purchase is wrong; although I can see its purpose, that does not make it right. I think that our sales at present are about SO per cent, not counting the home builders account which may give another 30 per cent. This is most essential. If someone in my district was to telephone me and say he was interested in a transaction for a Housing Commission house, I would consider driving a thousand miles to assist him: that is how strongly ] feel about it.
Again I remind honourable senators that I am quoting a Labor Minister. He went on:
I think it is the fundamental right of an Australian to have a house, whether he rents lt or owns it.
I am sure that he would have the endorsement of 80 per cent to 90 per cent of the Australian community in that belief. He went on:
Eventually it is his desire to own a house. I think we should avoid restricting ownership. We should give every encouragement to people to buy houses by making the deposit as low as possible. Conditions can be attached to the sale of houses so that the authority has the first offer or must give permission to sell to cover cases where it looks as though someone wants to make a quick profit. In some cases, we have not sold a house because we have known that someone was out to make a few quick dollars.
And that is a proper restriction to have in mind. He continued:
However, if someone sells a house under reasonable circumstances, someone else buys it, and that is one less house we have to find for someone. If accommodation changes hands ten times, this is finding accommodation for people in the community. We should give a person every encouragement to own his house. I go along with Victoria 100 per cent on this . . .
So he should. Home ownership is the way really to develop a person’s pride in his own achievements, to enable him to get something as a result of his own efforts and responsibility. It is the way to build the type of nation we want. But that is not good enough for the Labor Party and the sociological principles it holds. I am interested to hear how Senator Cavanagh will explain away what his colleague in Western Australia has said, a man I find is persuasive as any dedicated Liberal.
– I want to introduce a little logic into this debate. Honourable senators opposite who are now interjecting should listen. They might hear something to their advantage. What is a home and land belonging to the Victorian Housing Commission worth? Is it possible to buy such a home for $14,000, or is it $16,000?
– About $14,000.
– All right. Senator Greenwood said in his speech that in Victoria the Housing Commission charges a rental of $12.30 a week, on average. Making a calculation at the lowest rate of interest which the Commonwealth allows to these people - that is 4 per cent - it would cost them $560 a year in interest alone. Rental of $12.30 a week equals $650 a year. Therefore they are left with the large sum of $90 a year from which to pay rates, taxes and maintenance costs. I turn now to a home costing $16,000, which is the average price of a home and land in the cities throughout Australia. Annual interest at 4 per cent is $640, leaving purchasers with the magnificent sum of $10 a year from which to pay rates, taxes and maintenance costs. Yet Senator Greenwood tells us that it is wise for those people to buy their homes.
The people in Victoria should be told the facts as I have just told them to the Senate. As a builder I have had to explain to people how much interest they would have to pay if they bought their own homes. The people about whom Senator Greenwood is talking would be in their homes for a lifetime and would never do any more than pay interest on them, yet they are supposed to be buying them. They would never own a home.
– I have just received some information which I think is relevant to this debate. It is a telegram signed by the Queensland Minister for Housing. It states:
Queensland objects strongly to limitation of sales to 30 per cent. This is unrealistic and must ultimately prevent tenants buying the houses in which they have lived and improved for some years.
I think it is a relevant consideration that Queensland has made its attitude clear. Perhaps some Queensland senators will have some regard to what their Government thinks.
– I think the debate has now degenerated into Party political filth rather than anything else. This is an area in which I am not qualified to compete. I will not compete with those senators who are presenting it. I am incapable of entering into such an area. Therefore I leave the debate.
– 1 think Senator Cavanagh’s words ought to be stressed and put alongside the Labor Party’s policy on a host of issues. What it calls the issue of home ownership, rental accommodation, and whether the Commonwealth should control the powers of the States Senator Cavanagh describes as filth. Is that the attitude of the Australian Labor Party and the approach it adopts to this issue? The stance taken by Senator Cavanagh tonight indicates his general attitude. I do not think the Labor Party really would like to go on the hustings to defend its position in regard to people in Housing Commission homes earning $80 a week or less having an opportunity to buy a home. They ought not to be restricted by an arbitrary figure brought down by the Commonwealth Government. It lays down that people can buy the first 30 per cent of houses built in any year, but no one else after that will have an opportunity to buy a home. How can that be justified? Is the fact that Senator Cavanagh describes the viewpoint in favour of home ownership by low income earners as filth a testimony to his inadequacy to provide an effective answer to that viewpoint.
I have challenged him before and I challenge him again: What answer is to be given to the person who says, ‘I am in a Housing Commission house, I am happy to be in it and I would like to buy it, but you, the Labor Party, have said that I cannot buy it because too many others have already bought their homes and I will have to continue paying rental.’? What answer is to be given to him? I am sure that the Labor Party will not give to him the answer which its supporters are trying to give to the public in this chamber, namely, that it is the policy of the Labor Party to say: There are people who ought to have homes because they want to rent them.’ I am talking about the man who wants to buy his own home. Why should he not have an opportunity to do so? It is the unwillingness of the Australian Labor Party and Senator Cavanagh in particular to face up to that argument which exposes the whole case for the fraudulent sham on the Australian people that it is.
– There was no statement by me that I regarded the States’ claim as filth. I said that this debate had degenerated to Party political filth. So it has when statements are made that the socialist plan will not permit capitalists. I have been asked what I would say to the man who has lived in a trust home and who has asked to buy it but cannot because of the Labor Party’s policy. The answer is that I would tell him he will now be in a position to put a deposit on and purchase a house because of the cheap rental made available by the Labor Government.
That the figure proposed to be left out (Senator Rae’s amendment) be left out.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator Prowse)
Majority .. ..6
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill agreed to.
States Grants (Housing Assistance) Bill 1973
States Grants (Housing) Bill 1973
Bills agreed to.
Bills reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bills (on motion by Senator Cavanagh) together read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) - proposed:
The Senate, recognising the desirability of a thorough review of the Australian Constitution in the light of experience since its establishment and of modern day requirements, welcomes the opportunity for the Australian Parliament to participate with the Parliaments of the States in the Constitutional Convention to be convened for this purpose in September of this year, and at such subsequent times as the Convention from time to time determines, and agrees:
That the Australian Parliament join with the Parliaments of the States in the Convention:
That, for the purposes of the Convention -
a delegation from the Australian Parliament consisting of 16 members of the Parliament take part in the deliberations of the Convention, of whom 6 shall be appointed by the Senate and 10 shall be appointed by the House of Representatives;
the 6 members appointed by the Senate comprise 3 members of the Australian Labor Party, one member of the Liberal
Party of Australia, one member of the Australian Country Party and one member of the Australian Democratic Labor Party;
That the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator the Honourable L. K. Murphy, Q.C., Senator J. R. McClelland and Senator A.
Gietzelt, being members of the Australian Labor Party, Senator the Honourable I. J. Greenwood, Q.C., being a member of the Liberal Party of Australia, Senator the Honourable T. C. Drake-Brockman, D.F.C., being a member of the Australian Country Party and Senator the Honourable V. C. Gair, being a member of the Australian Democratic Labor Party, are appointed as members of the delegation;
That the Prime Minister be the Leader of the delegation, and the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives be the Deputy Leader;
That a member of the delegation cease to be such a member if -
he ceases to be a member of the Australian Parliament;
the House of the Parliament by which he has beenappointed terminates his appointment; or
he resigns as a member of the delegation by writing addressed to the President of the Senate or the Speaker of the House of Representatives, as the case requires;
That where, because of illness or another cause, a member of the delegation is not available to attend a meeting of the Convention, the Leader or senior available member of the Party in the House from which the member was drawn may nominate an alternate member - being a member of the House by which the first mentioned member was appointed - and the member so nominated shall be a member of the delegation for that meeting;
In the event of the death or resignation of a member of the delegation, the Leader or senior available member of the Party in the House from which the member was drawn may nominate another member - being a member of the House by which the first-mentioned member was appointed - to replace the firstmentioned member until that House appoints a member in his place;
That the Leader of the delegation from time to time make a report for presentation to each House of the Parliament on matters arising out of the Convention, and that the Deputy Leader of the delegation may make an accompanying report.
– The Opposition naturally supports this motion. It is of a formal character. The terms of it have been concurred in as has appeared from the appointments which have been made. The Constitutional Convention is scheduled to meet in Sydney in the week commencing 3 September. This is an historic occasion which I am sure everyone who is participating trusts will have some impact and some potential on future development, and some benefit for the future governmental structure of this country. We support the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating agreement to a motion in similar terms.
Message received from the House of Representatives as follows:
The House of Representatives returns to the Senate the Bill entitled ‘A Bill for an Act to establish a Pipeline Authority’, and acquaints the Senate that the House of Representatives has considered the message of the Senate requesting the House to make certain amendments in such Bill.
The House of Representatives has disagreed to amendments Nos 1 and 2 made by the Senate as indicated by the annexed schedule, and for the reasons shown therein; has agreed to amendment No. 3 with the amendment as shown in the annexed schedule; has agreed to amendment No. 4; and has made an amendment to clause 13 of the Bill.
The House of Representatives desires the reconsideration by the Senate of the Bill in respect of the amendments disagreed to, and the concurrence of the Senate in the amendment made by the House to amendment No. 3 of the Senate.
The House of Representatives also desires the reconsideration by the Senate of clause 13 of the Bill, and requests the concurrence of the Senate in the amendment made to that clause by the House as shown in the annexed schedule.
Motion (by Senator Wriedt) agreed to:
That the message be taken into consideration in Committee of the Whole forthwith.
After clause 13, insert the following new clause: 13a. No pipeline work exceeding in cost $2m shall be undertaken or constructed by the Authority unless and until it has been referred to the Public Works Committee pursuant to the Public Works Committee Act 1 969- 1972 and has been authorised in accordance with that Act’.
Reason of the House of Representatives for disagreeing to Amendment No. 1 of the Senate. Because:
The Australian Gas Light Company has entered into a Letter of Agreement, operative from October 1972, with a consortium of natural gas producing companies at Gidgealpa in the Cooper Basin of
South Australia to purchase supplies for its use under its statutory franchise at Sydney. To transmit the gas it established a subsidiary company, East Australia Pipeline Corporation Limited, whose share capital it wholly owns, and which has already obtained the necessary feasibility study and technical advice and costing to pursue the construction of the pipeline, and has entered into various contracts for that purpose. The said company also entered into a contract with Mitsubishi (Australia) Pty Ltd for the supply of 206,000 tons of 34in diameter pipes for the construction of the pipeline. The said company has assigned to the Commonwealth of Australia the benefit of its pipe contract and a substantial proportion of the pipes have been delivered to the custody of the Commonwealth of Australia, and a sum of about$7m paid by it for them.
To permit of the construction of the first stage of its national pipeline project, and to also supply to Australian Gas Light Company its natural gas from the Gidgealpa consortium, the Commonwealth of Australia is acquiring the shares of East Australia Pipeline Corporation Limited, so that it may assume the responsibilities and receive the benefits of that companys’ contractual arrangements, feasibility studies and technology. The Commonwealth is also entering into an appropriate contract with Australian Gas Light Company to transmit by the proposed pipeline its contracted supplies of gas from the Gidgealpa consortium. Under the terms of its contract with the Gidgealpa consortium, Australian Gas Light Company is obliged to complete costruction of the pipeline and accept delivery of gas for transmission within 2 years from the date of the contract. The 9 members of the Gidgealpa consortium will be committed to the expenditure of $330m for the necessary refining and processing plant, of which $130m must be spent to synchronise with the completion of the pipeline; $100m of this money must be obtained by bank accommodation on stringent terms, contingent on the early commencement and completion of the pipeline.
Completion of construction has been already delayed for 4 months, pending completion of an Environmental Impact Inquiry constituted by the Government of New South Wales, and consideration by that Government of its recommendations. Members of the Gidgealpa consortium are being increasingly obliged to continue operations on borrowed funds, at high rates of interest, pending completion of the pipeline. Tenders have already been called for the supply of the necessary pipeline gate valves, and the continued employment of 600 men in foundries at Melbourne and Ballarat are dependent on the allocation of the contract to them. Mr James Donald, who will be Executive Member of the Pipeline Authority, is in a position to call tenders within 3 weeks of publication of the recommendations of the Environmental Impact Inquiry, and can award the necessary contract within15 weeks thereafter, and commence construction in 27 weeks. The completion of the construction will be either 85 or 110 weeks, dependent on the final route recommended by the Environmental Impact Inquiry.
The Australian Gas Light Company is the oldest and most experienced company in gas production and pipeline engineering in Australia, and, prior to the arrangement with the Commonwealth, was proceeding to construction in accordance with the feasibility study and the cost estimates associated therewith. Consequently the construction involves the substitution of the Commonwealth as constructing authority for the project, taking over from Australian Gas Light Company through ownership of East Australian Pipeline Corporation Limited, under an arrangement whereby the Commonwealth would stand in the shoes of Australian Gas Light Company Limited, who would not be disadvantaged by the
Commonwealth assumption of responsibility. In these circumstances, the proposed investigation by the Public Works Committee would result in delay and serious financial loss to all parties concerned, and would only confirm the already established economic and commercial viability of the project. No other statutory authority, constituted and functioning under Commonwealth legislation, has been subjected to the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act, as would result under the terms of the Senate amendment.
No. 2 - After clause 16, insert the following new clause: 16a. (1) The Authority shall be deemed to be a common carrier and to have the obligations of a common carrier.
Reason of the House of Representatives for disagreeing to Amend No. 2 of the Senate
Clause 16a would reduce the Pipeline Authority to the status of a common carrier, and substitute public investment for what would otherwise be a substantial private obligation to invest in its own pipeline. The Senate amendment, imposing the obligation on the Authority to accept petroleum at any point on its pipelines, for delivery to any other point on such pipelines, would completely frustrate operation of the pipeline by the Pipeline Authority, and in particular its powers under clause 13 to buy and sell natural gas on its own account.
The objective of the Government is to establish a national pipeline grid for the transmission of natural gas at a uniform price, and ensuring continuity of supply. Each Australian producer of natural gas claiming its rights from the Pipeline Authority as a common carrier could set up a rival and excessive pricing structure, according to its whim and belief as to what maximum return it could obtain. In its conduct of the pipeline, the Authority would need to regulate most carefully the British thermal content of the natural gas which varies greatly from the different Australian production basins.
The entry of natural gas into the pipeline without power to enforce the removal of undesirable associated gases would also produce chaos in the system. With the unregulated commingling of natural gas on a common carrier basis, rival producers would seek to pass through the pipeline gas with such a wide variety of impurities that it would be impossible to ascertain and enforce a common pricing structure, and uniformity of quality for consumers.
No. 3 - In sub-clause (2) (a) of clause 17, after land’, insert ‘or, where such notification is impracticable, shall obtain a Magistrate’s warrant for the purpose’.
Amendment amended as follows:
Omit the words ‘a Magistrate’s warrant for the purpose’, substitute the words ‘a warrant from a Justice of the Peace authorising him to enter upon the land, being a warrant granted after the Justice has been satisfied, by information on oath, that it is impracticable so to notify the occupier of the land within a reasonable time’.
House of Representatives amendment.
In clause 13, after paragraph (c) of sub-clause (1) insert the following paragraphs:
Motion (by Senator Wriedt) proposed:
That the Committee does not insist on amendments Nos 1 and 2 to which the House of Representatives has disagreed;
That the amendment of the House of Representatives upon the Senate’s amendment No. 3 be agreed to; and
That the amendment of the House of Representatives to clause 13 of the Bill be agreed to.
– I think it is very great pity that after a very considerable and, I thought, wise discussion on this whole matter some of the amendments proposed carefully by the Senate - indeed, one Government Minister saw fit to give some qualified endorsement to one of the amendments - should be summarily rejected. I shall refer to them as briefly as possible because I realise that there is still a great deal to do. I just advert to the extremely short second reading speech on this matter. It took3½ pages to bring in a Pipeline Authority Bill of immense consequences both in its broad intent, its purpose and the consequential expenditure in which the Australian people would be involved. I thought at the time that this was a fairly discourteous way to treat an issue of this size, importance and magnitude. But be that as it may. The deliberative discussion in the Senate has produced from the other place in the form of answers to the Senate’s amendments, a great deal more material than was available in the second reading speech. At least to that extent we have been aided and paid a little more courtesy.
The proposal on page 7 after clause 13 of the Bill a new clause be inserted has been rejected by the House of Representatives. It was substantially a proposal for the examination of expenditure of the Authority by the Public Works Committee. It followed a general proposition that statutory authorities generally ought to be examined. This was the proposal with which Senator Cavanagh found some support in his own mind. I think that many honourable senators on both sides would find support for that proposal in due course. There is a long explanation from the House of Representatives for the reasoning for disagreeing with the proposal. It is very substantial. Time does not permit this matter being dealt with at great length. Therefore it is the proposal of the Opposition, so far as I speak for it, that we accept the decision which has been given to us by the House of Representatives not to accept that amendment. We say that we regard that decision as a bad one. We regret it. We think that in due course the House of Representatives will have cause to want to put under inspection the expenditure of statutory authorities, not the least of them being this one.
Then we come to clause 16. The proposal was that new clause 16a ought to be inserted to bring up the obligations of a common carrier. The House of Representatives has declined to accept this proposal although it adverted to the responsibilities of common carriage in its own discussion on this matter. It has said that it will not agree with this proposal and it has stated its reasons. I think that some of the reasons are valid and, to me, some of them to say the least of it have not much force. In relation to the matter of taking occupancy of a person’s property, possessions or buildings on the basis that if a person could not be found one just went and did it anyway, we put a proposal that a magistrate’s warrant should be obtained. The words ‘justice of the peace’ have been substituted for the word ‘magistrate’ on the, basis that magistrates are hard to find except in large centres of population but that justices ot the peace occur fairly freely throughout the country side. This is a reasonable view and one with which we find ourselves able to agree.
Then there is a schedule to clause 13 to insert the following paragraph about impurities and other factors. Substantially it is a new proposal to ensure that natural gas supplied by the Authority is available at a gatevalve, delivery price that is at all times uniform throughout Australia after allowing for differences in calorific values. I do not think we would find ourselves wanting to oppose a proposition that provided equality such as that throughout the Australian countryside. It is a new move; it is a new measure. One wonders why it was not introduced in the first place and why it took the Senate discussion and deliberation on this matter to produce that kind of extra answer from the. House of Representatives.
As I said earlier, I would not want to spend the whole evening on this matter. I do express my great disappointment at what I believe is the fairly cavalier treatment of the Senate’s intense amount of work done by a great number of senators on this matter. One detected in the debate as it proceeded a very considerable sympathy on the part of honourable senators opposite for the view expressed by the Opposition both with regard to examination of expenditure and the liability of common carriers, although that sympathy was not expressed very much. So the situation is, as we now have it, that the House of Representatives has disagreed with the first and second amendments; it has agreed with the third amendment; it has agreed with the fourth amendment; and it has made an amendment to clause 13 to give uniformity in the price of natural gas to all users throughout Australia, allowing for differences of value. So speaking for myself and for the Liberal Party in the Opposition, I would say that we accede to the proposition put to us now by the House of Representatives.
– Having spoken on this matter at length during the main part of the debate, I would like to make a few remarks at this stage. I appreciate the points which have been made by the House of Representatives and by the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) in the other place relating to the basis of the contract. As a matter of fact, the document that has been delivered to us from the. House of Representatives devotes 4 pages to pointing out some of the problems which have beset the Government in relation to the agreement with the Australian Gas Light
Company and pointing out the need for this Pipeline Authority to become operational as quickly as possible. The first amendment that was made by the Senate has been rejected by the House of Representatives and quite sound explanation, I believe, has been given for that rejection. It is something to which I think the Senate should readily agree.
The second amendment again is one which I would not avidly oppose. The Senate amendment proposed that clause 16 should provide that the authority shall be deemed to be a common carrier. I think the Minister has explained why the Senate should agree that the Authority should not be a common carrier. In this instance I do not readily agree with that proposition because I can see quite considerable problems arising when a prospector who happens to find gas or petroleum discovers that it is impossible for him ever to be able to transport the commodity through the pipeline.
I agree with the amendment proposed by the House of Representatives to the Senate’s proposition which required a magistrate’s warrant to be produced. The House of Representatives and the Minister have suggested that these words be substituted: a warrant from a Justice of the Peace authorising him to enter upon the land, being a warrant granted after the Justice has been satisfied, by information on oath, that it is impracticable so to notify the occupier of the land within a reasonable time.
It appears to me that consideration has been given to that proposition. I feel that it is conducive to what the Senate was requesting the House of Representatives to concur in at the time. Ifind some argument with the proposition contained in the amendment which is now proposed by the House of Representatives and in which it asks the Senate’s concurrence. But, since Senator Cotton has indicated that he is prepared to agree to these matters, I find that I am in agreement with the proposal the Minister has put forward.
– Although I have not had the time to examine these amendments extensively, it would appear that the time of the Senate was not wasted in carrying the amendments it did at the Committee stage when considering the Bill. Information that we did not have previously has been brought to light, and I feel that the explanation given by the House of Representatives for disagreeing with the first amendment seems to be quite reasonable.
Whether the same explanation would have been given if the amount proposed had been greater than $2m, I do not know. Perhaps the reason for rejection was a weakness in the amendment itself. Most of the arguments put forward when the figure was fixed as low as $2m would not have been quite so valid if the figure proposed had been higher.
The other proposition in relation to a common carrier also brings to light information which we did not have previously. I still have some misgivings about the absolute authority that has been given to the Pipeline Authority. I accept the proposition at this point of time so that we can see how it works because the House of Representatives has put forward some arguments that indicate clearly that if the Authority took over a project at a particular stage it could have some obligations to carry out. I am in total agreement with the amendment that was introduced into the House of Representatives by the Government. I am sure the House of Representatives is glad that it had the opportunity to reconsider the measure so that it could insert such a very necessary clause into the Bill. We will be supporting the proposition that these amendments be accepted.
– On behalf of the Government, may I say very briefly that we are pleased that the Opposition sees fit to support these amendments. In particular, I was pleased to hear the comments of both Senator Cotton and Senator Little that the new amendment to clause 13 undoubtedly strengthens the Bill. Perhaps they are right when they say that that provision should have been there in the first place.
– I think you could fairly say that.
– Yes. As a result of the debate we have had in the Senate, at least this new clause has been inserted in the Bill to the benefit of the Bill. I do not think there is any need to say more. I suggest that the matter be put to the vote.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Message received from the House of Representatives as follows:
The House of Representatives returns to the Senate the Bill entitled ‘A Bill for an Act to amend the “National Urban and Regional Development Authority Act 1972”’, and acquaints the Senate that the House of Representatives has disagreed to the amendments made by the Senate, for the reasons shown in the annexed Schedule.
The House of Representatives desires the reconsideration by the Senate of the Bill in respect of the said amendments.
Motion (by Senator Cavanagh) agreed to: That the message be taken into consideration in the Committee of the Whole forthwith.
House of Representatives amendments:
No. 1 In clause 1, leave out sub-clause (1), insert the following sub-clause:
No. 2 - In clause 1, sub-clause (3), leave out ‘Cities Commission Act 1972-73’, insert ‘Cities and Regional Development Commission Act 1972-73’.
No. 3 - In clause 3, leave out’Cities Commission’, insert ‘Cities and Regional Development Commission’.
No. 4- In clause 4, leave out ‘Part II- The Cities Commission (sections 5-14).’, insert ‘Part II - The Cities and Regional Development Commission (sections 5-14)’.
No. 5 - In clause 5, leave out ‘ “Commission” means the Cities Commission established by this Act;’, insert “Commission” means the Cities and Regional Development Commission established by this Act;’.
No. 6 - In clause 6, leave out ‘Part II- The Cities Commission’, insert ‘Part II - The Cities and Regional Development Commission’.
No. 7 - In clause 1, in proposed section 5. (1), leave out ‘Cities Commission Act 1973-‘, insert ‘Cities and Regional Development Commission Act 1973.’.
No. 8- In clause 7, in paragraph (a) of proposed section 5. (1), leave out ‘Cities Commission’, insert Cities and Regional Development Commission’.
No. 9 - In clause 11, leave out ‘Cities Commission Advisory Committee’, insert ‘Cities and Regional Development Commission Advisory Committee’.
No. 10 -In clause 13, sub-clause (2), leave out Cities Commission Advisory Committee’, insert Cities and Regional Development Commission Advisory Committee!’.
No. 11 -In clause 14, leave out ‘Cities Commission’, insert ‘Cities and Regional Development Commission’.
Reasons of the House of Representatives for disagreeing to the Amendments of the Senate.
Because the Cities Commission is an independent arm of the Department of Urban and Regional Development.
The Cities Commission as an arm of the Department will be concerned with cities, old and new. It will be concerned with new cities in regions. The Cities Commission will assist the promotion of regional development by the establishment of new ties.
A major role of the Cities Commission will be to go out to State and local Government as a promoter of better ways of achieving urban and regional development. The name ‘Cities Commission’ provides & sharp focus for its activities and one which gives it a separate identity from the Department. The suggested amendment would leave the Commission with a lengthy and cumbersome title and one which would cause the Commission and the Department to be confused.
– I move:
That the Committee does not insist on the amendment made by the Senate to which the House of Representatives has disagreed.
There were a number of other amendments but they were all consequential upon the amendment which concerned the change of the name of the body proposed in the Bill to be known as the Cities Commission. The Senate decided to change that name to ‘Cities and Regional Development Commission’. As is stated in the reasons of the House of Representatives for not accepting the Senate’s amendment, it was the desire of the Department of Urban and Regional Development to act as the operating authority, and for the Commission to act as the inquiring body. It was desired to have a clear separation of the Department from the Commission. If the name of the body was changed as the Senate proposed, the 2 authorities would be indistinguishable. In view of the fact that only a change of name is involved 1 am proposing that the Committee do not insist on the amendment.
– The document that has been circulated to honourable senators from the House of Representatives concerning the reasons of the House of Representative for disagreeing to the amendments of the Senate, states in part:
Because the Cities Commission is an independent arm of the Department of Urban and Regional Development.
The document then goes on to give the reasons. On 19 September last I read in the Senate a statement by the then Prime Minister, Mr McMahon, which indicated that the Government had decided to take immediate steps, financially and in other ways, in a co-ordinated program with the States of national, urban and regional development. At that time I said that the Government proposed new initiatives to work with the States towards urban and regional development. So there is not a very great difference between what that Government said in September and what the present Government is saying now. The reason the then Prime Minister made that statement on behalf of the Government was that the Government believed that the stresses and strains of growth were having an impact on the living conditions and the environment of the entire Australian community. The Government also believed that unless it embarked on a vigorous, imaginative and responsible program of urban and regional development in partnership with the States, its efforts to secure a better quality of life for the Australian community through a wide variety of existing programs would be compromised. I went on to say on behalf of the Prime Minister that the Government believed at that time that the increasing concentration of population in our great cities would magnify the consequences of increasing population growth. It was the geographical distribution of population in industry rather than the total scale which called for attention. The then Government believed that it was widely accepted that those were national problems requiring urgent attention, and that the Commonwealth should participate with the States in solving them. I do not believe that the legislation that is before the House now is any different from that. We on this side of the House believe that as the legislation at that time related to urban and regional development and as both governments were setting after the same goals, this Bill should have the words ‘urban and regional development’ in its title.
I accept what the Minister has said that by calling the body the Cities Commission it will be an arm of the Department of Urban and Regional Development and will be concerned with cities old and new. I accept the fact that the Minister wants to make a distinction between the Cities Commission and the name of the Department. I believe that this Bill is more concerned with cities than it is with urban and regional development. That is why we on this side of the House believe that the name should be changed. We will not delay the proceedings of the Senate or delay the legislation. We accept it but we point out that we believe the whole focus of what the Government is trying to do is centred on city development rather than on urban and regional development.
– The desire on the part of the Liberal Party Opposition in this matter was to give a clearer indication of the activities and objectives of the Commission. The name ‘Cities Commission’ had the connotation of emphasis towards metropolis as distinct from a broader viewing of the whole matter of developing population centres. For that reason we deplored the suggestion that the title be changed to ‘Cities Commission’ from National Urban and Regional Development Authority’. However, we have expressed our concern and disappointment at this narrowing of meaning. We believe that the title ‘Cities Commission’ is unacceptable but we will not oppose further the idea of the change of title.
– 1 want only to thank the Opposition for agreeing with the proposal. In passing, I would say that I agreed with all that Senator Drake-Brockman said. He expressed what I was trying to explain last evening. Obviously his words were understood and mine were not. He was more successful than I was.
– You should come and sit on this side of the chamber.
– No, but perhaps I should take some tuition from the honourable senator. As I said last evening, there was no alteration to the provisions of the Bill. It was merely a proposal to change the title of the body. The duties of the Commission will not be changed whatever name is given to it. The functions of the Commission under the previous legislation were to inquire into urban and regional development. The Senate has not changed those functions. For the reasons as stated in the document, the name of the body was changed to save confusion between the Commission and the Department. Members of the Government in the House of Representatives insisted upon that fact. It is good to see that the Senate is prepared to accept that.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives without amendment.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendment made by the Senate to this Bill.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Murphy) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Mr President, the purpose of the Bill now before the Senate is to provide legislation implementing the Tariff Board’s recommendations which have been accepted by the Government. The Government announced its acceptance of the Tariff Board’s report on 3 May and the extension of the provisions of the original Act will terminate on that date. The new provisions, following the Tariff Board recommendations, will be effective from 4 May 1973 and continue to 31 December 1976. In the new schedule of rates of bounty consideration has been given to all the disadvantages suffered by local manufacturers including severe competition from overseas manufacturers and it is considered that, as locally produced tractors do not yet have the capacity to satisfy the home market, bounty is the better method of assisting the industry. Protection by way of customs duty would force up the price of those tractors which cannot be locally supplied.
The Bill also includes provision for the registration of premises of new manufacturers similar to those provided in the Metal Working Machine Tools Bounty Act 1972, which was approved by the previous Parliament. Honourable senators will also note that all references to the power output of tractors are expressed in metric terms in conformity with the move to total metrication of our weights and measures. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Withers) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Murphy) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I ask for leave to have incorporated in Hansard the second reading speech, which is in accordance with the second reading speech which was delivered in the other place.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
Mr President, this Bill proposes a simple amendment to the Australian Institute of Marine Science Act 1972. The amendment will remove a condition which is presently restricting the selection of a suitable site. Honourable senators will recall that the first step towards establishing the Institute was the Act of 1970. An Interim Council was appointed under that Act with Dr M. Day of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation as Chairman. The Council was instructed to make recommendations to the Government for the establishment of the Institute, its functions, powers and constitution and for the site of the Institute. It was specifically directed by section 4(2) of the Act that the Institute be at or in the vicinity of Townsville.
In My 1971, the report of the Interim Council was completed and submitted to the, Government. It considered and made recommendations on marine science in general as well as the Insitute. The recommendations of the Council led to the Australian Institute of Marine Science Act 1972 which was given royal assent on 9 June. 1972. The governing Council was appointed under the Chairmanship of Sir Henry Basten. The Council faced 2 major problems. The original intention was to use some Government land at Cape Pallarenda, but this proved impracticable.
Honourable senators may recall that the report of the Interim Council expressed some reservations about the Cape Pallarenda site but within the restrictive terms of the Act regarded it as the best site available. On page 19 of its report, the Council drew attention to the following disadvantages of the site: Firstly, the wharf is exposed and in shallow water; secondly, it is not a suitable base for operations in some fields of marine science; thirdly, Townsville is not a suitable site for some of the other operations proposed; fourthly, there is risk of pollution from a smelter - in fact the site is already badly polluted and water for the aquaria would have to be imported. In addition, when the Council examined the Cape Pallarenda site in detail it was discovered that prior approval had been given for a Royal Australian Air Force and Department of Civil Aviation surveillance radar to be installed on Many Peaks Range near the proposed site. Expert advice was sought and, based on experience with a similar radar in Sydney, it was considered that the radar could cause unacceptable interference to delicate scientific equipment in the laboratories. It was also determined that electrical screening could not eliminate the problem for some of the items of equipment.
The Council then resumed attempts to find an alternative site at, or within, the vicinity of Townsville, that is, broadly within the city boundaries. Sp far, these efforts have been unsuccessful, bearing in mind the conditions which the site must fulfil.
One proposal was to separate the aquaria from the Institute and locate them on Magnetic Island. This was rejected since the separation would lead to a loss of efficiency as a result of the time lost in travelling between the 2 sites. In addition, the building and operating costs would be increased and it was desired to conserve Magnetic Island.
The Council considered the problem at its meeting in February 1973 and as a result reported to the Minister for Science and Minister for External Territories (Mr Morrison) in the following terms:
Accordingly the Council recommends that the institute be located somewhere on the tropical coast of Queensland, not necessarily where the 1972 Act directs and not necessarily on Commonwealth or Crown land.
The purpose of the amendment is therefore to remove restrictions on the search for a suitable site. The Government is mindful of the advantages which would Sow from close association with the James Cook University of North Queensland. It is still the intention of the Government to locate the Institute on the tropical coast of Queensland. Its work will be directed initially to marine problems in the 4rea of the Great Barrier Reef, the Coral Sea and the adjacent waters of North Queensland.
A further problem arose in connection with the appointment of the Director. This is a key position and the success of the Institute will turn on finding the right person. The Council refrained from advertising for a Director until a suitable salary had been determined. The recent Remuneration and Allowances Act 1973 set the Director’s salary at $19,148. This is the range appropriate to a Head of Division in the CSIRO. It should enable a scientist of suitable eminence and calibre to be recruited. With these 2 difficulties overcome, the Council is confident that action can be taken to bring the Institute into operation as soon as possible.
The Institute will provide for the development of marine science in Australia. It is important to make provision for research in temperate and tropical waters and to balance properly the allocation of our research resources to these areas. The Government regards the Institute as an important step in developing and extending marine science. The Government intends to overcome Australia’s deficiencies in marine science and is examining other steps that should be taken. I commend this Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Withers) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Willesee) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I ask for leave to incorporate the second reading speech in Hansard.
– Is leave granted? The» being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
The purpose of this Bill is to give statutory form to the Australian Electoral Office and to provide for statutory offices of Chief Australian Electoral Officer, Deputy Chief Australian Electoral Officer and Electoral Officer in each of the 6 States. Honourable senators will note that, in accordance with policy of the present Government, the word ‘Commonwealth’ is being replaced toy ‘Australian’. These statutory officers will administer the Electoral Act and also carry certain powers under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, the Bill providing that the Chief Australian Electoral Officer shall, as required by the Minister, advise the Minister on matters relevant to electoral policy, legislation and procedures. At present the Chief Electoral Officer has statutory powers, but he holds office under the Public Service Act. Statutory offices are normally created where there is a need to exercise substantial powers and functions, often of a quasi-judicial kind, specified in the relevant legislation. This is important where the powers and functions are to be exercised free of immediate political control and without fear or favour.
This Bill is the first step towards a restructuring of the Electoral Office in a way which recognises the need to preserve the integrity and impartiality of the officers: The present Government regards it as important that those who administer the electoral machinery should be publicly seen as having a separateness from the normal relationship that exists between a Minister and his Department for which, of course, the Minister is fully responsible. Technological advances over recent years have brought substantial changes to the Electoral Office. Within the next few months the electoral rolls for the whole of Australia will have been converted to a computerised process. But this is only the first stage and in the near future the rolls will be maintained by even more advanced methods. Under an arrangement between the Governor-General and the Governors of the States of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, the Australian Electoral Office is responsible for maintaining joint electoral rolls and these rolls are used for both Federal and State elections. One other State has recently indicated its desire to join the joint rolls arrangement and the Government looks forward to a time when a single joint electoral roll will be used for every State, resulting in considerable cost savings and less confusion to the electors. As one would expect in a country with a growing population, the work of the Electoral Office has increased substantially. The Government wants up-to-date electoral rolls and maximum efficiency in the conduct of elections. The Government also wants quicker production of election results.
The public demands for information about elections and electoral procedures, requiring more extensive research, are increasing.
The granting of the franchise to the Aboriginal people means that ways and means need to be found for ensuring that they exercise that franchise fully and effectively. There is also a need for dissemination of more electoral information to migrants. With all these developments at is necessary to examine closely the organisation and workings of the Electoral Office and the arrangements for training of electoral staff to carry out the more complex technical procedures involved in performing its modern role. The Government, in putting forward these proposals which are in accord with recommendations of the Public Service Board, envisages that further developments may require additional legislative changes. We are determined to ensure that the Electoral Office is developed to perform its full functions efficiently.
The Bill includes the normal provisions which apply to statutory officers and, in this respect, is similar to the Parliamentary Counsel Act. It includes protection of the rights of public servants appointed to the statutory offices. It will be noted that the Chief Australian Electoral Officer will have the powers of a permanent head in relation to his staff, who will continue to be covered by the Public Service Act. Mr President, I am confident that it is desirable to recognise in legislation the impartial position of the electoral officers covered by this Bill, which I commend to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Withers) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Willesee) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I ask for leave to incorporate the second reading speech in Hansard.
– Is leave granted?
– May I intervene to say that I have started a new practice in the Senate. I arranged that during the suspension of the sitting copies of all these Bills and second reading speeches would be circulated to all honourable senators. I arranged for copies to be placed in one bundle at the desks of honourable senators rather than to have them distributed as each Bill was introduced. So the copies have been on the benches since prior to the resumption of the sitting.
– That only adds to the nonsense. Debates have been proceeding. People cannot read second reading speeches while debates are continuing. All this paraphernalia about whether speeches have been circulated only adds to the nonsense. I do not protest, except to say that an explanation of such a fatuous character as that advanced by the Special Minister of State is no explanation.
– I have been particular to see that each honourable senator has a copy of the second reading speech. Senator Willesee has asked for leave to incorporate the second reading speech in Hansard, ls leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
The purpose of this Bill is to provide for an additional representative for the Australian Capital Territory in the House of Representatives. The provisions of the Bill are to, (a) provide for 2 members of the House of Representatives for the Australian Capital Territory elected on the basis of single member electorates, with effect from the first sitting of the twenty-ninth Parliament; (b) provide for full voting rights for both members for the Australian Capital Territory with all the powers, immunities and privileges held by other members of the House of Representatives; (c) divide the Australian Capital Territory into 2 single member electorates, of which one electorate shall embrace part of the Australian Capital Territory proper and the other electorate shall embrace the remaining part of the Australian Capital Territory plus the Jervis Bay territory - to be effective immediately following the expiry or dissolution of the Twenty-eighth Parliament; and (d) provide - (i) for the setting up of a distribution committee; (ii) for the inviting of suggestions and objections and preparation of a report to Parliament, along similar lines to that provided for the distribution of a State into electoral divisions.
The Australian Capital Territory was given representation in the Australian Parliament in 1948 on the initiative of the then Labor Government with effect from the 1949 elections, on the basis that the member representing the Australian Capital Territory had the same voting rights as the member for the Northern Territory at that time, namely that the member could vote only on a motion to disallow an ordinance affecting the Australian Capital Territory. In 1959 he was given the same additional right as was given in that year to the member for the Northern Territory to vote on any Bill that related solely to his territory - the Australian Capital Territory. In 1966 the member for the Australian Capital Territory was given the right to vote on any matter after the ensuing general elections for the House of Representatives.
These constitutional developments were in accordance with section 122 of the Constitution which provides, in part:
The Parliament may make laws for the government of any Territory surrendered by any State to and accepted by the Commonwealth, . . . and may allow the representation of such territory in either House of the Parliament, to the extent and on the terms which it thinks fit.
The number of electors enrolled in the Australian Capital Territory increased from 11,841 in 1949, when the Australian Capital Territory was given its first representation, to 48,127 in 1966 when the member for the Australian Capital Territory was given full voting rights in this House. Today there are 85,282 electors on the roll for the Australian Capital Territory. This number exceeds by 5,385 the number of electors enrolled in the next largest Australian electorate which is Diamond Valley with an enrolment of 79,897.
In 1970 the then Minister for the Interior indicated that his Government: bearing in mind the provisions of section 122 of the Constitution, favours the principle of providing representation for a Territory commensurate with its development and population growth.
He further stated that: we may well have reached the time when we need extra representation for the Australian Capital Territory.
The inescapable fact was that by comparison with the States the Australian Capital Territory was and is under-represented both in respect of population and electors.
Under the provisions of the Representation Act in determining the number of members of the House of Representatives, a quota is ascertained by dividing the number of people of the States as shown by the Census by twice the number of Senators - that is, by 120. The number of members to be chosen in each State is then determined by dividing the number of the people of the respective State by the quota.
The quota based on figures derived from the 1971 Census was 104,376. The number of members determined for each State and the resultant average population per member in respect of each State is shown in a table which I incorporate in Hansard.
The average population per member for the States, taken as a whole, on figures obtained at the 1971 Census was 101,010. The population of the Australian Capital Territory at the 1971 Census was 144,100 which was 42.66 per cent above the average for the States. The population of the Australian Capital Territory is expanding rapidly and at 30 September 1972 it was 162,000 approximately while the electoral enrolment for the Australian Capital Territory as at 27 April 1973 was 85,282, including 561 18, 19 and 20-year- olds.
While the enrolment for the several divisions in the States ranges from 42,000 to 80,000 approximately, these are evened out at a redistribution. However, the enrolment for the Australian Capital Territory cannot be similarly adjusted. It continues to grow with the increase in population.
It is estimated that the electoral enrolment of the Australian Capital Territory will exceed 120,000 by December 1975 - the normal time for the next general election of members of the House of Representatives and 185,000 by 1980 - an annual increase of about 9 per cent. If an additional member for the Australian Capital Territory was provided as from the next House of Representatives election on the basis of the Territory being divided into 2 divisions, the estimated average number of electors per division, about 60,000 would be in reasonable conformity with the average for the States combined, 58,741 as at 27 April 1973, and considerably in excess of that for Tasmania.
The Australian Capital Territory with its rapid growth, population and development, its wide diversity of interests and its multiplicity of problems makes the demand for additional parliamentary representation unanswerable. Briefly, let me compare it with, say, the State of Tasmania. That State with a population of 393,000 approximately, less than two and one-half times that of the Australian Capital Territory, 162,000 approximately, has 35 members of the House of Assembly, 19 Legislative Councillors, 10 senators and 5 members of the House of Representatives - a total of 69 parliamentary representatives plus over 500 local government representatives, whereas the Australian Capital Territory is represented by a single parliamentary representative. Of course there are 8 elected Advisory Councillors for the Australian Capital Territory but they can only advise the Minister in local matters.
Before I conclude I wish to refer to one or two aspects of the legislation. Firstly, I refer to the provision for the legislation to take effect from the first sitting of the Twentyninth Parliament. This arises from the differing legal opinions as to whether it would be constitutionally practicable to provide for the election of an additional member for the Australian Capital Territory during the term of the current Parliament. The Solicitor-General has advised if the Government wishes to so provide, in his view, such a law would be valid. However, because a doubt does exist about the matter, the Government considers the wisest course is to defer the election of the additional member until the next general elections for the House of Representatives, particularly as separate legislation is being introduced to provide for 2 senators for the Australian Capital Territory to be elected before that time. The election of the senators will in the interim period provide the additional representation so urgently required in the Australian Capital Territory. Secondly, under the provisions of the Bill the tolerance between the electorates must be not more than 10 per cent, with additional provision for further redistributions whenever the Governor-General so directs.
Mr President, there will be a cognate Bill relating to representation in the Senate and we will keep the matter under review, introducing further legislation as the population increases and the need develops. This Bill is a further step in the fulfilment of the Government’s promise to provide additional representation in the Australian Capital Territory and I commend it to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Withers) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Willesee) read a first time.
– I move:
Thai the Bill be sow read a second time.
I seek leave to incorporate the second reading speech in Hansard.
– Is leave granted?
Opposition senators - No.
– Leave is not granted.
– The purpose of this Bill is to provide for Senate representation for the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory on the basis of 2 senators for each Territory. The Bill provides for the election of 2 senators each for the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory and that such senators have the same powers, immunities and privileges as senators representing the States; that the first election of Territory senators be held at the same time as the next Senate elections in the several States or at the same time as the next general elections for members of the House of Representatives, if such is held before or in conjunction with the next Senate elections; that the term of the first Territory senators be from the date of their election until the eve of polling day for the ensuing general election for members of the House of Representatives; that after the first election for Territory senators, elections be held at the same time as the general elections for members of the House of Representatives; that after the first election of Territory senators, the terms of Territory senators be the period between each House of Representatives election; and for the Territory senators to be elected under the same system of proportional representation as that currently applicable to the election of senators representing the States, except in the case of a single casual vacancy when such vacancy shall be filled by the holding of a by-election adopting the procedures used for filling a single casual vacancy for a State senator, as far as may be applicable.
Under another Bill to be presented later today, Territory senators be excluded for the purpose of determining the number of members of the House of Representatives to be chosen in the several States in pursuance of Section 10 of the Representation Act.
With this legislation the Australian Labor Party asserts the particular responsibility this Parliament bears towards these two mainland Territories which are under the direct control of the Parliament. Honourable senators will know that before the Commonwealth accepted the Northern Territory from South Australia and the A.C.T. from New South Wales, residents of both of them were represented in the Parliaments of those 2 States in the same way as all other residents were represented. The Territories were incorporated in electorates for the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales and the House of Assembly of South Australia. The Northern Territory was included in a province for the Legislative Council of South Australia and the citizens of the area now comprising the Australian Capital Territory were eligible for appointment to the Legislative Council of New South Wales. When the Territories were surrendered to the Commonwealth their citizens were disfranchised and were denied parliamentary representation for a considerable time.
In 1922 the Northern Territory was given representation in the Australian Parliament by one member in this chamber. He was not entitled to vote on any matter. In 1936 he was given the right to vote on a motion to disallow an Ordinance affecting the Northern Territory. In 1959 he was given the further right to vote on any Bill which related solely to the Northern Territory. Whether or not a Bill was related solely to the Northern Territory was determined by the Presiding Officer or, if there was objection to the ruling of the Presiding Officer, by the House. In 1968 the member for the Northern Territory became entitled to vote on any matter. In my second reading speech on the Australian Capital Territory Representation (House of Representatives) Bill I recounted the history of representation of the Australian Capital Territory in the Australian Parliament. I shall not repeat it.
The provisions contained in this Bill are on similar lines to those proposed by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in the Territory Senators Bills introduced by him when Leader of the Opposition in 1968 and in 1970. The justification for the provision of senatorial representation for the Australian Capital Territory and for the Northern Territory was expounded by the Prime Minister on these occasions and such justification has continued to exist and to grow with the growth and the development of the two Territories. Since 1967 the A.C.T. Advisory Council has been pressing for Senate representation of the Australian Capital Territory. At its meeting on 11 December 1967 the following resolution was carried:
This Council advises the Minister that the Australian Capital Territory should be allowed representation in the Senate and seeks the Minister’s assurance that he will do everything possible to persuade the Government to introduce the necessary legislation in Parliament in order that citizens of this Territory are no longer denied adequate and proper parliamentary representation.
The continuing development of the Australian Capital Territory and its high percentage population growth highlights the need for this Territory to be represented in both Houses. The Legislative Council of the Northern Territory has sought Senate representation for the Northern Territory on several occasions over many years. In 1969, the Legislative Council asked by resolution for the representation of the Northern Territory in the Senate by 2 senators. The Northern Territory, comprising an area of 520,280 square miles, is a vital part of Australia which should be represented in the Senate in addition to the representation of its people in the House of Representatives.
Before I deal with the main argument in support of the Bill I should perhaps refer to the position under the Constitution. Section 7 of the Constitution provides:
The Senate shall be composed of senators for each State, directly chosen by the people of the State . . .
The Constitution further provides for an initial number of 6 senators but that the Parliament could make laws increasing or diminishing the number of senators for each State but that equal representation of the States was to be maintained and no original State could have less than 6 senators. The Constitution therefore provided for equality of State representation irrespective of the area or the population. Section 121 of the Constitution provides:
The Parliament may admit to the Commonwealth or establish new States, and may upon such admission or establishment make or impose such terms or conditions, including the extent of representation in either House of Parliament, as it thinks fit.
The Australian Parliament therefore could admit new States but was not required to accord equality with the original States.
Section 122 of the Constitution is relevant to the question of representation of a Territory in the Federal Parliament. It provides:
The Parliament may make laws for the government of any territory surrendered by any State to and accepted by the Commonwealth, or of any territory placed by the Queen under the Authority of and accepted by the Commonwealth, or otherwise acquired by the Commonwealth, and may allow the representation of such territory in either House of the Parliament to the extent and on the terms which it thinks fit.
It is clearly permissive. It was therefore the clear intention of the founders of the Australian Constitution that Parliament should be empowered to permit representation of residents of the Territories of the Commonwealth in the National Parliament, lt seems clear beyond doubt also that they recognised the injustice of disfranchising a person simply because he transferred from a State to a Territory of the Commonwealth.
I now refer briefly to a further section of the Constitution which is relevant to the Bill. Section 24 provides:
The House of Representatives shall be composed of members directly chosen by the people of the Commonwealth, and the number of such members shall be, as nearly as practicable, twice the number of the Senators.
The Bill before the Senate will increase the number of senators by 4 making a total of 64 senators in all. I mention here a very significant matter. On the basis of advice by the Commonwealth legal advisers, the provision for Territory senators by virtue of section 122 of the Constitution does not cause an alteration in the number of members of the House of Representatives by virtue of section 24. Therefore the 4 senators representing the Territories will be excluded in determining the number of members to be chosen in the several States, in pursuance of section 10 of the Representation Act.
Having established the constitutionality of the measure, I would like to outline some of the reasons why it is necessary and desirable to extend representation in the Senate 10 the 2 Territories. The population of each Territory is increasing at a much greater rate than the populations of the States but at the moment the only representation in the Australian Parliament of either Territory is one member in the House of Representatives with no representation in the Senate. On the lastest information available from the National Capital Development Commission it has been assessed that the population of Canberra could reach the half million level between 1992 and 1996 and that a population of 600,000 at the year 2000 is feasible, based on a decreasing percentage growth rate.
The people of both Territories pay taxes in accordance with the law. They are subject to the same laws but are not represented in the Senate where they are surely entitled to have presented to this chamber the views of the residents of their respective Territories. Again, because the Australian Parliament is responsible in the Territories for making laws in respect of matters reserved under the Constitution to the States, the Government should be answerable to both Houses of a Parliament each of which includes appropriate representation from the Territories. This Bill provides for representation for the Territories in the Senate in a manner different in extent and nature from the representation of the States in the Senate and as I pointed out this difference is authorised by the Constitution. In particular, instead of having 10 senators for each Territory as there are for each State there will be 2 Senators for each Territory.
Two Senators are suggested because it would be proper to have an even number representing the Territories. If only one senator alone represented a Territory, almost cer tainly the one Party would be represented for long periods. It is probable that both senators would belong to the same Party. It would appear then to be more democratic to have an even number elected each time for each Territory thus following the pattern of the major parties providing that each would have a representative in the Senate. The term provided for each of these Territorial senators is not 6 years, the constitutional period for State senators, except in the case of double dissolution. The term for Territory senators will be the life of the House of Representatives. The main difference in representation which the Bill provides for the Territories as distinct from the States is the term of office. The Constitution expressly provides requirements as to the terms of office for senators representing the States. The Constitution leaves it to this Parliament to determine the terms of office for senators representing the Territories.
The Government has adapted the method which was unanimously agreed to 15 years ago by the Constitutional Review Committee, upon which all parties in the House were represented. It was recommended by the Committee that the Constitution should be amended to provide that there should be an election for half the senators every time there was an election for the House of Representatives. The Committee believed that this would cut down the number of elections and so minimize the distraction of elections and the difference between the two Houses. The decision to bring the elections of Territory senators into line with those of the House of Representatives is in accordance with the Constitutional Review Committee’s findings. Both senators will be elected every time there is a general election of the House of Representatives. So for the Territories there will be elections for both Houses of Parliament at the same time. When this Bill passes the Parliament, the writs will be issued for the election of senators for the Territories concurrent with the next Senate general election or House of Representatives general election, whichever is the sooner. Thereafter all the senators for the Territories will retire at each House of Representatives election. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Withers) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Willesee) read a first time.
– I move:
I ask for leave to incorporate the second reading speech in Hansard.
– Subject to copies of the second reading speech having been delivered to all honourable senators, is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The speech read as follows) -
This Bill amends the formula in the Representation Act determining the number of members of the House of Representatives. Section 24 of the Constitution provides, in part, that:
The House of Representatives shall be composed of members directly chosen by the people of the Commonwealth, and the number of such members shall be, as nearly as practicable, twice the number of Senators.
Section 24 further provides that the number of members chosen in the several States shall be in proportion to the respective numbers of their people and the section goes on to specify the manner in which that number is to be determined ‘until the Parliament otherwise provides’. As honourable senators will know, Parliament has otherwise provided in the Representation Act. A short time ago I introduced the Senate (Representation of Territories) Bill which provides for senatorial representation for the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory.
The Government’s legal advice is that section 24 of the Constitution does not have application in relation to senators who may be provided for a Territory under the provisions of section 122 of the Constitution. In other words, the requirement contained in section 24 for the number of members of the House of Representatives to be as nearly as practicable twice the number of Senators docs not relate to Territory members or senators provided under section 122 of the Constitu tion. Furthermore, ‘the people of the Commonwealth’ in the context of section 24 are the people of the States. The formula in section 10 of the Representation Act for determining the number of members of the House of Representatives to be chosen in the several States, sets out that a quota shall be ascertained by dividing the number of people of the Commonwealth by twice the number of senators. The number of members to be chosen in each State is determined by dividing the number of people of the State by the quota; and if on such division there is a remainder, one more member shall be chosen in the State.
Clause 3 of the bill before the House makes it clear that in applying the formula provided in section 10 ‘the people of the Commonwealth’ are the people of the 6 States and do not include the people of any Territory. Clause 5 of the Bill which substitutes the words ‘the Senators for the States’ for the word ‘Senators’, makes it clear that Territory senators are excluded from the formula for determining the number of members of the House of Representatives to be chosen in the several States. Thus, consistently with section 24 of the Constitution, the introduction of Territory senators will not affect the representation of the States in the House of Representatives. Opportunity is being taken in clauses 4 and 6 of the Bill to make some amendments of a formal nature to sections 7 and 13 of the Representation Act. The present provisions of these sections do not take into account the fact that one. House of the Parliament may be sitting although the other is not. At the same time it is desirable to bring the period within which regulations are to be tabled under sub-section (2) of section 13 into line with the period of 15 sitting days provided by the Acts Interpretation Act in relation to regulations generally. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate ( on motion by Senator Withers) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Willesee) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I ask for leave to incorporate the second reading speech in Hansard.
– Subject to copies of the second reading speech having been delivered to all honourable senators, is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The speech read as follows) -
The purpose of this Bill is to improve the retirement schemes provided under the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances and Judges’ Pensions Acts. I foreshadowed the changes to the parliamentary scheme when introducing the Remuneration and Allowances Bill on 28 March 1973. At present the parliamentary scheme provides for a retiring allowance on involuntary retirement at the rate of 50 per cent of the parliamentary allowance provided 8 years or more service has been completed. The Government has concluded that this should be changed so that recognition will be given to length of service. Accordingly, the Bill provides for a retiring allowance of 50 per cent of the parliamentary allowance on involuntary retirement after 8 years service increasing with each additional completed year of service to a maximum of 75 per cent after 20 years. The 3 occasions rule will continue to apply and the retiring allowances, including those now payable, will be maintained at the level of the entitlements of serving members. The contribution rate will remain at Hi per cent of the Parliamentary allowance.
The Bill removes the existing minimum age 40 qualification for retiring allowance on involuntary retirement and raises the minimum age qualification for retiring allowance on voluntary retirement from 45 to 45 years, the age at which members at present qualify for the basic 50 per cent retiring allowance on retirement at age 45 if they have completed the necessary period of service. The qualifying period of 12 years service when retirement is voluntary is retained. The rights of present serving members are protected where they are superior to those provided in the Bill.
The Bill makes provision for recognition of a member’s service in a State House before entering the Australian Parliament. Where the member established entitlemement to a State parliamentary retiring allowance his service in the State Parliament will be taken into account in determining the level of his entitlement which will then be reduced by the retiring allowance received from the State. Where the member received from the State only a refund of his contributions he will, if he so desires, be able to pay the refund to Consolidated Revenue and have his State service recognised for entitlement purposes. As well, members entering the scheme will be permitted to pay in moneys available from previous employment in the form of preserved superannuation benefits, that is, lump sum benefits including an employer element. These payments will purchase notional ‘past’ service and enable a member to become entitled to a retiring allowance at an earlier date or at a higher rate than would otherwise be the case. There will also be special arrangements for members who have life assurance policies of the Federated Superannuation System for Universities type. These preservation arrangements will operate retrospectively from 1 January 1970, the operative date of the preservation provisions in the superannuation and defence forces retirement benefits schemes.
The Bill removes those provisions of the Act that require the reduction of retiring allowance where the person in receipt of the retiring allowance is receiving remuneration as the holder of an office under, or from employment by, the Commonwealth or a State or an authority of the Commonwealth or a State. This change will bring the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Act into line with the Superannuation and the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Acts from which corresponding re-employment provisions were removed in 1965. The provisions requiring reduction of retiring allowance if the recipient receives salary or pension as a member or former member of a State Parliament or as a State Minister, or cancellation or retiring allowance if he is re-elected to the Australian Parliament, are, however, retained.
Another important change relates to retirement from the Parliament because of illhealth before the completion of 8 years service. At present a member receives in such circumstances a refund of his contributions plus a Commonwealth supplement, the normal benefit payable to a member who has not qualified for a retiring allowance. The Bill provides for a member who retires because of ill-health before completing 8 years service to receive a retiring allowance at the 8 years level provided that, on becoming a member, he furnished a medical certificate to the effect that he was not likely to be rendered incapable, of performing his duties within a period of 8 years. Present members who have not yet completed 8 years service will need to furnish a certificate for the balance of the 8 years only.
The widow of a serving or retired member will receive an annuity of five-sixths of the rate of the retiring allowance that was or would have been payable to the deceased. This is the level that generally applies now. Where the serving member did not complete 8 years service before his death he will be deemed to have completed 8 years service for the purpose of the widow’s annuity. As at present the widow will have the option of receiving, instead of an annuity, a lump sum benefit. The widow of a marriage contracted after member’s retirement at present receives no benefit. The Bill provides for a widow’s benefit to be payable where the marriage was contracted before the former attained age 60 or at least 5 years before his death. Provision is also made for benefits to be payable to widowers of serving and retired female members on the same basis as widows of serving and retired male members.
The Bill also provides for the ministerial retiring allowances scheme to be abolished. Ministerial retiring allowances presently being paid will, however, continue and existing contributors and former contributors still serving in the Parliament who have qualified for a ministerial retiring allowance will have the option of either taking a refund of their contributions now or receiving on their retirement from the parliament the retiring allowances for which they have qualified at the date of commencement of the legislation. Those who have not qualified for a retiring allowance will receive an immediate refund of their contributions. Consistent with what is to be done with the Defence Forces Retirements Benefits Fund as recommended by the Joint Select Committee on Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Legislation, the Bill provides for the assets of the Parliamentary and Ministerial Retiring Allowances Funds to be transferred to the Commonwealth. The cost of benefits will be met in future from Consolidated Revenue into which members’ contributions will be paid.
I turn now to judges’ pensions. The Bill provides for the rate of pension payable to a judge on his retirement after reaching age 60 and having completed 10 years of judicial service to be increased from 50 per cent to 60 per cent of salary. The rate payable on retirement because of ill-health is also increased to 60 per cent of salary. In choosing a rate of 60 per cent of salary instead of the maximum of 75 per cent proposed for the parliamentary scheme the Government took into account that judges’ pensions are noncontributory. In line with what is proposed for the parliamentary scheme, pensions, including those now payable, will be maintained at the level of the entitlements of serving judges. The Bill also contains provision in relation to post-retirement marriages and widowers similar to those proposed for the parliamentary scheme. The rate of pension payable to a widow or widower will remain at five-eighths of the judge’s pension. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Withers) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Bishop) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions with regard to the several stages for the passage through the Senate of all or several of the Defence Forces Retirement and Death Benefits Bill 1973, the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Bill 1973, the Superannuation Bill (No. 2) 1973 and the Defence (Parliamentary Candidates) Bill 1973 being put in one motion at each stage and the consideration of all or several of such Bills together in Committee of the Whole and as would prevent the reading of the short titles only on every order for the reading of the Bills.
Bills received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bills (on motion by Senator Bishop) together read a first time.
– I move:
I ask for leave to incorporate the second reading speech in Hansard.
– Subject to copies of the second reading speech having been delivered to all honourable senators, is leave granted?
– How many Bills is that?
– I make the comment that I find it offensive to be reminded that speeches have been circulated to me when it is known that there is not the slightest reasonable opportunity for me to peruse them. These papers might just as well have been delivered to my office. I wish the President would put the proposition without comment.
– Order! I have asked on many occasions when this procedure has been suggested whether honourable senators have received copies of the second reading speech. Sometimes they have not. In order to protect the rights of individual senators, I have sought to discover whether the speeches were in the possession of honourable senators.
– That is when the speech is about to be read, Mr President.
– Is leave granted to Senator Bishop to incorporate the second reading speech in Hansard? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The speech read as follows) -
The Bills give effect to the Government’s decision announced last year to implement the recommendations of the Joint Select Committee on the defence forces retirement Benefit Legislation. Honourable senators will recall that the report of the Committee was tabled in the Parliament on 18 May, 1972. To put the Bills in perspective, it is necessary that I recount briefly the history of the present DFRB scheme and the events leading up to the Government’s decision to have it replaced.
The Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act came into force in 1948 following the Government’s consideration of a report of a committee chaired by the then Minister for Defence and Post-War Reconstruction, the Honourable J. J. Dedman, M.P. The scheme created by that legislation was designed to meet the special conditions of service in the Armed Forces and, in very broad terms, was based on the ‘Benefit purchase’ arrangements adopted many years earlier in the Commonwealth superannuation scheme for public servants. In 1957, the then Government appointed a committee under the chairmanship of Sir John Allison to examine and report on a new services’ pay code and retirement benefits for members of the forces. The scheme itself was subjected to a rigorous examination, one of the major results of which was the introduction of a new arrangement popularly known as the post- 1959 scheme. So 2 schemes, in effect, have been operating in parallel, with identical benefits but quite different contribution arrangements depending on whether a member was a pre- 1959 or post-1959 contributor.
Despite many structural changes since then, the scheme has retained both methods of purchasing retirement benefits, and as well, many of the basic defects and anomalies that have harassed servicemen generally for so long. In fact, the measures adopted in attempts to alleviate the severe problems faced by pre-1959 entrants in maintaining high levels of contributions have resulted in a multiplicity of contributions and benefits arrangements that are so complex as to be almost incomprehensible to the great majority of members. It is therefore quite understandable that an intensity of feeling against the scheme should exist.
It was against this background that the previous Government decided in June, 1970, on the initiative of the present Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence, to appoint a joint committee of senators and members of the House of Representatives to investigate and report on the DFRB scheme. The Joint Select Committee on Defence Forces Retirement Benefit legislation, under the chairmanship of Mr J. D. Jess, C.B.E., M.P., came into being on 2 September 1970. Its report recommended the introduction of a new scheme which, with some necessary modifications, is the scheme covered by the first Bill introduced. It is of more than passing interest that on 22 December 1972, shortly after this Government assumed office, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) announced publicly our intention to implement a new non-funded retirement benefits scheme for members of the Defence Forces based on recommendations of that Committee. The announcement followed meetings with senior Service officers and members of the interested departments only a matter of days after the Government took office.
The new scheme is a simple one. It will apply to all serving members of the Defence Forces as at 1 October 1972 and to all members retiring after that date. Contributions will be at the rate of 5.5 per cent of the member’s annual rate of pay and retirement pay will be expressed as a percentage of final pay according to the number of years served. For example, 40 years’ contributor service will produce the maximum retirement pay equal to 76.5 per cent of the member’s pay on retirement. Twenty years’ service will qualify for 35 per cent of final pay. Generally speaking, a minimum of 20 years’ effective service is needed to qualify for retirement pay, except in the case of retirement at or after the prescribed retiring age for rank held when 15 years will provide an entitlement to retirement pay equal to 30 per cent of final pay.
Some of the other features of the new scheme are: Commutation of retirement pay will be a right for members who retired after 1 October 1972, subject only to applications for commutation being made within one year of retirement or such longer period as may be necessary in special circumstances; management of the scheme is to be vested in a statutory authority on which all the Services will be represented; reversionary benefits will be extended to de facto widows and the member’s illegitimate children in certain circumstances, and dependent widowers of female members; the rates of pension payable in respect of children and orphans will be increased and, provided they are receiving full time education at a school, college or university, will continue in payment until age 25 years; invalidity pay will no longer be subject to suspension solely on account of earnings from civil employment; a contributing or recipient member may, if he is dissatisfied with a decision of the authority in relation to invalidity classification or any other matter of general administration of the Act, have his case referred to an invalidity classification review tribunal or an administrative review tribunal, as appropriate, for hearing and decision. Both of these tribunals will be completely independent and they are regarded as particularly im portant in the general management of the scheme. They will provide competent and impartial judgment on appeals from aggrieved members. A further line of appeal, on a question of law only, lies to the Commonwealth Industrial Court; previous past service which, under the present scheme does not count for pension purposes, may be purchased by the payment of additional contributions; and provision has been made in the Bill to ensure that members, on transfer to the new scheme, are not disadvantaged by the transfer.
It will be clear to honourable senators that there are some complexities in this legislation. So far as the implementation and operation of the new scheme is concerned, however - and for this purpose, I am excluding reference to the parts which deal with members who become candidates at parliamentary elections and with the preservation of rights of eligible members who transfer to certain other employment - these, to a very large extent, will be short-lived. Essentially, they are the result of the extremely complex arrangements necessary to convert some 78,000 members to the new scheme without detriment or personal disadvantage and to enable the purchase of periods of previous service. When the conversion program is complete, these arrangements will largely become inoperative and the new scheme will then have the welcome quality of simplicity for transferred as well as new members.
Contributions of members will no longer be funded in the sense that they were under the old scheme. The Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund, with assets totalling some $174m, will, in effect, be frozen as from the commencing date of the new scheme and the Treasurer (Mr Crean) will be examining the arrangements necessary for winding it up. Consequently, the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Board appointed under the existing Act, which exercises a trustee role in relation to the Fund, will continue in existence for the time being for that purpose, although there will be a minor change in its composition arising from the transfer of responsibility for the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Scheme from the Treasurer to the Minister for Defence.
I turn now to the formidable task of implementation. It will not be easy. Nor can it be done quickly. The conversion of some 78,000 contributors to the new scheme, in many cases by adjusting their past contributions to the level of 5.5 per cent of pay throughout their contributory service, will involve individual calculations being made in respect of pay and service extending over a period of many years. Similar calculations will be necessary for the purchase of past service which may include service during the 1939-45 War and even earlier service in some cases. The Services and the office of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Board are already preparing the basic data for the calculations to be made, but it may be some time before all the necessary work is complete.
For members who have retired since 1 October 1972 and received a benefit based on the provisions of the existing legislation, some adjustments will be necessary in regard to both contributions made and the benefits received. Arrangements will be made for these cases to be given priority treatment. Provision has not been made in the main Bill for the automatic adjustment of retirement and invalidity pay as proposed by the Joint Select Committee. However, I shall be introducing a separate Bill shortly which will provide increases for all those persons who retired under, and will remain with, the provisions of the existing scheme. These increases will be along the lines of those proposed for pensioners under the Commonwealth Superannuation Scheme, the details of which have been announced by the Treasurer.
The Joint Select Committee recommended the repeal of all existing Defence Forces Retirement Benefits legislation but this is not possible at this stage. The new scheme is not to apply to pensions granted before 1 October 1972. I understand that rather than have an artificial legislative position under which the repealed provisions would be deemed to remain in force, it would be preferable to continue the existing legislation insofar as it relates to pension rights and to amend it as necessary. The Bill to amend the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1948-71 does precisely that. At the same time, it provides for the transfer of the existing Fund to the Commonwealth and for all pensions payable after 1 October 1972 to be paid by the Commonwealth. It goes further, however, in that it incorporates certain beneficial provisions of the new scheme that relate to children and invalidity pensioners. In other words, pensions payable in respect of children and orphans are to be increased to the levels recommended by the Jess Committee and invalidity pen sioners, as well as having access to an invalidity classification review tribunal, will no longer be subject to the suspension provisions insofar as they relate to remuneration from civil employment. These provisions are repealed and, subject to review by the authority, suspended pensions will be restored.
This Bill makes a number of relatively minor consequential machinery amendments to the Act. Although, as I have already mentioned, it is not practicable to repeal the existing Defence Forces Retirement Benefits legislation at this stage, the Minister for Defence will be looking for ways of repealing as much of it as possible in the near future and having it produced in a consolidated form that will make it more easily understood. There are some other departures from the specific recommendations contained in the report of the Jess Committee. Essentially, they concern the avoidance of any detrimental impact the new scheme may have on members of the present scheme. In particular, there is the incorporation of ‘no detriment’ in relation to the conversion of existing contributors to the new scheme. In the main, however, the scheme developed by this Government is basically the one envisaged by the committee and in the 2 Bills that I have already covered, the Government has fully honoured its undertaking to implement that scheme.
The Superannuation Bill (No. 2) 1973, makes provision for those contributors to the Superannuation Fund who become liable to contribute under the Defence Force scheme. The existing provisions provide that a Superannuation Fund contributor who. is required to contribute to the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund on entering the Defence Force on continuous full time service for 12 months or more has his contributions under the Superannuation Act deferred and they become payable on his ceasing to be a member of the Forces. Should he die or become an invalid and unable to be employed by the Commonwealth, the present legislation provides that the benefit that becomes payable is paid under the Superannuation Act and that where the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits benefit would have been higher, the Superannuation Act benefit is increased to that level. The amendments take account of the changes in the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits scheme and ensure that the existing beneficial arrangements will continue.
The Bill to amend the Defence (Parliamentary Candidates) Act 1969 makes such machinery amendments as are necessary to take account of changes in the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits scheme. Finally, let me say that the scheme encompassed by these Bills reflects not only the needs expressed by the Services themselves for the provision of a modern retirement benefits structure that takes account of their particular career patterns, but also is one that is comprehensible to them. It is a tangible application of the Government’s policy to provide all volunteer forces. Taken together with the series of other measures we have introduced in the area of financial conditions of service generally, there - is clearly substantial inducement to become and remain a member of the Armed Forces. I commend the Bills to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Rae) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Bishop) read a first time.
– I move:
I ask for leave to incorporate the second reading speech in Hansard.
– Subject to copies of the second reading speech having been delivered to all honourable senators, is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The speech read as follows) -
The purpose of this Bill is to increase existing pensions under the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1948-1971. When I introduced the Bill for a new retirement benefits scheme for members of the Defence Forces a short time ago, I explained that provision had not been made in that Bill for the adjustment of retirement benefits as proposed by the Joint Select Committee on the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Legislation, and that the whole question of adjusting benefits paid under both the old and the new schemes was still being examined. The main reason for this is that there have been recent developments in pension updating arrangements in other Commonwealth pension schemes and these are to be. investigated and assessed in relation to their implications for the Defence Force scheme. The investigation is proceeding but it may be some little time before a method can be found which is suitable for application to persons who retired under the old scheme and for those who retire under the new scheme.
As there has not been an adjustment of Defence Forces Retirement Benefits pensions since 1 October 1971, the Government has decided that rather than delay the granting of a much needed increase, an early adjustment should be made in the pensions of those who retired under the conditions of the old scheme, that is, before 1 October 1972. The adjustment is to be made in accordance with measures adopted in relation to Commonwealth Superannuation Fund pensioners. The Treasurer (Mr Crean) announced the details in the House of Representatives on 2 May 1973. In effect, the adjustment to superannuation pensions is to be made to the Commonwealth share of those pensions. Because of the more complex nature of the DFRB benefits structure, however, the Commonwealth share of each pension cannot be calculated without considerable difficulty and if this were to be done, there would be a further long and unacceptable delay in the actual payment of the pension increases. So the Government has decided, as an interim measure, that 77.5 per cent of a DFRB pension is to be adjusted in precisely the same manner as the Commonwealth share of superannuation pensions. This will produce an overall effect that is consistent with the superannuation adjustments and compatible with the sharing arrangements provided under the existing legislation. The pension adjustment will take effect as from the first pension pay day in July of the year. I should like to make it quite clear that the method to be used on this occasion for adjusting Defence Forces Retirements Benefit pensions may not necessarily apply in the future. As I have already mentioned, this is a matter currently under examination and the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) shall announce full details of the method to be used as soon as the present inquiries are complete. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Rae) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Bishop) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The speech read as follows) - The purpose of this Bill is to make provision for a contributory retirement benefits scheme for Papuan and New Guinean members of the defence force. As far back as 30 December 1971, the then Minister for External Territories announced that his Government had approved details of a retirement benefits scheme for these members but the scheme was not introduced. In fact, deductions have been made from the pay of many members since July 1966 in anticipation of the introduction of such a scheme. I am pleased therefore to introduce this Bill to provide at long last a scheme which has been promised for so many years.
The scheme for servicemen is based on and is compatible with the superannuation scheme for the Papua New Guinea Public Service and police force that came into operation on 1 January, 1972, which will also be the commencing date for the servicemen’s scheme. It has necessarily been designed, however, to meet service requirements and incorporate a number of features based on the provisions of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits scheme. The scheme is to be administered by a statutory board which will have service representation. Contributions, which are to be paid into a fund, are to be at the rate of 6 per cent of a member’s pay, the same as required for the Public Service and Police scheme and benefits are to be similar. The maximum pension for a member serving to age 60 years after 35 years’ contributory service is 50 per cent of the average pay received over the final 3 years of service.
To take account of the particular requirements of the Services, however, reduced pensions at retiring ages earlier than 60 years have been provided. The minimum qualifying period of service for pension is 20 years. There is provision also for the payment of invalidity benefits, widow’s and children’s pensions and for commutation to a lump sum of up to one-third of a member’s retirement pension. Past contributory service and noncontributory service of members prior to July 1966 is to be recognised for the purpose of calculating the amounts of pension benefit entitlement. That is the essence of the scheme, the provisions are simple and uncluttered. They have been endorsed by the Administrator’s Executive Council. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Rae) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Bishop) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The speech read as follows) -
The Labor Government undertook on election to abolish conscription forthwith. It promised that there would be no further call-up of young men for national service in the Array under the National Service Act and all pending prosecutions would be discontinued. The first major action following the swearing in of the new Government on Tuesday, 5 December, was to do just this by administrative action. The Government approved the cancellation of call-up of some 2,200 men who had been medically examined and passed fit for service and were due to be called up at the end of January 1973. It directed that there should be no proclamations requiring any further age groups to register for national service under the National Service Act.
In accordance with the powers under the Act to grant deferment to classes of persons liable to render service under the Act, the liability of all men who had not as at that date been enlisted for service in the Army was deferred indefinitely. This affected 2,200 men already mentioned, and another 30,000 men who subject to their fitness for service would have been included in future Army intakes. There were also some 8,000 men already serving in the Citizen Forces as an alternative to full-time national service in the Army. Their liability for national service was also indefinitely deferred. At the same time all approvals for prosecution for offences against the provisions of the National Service Act were revoked.
Arrangements which the Department of Labour and National Service had brought into effect on the Monday morning following the election were also confirmed. Besides taking no further action regarding the call-up and registration scheduled for January 1973, and in respect of prosecution, these arrangements provided that all national service medical examinations were to be cancelled forthwith, no further steps were to be taken to detect men who had defaulted in their obligations under the National Service Act, all investigations into apparent defaults were to be discontinued, and no warrants for apprehension of persons for breaches of the National Service Act or for non-payment of fines under the Act were to be executed and the restriction requiring persons with a national service liability to obtain permission to leave Australia was waived. This action avoided a number of major problems which could otherwise have arisen in closing down national service.
The abolition of conscription is, however, too important a matter for it to continue to rest solely on administrative decision and administrative action. Conscription should not, moreover, be capable of reintroduction without the express need for legislation to be brought before, and passed by, this Parliament. The Government has decided that legislative effect should be given to the decisions abolishing conscription which were taken administratively. It is also not only confirming, but strengthening and reinforcing, these decisions to ensure that they cannot be reversed administratively. The Bill is simple but far reaching in its effect. It legally terminates as from 5 December 1972, the liability of men to register for national service, whether it be full-time or part-time service on the Reserve - or in the CMF - on completion of the fulltime service. The date on which the new Government came into office was 5 December and the then Minister for Labour and National Service approved administrative action to end all call-up for national service.
The Government has not repealed the National Service Act primarily because it wishes to ensure preservation of the rights of those men who are serving at the date the Government assumed office, including those who have elected to continue their service under the provisions of the National Service Act. The men thus remain eligible for reinstatement in civil employment and for their re-establishment benefits. It is nonetheless the Government’s intention to repeal the National Service Act just as soon as possible after all men have ceased to serve in the Army under the Act. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
– The Opposition wishes to make some remarks in relation to this matter but, in view of the usual procedure and the state of the debate, I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cavanagh) read a first time. ‘
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I ask for leave to incorporate in Hansard the second reading speech which has been distributed.
– Is leave granted? There) being no objection, leave is granted. (The speech read as follows) -
This Bill is concerned with a grant which was announced by the previous Government for inclusion within the national water resources development program. In accordance with normal practice this Government is prepared to implement the promise and in fact is pleased to do so. We have agreed to provide up to $2.1m to the State of South Australia to assist in construction of the pipeline scheme. The Lock-Kimba pipeline project involves the construction of about 69 miles of trunk main between the towns of Lock and Kimba on the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia. An additional 170 miles of distribution branch mains will serve properties not alongside the trunk main and replenish, when necessary, storage tanks along their routes. Water will be supplied for stock and domestic purposes and for townships, in particular Darke Peak and Kimba. The total estimated cost of the pipeline is $5. 05m. As I have already stated, the Commonwealth will provide a grant of $2.1m out if about $3m required to complete the work.
Further details of the scheme are contained in the explanatory memorandum distributed with the Bill. Honourable senators will note that the project is already partly constructed. Commonwealth payments under the grant will be made for expenditures incurred on or after 7 November 1972. An environmental impact statement prepared by the South Australian Government is also provided for the information of honourable senators. In accordance with the policy of this Government information on the economic analysis of the project, prepared by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, has been published. Copies may be obtained from the Bureau.
Turning now to the Bill itself, section 4 provides that the grant will be non-repayable. Section 6 sets out requirements in connection with the implementation of the project, and covers the provision of information requested by the Minister, ministerial approval of the works, and approval by the Minister of contracts in excess of $500,000. The project will be designed and constructed by the Engineering and Water Supply Department of the South Australian Government. The requirements for information by the Treasurer, in respect of expenditure are set out in section 7 and the general provisions for the Treasurer to make advance payments, and for repayment of overpayments are made in section 8. I have pleasure in commending the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Withers) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cavanagh) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time. I ask for leave to incorporate in Hansard the second reading speech which has been distributed.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The speech read as follows) -
This Bill seeks the approval of the Parliament to an agreement between the Commonwealth and the State of Tasmania, embodying arrangements for a Commonwealth contribution of $1.355m towards the cost of construction of a sea-port at Grassy, King Island. The Bill also seeks the necessary authorisation of expenditure for the purposes of the Agreement. The proposed assistance for this project was agreed by the former Prime Minister in March 1972 and an offer made to the Tasmanian Premier of the day. Following the change in the Tasmanian Government in April 1972, the new Premier reiterated his State’s acceptance of the Commonwealth offer.
The proposed port, situated at Little Grassy Bay on the south-east coast of King Island, is being developed as an alternative to the existing port of Currie. Over the years, shipping operators have found difficulty in providing a reliable, economic service to King Island owing to the hazards of entering or leaving the port of Currie in bad weather. There are also severe restrictions on the size of vessels able to use that port. Development of a more sheltered port at Grassy will enable larger vessels to operate on a more regular basis. The Commonwealth has had a special interest in King Island since the war service land settlement scheme was established on the Island in conjunction with the Tasmanian Government. From 1963 until April last year the Australian Government provided financial assistance towards the shipping service linking the Island with the Australian mainland.
Work on the port at Little Grassy Bay is nearing completion. Peko- Wallsend Ltd, the parent company of King Island Scheelite Ltd, which operates a scheelite mine close to the port site, is acting on behalf of the Tasmanian Government as major contractor and coordinator of contracts. Overburden and rock from the mine are being used in the construction of the main breakwater. The company has also provided finance for a 20 ton crane. The State of Tasmania will bear full responsibility for the maintenance and technical and economic viability of the port and its installations. The port will be operated for the State Government by the Marine Board of King Island. Port facilities include a stern loading ramp for roll-on roll-off cargoes.
The total cost of the project is estimated at $1.848m. Of this $110,000 is by way of a loan from Peko-Wallsend Ltd and $383,000 was spent by the State in 1970-71. The Australian Government will provide the balance of $1.355m. The agreement incorporated in this Bill provides for this amount in the form of a non repayable grant of $677,500 and an interest bearing loan of $677,000 repayable over 15 years. The detailed terms of the agreement follow the usual lines for projects of this nature and include provisions to ensure the necessary co-operation between the Commonwealth and the State in respect of control of expenditure, repayments and interest. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Withers) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 10.26 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Senator MURPHY- The Prime Minister has provided the following information in answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLAND - The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: (1), (2) and (3) Records of the National Health and Medical Research Council disclose that the Council has not, during the past two years, approved any medical research project specifically intended to investigate the incidence of incest among Aborigines.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
Has the Government considered reducing the prescription fee on all medicines to SO cents, in view of the50 cent prescription fee charged for prescriptions for ‘the pill’.
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLAND- The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The patient contribution for the supply of a pharmaceutical benefit is one dollar, except to eligible pensioners and their dependants and persons eligible under the Subsidised Health Benefits Plan. This includes supplies of oral contraceptives. In the case of oral contraceptives supplied as pharmaceutical benefits, a quantity sufficient for two months may be obtained on one visit to the chemist, on the payment of the one dollar patient contribution. It is therefore not fifty cents patient contribution for oral contraceptives but one dollar per supply of two monthly packs.
In certain circumstances a medical practitioner may choose to prescribe only one month’s supply of an oral contraceptive, in which case the patient contribution is still one dollar.
Depending on the dosage employed, there are other items available as pharmaceutical benefits, e.g. insulin and certain drugs used in the treatment of epilepsy. the maximum quantity of which would allow treatment for two months or more. The maximum quantity of these items is also obtainable on the payment of the normal patient contribution of one dollar.
However, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, including the level of patient contribution for items prescribed under the scheme, is at present under close and careful examination.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Did the visiting North Vietnamese and Viet Cong delegation have use of Commonwealth Government transport whilst in Australia. For instance was the delegation taken in Commonwealth Government cars during its visit to South Australia.
Senator MURPHY- The Prime Minister has supplied the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question.
See the answer to Question No. 275.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 31 May 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1973/19730531_senate_28_s56/>.