28th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I inform the Senate of the following Ministerial arrangements during the absence of Ministers:
The Prime Minister left Australia on Sunday, 3 June, to have discussions with the Indian Prime Minister. Mr Whitlam is expected to return to Australia on Thursday next, 7 June. During his absence the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence, Mr Barnard is Acting Prime Minister and Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs.
The Treasurer, Mr Crean, also left Australia on Sunday, 3 June, to attend the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development ministerial meeting in France. He is expected to return to Australia on 17 June. During his absence the Minister for Tourism and Recreation, Mr Stewart, is Acting Treasurer.
The Special Minister of State and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Willesee, left Australia on Saturday, 2 June to have discussions with officials in London, Rome, Ethiopia and African Commonwealth countries, and also to chair a meeting of heads of mission in European Economic Community Posts. He is expected to return to Australia on 3 July. During his absence the Minister for Tourism and Recreation, Mr Stewart, is Acting Special Minister of State. In this chamber I shall represent those Ministers who are normally represented by Senator Willesee.
The Minister for Transport and Minister for Civil Aviation, Mr Charles Jones, left Australia on Friday, 1 June, to attend the Transport-Expo at Paris and the European Conference of Ministers of Transport at The Hague, as well as to have discussions with officials in the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Japan. He is expected to return on 7 July. During his absence the Minister for Works, Senator Cavanagh, is Acting Minister for Transport and Acting Minister for Civil Aviation.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory. Can he advise whether the allocation of a government flat to the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, Mr Uren, conforms with the Government’s policy on the allocation of housing to Ministers in Canberra? Can the Minister advise what is this policy? I further ask: How does the Government justify granting a government flat to a Minister who admits that he has been on the waiting list only since December 1972 when other citizens in Canberra have had to wait years for the allocation of government houses and flats? Finally, does the allocation of a government flat to Mr Uren, whose Ministerial salary and allowances are in excess of $30,000 per annum, not deprive other and more needy persons of a government flat for which they may have been waiting for a number of years?
– Mr President, in view of the momentary uncertainty as to who represents the Minister for the Capital Territory, perhaps 1 should answer the question. Apparently the practice, which was instituted by a previous government and which was carried out by successive Liberal-Country Party administrations for many years, has been that government flats should be made available to Ministers. I understand that for a long time the practice was that the premises were sold to Ministers on somewhat advantageous terms. That was discontinued shortly before the change of government. Now ] believe arrangements are made for government flats to be made available to those Ministers who need them. I do not know whether any special priority was given to any particular Minister; it may be that there is some rule which depends upon the necessities of the case. For example, assume that an officer of the armed services had to be in Canberra. Presumably the order of priorities would make allowance for that so that he could be here. Also if a Minister had to be here so that the public affairs of this Commonwealth could be conducted at the highest level, presumably the order of priorities would make allowance for that circumstance. If anything further can be added to the answer I will see that it is done.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Labour whether he is aware of the black ban which has been imposed upon the handling of luggage of travellers in and out of Canberra airport by members of the Federated Clerks Union of Australia. Has the Government, as the union alleges, breached an election undertaking, subsequently repudiated after the election, to grant equal pay to women members of the Federated Clerks Union? Does the Government propose to take any action to protect the travelling public or are we to assume that this is the type of action in support of industrial demands which the Government is committed to acknowledge and condone when action is taken against private employers?
– I can say only that the Minister for Labour before he left for overseas put forward proposals to settle the differences between the Federated Clerks Union of Australia and the airlines, a settlement which in the opinion of the Minister would be reasonable and based upon the submissions of the Australian Council of Trade Unions on equal pay. Negotiations on behalf of the Minister were vested in Mr Riordan, the honourable member for Phillip, who is a former federal secretary of the Federated Clerks Union and a very experienced person in that area of industrial relations. The position now is that the matter has been submitted by the union to the ACTU and unless the ACTU and the unions request the Government to take some action, the matter will be subject to the ordinary processes of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.
Fill AIRCRAFT: PROVISION OF RECONNAISSANCE CAPABILITY
– I direct my question to the Minister assisting the Minister for Defence. Now that the first 6 Fill aircraft have arrived in Australia what consideration has been given to the provision of a reconnaissance capability for these aircraft? What are the prospects of the Australian aircraft industry participating in the development and manufacture of this item or, if that is not possible, some offset arrangements?
– All I can say is that the Minister for Defence still has the question of reconnaissance aircraft under review. In relation to the second part of the question, as the honourable senator already knows from answers given to other questions, it is a firm and entrenched policy of this Government that in any commitment in relation to the replacement of aircraft or the supply of new aircraft we would more stringently apply the principles adopted in the latter part of the last government’s term of office in respect of Australian participation. When 1 have further information on this matter I will provide the honourable senator with more details. The second ferry of Fills is expected to take place between 23 July and 27 July, the third ferry between 24 September and 28 September and the final ferry between 26 November and 30 November of this year.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. On 15 and 16 May I asked 2 questions of Senator Willesee who was representing Senator Murphy while the latter was overseas. I asked Senator Willesee whether he would investigate a report in the ‘Illawarra Mercury’ of 27 March that on 2 March, Senator Murphy told an Australian Labor Party victory dinner at Port Kembla that people should write to him if they wanted Australian Security Intelligence Organisation dossiers. I also asked Senator Willesee whether he would investigate how many such dossiers had been distributed to the public. Senator Willesee replied that he would refer the matter for attention and make inquiries. I now ask: In view of the fact that Mr John Richardson, executive editor of the ‘Illawarra Mercury’ has confirmed the accuracy of his newspaper’s report of Senator Murphy’s remarks on 2 March, what has been the result of the promised inquiry into the distribution of ASIO dossiers by Senator Murphy?
– I think it is very easy to deal with the second part of the question that was originally asked and of the question asked today by Senator Gair. There has been no distribution of any such material to the public. As to the first part of the question, about what was supposed to have been said by me and what was contained in the ‘Illawarra Mercury’, I will have a look into that.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Has his attention been drawn to Press reports to the effect that Renault (Australia) Pty Ltd has agreed to notify all known owners of Renault 16 cars of the need to have the front suspension checked? As il would appear that the fault is one of design in manufacture, rather than occasioned by wear and tear, what action if any is open to the Minister for Transport to have, the company replace the necessary parts without cost to the car owner?
– J am informed that the publication the ‘Open Road’, the official journal of the National Roads and Motorists Association, in June of this year asked the Renault company to recall all Renault 16 vehicles for check and possible change of front suspension at no cost to owners. This received publicity in several newspapers. The Renault company replied that the fault does not constitute a safety hazard and occurs in a small percentage of vehicles used in more extreme and rougher conditions than those normally encountered. The dealers have been instructed to inspect and correct, if necessary, such vehicles when they are serviced, the Renault company bearing the greater proportion of the cost based on a sliding scale depending on how much of the fault was due to manufacture. The problem is due to a good road’ setting of the suspension of the Renault 16 vehicles and a modified component has been introduced in the new cars. The fault cannot be isolated from a recent Australian Automobile Association survey of defects in new cars. The Department of Transport has been kept informed by the AAA. No action has been taken in connection with the uniform code of practice for safetyrelated defect campaigns. The company claims that no safety issue is involved.
– My question is to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. In view of the number of long distance telephone calls that people on King Island must make to carry on ordinary business arrangements due to the difficulties caused by the lack of shipping to that island, will the Minister consider reducing the cost of long distance calls from King Island until the shipping trouble is resolved and so help ease the financial burden on King Islanders?
– Obviously this is a matter for my colleague in another place, the Postmaster-General. I will refer the question to him for his attention. Perhaps Senator Townley would also like to give consideration to referring the matter to the Senate Select Committee on Shipping Services Between King Island, Stanley and Melbourne to see whether it might come up with a recommendation in that area.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs: When the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee is finally established what powers, if any, will this body have in relation to legislation affecting Aborigines? Will the Committee be given the opportunity to scrutinise legislation affecting Aborigines before it is introduced in the Parliament? In view of the fact that the Federal Government is soon to assume full responsibility for Aborigines throughout the Commonwealth, what is the Government’s list of priorities? How will the Government define an Aboriginal?
– When the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee is finally formed - I had promised to try to obtain some answers by today for’ an honourable senator on the composition of the Committee but this has not yet come to hand - it will be an advisory body for the purpose of considering Aboriginal affairs and advising the Minister. It will have some say in the direction of Government policy. While, as a result of the referendum it is thought that the Commonwealth has complete powers over Aboriginal affairs, the Commonwealth has not exercised full powers and is in consultation with the States about their handing over of their powers as the Commonwealth does not desire to act contrary to agreement with the States. As has been stated, South Australia has agreed to hand over full power to the Commonwealth as from 1 July this year. The Commonwealth will then have full power over Aborigines in South Australia. I think there was a last portion to the question?
– How are Aborigines defined?
– Yes. Frankly, I do not know. The position is not satisfactory. Honourable senators will remember the case in which an Aboriginal under the Western Australian Act, was not an Aboriginal under the National Service Act. The definition of an Aboriginal will have to be determined. I shall take up that matter with the Minister to see whether he has any proposal.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Media. Is it a fact that the Minister has suggested that there is a need for liberalising State libel laws in the hope that there will be a more open discussion of all public affairs? Is the Minister aware that last evening Sir Frank Packer, a prominent person in the television industry, was involved in a successful move to censure comments by the Prime Minister on the program ‘A Current Affair’. What steps can be taken to ensure that censorship of television programs is not left in the hands of one man as this surely would nullify the attempts by the Minister to have a freer exchange of news and comments?
Under the terms of the Broadcasting and Television Act a broadcasting or television licensee has the right and, indeed, an obligation to supervise programs which are broadcast or televised by his station. He must supervise them in accordance wilh the standards which are determined by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and, naturally, in accordance with the laws of the land. I understand that the decision to excise certain material was made by the station. It was made without reference to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. It certainly was made without reference to me. I understand that there was no consultation with the Prime Minister as to the decision to excise. The recording for the program was made on Friday. I am told that the decision to excise was taken by the licensee on Saturday or Sunday. As to the Channel 9 telecast, I can only say that the responsibility for any censorship of the program was entirely that exercised by the station concerned. I assume that it was exercised under section 99 of the Broadcasting and Television Act. I can see no way in which I might have intervened in this matter, bearing in mind the obligation upon the licensee to supervise his programs in accordance with the standards laid down by the Board and also, of course, in accordance with the laws of the land.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Housing. Subsequent to questions I asked on 1 June 1973 it was alleged that local authority delays are responsible for subdivided land being held off the market. Therefore, can the Minister obtain details of the number of acres of land held by HookerRex Pty Ltd, W. H. Bowden Pty Ltd, Cambridge Credits Corporation Ltd, Alfred Grant Pty Ltd and other subdividers in the Brisbane and Gold Coast areas in respect of which applications for subdivisional approval have not been lodged with the appropriate authorities? Is it true that Cambridge Credit alone has at least 25,080 allotments between Brisbane and the Gold Coast and 3,500 allotments at Redbank tied up and that none of those subdivisions will be completed before 1980? As these subdividers have carefully avoided rebuttal of my complaint regarding the making of exorbitant profits of up to $3,500 on a block of land priced at $6,000, will the Minister refer the matter to the Prices Justification Tribunal for its earliest attention?
– The Commonwealth has no power to obtain the information the honourable senator has sought. It is purely a State matter. The power lies in the Queensland Government, which could either acquire the land or stabilise prices by an Act of Parliament in order to ensure that there is no exploitation in land sales. It has come to my knowledge that a publication in the Parliamentary Library entitled ‘Developmental Expenditure in Queensland - April 1973’ sets out details of private enterprise investments in south Queensland and shows clear support for what the honourable senator has said; that is, that huge areas are held by private investment companies on the south coast, which is an area that is now in the process of being developed. I have noticed in relation to the developmental work on building allotments that much of it is not due for completion until 1980 or 1982, which would suggest that there is no hurry to flood the market with land for sale. I think that this is something which needs to be taken up on a State basis.
If there were co-operation between the Commonwealth and the State in relation to an area which the Department of Urban and Regional Development sought to develop, it is possible that agreement could be reached upon the freezing of the price of land in that area. I have not looked at this matter from this angle, but it could well be something that the Prices Justification Tribunal could look into.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Following his recent appeal to the International Court of Justice in The Hague against the proposed French nuclear tests in the Pacific, will he be making a similar appeal to the International Court of Justice against the proposed Chinese nuclear tests? If he does not intend to do so, is it because the Chinese explosion is different from the French explosion and will not affect the atmosphere or because the Australian Government is fearful of offending China?
– An application was made in the International Court of Justice by Australia. I think copies of documents in connection with that application have been circulated to honourable senators. If the honourable senator were to read the documents which have been circulated he would find that the approach to the Court in respect of the Republic of France was based on a treaty called the General Act which is not applicable as between Australia and China. That means there is a clear legal distinction between the position of Australia and France and that of Australia and China.
As to the possibility of atmospheric testing by China I inform the Senate that Australia has made quite clear to China its objections to atmospheric testing by it or any other nation. The honourable senator asks whether atmospheric testing or any further atmospheric testing by China will affect the people of the world, including those in Australia. The answer is yes. There is no doubt that although there is a difference in the effect on persons according to the hemisphere in which the explosion takes place, ultimately the whole of the people of the world are affected by these tests. Australia has made clear its objections to any further atmospheric testing by any nation.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs. By way of preface I refer to the continued concern expressed by the Young Christian Workers movement and several United States and Australian churchmen at ruthless political oppression in Saigon. I ask: Will the Minister take up with the South Vietnamese Government the proposal mat a small delegation headed by Mrs Jan Madigan, the President of the Young Christian Workers Movement, visit Saigon to see to what extent the Saigon authorities allow political freedom, mindful of their boast that they are providing a better society than is North Vietnam? Secondly, if the request is rejected, will our Goverment review its policy of giving aid to South Vietnam?
– I understand the honourable senator’s concern about the treatment of persons in South Vietnam. That concern has been expressed in many other quarters around the world. I understand that some invitation has been extended by the Government in Saigon for delegations to visit Saigon. I intend to refer the detail of the matter to the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs so that the other suggestions of the honourable senator may be examined.
– My question which is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry concerns rural finance. Does the Minister recall an answer he gave to a question asked by me last week in which he justified the raising of interest rates if the term of the loan is longer? Does the Minister also recall answering another question on 22 May in which he challenged me and the Australian Country Party to state why the previous Government charged the going rate of interest for the $6Sm it made available last year through the statutory reserve deposits of the trading banks? As that money was made available for up to 25 years, with extensions beyond that time in special cases, will the Minister agree that by charging the going interest rate on these loans the previous Government gave what amounts to a concession to rural producers?
– I think there may be some confusion in Senator Maunsell’s mind about the amounts involved. The amount of $65m referred to concerned, as the honourable senator says, moneys released from the statutory reserves of the Reserve Bank of Australia. They were moneys held by the private trading banks in those reserves. Twothirds of the moneys was from the reserves. The other one-third came from the liquid assets of the trading banks themselves. As such they were the moneys of the private banks. The release of $20m announced last week and made available through the Commonwealth Development Bank was Commonwealth money. This money is not to be confused with the other sum of $65m from the farm development loan account to which the honourable senator referred in his question. The principle which I raised last week is quite true. It applies exactly as 1 said. The interest rates are increased by the marginal amount of 1 per cent because of the increase in the term applying. It is quite erroneous to confuse the 2 amounts involved. One, as I say, is purely government money; the other one is money held by the private trading banks in those statutory reserves.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate in his capacity as Minister for Customs and Excise. Has the Minister seen recent Press reports that people from a small village in southern Japan have been severely affected by mercury poisoning from contaminated fish and that a number have died? Can the Minister say what steps have been taken by the Australian Government to protect the public from contaminated fish imported from overseas?
– I can assure the honourable senator that the Government, through the Department of Customs and Excise, keeps a very careful watch on this matter. If there are any consignments of fish which have a mercury content in excess of the limit which, as I recall it, is 0.05 parts per million of mercury, this renders the import a prohibited import and it is seized. The maintenance of these standards is extremely important. A few days after the new Government came to power there was a shipment of glazedware - cups and articles of that kind - in which the amount of lead parts per million was 2,000, although the permissible limit is only 7 parts per million. The Government is ‘having investigations made with a view to reducing the 7 parts per million which it regards as being excessive. That particular shipment was stopped in order to prevent the Australian people being exposed to danger. There is a world-wide concern for the enforcement of the standards, the improvement of some of these standards and, in fact, the introduction of new standards in order to deal with some of the chlorinated hydrocarbons which are proving extremely dangerous. In the time of my predecessor as Minister for Customs and Excise, Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, attention was being paid to this matter. 1 assure the honourable senator that great concern is expressed and acted upon by the Department of Customs and Excise in respect of all of these affairs.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Education. How does the Government reconcile its proposal to place a means test on state aid to independent schools with its 2 concurrent proposals to abolish all university fees for rich and poor alike and also to remove the means test for age pensions for rich and poor alike? Since the proposals regarding university fees and age pensions are significantly costly to the public revenue and the saving to revenue by the means test on state aid comparatively small, is not such a means test wholly discriminatory and totally unjustifiable in terms of revenue saving or social justice?
– This is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Education, in another place. I am not immediately aware of the answers that are necessary to the honourable senator’s question. I will refer the matter to my colleague for a reply.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister who is representing the Minister for Services and Property, whoever that may be.
– I will take the question.
– Is the Minister aware that 25 per cent of the cars in the Commonwealth pool in Canberra are unusable because of lack of service facilities?
Secondly, why does the Government purchase Cars from a company which is not prepared to employ enough staff to service these cars?
– I am not aware of that particular fact but it has been brought to my notice over several years that there are some peculiarities about the servicing of the Commonwealth cars and that this matter probably needs some attention. I speak not from a study of the matter or from any ministerial knowledge but from its being brought to my attention over the years by a number of Commonwealth car drivers that apparently no spare parts are kept by the Commonwealth. The procedures for having cars repaired seem to be very roundabout. If that situation is exacerbated by the private companies who are supposed to carry out the servicing not having sufficient staff, a state of inefficiency will occur which ought to be looked into. Since I do not really know the facts, I will refer the matter-
– Could not we all have a Mercedes Benz?
– I do not know whether that is a practical suggestion. I will refer both suggestions of the honourable senator to the Minister, who is a very efficient Minister, and no doubt he will follow them up with alacrity. I shall ask the Minister to reply personally to the senator if an answer cannot be given in the Senate before it rises.
– My question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, refers to the report by Dr Cairns on his return from Communist China that he had raised the matter of tests with Mr Chou En-lai. Mr Chou En-lai exhibited considerable resentment and said that China would continue to conduct atomic tests in the same way as previously. As the Australian Government took the lead in mobilising international opinion against the French test’s, why does not the Australian Government take a similar lead in mobilising international opinion, particularly in South East Asia and the Pacific, against the Chinese tests and drop proposals at present in train for cultural exchanges, visits of parliamentarians and trade advantages for Communist China?
– In answer to a previous question touching on this matter I indicated that the position of Australia in relation to France is slightly different - in fact it is considerably different - from that which it has in relation to China. For example, Australia could seek - as it has done, but the International Court of Justice has not yet given its judgment - to invoke a particular General Act as well as general provisions of the United Nations Charter in respect of what had been done by the Republic of France. I do not want to enter further into a matter which is still awaiting decision by the International Court of Justice. I indicated that there is such a clear difference that the General Act is not available in relation to China.
Let the Senate be quite clear that the Australian Government is opposed to any kind of atmospheric nuclear testing. I have indicated that due to well known physical and scientific reasons there is some difference between the effect upon the population of the southern hemisphere of a test conducted in the southern hemisphere and a test which is conducted in the northern hemisphere. Ultimately it is clear that the continuence of atmospheric nuclear testing by nations of the world, including France and China, will affect the people of the world. It is clear that if nuclear testing is allowed to continue it will not stop at the 2 nations which have been mentioned. Australia has agreed to the partial test ban treaty. In the United Nations Australia consistently is taking the stand that these tests should not continue. A couple of weeks ago it initiated a motion at the World Health Organisation, in effect deploring the continuence of any kind of tests. So irrespective of what nation is involved the Australian Government is taking the stand of objecting to nuclear tests. As to precisely what steps ought to be taken, firstly, these would depend on what may be said by the International Court of Justice on the whole question of atmospheric nuclear testing; and secondly, the steps actually to be taken are matters of policy for the Government.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise in relation to the Government’s recently announced decision to permit the brewing of beer for individual purposes. Can the Minister advise whether the Government proposes to permit people to distil spirits for their own requirements?
– The decision to remove the duty on home brewing was taken because this is in the nature of a hobby. Home brewing is not always carried out successfully. As in many other things, sometimes the expenditure far exceeds the material reward but nevertheless people probably get a lot of fun out of it. I understand that the breweries are not really concerned about home brewing and it was extremely costly for the Government to attempt to administer the law. That is the reason for that decision. Distillation is in a different category. If done properly and in what may be said to be a semiprofessional way, distillation might be extremely effective and it might affect the revenue. But, in addition, home distillation may result in a very great danger if it is not done in a professional and extremely skilled manner. Experience here and particularly in other countries shows that people who distil their own spirits are often not capable of doing it properly and their efforts often result in a product which may look all right and taste all right but is in fact highly toxic. Many people have been badly poisoned and others have died because of the application of insufficient knowand insufficient technique to distillation. Therefore from the point of view of protecting the public and the revenue it is not intended to permit the free distillation of spirits in the same way as free home brewing is permitted.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate who represents the Prime Minister in this chamber. Will the Minister ask the Prime Minister to produce for the Senate a statement setting out the following details foi all Commonwealts Departments of State: (a) the number of people on each Minister’s personal staff charged to the vote, of his Department as at 1 January 1973; (b) similar information, with figures and details as at 1 June 1973; (c) the gross total weekly remuneration for each such peron as at 1 June 1973, whether employed full time or part time?
– On the face of it I see no reason why that information should not be made available. As for the figures at 1 June, it is not possible for the Prime Minister to do that now, of course, because he is away. I think all honourable senators would hope that the Senate would rise at just about the time he returns which, as I indicated earlier, will he this Thursday. However I would hate, to predict what might be done by the Senate in relation to the sitting times. I understand that the information which the honourable senator seeks could be made available. Certainly it would be a proper subject for consideration with the Estimates. I shall pass the question on to the Prime Minister.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is the Minister aware of a statement by Mr P. J. R. Tucker, MLA, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in Queensland that at Townsville leukaemia has increased from an average of one or two cases a year to 14 cases in the past year. Will the Minister cause an inquiry to be conducted in northern Queensland, which is affected by heavy fallout from French bomb tests, in order to ascertain whether the increase in leukemia is widespread in the area and if it has been brought about by nuclear fallout?
– Investigations are now going on all over the world into the results of nuclear tests because apart from the general question of radiation we are dealing with substances which have not hitherto existed on earth. The elements in question are peculiarly the result of nuclear testing and it seems that more and more is becoming known about the dangers of these and their effect upon the environment generally and the human body. The fact of some change, if it is an observable and certain change, in the incidence of leukaemia in any area would, I think, give rise to an obvious need for investigation. Whatever the cause, one would want to know why such a significant change had occurred. It may be for some other reason altogether. Who knows? It may be as a result of an increased radio-activity. I will pass the question to those Ministers who are specifically concerned with the subject matter-rit m&y come within the realm of the Minister for Science as well as the Minister for Health - in order that some attention may be given by the Government to what is a very significant and, on the face of it, disturbing alteration in the incidence of leukaemia in a particular area.
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Media. Is the Minister aware that there are hundreds, possibly thousands, of people in Australia who can lip read? As many of these people undoubtedly witnessed last night the television program ‘A Current Affair’ and were privileged to be able to identify the alleged libelous and defamatory remarks made by the Prime Minister about a Catholic Bishop, will the Minister table in the Senate an unedited transcript of the interview for the. enlightenment of senators and others in Australia who cannot lip read?
– I am not aware that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people who can lip read and I am not aware that even if there are, each and every one of them witnessed the program ‘A Current Affair’ which was telecast last night. As a matter of fact, no evidence has been given to me that anyone who can lip read watched the program. On the second aspect Of the honourable senator’s question, I did not see the program. When a report appeared in one of Sydney’s afternoon newspapers yesterday I endeavoured to contact the Australian Broadcasting Control Board about the matter but as yesterday was a public holiday in Melbourne I was unable to do so. I have been in touch with the Secretary of the Broadcasting Control Board this morning and I am endeavouring to obtain a copy of the transcript.
– I address my question without notice to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. I preface my question by saying that it is a well known fact that many hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Australians have complained about ridiculous telephone accounts and that they have had no redress from the Department. In view of the recent statement by the Postmaster-General that meters for private telephones will be available within 12 months to enable private citizens to keep a check on the number of calls made by them at home, and that these meters are being made available because thousands of Australians have complained that they are being grossly overcharged by the Postmaster-General’s Department, will the Minister give the public an assurance that refunds will be made to all those who have complained of overcharging? Further, if the home meters prove that the Postal Department’s accounts were completely haywire, as many of us think they were, wilt the public have to pay for the installation of these meters when they are available?
– I shall refer the question to my colleague, the Postmaster-General, in another place.
– I wish to direct a question to the Minister for the Media. In a sense it follows on Senator Jessop’s question, ls the Minister aware of the standards laid down by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board relating to propriety and decency in television material? Is it a fact that last evening on channel 9 Mr Whitlam in a taped program made such an outrageous attack on a Catholic bishop that the licensees of the station had to censor a number of words from the interview in order not to breach the Control Board’s standards of decency and the laws of libel? As Mr Whitlam probably will want to make further telecasts in the future, will the Minister be good enough to send him a copy of the Control Board’s little book containing such standards of decency?
– Is it a little red book?
– It is blue, from memory. Can the Minister say whether this is the first occasion on which a Prime Minister’s telecast has had to be censored? I join Senator Jessop in asking whether, in view of the Minister’s own outspoken attack on the laws of libel, he will arrange to table in the Senate, where they are priviledged, an exact transcript of Mr Whitlam’s remarks and so allow the Australian people to form their own judgment on their Prime Minister, a judgment which is becoming increasingly adverse, as the weekend gallup poll showed.
– I am aware of the standards laid down by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. Incidentally, for the benefit of honourable senators the book is not covered in red or blue but is covered in yellow. The honourable senator has said that yesterday the Prime Minister made an outrageous statement against a Catholic bishop on the program ‘A Current Affair’. As I said earlier, I did not see the program. I have not yet obtained a copy of the transcript, although I have taken steps to see that a transcript is made available to me. I cannot say that this is the first occasion on which censorship of a Prime Minister’s remarks has taken place by a commercial television station or indeed any television station. I know that under a previous government the then Australian Prime Minister directed that certain remarks being made on an Australian Broadcasting Commission program concerning the French Premier or President, 1 think, should not be telecast. As I say, I have called for a copy of the transcript and when I have perused it I shall decide whether 1 should make it available to the Senate.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate in his capacity as Minister for Customs and Excise. What steps are being taken by Australian law enforcement authorities to assist overseas agencies in the apprehension of international narcotic traffickers?
– A great deal of action is taken by the Narcotics Bureau of the Department of Customs and Excise to assist international agencies. Indeed there has been some recent publicity internationally on the way in which Australia has assisted the other agencies. There have been a number of cases of heroin smuggling in the United States of America and Asia in which large amounts of heroin have been recovered, and the Australian Customs authorities have participated heavily in the investigations which have led to the uncovering of these activities. As honourable senators will be aware, the smuggling and the trafficking in heroin especially and the other bard drugs are among the most reprehensible forms of conduct which could be indulged in. The Department of Customs and Excise is extremely vigilant and is extremely successful in its efforts, together with those of other international bodies, in trying to suppress this trade. When 1 say ‘successful’, I mean successful in our own sphere and in our own activities because obviously there is a huge trade in this traffic. As attempts are made to suppress drug trafficking, profits become greater and endeavours are increased to carry on the practice. I assure the honourable senator that a great deal of attention is being paid to this problem. An enormous amount of activity has been engaged in and some significant successes have been achieved, especially in recent times.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate who represents the Prime Minister. At the highly successful opening of the magnificent Festival Hall in Adelaide on Saturday night, the Prime Minister stated that it would be the Government’s concern that theatrical productions would not be priced outside the financial ability of the people whom the Government represents. In view of the inordinately high entrance charges indicated ahead for some presentations at the Sydney Opera House, will the Minister indicate by what means the Government expects to ensure that theatre productions will not be priced out of the range of the people whom the Government represents?
– This is a very serious matter. I looked at some of the prices for performances at the Sydney Opera House in recent days when I was sent the appropriate forms. The charges are quite expensive. I do not know what the Prime Minister has specially in mind to ensure that the prices do not get beyond the reach of the average person, but I will pass on the question for the honourable senator in order that he may receive the Prime Minister’s statement on it.
– My question is addressed to whoever represents the Minister representing the Acting Prime Minister representing the Prime Minister. Will the Minister prepare a statement for the Senate setting out the names of professors and/ or staff members of Australian universities who are under appointment to fulltime temporary positions either as ministerial advisers or to Government commissions and committees, and indicating if their positions at the relevant universities are filled during their Government appointments? Can it also be indicated which ones are on sabbatical or any other type of leave during their appointments?
– I will pass that question on to the Prime Minister. Such information, I think, would be most valuable because if there is one thing that would be clear it is that under the present Administration, even in the last few months, the Government has taken active steps to involve persons in universities, who have a wealth of knowledge, in the work of the Government and to have that knowledge placed at the disposal of the Government. There has been an active interest in the universities also in joining with this Government in giving effect to the Government’s creative program.
Professors and lecturers, when they are on a sabbatical year, have shown an enthusiasm in this period. Instead of wishing to travel from Australia to do research and to spend their time in giving their services to other governments, they have turned to this Government and said: ‘We want to assist the Australian Government to carry out its great program’. We have taken advantage of this. Others, even when they are carrying on work in university years, have sought wherever they can in a part-time capacity to assist the Government. I assure the honourable senator that there has been a great upsurge in the number of academics who are involved in assisting the Government in various ways including investigations, recommendations and advice. It would be a great tragedy if there were any continuance of the former Government’s policy of largely excluding the wealth of talent which exists in the community from involvement in the affairs of the community.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to reports of a letter written recently to the heads of African states by the former President of Uganda, Dr Obote, referring to allegations of torture and other atrocities and the mass murder of between 80,000 and 90,000 Ugandans by President Amin’s regime? What is the view of the Australian Government on these allegations? Are they well founded? If they are, what action does the Government intend to take to have the United Nations take some action in relation to this apparently illegal and apparently tyrannical and genocidal regime?
– I shall pass on the honourable senator’s question - not only the question that he has asked as to what the Australian Government’s view is, but also his own conclusion, apparently, as to the validity of all these allegations.
– I said: ‘If they are true’.
– Apparently Senator Rae has accepted the truth of them. I shall simply pass on the question in order that the Government may give a considered reply to it.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Housing. Will the Minister investigate what percentage of subdivided residential land is sold to speculators and what percentage is sold to people who intend to build a home? Will the Minister also investigate whether the Government can stop this speculation in subdivided land either by redefining the definition of ‘income’ for taxation purposes or by a capital gains tax?
– The Department of Housing and the Federal Government have no knowledge of the percentage of land sold for speculation and the percentage sold for home building. I do not know whether this information would be available to the Federal Government. As to the suggestion that the Federal Government could direct the sale of land by the alternatives suggested by the honourable senator, such as taxation or controls, I shall refer that to the Minister for investigation and report.
- Mr President, 1 direct a question to you. Who is reponsible for determining the location in King’s Hall of new paintings of parliamentary dignitaries? Why is the portrait of yourself, Sir, hung at the far end of King’s Hall in an area of comparatively poor lighting, whereas other new paintings invariably have pride of place at or near the entrance to the Hall?
– It is a bad painting.
– It is an excellent painting, replete with red carnation. Will consideration be given by the appropriate authorities to redressing this obvious breach of an accepted and desirable practice?
– Firstly, I acknowledge the interjection by Senator Cavanagh. It reminded me of the observation made by the late Dorothy Parker, a wit of the United States of America. She said:
My face I don’t mind it because I’m behind it - It’s the folks out in front get the shock.
The fact is that the Presiding Officers, in conjunction with the relevant officer of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, are responsible for the hanging of portraits in King’s Hall. I reply to the second question, as to why my portrait is hanging in a corner, by saying that I have become slightly tired of what ‘I call the Kremlin Wall system by which bodies are disinterred and buried somewhere else. Perhaps in a more elegant way 1 could describe it as a saraband for dead politicians. Since my portrait was hung on the wall near the Library it has been pointed out to me that this is not fair to members of Parliament, to the public or to the artist. This morning 1 have instructed the relevant officers to try to find a place with better lighting.
– Mr President, it now being more than an hour after the commencement of question time, I ask that further questions without notice be placed on the notice paper.
– Cutting us short again.
– It has been an hour. For the interest of the honourable senators, we have averaged a question and an answer about every 2 minutes.
– Senator Devitt, there is on the notice paper notice of motion No. 7, Business of the Senate, standing in your name. Is this formal or not formal?
– Mr President, I ask for leave to make a statement concerning this notice of motion.
– Yes, but is it formal or not formal? It is not formal, but you ask for leave- to make a statement in relation to the context of it?
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– When I gave this notice of motion I stated that it was to allow the Regulations and Ordinances Committee more time to pursue its inquiries with regard to the Australian Capital Territory Company Ordinance. Those inquiries have now been completed.
Section 13 of the Ordinance empowers the Attorney-General to license certain types of companies and to exempt them from certain provisions of the Ordinance, and to revoke such an exemption. The Committee believed that this power should be subject to objective criteria set out in the Ordinance, and that a company ought to have a right of appeal against the revocation of a licence or an exemption.
Section 45 of the Ordinance empowers the Registrar to exempt companies from compliance with the Ordinance. The Committee considered that the Ordinance was defective in not laying down objective grounds for the exercise of this power. Section 66 of the Ordinance provides that certain persons were bound to assist the prosecution by giving information in certain cases involving offences under the Ordinance. The Ordinance contained no safeguard to the effect that such information as a person was compelled to provide could not be used in a prosecution against him.
The Attorney-General has given the Committee an assurance that the Ordinance will be amended so as substantially to overcome the objections raised by the Committee. The Committee is willing to accept that assurance. Accordingly, unless any honourable senator wishes to take over the notice of motion, I withdraw Business of the Senate, notice of motion No. 7, standing in my name. I wish to express the Committee’s appreciation of ‘the courtesy and co-operation extended by the Attorney-General in relation to this matter.
– I move:
The acceptance of this motion will mean that we will commence with Government business and proceed through it subject to the reception of some messages in relation to Bills which have been received from the House of Representatives but which have not yet been dealt with.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Murphy) read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill provides for the validation until 31 December 1973 of duties collected in pursuance of Customs Tariff Proposals Nos 1 to 10 introduced into the Parliament during this session. The tariff changes validated by this Bill relate to Tariff Board reports on agricultural tractors; cathode ray tube display terminals; and cherries; and Special Advisory Authority reports on capacitors; industrial type plastic coated knitted gloves; and phthalic anhydride. I expect the subject matter validated by this Bill to be included in the next Customs Tariff Bill. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Murphy) read a first time.
– I move:
This is a Bill to amend several aspects of the income tax law. Its main proposals are designed to curtail widespread misuse of some features of the law and so to ensure that proper effect is given to the policy underlying provisions intended to provide concessions for particular purposes. Much of the Bill is taken up with measures relating to the concessional deductions for life insurance premiums and superannuation contributions and to the provisions concerned with company losses and bad debts and with dividend distributions by private companies.
A concessional deduction of up to $1,200 a year is allowable to a person for amounts paid as life insurance premiums or as personal contributions to a superannuation fund. This concession is provided to encourage a person to make financial provision for his own retirement or for his dependants when he dies. For some time, however, it has been exploited for very different purposes. Practices have grown up that have nothing at all to do with the objectives under-lying the concession; they are simply arrangements adopted by people who are in a position to do so to avoid the payment of tax which ought to be paid. The most widely used arrangements take advantage of the fact that an insurance policy in force for a relatively short time may be surendered for an amount close to the sum of the premiums paid on it. Many policies are taken out solely to secure the tax deduction and are surrendered at the earliest practicable date. In effect the person concerned gets a tax deduction for premiums which to a large extent are received back within a short time. These arrangements do not remotely accord with the policy underlying the concession. Another source of tax saving which is quite out of step with the policy objectives is the use of short term endowment policies.
This feature of the amendments proposed in the Bill was foreshadowed by the Treasurer (Mr Crean) in a public statement on 29 December 1972. In broad terms, the amendment will change the law so that, with some exceptions, a deduction will not be available for premiums on a policy which provides for benefits (other than death benefits) to be paid within 10 years after the issue of the policy. Other countries - notably New Zealand and the United Kingdom - have adopted this basic criterion for these deductions.
The proposed restrictions on deductions for premiums on short term policies could, however, be got around by the early surrender of whole-of-life or long term policies. As a safeguard against this the Bill provides that, where a policy in force for less than 10 years lapses or is surrendered, the Commissioner of Taxation will be authorised to disallow deductions for premiums on the policy paid within 5 years immediately prior to the surrender or lapse. Single premiums will be notionally spread over the life of the policy for this purpose. It is proposed, however, that there be no disallowance where it is demonstrated that a policy is discontinued because of serious financial difficulties and had not been taken out as a tax avoidance scheme.
The proposed amendments will not affect deductions for contributions to superannuation funds in respect of life insurance policies, or whatever term, taken out by the trustees of a fund to provide retirement benefits for members. Should any such policy be assigned to a member who leaves a fund because of premature retirement, deductions for future premiums paid on the policy by the exmember will not be affected. In addition the amendments will not apply to premiums on what is know as ‘term’ insurance in respect of which there is no surrender value.
The Government received representations that an exception from the 10 year rule should also be made for short term endowment policies that are taken out independently of superannuation funds by people who are within 10 years of the common retiring ages of 65 years for men and 60 years for women. The Government decided, however, that it would be more in harmony with the general polices of the tax law to meet the needs of these people through the exception for policies issued to trustees of superannuation funds. Public superannuation funds exist which are able to provide for the retirement needs of these older people.
In respect of payments to superannuation funds, the Bill proposes that deductions be limited to payments to funds the income of which presently is accorded either exemption or special treatment under the income tax law. Such funds include all traditional employer/employee funds and funds catering for people who are self-employed or are employees unable to benefit, or benefit adequately, through an employer-sponsored fund. The purpose of this is to put an end to schemes that set out to obtain tax deductions for contributions to what are in reality no more than outright savings or investment funds. As the Treasurer announced on 29 December, the amendments are to apply in respect of premiums on policies taken out on or after 1 January 1973 and contributions made to superannuation funds on or after that date.
I turn now to measures contained in the Bill, which are directed against familiar tax avoidance practices involving the use by profitable enterprises of companies that are no more than shells but that can provide very valuable tax benefits when profitable business is put their way. Two of these tax benefits accrue from setting off against current income deductions for past year losses, or for debts that have long been bad but have not been written off by the acquired company. A third type of benefit may be that accruing from the use of a past distribution of dividends made by an acquired private company - that has been stripped of all its assets in a dividend stripping operation - as a means of avoiding the requirement that an appropriate proportion of the income of a private company that is active and profitable be distributed to, and taxed in the hands of, the shareholders.
In 1964 and 1965 the Parliament moved against the trafficking in companies with accumulated losses. The provisions we agreed to then have been applied with some success but it is apparent that they need strengthening in some respects. This the Bill is to do. It will also apply the central principles of the 1964-65 legislation to the acquisition, through the purchase of shares in companies, of deductions for bad debts and of an entitlement to have earlier excess dividend distributions offset against current distributable income of private companies. The central principles are simple. For a company to obtain these tax benefits, there is required to be a real and substantial identity between its beneficial ownership when the losses or debts were incurred, or the excess distributions were made, and its current beneficial ownership. Alternatively, if there is not that identity, the company must currently be carrying on the same business as it was when the change in shareholders occurred.
The principles are simple, but it does not follow that the legislation expressing and enforcing them can be. The Bill is voluminous. This is accounted for to some extent by 2 practical factors: Firstly, the necessity to reenact existing provisions and, secondly, the unavoidability, from the draftsman’s viewpoint, of repeating in relation to each subject - losses, bad debts and excess distributions - legislative principles common to each. But, also, many peripheral matters of a technical and transitional nature have had to be catered for in the drafting and, in this age of enthusiastic and ingenious tax avoidance, many safeguards of the central principles have had to be provided. It is no use, for instance, having legislation requiring continuity of beneficial ownership in a company, if it leaves open arrangements under which the purchasers of shares in the company need not be concerned about any continuity of the old ownership because the old shareholders can easily be kept from receiving any benefit from the company’s current activities. The Bill proposes safeguards against arrangements of this kind and generally is designed to make clear the legislative intention that acquisition of company shells for tax benefits will not bring forth those benefits.
In 1964 the Parliament considered a 40 per cent continuity of shareholding would be a reasonable criterion to apply. Experience has shown that anything less than a continuity of a controlling interest, (hat is more than 50 per cent, unlikely to be effective. So that is what the Bill proposes. Under the existing law, a company is required to satisfy the Commissioner as to a 40 per cent continuity of shareholding. Under the amended law this will move up to a percentage in excess of 50. Provisions adopted by the Parliament in 1965 left undisturbed the availability of deductions for company losses when the same business was carried on at all relevant times. These provisions are being re-enacted with no substantial change. They will apply in respect of bad debts and excess distribution acquisitions as well as in the company loss situation.
The new code we propose will, in general, apply in assessments on company income of the current year 1972-73. An important exception is that the 40 per cent test for continuity of shareholdings will apply in assessments for that year in respect of deductions for past year losses and bad debts. The larger percentage, more than 50, will not take over until 1973-74. The amendments relating to excess distributions of companies will, in general, apply for dividends relating to income of the year ended 30 June 1972 but again the 40 per cent test will apply for that year and the larger percentage will not take over until the succeeding year. The Government considers it reasonable to apply the amended provisions in this way. Many intending purchasers of tax losses, bad debts and excess distributions have made saving arrangements to the effect that they are to pay the vendors of the company shells only for the amounts for which the purchasers secure allowances under the taxa tion law. Apart from this, the loss of revenue is most significant and the Government considers it only right that it should be stopped with as little delay as possible.
Charges have been made in the Press and in correspondence. - not all inspired, I fear, by wholly disinterested motives - that the losses, bad debts and excess distribution provisions of the Bill are retrospective in their effects. Some have even claimed a retrospectivity to as far back as 1936. The allegation of any sort of offensive retrospectivity is not accepted. The Bill does not impose retrospective taxation on income. What it does is take away certain prospective advantages expected to accrue out of decisions and events of the past. Details of the Bill were available before the end of the income year, and of the private company prescribed period, first affected by the legislation. I know of no principle or other valid reason why anti-tax avoidance measures of this particular kind should not apply for the whole of the income year, or of the prescribed period, during which the amending legislation is either announced or introduced. This procedure follows long established practice and I do not see how, on any reasonable view, it could be regarded as objectionable.
There are some other matters dealt with in the Bill and I shall refer briefly to them.
An apparent technical deficiency in the provisions governing the taxing of dividends is being remedied by the Bill so that an exempting provision clearly applies in respect of dividends out of profits from gold mining, but not other types of mining, in Papua New Guinea. The Bill will provide for an outright deduction to be allowed in the year of incurrence for expenditure on converting income producing plant for use under the metric system. We are proposing the same now in this respect as was done in 1965 in relation to conversion of plant for use with the dollar currency.
There are some minor amendments relating to the communication by the Commissioner of Taxation of information necessary for the administration of the Commonwealth employees compensation provisions and scholarship schemes. There is also a technical amendment to a transitional measure, concerning contracts between mining companies and the Commonwealth or a State government which, with the approval of the relevant government, have been assigned to a third party. We are taking this opportunity to give effect to the Government’s announced intention to extend the export market development allowance for another year, until 30 June 1974. Extension of other aspects of the export incentive schemes will be dealt with in other legislation. Finally, formal amendments reflecting current drafting practices are proposed. These will not affect the operation of the law. A memorandum providing detailed explanations of technical aspects of the Bill has been made available to honourable senators. That is the. explanation of the Bill which has been provided for me by the Treasurer. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Murphy) read a first time.
– I move:
The Bill has passed through the House of Representatives. The Treasurer (Mr Crean) has explained it in his second reading speech. The contents of that speech have been widely published. 1 have a second reading speech identical to the one given by the Treasurer. In view of the large number of matters before the Senate, I ask for leave to incorporate in Hansard, rather than read, the speech provided by the Treasurer, as the matter is only a technical matter.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
This is a further measure to amend the income tax law. Amongst its proposals are provisions to give effect to the decision announced on 7 May 1973 to discontinue tax deductions for capital subscribed to mining or prospecting companies. Amendments foreshadowed on 16 July 1972 by the then Treasurer dealing with misuse of these deductions are also proposed by the Bill. Section 77d of the Income Tax Assessment Act makes deductions available to residents of Australia for capital subscribed directly, or through interposed companies, to companies engaged in mining or prospecting for oil or other minerals in Australia or Papua New Guinea. To enable shareholders to qualify for the deductions a mining company must lodge with the Commissioner of Taxation a declaration that the capital is for expenditure on mining or prospecting. By making this declaration the company confers deductions on its shareholders but forgoes any entitlement it might itself eventually have to be allowed deductions for the expenditure.
Under section 77c, and provisions which preceded it, deductions are allowable to residents and non-residents alike for one-third of amounts paid as calls to companies engaged in prospecting for minerals in Australia or Papua New Guinea. An exploration company is not required to forgo any part of its own deductions in return for the one-third deduction allowed to its shareholders. The stated purpose of these deductions has been to assist companies to attract capital for mining and exploration projects. They have been a costly and inefficient way of doing this and have opened up avenues for tax avoidance by persons who have contributed little, it at all, towards mining development in Australia. The Bill proposes that the deductions will cease to be generally allowable for capital paid to mining or prospecting companies after 7 May 1973. As a transitional measure, deductions will remain available for amounts subscribed after that date by a person who owned the shares at that date as payment of an earlier call made by the company. Special provision is also to be made to cover bona fide arrangements where, before the termination date, a listed public company raised new capital, or made a call on its shareholders, to enable it to finance mining or prospecting expenditure by an associated mining company. The associated company will, in these circumstances, be permitted to lodge a declaration when the capital raised or called up by 7 May is subscribed to it by the listed public company. This will preserve the entitlement to deductions of shareholders in the listed company.
Tax avoidance schemes against which the Bill is directed have the purpose of conferring deductions on persons whose contributions of capital to mining or prospecting companies are recovered, wholly or substantially, by an early disposal of their interest. In one typical scheme persons contribute the share capital of a newly incorporated prospecting company, usually doing this through an interposed private company set up for the purpose. After lodgment of the necessary declarations to confer deductions on the contributors, but before the subscribed capital has been expended, the shares in the prospecting company are sold at a discount to an established mining company which in most cases is substantially owned by overseas interests. The objective of the arrangement is that the persons originating the scheme should obtain deductions for the whole of the capital of the prospecting company, although they are out of pocket only to the extent of the amount of discount allowed on the sale of the shares. The amount of the discount is the only amount of new money being made available for mining or prospecting purposes because all that has really happened is that the established mining company has acquired the unexpended capital of the prospecting company at a discount.
The Bill proposes to amend the law so as to specify that persons carrying a scheme of this kind through to completion after 16 July 1972 will not be allowed deductions for an amount of capital subscribed equal to the sale price of the shares. The deductions will thus effectively be limited to the actual amount of new mining capital contributed. The relevant company will also be regarded as having declared only this amount. Deductions for call moneys under section 77c will be limited in a similar way.
Another scheme proposed to be dealt with by the Bill involves the use of the interposed company provisions of section 77d as a means of circumventing the general rule against the allowance of double deductions for subscriptions of mining capital. Essentially the scheme involves the subscription of capital for mining shares acquired for resale through an interposed company which lodges a declaration in favour of its shareholders. When the shares are sold, the interposed company can claim a deduction against the sale price for the capital subscribed by it on the shares, despite the fact that it has already lodged a declaration to confer a deduction for this amount on its shareholders. The Bill proposes that a company that has lodged a declaration for share capital subscribed to it after 16 July 1972 will not be entitled to claim a deduction in its own right in respect of expenditure of the capital on shares in a mining company.
Other amendments, mainly technical in nature, are proposed to apply from 17 July 1972 for as long as the concessions for capital paid to mining companies continue. One of these amendments will make it clear that, if a mining company does not comply with a declaration under section 77d as to how it will expend specified moneys, the Commissioner of Taxation will be authorised to reduce the level of deductions of shareholders who subscribed the money through an interposed company. Another amendment will overcome a technical deficiency in the law that can enable a productive mining company, by arranging its accounts in a particular way, to defer payment of tax on income up to the amount of deductions that it has transferred to its shareholders through a declaration.
The Bill also contains provisions to give effect to the recently announced decision that the income tax concessions available to visiting experts are to be withdrawn. The concessions available for industrial experts are 2- pronged. First there is an exemption from income tax for up to 2 years where the expert is subject to tax in his own country. Where this exemption does not apply, a rebate of tax is allowable for up to 4 years sufficient to ensure that Australian tax does not exceed the tax that would have been payable in the expert’s home country if the income had been earned there. These concessions were introduced in the early post-war years with the aim of assisting in the building up and improving of Australian industry. At that time there was a shortage of local expertise, and overseas experts were reluctant to come here because of the relatively high levels of Australian income tax. Australia did not have double taxation agreements with the countries from which the majority of visiting experts come.
Conditions are vastly different now. Local experts are available in most if not all fields; our rates of tax are more in line with those of the countries from which most visiting experts have been recruited, and Australia has double taxation agreements with most of these countries. On these grounds alone there would have been a good case for withdrawing the visiting experts concessions. But on top of that there has been evidence that the concessions were not operating as had been intended. About 90 per cent of visiting experts are employed by overseas-owned enterprises, most of which have ready access to overseas expertise and would, in the normal course and without any concessions, be expected to move experts to and from Australia. Furthermore, instead of using the period for which the concessions are available to train local experts to replace the visiting experts, many firms have merely brought in replacement staff from overseas at the end of each prior visit so that, rather than diffusing overseas expertise through Australian industry, the result has often been the continued employment of overseas instead of local experts. It is estimated that these concessions cost about $7m a year. A large part of this has been given up for the benefit of foreign treasuries without having any effect on the visiting expert or his Australian employer.
For all of these reasons it was decided to withdraw these income tax concessions, and introduce in their place a system of direct grants to Australian enterprises employing visiting experts. Details of this scheme, which will be administered by the Department of Secondary Industry, are being developed now. It has been concluded that, with the withdrawal of the concessions for visiting industrial experts, the exemption for experts who come to assist government should also cease to apply. This Bill accordingly withdraws the present income tax concessions, subject to transitional provisions in relation to visits that commence on or before 30 June 1973 and in relation to visits that commence after that date in pursuance of a contract entered into by the date of the Government’s announcement. Legislation to give effect to the grants scheme will be introduced at a later date. The remaining proposals in the Bill are a result of the introduction by the Commonwealth of schemes to assist with the education of children living in isolated areas and for the payment of a domiciliary nursing care benefit to persons taking care of invalid aged relations in their homes. The amendments proposed in relation to the isolated children’s education scheme will ensure that allowances paid under the scheme will receive the same exemption from income tax as payments under the Commonwealth secondary and technical scholarship schemes. Like the scholarship schemes, however, amounts payable for the maintenance or accommodation of isolated children are to be taken into account for the purposes of the concessional deductions for maintenance of dependants while allowances paid in respect of education costs are to be taken into account in calculating the concessional deduction for a child’s education expenses.
Domiciliary nursing care benefit payments are also to be exempt from income tax. It is also proposed that the receipt of these benefits will not disturb the level of any concessional deductions otherwise allowable for the maintenance of a dependant or the payment of medical expenses of a person provided for by the scheme. Detailed explanations of technical aspects of the Bill are contained in a memorandum being circulated to honourable senators.
Mr Deputy President, this Bill and the Income Tax Assessment Bill introduced earlier in the sittings contain important measures directed against tax avoidance. The Treasurer has announced that in the Budget sittings he will be introducing legislation to prevent tax haven resort to Norfolk Island and other Territories under Australian control, and that the legislation will take the form outlined in the statement made by his predecessor on 19 July 1972. It will be operative as from then. As long as the tax can be exploited or circumvented by a relatively small number of persons, there can be little fairness in a situation in which the resultant loss of revenue has to be made up by the taxpaying public. The Government is determined to curtail tax avoidance and will move as quickly as possible to deal with fresh schemes as they are encountered. I commend this Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Murphy) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Bill is a short one, as is the second reading speech. This Bill proposes amendments to the appeals provisions of the income tax law to transfer to the State Supreme Courts the jurisdiction of single justices of the High Court in income tax appeals. This is intended as an interim measure pending the establishment of the proposed Superior Court. I stress that this is purely an interim measure. The Government, having announced that a Superior Court of Australia will be established, intends that such appeals will be dealt with by that body. There is a pressing need to relieve the High Court, so far as possible, of the single justice work. Some of this work derives directly from the Constitution and cannot be removed from the jurisdiction of the High Court. Other parts of that jurisdiction derive from. Commonwealth statutes and may be removed by amendment of the statutes. By far the greater volume of work presented in the single justice jurisdiction of the High Court consists of income tax appeals, either appeals brought directly from a commissioner’s decision or from a decision of a board of review.
Under the Income Tax Assessment Act a taxpayer, if dissatisfied with a decision of the Commissioner, may request a reference of the matter to a board of review or to the High Court or to the Supreme Court of a State as an appeal. It is proposed that in future a taxpayer’s choice will lie between a board of review and a single judge of a State Supreme Court or, after the interim period, the Superior Court of Australia. Similarly, where the present law allows the Commissioner or a taxpayer to appeal to the High Court from a decision of a board of review involving a question of law, it is proposed that the right of appeal shall lie to a single judge of a State Supreme Court and, ultimately, to the Superior Court. References by a board of review to the High Court on a question of law arising before the board, will, in future, be to a single judge of a State Supreme Court, again in the interim period.
The amendments provide that where a taxpayer has gone to a board of review and on appeal to a State Supreme Court, or where a board has referred a question of law to a Supreme Court, the matter may, with the leave of the High Court, be taken on appeal to the full High Court. Where a taxpayer requests the Commissioner to treat his objection as an appeal and the matter is, under the proposed amendments, decided by a State Supreme Court, the present law gives the taxpayer or the Commissioner the right of appeal - without leave - to the High Court in its appellate jurisdiction. This will remain unchanged. The amendments also provide for certain procedural and transitional arrangements. Principally, these will permit the High Court to remit to a Supreme Court any of the single justice income tax matters which have come to it under the present law.
I repeat that these are interim measures only, and they should be so understood because it is considered highly important that in a matter such as this, which affects not only individuals but trade and commerce throughout the country, it should be put as soon as possible in the hands of a tribunal from which one may expect greater consistency than if the decisions were being given by various State Supreme Courts. No doubt this was the reason for the work being concentrated in the High Court. It being overloaded now, the obvious solution is to have it in another federal tribunal, but until a suitable tribunal is made available it is thought necessary to relieve the High Court of this work by sending it, in the first instance, to the State Supreme Courts. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - I have received the following message from the House of Representatives: In accordance with the provisions of the Public Accounts Committee Act 1951-66, Mr Adermann, a member of the House of Representatives, has been appointed a member of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts in place of Mr Ian Robinson who has been discharged from attendance.
Consideration resumed from 1 June (vide page 2276).
– When the debate was adjourned last Friday I was pointing out that the debate is not about the merits of the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees)
Bill. Although some of the Opposition speakers have taken sideswipes at the substance of the Bill, the pith and substance of Senator Rae’s motion is that further consideration of the Bill be deferred until after the presentation of the report of the general inquiry into national rehabilitation and compensation by the committee under the chairmanship of Mr Justice Woodhouse. That being the case, I think it is appropiate for the Senate to consider just what the Woodhouse inquiry is all about, in order that it may know how long this motion, if carried, will withhold from Commonwealth public servants the benefits proposed in this Bill.
The Woodhouse inquiry has very far reaching social and legal implications. Its terms of reference are to be found in the House of Representatives Hansard of 8 March 1973. If the terms of reference are read in full, it will be noted that this committee is charged with investigating the whole field of personal injury law. It has to consider the circumstances which would justify the Commonwealth setting up a national compensation scheme for the whole of Australia. In the course of deciding this matter the committee will consider the circumstances in which injury should be compensated for; the application of the scheme when death results from the injury; the nature and extent of the benefits that should be provided; how the scheme should be financed; the relationship between benefits under the scheme and other social benefits; whether rights under the scheme should be in substitution for all or any of the rights now existing; and other such matters. (Extension of time granted) I thank the Senate. A brief recital of the width of these terms of reference indicates that we are not dealing with a matter that will be finished with quickly, allowing the Senate to proceed then to an examination of the merits of this Bill. What is involved in the Woodhouse inquiry is not only an examination of all our personal injury law on both a State and Commonwealth basis, but also a consideration of State rights which, as we know, are dear to members of the Opposition, and the common law tort of negligence.
If we are, as may be anticipated from the well-known views of Mr Justice Woodhouse who is presiding over this inquiry, to receive from the Committee a recommendation for a new concept of egalitarianism in compensa tion for personal injury, involving perhaps necessarily, if we are to follow the New Zealand example, the abolition of the right of private insurance companies to play any role in this field we can anticipate a long drawn out debate between ourselves and the Opposition on the merits of such a recommendation. So when the Woodhouse inquiry is finished - I anticipate from my personal knowledge of what is going on at that inquiry at the present time that it will be in perhaps 18 months time - the report then has to be debated in both Houses of Parliament. If the Parliament adopts the recommendations of the Woodhouse inquiry, we then will have to set up the necessary institutions to implement its recommendations and have the old ones dismantled. Finally, after all those processes have been exhausted the rights to compensation of public servants covered in this Bill can be considered by the Senate.
So if we bear all this in mind I think it is clear that what we are suggesting is that the right of Commonwealth public servants to enjoy the benefits contemplated in this Bill be postponed for anything from 3 to 5 years. I do not know whether Opposition senators, including Senator Wright and Senator Rae, who have spoken in the debate have considered the full implications of the scheme adopted in New Zealand following the inquiry conducted there under the chairmanship of Mr Justice Woodhouse. One gets the impression after listening to Senator Wright and Senator Rae that somehow or other they are looking forward to a report containing similar recommendations to these contained in the New Zealand report being presented and adopted in Australia. The honourable senators who subscribed their names to the supplementary submissions appended to the Report on the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Bill, 1973 presented by the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs stated - I take it with approval:
It is relevant to note that in 1968 Mr Justice Woodhouse recommended for New Zealand compensation representing 80 per cent of earnings with an upper limit of $120 per week.
It is necessary to bear in mind what is implicit in such a recommendation. Mr Justice Woodhouse and his committee also recommended the abolition of the common law tort of negligence. So for the whole of the population of New Zealand we have, a recommendation that for any personal injury, regardless of the financial status of the person injured, there should be a maximum compensation of 80 per cent of earnings with a maximum of S 1 20 a week. I do not know whether this is a proposition which commends itself to the honourable senators opposite. I do not know whether they would consider this, to use. the language of Senator Rae, to be fair to all sections of the community, as he states he wishes to be. I do not know whether he would consider that a neurosurgeon who was knocked down on his way to work or injured in the course of his duties should be limited to receiving S 1 20 a week during his period of incapacity in the same way as a cleaner in a big building who suffered a similar injury would be limited to this amount of compensation. I suggest that honourable senators opposite face up to the implications of such a scheme. 1 suggest that we have to face up to the fact, without attempting to forecast exactly what the Woodhouse Committee will have in mind, that its recommendations might include one similar to that which was adopted in New Zealand.
It is also interesting to recall that, in its report in New Zealand, the Woodhouse Committee said in relation to the funding and the implementation of such a scheme, that a scheme such as that must clearly be bandied as a social service by an agency of the Government, lt said:
In the absence of personal liability and with the disappearance of any element of voluntary contribution, there can be no place for the insurance companies.
So this is a revolutionary proposition which is being examined by the Woodhouse Committee. In short it will determine whether all of our existing State workers compensation laws should be scrapped, whether all of our third party insurance schemes covering injuries received on the highways should be scrapped, whether all of our laws of negligence for personal injury should go by the board and whether one broad, comprehensive national compensation scheme should be introduced, financed not by private insurance companies but by some State agency.
I envisage that people who hold the rights of insurance companies dear, people who believe that the rights of the States should not be impinged on in any way, will find plenty to object to in a proposition like this. After all, the Australian Labor Party is not committed to the form of any national compensation scheme. It would not have set up an inquiry such as this to investigate the matter if all its ideas were cut and dried. We may envisage a long, drawn out debate. In fact it is possible that the recommendations of the Woodhouse Committee will never come to the stage of being implemented as law. This is the sort of postponement of the rights of public servants which is being suggested by the Opposition’s motion.
Let us look at possible results of this motion. If the Woodhouse report favours the introduction of the New Zealand scheme, or something approaching it, in this country and if either the Government or the Parliament does not adopt that recommendation the Commonwealth employees will lose anything up to 3 or even 5 years of the benefits suggested while they await the result of these inquiries and the ensuing discussion. If, on the other hand, the Government and the Parliament adopt recommendations of a similar nature to those recommended for New Zealand but decide that the benefits should be in addition to and not in substitution for existing rights, again the Commonwealth employees will be delayed in the enjoyment of those benefits without any justification. The benefits could be extended to cover people who are not at present covered, such as housewives injured in the home or people injured on the roads who are not able to prove negligence. If it is merely an extension of existing rights but leaves untouched the rights under workers compensation Acts in the States and rights under common law liability for negligence, again the Commonwealth employees will have been delayed in the enjoyment of these benefits without any justification.
If a New Zealand type scheme, an egalitarian scheme which must necessarily provide lower benefits than some which are granted by the courts, especially in common law at the present time - it is surely not suggested that at this stage Australia could afford to pay to every member of the community the type of monetary compensation that is awarded in actions for damages - is adopted and becomes law, not only will the rights and benefits of Commonwealth employees be affected and go into the melting pot but also the rights of all citizens of Australia who happen to be unlucky enough to incur personal injury will be affected. In the meantime, while the Woodhouse Committee is considering all these questions, these other citizens go on enjoying all their rights. It is not suggested that because such a scheme is being examined people who are knocked down on the roads or highly paid people who might be injured by negligence in the course of their employment should have all their rights frozen pending the conclusion of the Woodhouse Committee’s considerations. So why should Commonwealth employees alone have their rights frozen pending the result of an inquiry which will be long and which may never be implemented, or which may be implemented in a way which would leave Commonwealth employees outside its scope?
As I have said, 1 sometimes gain the impression from listening to Senator Rae or Senator Wright that they are merely awaiting this report with anxious anticipation. I think Senator Rae mentioned that the report would be only about 12 months off and that that is all the postponement that is involved in the carrying of this motion. We will see whether he is correct. Even when we receive the report we are in for a bitter, fierce debate around the question of State rights and about the rights of insurance companies. When the Prime Miniser (Mr Whitlam) introduced the terms of reference for this inquiry into the other place the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) spoke immediately after him and indicated that the sort of contest to which I am referring would be inevitable. After he had spoken in general approbation of the setting up of this inquiry he said, as recorded at page 411 of the House of Representatives Hansard:
However the Opposition makes it clear that whatever social and equity benefits the inquiry may be directed to achieve, the Opposition will not be prepared to accept a back door method of nationalisation of insurance companies in Australia.
A little further on he said:
The Opposition will not stand by and see the insurance companies of Australian nationalised by any indirect method in the name of social equity.
As I have, pointed out, inherent in a scheme such as the one Mr Justice Woodhouse recommended for New Zealand, is the elimination of the role of the private insurance companies. So, on any view of the matter, we are in for a long drawn out inquiry and a long drawn out debate. The recommendations of the Woodhouse Committee may never be implemented or they may be implemented in an attenuated form. This, we are told, is a justification for holding up consideration of the considerable merits of this Bill.
I submit, as I said the other day, that this is not a bona fide motion. Its purpose is not to await the outcome of a report from the committee of inquiry which will almost certainly be opposed root and branch by the Opposition when it comes down in the far distant future. It is a device to delay and, if possible, to forestall this legislation forever. I submit that what the Opposition has in mind is that, if it can hold this Bill up long enough - and if this motion is carried, it will certainly have a lot going for it in the way of a long term delay - some miracle will return it to office and it will then be able to kill the Bill altogether. I suggest that those who really are concerned with granting these benefits to the Commonwealth public servants should not fall for that device. I point out once more that when the matter was debated in the other place, none of the Opposition speakers suggested that they were opposed in principle to the Bill. The honourable member for Parramatta (Mr N. H. Bowen) said specifically that he approved in principle of carrying a little further the benefits that his Government had conferred on public servants when it was in office. This motion should be seen for what it is. It is not a motion designed seriously to enable, the proposals to be considered in the light of what emerges from me Woodhouse Report. It is in fact a device to delay this Bill indefinitely and, if possible, to prevent Commonwealth public servants from ever enjoying the benefits proposed by it. For that reason the motion should be rejected by the Senate.
– Under the sessional orders made by the Senate relating to the suspension of the sitting in a few minutes, we would not be resuming until 3 p.m. This was to meet the problem of party meetings of all parties in the Senate. What I am about to suggest has the general concurrence of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers), to whom I have spoken, and Senator DrakeBrockman; I understand Senator Gair has also been acquainted with it and will agree. We have not had a chance to consult the independent senators but I think they would agree that we should not lose time for a purpose that does not now exist. I move:
That so much of the previous order regulating the business of the Senate be varied so as to enable resumption at 2.15 p.m. this day.
If there are any matters to be attended to on subsequent days we can deal with them in the placing of business today.
– The Opposition supports the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 12.57 to 2.15 p.m.
Consideration resumed (vide page 2304).
– The Opposition has moved as an amendment to clause 1:
That Clause 1 be postponed - as an instruction to the Government that the further consideration of the Bill be deferred until after the general inquiry into National Rehabilitation and Compensation by the Committee under the chairmanship of Mr Justice Woodhouse has reported . . .
I wish to move as an amendment to the amendment proposed by the Opposition the following:
Delete all words after ‘deferred’ and insert in place thereof: until the first day of sitting of the Senate after 1 September 1973.
I was on the Senate. Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs to which this matter was referred and I do not wish to canvass the matters which were canvassed by the Committee. They have been recited in this chamber and, I understand, in a comprehensive speech by Senator Wright. As I said, these matters have been canvassed by the Committee to which the matter was referred and extensively onthe report of the Committee and in conjunction with the debate on this Bill.I do not propose to canvass them again.
There are in this Bill, of course, many worthwhile provisions. The great mass of the provisions are worth while as indeed are the clauses of the Bill with which some dissatisfaction has been found by members of the Opposition and members of my Party and which were referred to in the Committee’s report and the qualifying report by 3 members of the Committee. We feel that the Bill should not be unduly delayed because of the worthwhile provisions which are non- controversial and which we all support. But we do feel that the Bill contains what we regard as somewhat extravagant provisions under which certain segments of a community would be put in a highly privileged and specialised position and that these provisions should receive further consideration by the Government and later, further consideration by this chamber and another place. Nevertheless, it would be unwise, imprudent and unjust to defer indefinitely all the other provisions of the Bill until the report of Mr Justice Woodhouse was brought in. After all, the. survey which he is to undertake will go into the entire question of superannuation and could be expected to be a most comprehensive and prolonged inquiry. We would not wish to deprive the Commonwealth Public Service of the provisions of the Bill which we think are timely, prudent and necessary. However, we do feel that the nature of the controversial provisions is such that they require further examination and that, in view of the close scrutiny which these provisions received in the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs-
– Order! Senator Byrne, I have to convey to you the opinion of the Clerks that your amendment is out of order. The motion before the Chair is that clause 1 be postponed. The balance of the amendment is merely an amplification of the motion. Therefore, your amendment as put forward is not in order.
-I bow to the ruling of the Chair but 1 am at a loss to understand why, if the postponement is projected to a certain date, it would not be possible to alter the suggested date of deferment. If the amendment sought to defer clause 1 to, say, 1 January, I cannot see why I should be precluded from suggesting a deferment to, just for argument’s sake, 1 July. There must be some method available by which my alteration in the datum point can be determined by this chamber.
– Senator Byrne, so that you may understand the situation I have to advise you that the action you are now contemplating could be taken at the time when the Committee moves to report progress.
– Thank you, Mr Chairman; I bow to that ruling. We will take the appropriate action at the appropriate time.
- I wish again to intervene in this debate to remind the Senate of certain aspects of the Opposition’s attitude to this Bill as already stated in the debate at various stages of the Bill. I should like to refer to them very briefly. When this matter was being debated on 12 April and when, on the motion of the Opposition, the Bill was referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs for a report, I stated - my remarks appear at page 1080 of Hansard - that:
This is not to say that the Opposition opposes in any way the principle of having a generous and appropriate workers compensation scheme for Commonwealth employees.
Later, I said:
We are noi saying that our concern is so categorically fixed in its opposition to any particular provision that we oppose the Bill in any way at this stage, but rather we are saying that we have a concern as to the meaning and effect, economic and social, of some of the amendments.
Those statements were made prior to receiving the Committee’s report. Subsequent to receiving that report and on 30 May 1973, at page 2121 of Hansard, when the debate was resumed, I said:
If one looks at this matter from the point of view of the social context in which this type of legislation appears, it is quite obvious that to divorce this part from the rest may lead to undesirable and even undesired results.
Later, I said:
Therefore, the Opposition in reaching the decision to move this motion - which is the motion before the Chair at the moment - recognises that its action will cause some persons to stand out of benefits which the Government proposes that those people should receive and which those people expect to receive. But it would be the Opposition’s hope that these people will not be disadvantaged and that the Government may have some proposal to ameliorate any particular aspects pending consideration of the final Woodhouse report.
I wish to emphasise again for the benefit of the Government, particularly for the last speaker on the Government side, Senator James McClelland, and also for the benefit of Senator Byrne who spoke on behalf of the Australian Democratic Labor Party, that I stated: it would be the Opposition’s hope that these people will not be disadvantaged and that the Government may have some proposal to ameliorate any particular aspects pending consideration of the final Woodhouse report 1 sum up by saying that the Opposition does not wish to oppose the amendments to the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Act which are highly desirable and which do not have the effect of creating an impossible position for the introduction of some comprehensive, across the board scheme of national compensation. I think that 2 situations arise. The first is that it is up to the Government to provide adequate resources to the Woodhouse Committee so that it may undertake a speedy inquiry and reach a speedy completion. I point out that Mr Justice Woodhouse is experienced in this field having conducted a similar inquiry in New Zealand. No doubt this will assist him in reaching conclusions on what is appropriate to recommend in Australia. 1 repeat that we of the Opposition do not wish to delay the implementation of many of the provisions of this Bill which we see as highly desirable. We do suggest that the Government may like to take the opportunity during the recess to redraw the Bill to overcome the basic objection taken by the Opposition and to introduce legislation which will ameliorate - I give but one example - the sort of problem which exists where there is a limited period of full benefits and then a reduction. Consider the case of a man who is on the national average wage or slightly above and who suddenly, after 6 months, finds himself back on a limit of $64. This is a situation which will seriously and adversely affect his personal life and his family’s life, and make his recovery more difficult. We believe that a number of aspects could be introduced without having adverse effects upon the general problem which we have raised and which the Committee raised in ils report. We see this as being likely to mean that if the Bill were passed in its entirety in its present form there would be one elitist section in relation to compensation provisions compared with the rest of the community such as widows, housewives, persons involved in motor car accidents and all the other people it is hoped will be covered by some across the board compensation scheme.
I indicate at this stage that it would be in accord with the general intention put forward by the Opposition when we first raised the matter on 12 April and which I repeated when I spoke on 30 May not to hold people from a number of the necessary desirable aspects of this Bill. However, it is our concern that social equity should prevail and that a scheme is not introduced in this country which will mean that we cannot have comparability between schemes for various people in the community. I therefore indicate that the Opposition views with some favour an amendment such as that proposed by Senator Byrne. Speaking on behalf of the Opposition I point out that if, at a later stage, Senator Byrne moves an amendment such as he has indicated, it is likely to receive the support of the Opposition as an amendment to its motion. This will be an opportunity for the Government to take action along the lines which I have suggested on 2 occasions to the Minister in charge of this Bill and 10 the Government in this chamber.
– The introduction of the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Bill has caused a deal of concern to members of the Australian Country Party. We favour the decision taken by the Senate some time ago that this matter be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. As honourable senators know, that Committee has presented its report. A supplementary report was also presented which I believe was of great value. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Bishop) who in this chamber represents the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) has said that this Bill was necessary because Labor had promised to bring into Parliament a model Bill on workers compensation. The Country Party favours many elements in this Bill but there are one or two controversial points with which we are not happy. We hope that Senator Rae’s amendment will mean a breathing space for the Government to consider the controversial elements in the Bill and perhaps redraft it during the parliamentary recess.
I thought that Senator James McClelland this morning went into a considerable amount of detail in stating to the Senate his views on what could be a crucial matter if this Bill were held up for any length of time. I thought the honourable senator probably stretched the long bow to bolster his argument by saying that presentation of the Woodhouse report could take up to 5 years. 1 join with Senator Rae. in suggesting to the Government that if this is the case - I do not think it would be the case - facilities and secretarial staff should be made available in the quantity required by the Committee so that it can get on with the job and bring down its report in a very much shorter period. The other point I make in reply to Senator James McClelland is that the argument he put forward would be very substantial if it were not for the fact that at the present time Commonwealth employees have what the Minister described as a first class compensation scheme. I believe that it was brought up to date as recently as October last year. Even if these employees had to wait until the report was presented they would not be suffering a very substantial injustice.
What concerns me is that if the controversial elements in this Bill are passed by this chamber this legislation becomes the pacemaker in Australia. While I support many elements of the Bill I believe that the controversial elements should not be allowed to become the pacemaker for the States or for private enterprise. On behalf of the Country Party I support the amendment which Senator Byrne has foreshadowed. I believe that the Government should consider this amendment and put aside the legislation until September as has been suggested. In the meantime, it should consider the controversial aspects of this Bill and perhaps redraft it during the recess. I give notice on behalf of the Australian Country Party that we will support the proposed amendment.
– I shall speak very briefly. The time that the Woodhouse Committee will take to complete its deliberations is not a matter of shortage of secretarial help or something which can be solved by giving the Committee a few more secretaries or a little more clerical help. When a similar committee met in New Zealand its deliberations occupied several years. Afterwards, when the report was presented the public debate and the ensuing legislation before the New Zealand Parliament occupied a further period of two or three years. New Zealand had a comparatively simple problem compared with the one which we have here. New Zealand was dealing with a unitary state. There was no complication such as we have here in relation to compensation laws, third party laws and laws covering personal injury of great variety spread throughout 6 different States. This is a complicating factor which will lengthen the proceedings before the Woodhouse Committee and, I submit, the time of debate because many more interests are involved in Australia than were involved in New Zealand. I suggest that, with the best will in the world and with the utmost amount of secretarial help, what we can expect before the deliberations of the Woodhouse Committee have been completed and the ensuing debate has been completed and has issued in new legislation and new institutions is, on any view of the matter, a period of up to at least 5 years. 1 repeat that the proposition put forward by the Opposition ultimately amounts to a postponement for a period of 5 years of the opportunity for Commonwealth Government employees to enjoy the benefits proposed by this Bill.
– I want to make one or two very brief comments. Senator Byrne has introduced a new factor into the considerations before the Committee. It is one that the Government did not know about beforehand. Whether the Government ‘ultimately agrees or disagrees with it, the Government should take time to consider what its attitude will be to it. Therefore, at an appropriate stage I think I should seek an adjournment of the debate. But before doing so 1 wish to say briefly-
– Seek h now.
– No. I want to make some comments before I do so. I am trying to facilitate the debate. It was a surprise to me when Senator Byrne raised his proposition.
I refer in particular to what Senator Wright and others said about my comments and the comments of the Minister for Labour, Mr Clyde Cameron, about the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Bill 1972 that was introduced by the previous Government, after consultation with the union movement. At that time we said that it was the best compensation Bill in Australia. It became the best compensation Act in Australia at that time. I want to point out what has happened in most of the States since that time. For example, in Victoria and in Senator Wright’s State of Tasmania, State government employees now receive when they are off on compensation what they would ordinarily earn, irrespective of their earnings. A principle which is embraced in this Bill and which has been hotly contested is that an officer who earns something like $20,000 a year should be assured of receiving, when he is partially or temporarily incapacitated and in receipt of compensation, what he would normally earn. That in substance has been the main objection of the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. As I have said, in Victoria-
– To put it in another way, the absence of ultimate limits’ would perhaps describe it, would it not?
– Yes, you can take it the other way, Senator Rae. I wish to point out to the Committee the situation which prevails in three or four States. Employees of the Victorian Government, employees of the Electricity Trust of South Australia and all employees of the Tasmanian Government receive what they would ordinarily earn when they are off on workmen’s compensation. If we as a Government were to try to provide by any regulations or special provisions for that to happen, we would be greatly criticised, as we were when we wanted to grant 4 weeks annual leave to Commonwealth public servants.
Senator Wright also referred to the position in relation to repatriation benefits. I have pointed out to him that the previous Government had 23 years in which to correct any anomalies that existed in any legislation. In its short time in office this Government has agreed to invest in a full year something like S27m on upgrading repatriation benefits. Let me very briefly put to the Committee 2 comparisons which set out in a better way than I did the other day the difference between compensation and repatriation benefits. I make a comparison between compensation benefits provided under this Bill and the existing repatriation benefits for a totally and permanently incapacitated person, with a wife and one child, whose average weekly earnings are $ 1 30 a week. In this case the net value of the compensation would be $51.25, calculated as follows: Earnings, $130; less superannuation, $65 - gross value of compensation, $65; less tax $13.75. As I have said, the net value of the compensation would be $51.25. In the case of repatriation benefits such a person would receive $56.53, calculated as follows: Repatriation pension, $51.10; wife’s allowance, S4.05; and allowance for one child, SI. 38. In addition, the repatriation pensioner would receive fringe benefits, such as education expenses and medical care. In this case the repatriation benefit clearly exceeds the net value of the compensation that would be received under this Bill.
The second comparison concerns the widow of a person earning $130 a week, with a child. The net value of the compensation would be $67.46, calculated as follows: Earnings, $130; less superannuation, $43.49 - gross value of compensation, $86.51; less tax, $19.05. A widow in a similar position receiving repatriation benefits would receive a benefit of $37.35, calculated as follows: War widow’s pension, $21.50; domestic allowance, $8.50; and allowance for one child, $7.35. In addition she would receive fringe benefits, such as education allowance and medical care. Thus, although the compensation payment in this case exceeds the benefit to the repatriation widow, thereis not anything like the discrepancy that the Opposition has suggested.
I come back to the point I mentioned originally. Senator Wright and the Standing Committee have cited the case of a public servant who is 30 years of age and is earning $20,000 or more. In the figures I gave, which were obtained by the Department of Labour, it was clear, in the first instance, that no officer holding such a position was 30 years of age. The youngest such officer in the 3 grades is in fact 37 years of age.
The Australian Labor Party announced a long time ago that it would provide these benefits if it were in office. That was indicated by the amendments it moved to the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Bill last year. We said that we would implement our concept of no loss of pay. The main objection to this legislation isa gainst certain benefits being granted to the so-called tall poppies. At this stage the Government sees no reason why it should change its course of action. It believes that it should honour the promise it has made to Commonwealth public servants. It should be remembered that since last year some States and some private employers have moved towards the concept of no loss of pay. Conditions are available in outside industry and in the Public Services of some States that are better than the Act now provides. That is all I have to say at this stage in relation to this matter.
– Inasmuch as Senator Bishop relied upon my argument for his comments, I simply rise to say that he is hopelessly confused by the figures and that his figures will not stand up to examination. The whole objection to the extravagant benefits to be provided to high salaried officers under this Bill is that as a matter of comparative justice they are outrageous in relation to those provided to repatriation pensioners, private industry employees, self employed persons and the other sections of the community to which I referred the other day. I have risen only to put on record a strong denial of what has just fallen from the lips of Senator Bishop. He has given us a complete misconception of the figures. Of course, I do not have a ready-reckoning accountancy machine to analyse them here and now, but I shall take the opportunity between now and September, if it is the will of the Senate to defer further consideration of this Bill, to subject them to a complete analysis and circulate them in a written form to honourable senators so that they can be examined and, if wrong, contested.
That the clause be postponed.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator Prowse)
Majority . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Bishop) proposed:
That leave be given for the Committee to sit again at a later hour of the day.
– I move the following amendment to the motion moved by Senator Bishop:
Leave out the words ‘at a later hour of the day’, insert ‘on the first day of sitting of the Senate after 1 September 1973’.
The motion will then read: ‘That leave be given for the Committee to sit again on the first day of the sitting of the Senate after 1 September 1973’.
– The proposal that is being put by Senator Byrne confirms what occurred during consideration of the legislation in the Committee of the Whole, namely, that members of the Opposition are determined upon a course which, if adopted by the Senate, would mean that the Senate is failing to pass the legislation which the Government has proposed to it. The legislation has passed through the House of Representatives. It has been presented to the Senate which has embarked upon a course which would have the effect of postponing one clause of the Bill until after the Woodhouse Committee brings down its report. This would mean an indefinite postponement or, in any event, a postponement of the order of 12 months. The present proposal that the Bill itself be postponed until after the first day of the sittings of the Senate after 1 September clearly would mean, if adopted by the Senate, mat the Senate is embarking upon a course of failing to concur with the message from the House of Representatives and, in substance, failing to pass the legislation. We have asked that the report of the Committee of the Whole be dealt with in such a way that the Committee be allowed to sit again at a later bour of this day in order that the Bill may be proceeded with.
The Opposition has taken the view - apparently it is embodied in the proposal put by Senator Byrne who is a member of one of the Opposition parties - ‘that the Government should not even be permitted to bring on this Bill so that the Committee may further consider it, even at a later hour of this day. This means that there is an evident intention to prevent the Government from being able to present the Bill and have its other clauses considered in Committee. We oppose the amendment moved by Senator Byrne. It shows a clear intent to defeat the Government in its handling of the affairs of the. Senate, let alone in relation to this particular Bill. We ask the Senate to reject the amendment and to agree with the motion moved by Senator Bishop.
– I support the amendment moved by Senator Byrne. If one acceded to the proposition put forward by Senator Murphy, this chamber would but rubber stamp the Government’s proposals which were initiated in another place. 1 sat here long enough as a Government member when Senator Murphy was Leader of the Opposition and on many occasions a somewhat similar situation arose. The Senate is not here to rubber stamp Government legislation. One of the great problems which the Senate has found with this Bill is that when the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs considered the Bill it became apparent that the Opposition would wish to move a large number of amendments. It is a highly complex and technical Bill. To expect the Opposition at this time, when there are 44 or 45 other Bills remaining on the notice paper, to have the resources or time, to propose right and proper amendments to make the Bill satisfactory is giving it an impossible task. It is not unreasonable for a House of review to ask for some time - if my mathematics serve me correctly it is 3 months - in which to consider this complex and technical Bill. There can be no reason for the existence of the Senate unless the Senate occasionally takes this course of action with legislation. If Senator Murphy’s proposition is to be accepted, the Senate should be abolished and as members of the Opposition do not believe that the Senate should be abolished we believe it should have the right, the time and the power to properly perform its functions.
– I shall be. brief and will put the position as I see it very clearly. When I last spoke in Committee I pointed out that what Senator Byrne then proposed was quite new, that nobody had expected him to move such a motion but that there might be some need for the Government to consider the proposal. I said that we would be prepared to facilitate its consideration. I also said that it was clear that the Opposition had had plenty of time to consider what it wanted to do with the legislation. All the legal members in the other place, whom one would expect to be familiar with this sort of legislation, decided to give it a speedy passage. There were no objections to it. The Government expected that the Opposition in the Senate would have agreed to its passage. The Government had announced what it intended to do. However Senator Rae, on behalf of the Opposition, moved that the matter be deferred until after the Woodhouse Committee brought down its report and the facts were clear. Obviously this would require a long adjournment. Surprisingly, Senator Byrne, who was a member of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs which reported on this Bill, has now moved what amounts to another adjournment of the consideration of this Bill. The Government has been more than reasonable. We have been faced with a new position but to give senators from the Government side the chance to consider other provisions in the Bill I moved that the debate be adjourned until a later hour this day. Senator Byrne’s amendment would deny any further consideration.
– There is less time involved though - 3 months.
– Some honourable members said that everyone has had a lot of time in which to consider this Bill. If 3 months is the time the honourable senator has in mind surely the amendment Senator Byrne has moved should have been canvassed with supporters of the Government to whom one usually talks about such proposals. In the circumstances I resent, as do Government senators, what has beeen proposed and the way in which it has been proposed by Senator Byrne.
– Perhaps there is some misunderstanding so I shall endeavour to clarify the position. The Opposition does not wish the Government to be put in a position where it does not have sufficient time to discuss and consider what it wishes to do in relation to Senator Byrne’s amendment. Accordingly the Opposition is prepared to suggest that the Government may wish to adjourn this debate to give it time to consider its attitude to Senator Byrne’s amendment. I repeat, however, that the Opposition will be supporting the amendment moved by Senator
Byrne, but so that the Government may have time to consider its position I simply suggest that this debate be now adjourned.
- Mr President, I ask for your guidance. I moved my amendment without speaking to it and did not, at that stage, reserve my right to speak. I presume that I now would not be entitled to speak except by leave of the Senate.
– Do you seek leave?
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– When I was speaking at an earlier stage in this debate I indicated what was prompting the Democratic Labor Party to move this amendment. As one who served on the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs which reported on this Bill I acknowlege, as I think it was acknowledged in other quarters, that the general provisions of the Bill are good. However, there are certain sections that give cause for grave concern. These are the subject of the qualification in the Bill and are what prompts the action which has been taken by the Opposition - by the Democratic Labor Party.
– If you defeat the Bill you prevent the worker getting his rights.
– We are not doing that. The Senate Standing Committee indicated that there were liberal provisions made for certain groups of workers which might operate most detrimentally against the lower paid workers in the community and people who were not Commonwealth employees. This is an attitude which I would have expected would have received the solicitude and support of the Australian Labor Party while in Government. I am somewhat concerned that that has not been the response. While we acknowledge the very good provisions and are anxious to see them implemented, the proposition put forward by the Opposition for postponing consideration until after the Woodhouse Committee report was presented would no doubt predicate an extremely long delay. Senator James McClelland made the point very well that the position in New Zealand showed that the possibility of a delay of some years would be even greater here. We acknowledge that, and I think it should be acknowledged in this chamber. The object, therefore, of this amendment is to cut down the time to a minimum, but to enable the Government tolook again at the controverted sections. We feel sure that when these are again examined, the undesirable nature of them will be acknowledged, and proposals will come from the Government to bring the Bill more rationally in conformity with what could be expected to be the reasonable requirements of and reasonable equity to all sections of the working community in Australia. That is the only objective of the Democratic Labor Party in moving this amendment.
– You hate the workers, don’t you?
– I would say that in the amendment we have proposed and in our discussion of the Bill we have shown a greater concern for the great body of workers in this community than have the honourable senators who sit behind the Government proposal in this regard and apparently also Senator Cavanagh. That is what gravely concerns me. We have seen in this chamber from time to time when the present Government sat in Opposition assaults made on salaries given to the more affluent members of the Public Service and on their allowances. They have been attacked by members of the present Government when they were sitting in Opposition. It is quite ironical that when the same proposition is enunciated here by the Democratic Labor Party and by members of the Opposition we find the attitude of the Australian Labor Party now in Government totally different. Now we find a solicitude for the very people whom before supporters of the present Government were prepared to condemn as being extravagantly and unduly paid and for whom extravagant allowances were provided.
The object of this amendment is really to assist the. passage of the Bill within rational terms. The Government has been given 3 months in which to re-examine the controverted provisions. Surely that is enough time. The Bill will be debated again on the first sitting of the Senate after the first day of September 1973 which will be very shortly after the Parliament assembles following the winter recess. By that time I am sure the Government will be in a position to come forward with some amelioratory provisions which will reduce what could be described as the undue extravagance to certain sections of the working community which is demonstrated in the provisions of this Bill. In those circumstances I commend to the Senate the amendment which I have moved. I can assure the Senate that when the Bill comes forward in a much more acceptable form, doing equity and justice over the whole body of the workers of Australia and not prejudicing a great number of them to the undue advantage of others, it will receive the support of the Senate.
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Byrne’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided.
The President (Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator Byrne’s amendment) be inserted.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion (Senator Bishop’s), as amended, be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 17 May (vide page 1745), on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Bill before the Senate is a Bill to amend the Australian Citizenship Act. Citizenship is frequently defined as being a status of relationship between a person and a political society by which the former owes allegiance and the latter owes protection. I have seen it described as the most perfect form of membership in a political community. So when a Bill comes before the Senate to deal with this important subject of citizenship it is one of some significance and some importance. The Opposition has strong views on the major provisions of the Bill for a number of fundamental reasons. I want to indicate now that during the Committee stage I shall move an amendment to clause 19.
This Bill to amend the Australian Citizenship Act contains 5 legislative proposals. Firstly, it seeks to establish a uniform qualifying period for citizenship. It is important to observe that this uniform qualifying period will apply to all migrants. Secondly, the Bill provides that all prospective citizens, except those under 16 years of age, must take an oath or affirmation of allegiance. Thirdly, it proposes some changes in the forms of words used in that oath and that affirmation of allegiance. Fourthly, it proposes a change in the term to describe citizenship ceremonies. They are to be known as citizenship ceremonies instead of naturalisation ceremonies, a description with which most of us are familiar. Finally, the age for citizenship is to be lowered to 18 years.
As I said, the Bill deals with citizenship and the word ‘citizen’ relates to ‘nation building’ and to ‘national’. It refers to the wellbeing of our citizens and their relationship to the country, the community and each other. The citizens referred to are best known to us as members of the migrant community; we sometimes refer to them as new citizens. Australian communities need the support of these migrant citizens and I think it is also true to say that the migrant needs the support of being part of the community, and being part of the community through citizenship, because through citizenship he can obtain various supports that he may need from time to time. Everyone will agree that instead of isolating the migrants in our community we need to help them to settle down, to integrate and to face any problems that may come to them. So we are very much interested and involved in this citizenship. Under our system people have a number of rights and we are constantly expressing our concern for people’s rights. Parliament works hard to confer rights, to defend rights and to protect rights, and as each facet of community development and service becomes available in due course those people come to expect those facets as their rights. One of our most important rights is without doubt citizenship. As Australian born citizens we never think very much about it, for our citizenship has never been in danger and because of this fact we have never had to think about it. We tend to become immune to any attacks that might be made upon it. Therefore it is appropriate that warnings are sounded from time to time that we should not take our citizenship for granted.
But with migrants and new settlers citizenship is of fundamental importance because these people for one reason or another have left their own countries and settled in Australia. Citizenship has to be considered in all its importance, but before any new arrival changes his citizenship very many factors have to be taken into account. All of us speak from experience and association in this field and we know that in deciding to accept Australian citizenship a migrant takes into account personal reasons, family reasons, employment situations; he looks at the geographical influences and he takes very strong cognisance of the state and political factors. When I talk about state and political factors I mean those both of the new country - which means this country - and of the source country. If a source country for migrants is what is known as a kingdom or a monarchy then the citizens understand the term ‘subject’ and the swearing of allegiance to a crown or a sovereign. If it is .not a monarchy the term citizen’ applies and is understood. In thinking about these terms I am attracted by the view of an American authority in the Encyclopedia International who stated:
The terms ‘subject’ and ‘citizenship’ denote the same status when they are applied to countries which might be described as constitutional monarchies.
New migrants as citizens and persons, as they have been coming to this country for the last quarter of a century, have been a highly successful ingredient in Australia’s growth and development. Not only has their contributions made a great difference to our citizenship but also through their own citizenship they have made a particular contribution to our general well being. But for the purposes of our consideration very briefly today I look almost entirely at general economic terms. The migrant community has made a substantial contribution to our economic growth. Three or four years ago the late Sir Peter Heydon, then Secretary to the. Department of Immigration, made some estimates amongst which he said that ‘each migrant was a gain to Australia because of his education, training in industrial skills and the incidental costs which had been paid for by another nation’. An estimation of about $10,000 per migrant was reached. When I talk about a gain I note also that probably a better description would be that this was a saving to the Australian economy rather than a direct and measurable gain in money terms.
The migrant contribution to the. gross national product over the last 20 years has been estimated at about $70,000m. When we add to this real gain a number of intangible economic factors in relation to demands for goods and services and matters of this kind we are aware of the influence that they have, had on our total community. Migrants have also made a very real contribution in helping to meet that demand by supplying a very high proportion of our extra skills and indeed by generating a great deal of our extra capital. But migrants are not only members of the work force. I think we need to repeat this, to underline it. They are people with hearts, minds, emotions and feelings; they are people with a community concern; they have made a contribution to our style and habit of life. I think they have enriched our total concept of life. They have given us a new vision of what Australia might be and they have taught us many a lesson in concepts of freedom and I think they have taught us many a lesson in the concepts of citizenship.
When we discuss a measure of this kind we discuss it against the background of immigration and immigration policies, because immigration policies determine the number and the quality or style of people that come into Australia and therefore the numbers and style and quality of people are very much related to the whole matter of citizenship. This is perhaps not an occasion on which to discuss in total and extended detail the Government’s immigration program. But I think it is pertinent to refer to a statement made by the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) that the first priority -would be given to the reunion of immediate family members - husband, wife, parents and children. He made this statement, I believe, in January of this year. The implication carried by the statement is that previous administrations had not taken these humanitarian causes into account; but the more important implication, as I see it - the idea of a total migrant program based on sponsorship by migrants already living here - is not one which I think is good for Australia’s development or total immigration program.
The Government should never relinquish its responsibility so that it allows the size and structure of such an important legislative area as its immigration program to be determined solely by unco-ordinated decisions of individuals here and overseas so that our immigration intake is determined by the wishes and maybe the needs of people living here who wish to bring in their kith and kin. A policy which assumes that the total of the individual wishes of relatives and friends will always equal Australia’s needs is not a good policy but one, I think, which should be watched very carefully for it takes into account the style, quality and quantity of citizenship within this country.
I refer to a second of the Minister’s observations, when he said in February of this year that there would be ‘new initiatives in population policy’. He then referred to population studies being carried out by the Australian National University under the direction of Professor Borrie, as well as other matters. I think it needs to be said for the record that this is not new. These studies were being undertaken and were announced by a former Minister for Immigration (Mr Lynch) in 1970. Also in February of this year the Minister for Immigration spoke about what he called the nation’s first emergency interpreter service. I think it also should be stated for the record that this so-called new initiative came originally from a Liberal-Country Party Government. I refer to a speech made by the former Minister for Immigration, Dr
Forbes, when speaking in the Budget debate in August 1972. He said:
Amongst other measures provided for in the Budget considerable thought has been given to the subject of an interpreter service for migrants. In addition to existing interpreter services provided by the Department of Immigration an on-call telephone interpreter service will be introduced. This will provide a 24-hour service for urgent community needs.
As most members know, I had the privilege of serving with the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council - a council which, may I say, was originally established by a Labor administration and one which has known the benefit of advice from a wide range of citizens coming from diverse disciplines and interests and all of them acutely involved in the welfare of citizens. The Council has through the years advised successive Ministers, and still advises the present Minister, in encouraging citizenship by recommending an enormous list of welfare and other services. It has made recommendations about language, education, counsellings, to which I have just referred, employment and other matters relating to health, housing, finance, personal needs, social workers and welfare officers. All these recommendations have been implemented over the years by previous administrations in relating to the welfare and the citizenship of migrants. I hope the Minister would acknowledge the work that is done not only by administrations but also by the support force of personnel who make up the various councils. The Minister may call them task forces or by any other name, but through the years a great deal has been done by previous administrations for the welfare and citizenship of migrants.
I want to refer to the 5 areas of the Bill. Early in his speech the Minister said that settlers ‘should all be able to become Australian citizens under just the same conditions’. He has proposed a common period of residency of 3 years. As most people know the position is that people from Commonwealth countries apply for registration as a citizen after they have lived here for a year and it is granted automatically. If they do not make this registration, after 5 years all they have to do is notify the Department of Immigration and by the act of notification they automatically become Australian citizens. For migrants from other countries the period has been 5 years, after which they seek citizenship through the processes of naturalisation.
But the 5 year period has been reduced to 3 years if the application is made, details can be sustained and circumstances proved. So there has been every encouragement through the years for citizenship.
In the present Bill the provision relating to the 12 months period is repealed, and although there are clauses which allow for transition periods to take care of people who may want to make the adjustment in the immediate future, the ultimate fact is that Commonwealth citizens - ‘British people - have had the benefit of this 12 months period taken away from them and in due course they will have to wait 3 years before they can obtain their citizenship. The present process of registration as Australian citizens, to which I have just referred, is taken away from them. The only road to Australian citizenship is via 3 years residency and then a naturalisation or citizenship ceremony.
It is pertinent to observe in this context that under another Act, the Commonwealth Electoral Act, British migrants are compelled to enrol after 6 months residence and continue to remain on the roll. They have a right to vote and are required to comply with the same regulations regarding voting as have Australian born citizens. This condition, of course, does not change by anything that this Bill does. It may be pertinent to inquire of the Minister whether any plan is in hand that might take the opportunity which exists under the Commonwealth Electoral Act away from British people, because it could be assumed that the measures in the Bill that is before, the Senate today may find a reflection in another Bill which may also reduce the rights of British Commonwealth citizens. If it is citizens that the Government is seeking I question in my mind whether the clause repealing the 12 months period will contribute towards that.
I regret that this Bill abolishes the preferment formerly accorded to British subjects on the granting of Australian citizenship and that it places them on the same footing as citizens of any other nation. As I said earlier, ever since World War II and increasingly in recent years our Australian quality of life has been enriched by the contribution of persons from many countries. It seems to me a very great pity that the present Government should see fit to weaken yet another strand in the historical links with Great Britain by placing British subjects on the same footing as persons from other lands with which we have less strong ties of sentiment and kinship. It is not without its importance to note that the Right Honourable Arthur Calwell, to whom we give so much credit and honour for establishing Australia’s post-war immigration program, had as the cornerstone of the program he envisaged integration. As Minister for Immigration he emphasised on many occasions the importance of bringing migrants to this country who shared with us a common language and a common tradition. The reason given for this importance was that evidence throughout the world and throughout history showed that people with a common language, a common history and a common tradition had a marked advantage when it came to integration. This applies to the integration of migrants into the total Australian community. So this measure is disappointing to me, and I think it tends to be unfair and I would say unwarranted. I am indeed surprised because I think it will hinder immigration and what is more, I think it will hinder citizenship. We already have many United Kingdom citizens in Australia, as honourable senators know. In the last 5 years, of the 800,000 migrants who have come to this country, 333,000 have been British - over 41 per cent. If this percentage is maintained and British migrants want to embrace Australian citizenship, it should oe pointed out that they will have to go through the steps of naturalisation.
There is a serious clause in the Bill which in my view cuts right across the principle of citizenship. It is the clause which refers to the changes in the form of oath or affirmation. The Bill deletes any mention of the Queen from the oath or affirmation of allegiance and provides for the swearing of allegiance to the Constitution of Australia. The Minister has referred to confusion and he stated that this clause is to prevent confusion among candidates for Australian citizenship who find it difficult to understand why they should swear allegiance to the monarch of another country. I think the phrase ‘another country’ is the Minister’s phrase. I think it should be emphasised that the Queen is not the monarch of another country. She is monarch of Australia; she is Queen of Australia, and she was so declared at her coronation by her original styles and titles. As everybody knows there are present proposals that these styles and titles should be altered again to remove the emphasis on overseas countries and to place an increased emphasis on Australia. I claim that oaths or affirmations are made to a nation or to a country, and if in legal terms that country is not suitably and adequately described, allegiance is expressed to a head of state. I maintain that a document, however distinguished it may be, is not a head of state. Whatever one may think about our system in Australia, the Queen is our head of state, and as long as Australia has a system whereby the head of state is’ a monarch and a crown Is involved, surely oaths and affirmations must be made to that head of state. Our head of state is the Queen and sovereign, who is also head of the Commonwealth.
I refer also to the dubious value in the deletion of the renunciation of other allegiance. I know many of the problems that this renunciation may create. As all honourable senators know, Australian citizens cannot retain Australian nationality after they have voluntarily acquired citizenship or nationality in another country. But this viewpoint is not held by all other countries, neither is this process adopted by all other countries. I point out that we as a country should be very wary of any possible implication flowing from the removal of the renunciation provisions of the oath that Australia tolerates any other nation interfering with the liberties of Australian citizens. By removing the renunciation there is an implication that we tolerate other nations interfering with the liberties of Australian citizens. We need to make it abundantly clear in international affairs that Australia does not recognise claims that are made upon her citizens by any other nations. Honourable senators well may argue as to the legal or nonlegal implications of this matter. But I submit to the Senate that the retention of the renunciation provision is a method to make this viewpoint to which I have just referred absolutely clear and quite convincing.
Finally, 1 turn to the reference to changing the name of these ceremonies. ‘Naturalisation ceremony’ is the form which has been used for many years and in many countries. I do noi think that it has caused any great concern. But I do agree that the term ‘citizenship ceremony’ has more meaning to it and, as such, I approve of the change. I hope that the new term has more meaning for new citizens. I hope that it has more meaning for those of us who witness these citizenship ceremonies. I hope that it will have meaning for those presiding officers who conduct citizenship ceremonies. Every one of us would join in paying tribute to the heads of local government organisations, community leaders, members of good neighbour councils and those who go to so much care and trouble to ensure that citizenship ceremonies are well and properly con* ducted and do mean something to the new citizen. So, we certainly wish that new term well as it is designed to improve the quality of Australian citizens.
The Opposition responds to the Bill by expressing its concern and its strong criticism for the major clauses in the Bill. Just as an immigration program cannot be turned off and on at will and just as an immigration program cannot be left to the process which remains in the hands of relatives, nor can it be the subject of factors which ignore the very basic ingredients of nation building. Those are the factors which make for happy, contented citizenship and which provide for the integration of new citizens into the Australian community. Those factors at the same time provide for and allow a selective process whereby the quality of Australian citizens can be maintained. Those factors are part of an immigration program which can keep Australia as not only a stable, human community but also one that is economically advancing. We warn the Government that indifference to the areas to which I have referred not only will deprive us of citizens but also will not improve the quality of our citizenship. I leave the matter at that for the moment. In the Committee stage I will introduce an amendment relating to the form of words to be used in the oath or affirmation.
– The legislation now before the Senate deals with a matter which is most important to this nation. Since the commencement of the Australian migration program, some 4 million migrants of whom 2i million have been British citizens have come to this country. These people have played an important part in building Australia into the great nation which it is today. Little doubt exists that a well-balanced migration program will play an important part in the future development of this nation. It is essential that the Australian way of life as we know it, our standards of living and the general character of our nation should be preserved whilst our culture is enriched through contact with the j cultures of people from other nations who migrate here.
This Bill sets out the manner in which migrants to Australia may become part and parcel of our nation through attaining citizenship. The Bill has many good aspects. But there are certain matters contained in it which concern me and concern my Party. Those areas of concern have ably been expressed by Senator Davidson. I for one cannot see why British citizens cannot obtain Australian citizenship earlier than 3 years after their arrival here. Presently, the qualifying period is 12 months. Let us face the fact that most Australian people come from British stock. We have acquired most of the British traditions, institutions and way of ;ife. In most cases no language barriers arise between British migrants and Australians; people from British countries are able to fit immediately into our society and, if they so desire, after being here 12 months may become Australian citizens. I do not see any reason why they should not be able to do that or why that practice should not continue.
I am one of those who is proud to be an Australian citizen. The responsibility of Australian citizenship should not be taken lightly. Most people - certainly those in my Party and I think, most Australians - are proud to be Australians. I believe that, when people from other countries seek to become citizens <-f this nation, they too should feel just as much pride in their new citizenship as we do. Citizenship entails responsibilities as well as the benefits which may accrue from it. It seems to me that by deleting the section of the Act relating to renunciation of a migrant’s previous nationality, this Bill will give to those people most of the rights of Australian citizenship without p’acing on them the responsibilities of that citizenship. Because such people are citizens of another nation, ft could be that they might opt out of responsibilities to Australia such as the defence of this country. I think that a number of our new citizens would like to feel as proud of this country as we are. They may not realise, probably for sentimental reasons through which they still wish to retain the ties with their former countries, that perhaps they could get themselves into some trouble by their actions. There are many cases to prove my argument. Australian citizens may not agree with the conditions that now operate in their former countries. Changes may have been made in governments, for instance. They may find that they may even be in conflict with the policies of their former countries. Consequently, it may be to the disadvantage of such people to retain their former citizenship.
I turn to the provision relating to the oath of allegiance. I believe that the concept of the monarchy is not outdated in Australia. Belief in the monarchy principle is not old fashioned. It has always been accepted that the monarchy is the symbol of the nation. Whereas we may be divided politically, through religious views or in some other manner, there is always the symbol of the monarch as the head of our country to draw us together. Irrespective of our differences, we see through the monarchy that we are all one nation; we are. all Australians. I believe that that principle always has operated in that respect. I am most disappointed to see that any reference to the monarchy has been taken out of the oath of allegiance or oath of affirmation. After all, members of our armed forces and even members of this Parliament take oaths of allegiance to the monarchy. I do not see why persons seeking to become Australian citizens should not similarly take oaths or affirmations in which the monarchy is mentioned. In fact, I believe that many of our new citizens would like to be associated with the monarchy in this regard. Therefore, in the Committee stage, when the Opposition moves its amendment, the Australian Country Party will support it.
– The Australian Democratic Labor Party supports the general intentions of this Bill. It is true that Australia has had a long and vigorous program of migration. By comparison with the impetus given to that program in recent years, at present our efforts seem to have tapered off. By that I mean that the rate of migration when Australia had a population of between 8 million and 10 million people was greater than it is today. With a population of more than 12 million people today one would think that we ought to be better able to absorb a much higher rate of migration than we have sustained in the past. But we have not maintained that rate of growth in more recent years. One of the bigger difficulties has been that we have failed to attract from the countries of the world that have come to know more peaceful times, the same numbers of people that we attracted in the immediate post-war years. True it is that we concentrated on giving some precedence to those people from the countries from which most of our own ancestors came. In expanding a country by an immigration policy there is some wisdom in that procedure because integration is so much easier where the cultural backgrounds of the people involved are identical or almost identical. However, we have become enriched too by the fact that circumstances forced us outside that ambit and we began to attract into Australia people from other European countries who had differing cultures from those of the people with whom we had a natural allegiance.
We spread that policy even further. In recent years there has been more tolerance towards immigration from countries where the cultural background is distinctively different. I refer to the inflow of slightly increased numbers of people from Asian areas. I think that those who have studied the problem of a developing nation such as ours in regard to immigration have always realised the necessity for a gradual change along the lines of what has been happening in Australia. The country at large might not have appreciated the necessity of this policy as quickly as would have been advisable in the interests of Australia, lt is still true today that a great number of people from Great Britain would be the ideal migrants for Australia if they were desirous of coming here. They are not. and we are forced in our attempts to achieve the rate of immigration to Australia which is the minimum that we can sustain because of the falling birth rate in Australia, to resort to programs of persuasion which have not engendered the desire to come to Australia into the people who have the capacity to tackle the immense task of starting life in a new country. We have not attracted those types of people. Rather we have persuaded others who might not really in themselves have been desirous of migrating. They might have felt that they were driven to migrate and might not have had the spirit which is necessary to tackle life in a new country.
Let us face it; we are all human beings. There needs to be some aspect of necessity behind one’s wrenching his roots out of the ground of one country and going to another country to establish a new entity. Very often it takes some dire necessities to do this. Those factors have been missing recently. In Great Britain and to a developing degree throughout Europe, enormously increased prosperity succeeded the immediate introduction of the European Economic Community. This new economic world is facing new tests and today is not as certain of its future as it perhaps seemed to be 4 or 5 years ago, and we may again see. circumstances in which migrants from European countries in particular and from Great Britain may be just as easy to attract to Australia as they have been in the past.
It is true that Australia has turned its back - not completely but certainly we have not made it as easy as we could have made it - on many people who are driven by this aspect of necessity to change their background. I refer to the people, in some of the areas in the Pacific Ocean, our near neighbours. I refer to places like Western Samoa, Tonga, Fiji. Particularly in the case of Western Samoa those places are becoming very heavily overpopulated. For this reason alone a compelling need is imposed upon the citizens of those countries to leave their own country and to seek somewhere else to live. This compulsion does not exist in Europe to the same degree today.
I have long counselled that we should be looking for immigrants from this area of the Pacific. In those, countries there are none of the factors which should inhibit us in broadening our immigration policies. Those factors are the disturbing ones of the capacity of the new people .arriving at an adult age to be integrated into a new society. Those who have studied the history of the Polynesian people, and particularly the Western Samoans, would very rapidly appreciate the fact that for purposes of integration this race probably has more qualities than has any other race. They would probably disappear into an allAustralian community in a far lesser time than it takes those people whose backgrounds are different and who do not have the same compulsion. I do not know, but I think that over the years we could well have developed a program, for particularly young people from those areas, to come here to be voluntarily trained, as we have trained people from all over Asia, in various professions and skills. A proportion of them could then be granted the right to stay here if they so desired, providing they had the acquiescence of their own government. Over the years this would build a small minority of those people to be integrated into our society. They would come here young and be trained in our ways, trained to accept the responsibility of adjusting to an economic world different from the one they left. We would probably develop only a small segment of our community in this way because Samoa could not supply the number of people Australia requires. However, small though it may be, it would be an excellent segment of people who would be integrated rapidly into the total Australian community.
Of course, this Bill deals with the migrant after he has gone through this developing phase of deciding to come to Australia, whatever may be the reason, and adapting and adjusting himself and getting to the stage where he is seeking to become a complete member of this country and to accept naturalisation. Naturalisation itself, of course, is a great privilege and a great responsibility. It is a 2-way street that acts well for the new citizen and for the rest of us. We should make the integration complete. Not many people in the world do this to the same extent as we do. I have argued with Japanese friends who have queried our immigration policies and have wrongly designated them as a White Australia policy. Although this term has some accuracy in description, the policy was never that in fact. It would be completely impossible even upon marriage for an Australian such as myself, were I free to do so, to marry a Japanese woman to gain Japanese citizenship. Australia extends citizenship to all those who marry Australian citizens. We allow them to share not only our personal lives, but also the national life of this country by granting to them, if there is no real impediment, naturalisation and citizenship of Australia. I am glad that is the position. I do not think that there should be any impediment in the way of making the integration complete and absolute. If we believe in immigration at all we do not believe in it just as a way of exploiting other people by persuading them to come here and to give us their all and not to give them anything in return. We should believe in complete integration and complete sharing, both today and in the future, of their families with our families in the potential of this Australia of ours. These things are expressed, of course, in this Australian Citizenship Bill.
I do not know that perseverance with the ideas of Commonwealth can go much beyond what is expressed in this piece of legislation. The Commonwealth is not quite what it was. Anybody who does not face this fact sensibly is not facing the facts of 1973. We cannot live in 1973 with a 1950 philosophy. We have to move with things as they are happening throughout the world. The Commonwealth ties still exist probably only because they were framed quite deliberately in the loose way they are and because they are not as binding as they once were. This is to the great credit of Great Britain - the country to which we owe our origin - because it has been wise enough to see these things and to take steps to move with the times p.s they have changed and as people’s thinking in these areas has changed.
I am glad to see in this Bill that provisions have been made to cover countries in the Pacific, such as Fiji, Tonga and Western Samoa. I think that is very good. The Bill covers many areas that needed to be improved. I think that they are being improved in this Bill. Of course, the Bill contains contentious clauses, as do all pieces of legislation. The contention surrounding those clauses seems to revolve around the arguments that were advanced in another place to the effect that not sufficient emphasis is placed on encouraging British people to come here. I dismiss those arguments. I think that we have gone along those lines to the fullest extent that is possible. To oversell” our country to people in another country is good neither for the people who come here nor for the country which sponsors them to come here. I am one of the those who believe that the time has arrived when we should taper off this overselling. We do not want to have coming here people who no sooner do they arrive than they are reluctant to stay. I am not suggesting for a moment that that is true of all British migrants. We want to have coming here people who have that great burst of enthusiasm that will enable them to tackle the enormous problems involved in starting life in a new country and integrating their families into our community so that they will become fellow Australians along with all of us.
I refer now to the matters which will be dealt with at the Committee stage by way of a suggested amendment to the Bill. Perhaps if I refer at this stage to the clause which the amendment will seek to amend and indicate the attitude of my Party it will save miking 2 speeches on the one subject. We are disturbed about the suggested change in the oath of allegiance. We recognise that one cannot be completely happy about asking a new citizen of this country to forswear all allegiance other than allegiance to this country. That is very difficult to do. In order to understand this, we have only to put ourselves in the position of being asked at some time to forswear all allegiance to Australia, which is the
Country in which we were born. I would find it much easier to forswear any allegiance to the old country, Great Britain - my ancestors were born in Cornwall - than to Australia, because this is the only country I have ever known. If I were to go to Great Britain and be asked for forswear ali allegiance to Australia, I would have grave doubts about doing that. 1 have some sympathy with the idea that we should try to find another way to emphasise that the predominance of allegiance and responsiblity must be to the country to which one goes. It cannot be foreseen that citizens who come to Australia from other countries must necessarily have a clash of allegiance if they maintain - and they cannot deny this - a natural feeling of allegiance to the country from which they come. It may not always operate that way. Perhaps it will be better if I speak of my ancestors rather than of anybody else’s in case I offend other people. Many of the people who came to Australia from Great Britain in the early days of the establishment of this country might have been very happy to forswear their allegiance to Great Britain because of the circumstances in which they were sent to Australia. People were sent to this country, as a penal colony, for breaking laws which I do not believe many people today would say were just and fair laws, and I do not think that many people today would say that just and fair punishment was meted out to the people who committed offences in Great Britain and were sent here. In those circumstances it might not be so difficult to forswear one’s allegiance.
But today we have people coming to Australia from many countries and they feel just the same about those countries as we feel about Australia. It seems that there is a better way of doing this than by saying that before people swear allegiance to Australia they should forswear all allegiance to their home country. If the oath of allegiance could be worded in such a way as to be legal - I leave it to the legal eagles to do this - and to suggest that people should forswear all allegiance to any other country where there is conflict with Australia, I think it would be better than to use the terms of the oath of allegiance which are used now and which are suggested in the proposed amendment; and it would be better than to leave out the renunciation of other allegiance altogether, as is proposed by the Government.
I move on to the other contentious part of the clause which the amendment will seek to amend. This is the reference to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second of Great Britain and Queen of Australia. I believe that the Australian people would want Her Majesty’s^ title to appear in full at this time. I under- stand the argument has been used that the._ words suggested in the amendment are not, legal because Queen Elizabeth the Second of Great Britain is not designated in Australia today as Queen Elizabeth the Second of Australia; that Australia had not been founded in the days of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth! the First and, obviously it would be very difficult for Her Majesty to be Queen Elizabeth the Second of Australia. I suggest in all seriousness to Senator Davidson and to his Party that we have to be sure that the Act will not, need a further amendment regarding this designation. If the amendment were carried and it became part of the Act, the alteration which I am suggesting could be achieved very simply by changing the designation in the amendment from ‘Queen Elizabeth the Second of Australia’ to ‘Queen Elizabeth the Second” - which is her right and correct title; she is Queen Elizabeth the Second of Great Britain - ‘Queen of Australia’. I suggest that we could insert the word ‘Queen’ after the words Queen Elizabeth the Second,’ and before the words ‘of Australia’. That would then give her a dual recognition in the oath of allegiance. She would be given the title which is her own by right. I understand that most probably she will be designated in this way by the Government when it amends other Acts. It would save some inconvience if that suggestion were accepted by Senator Davidson. I suggest that his amendment could be altered by inserting the word ‘Queen’ before the words ‘of Australia-‘.
Possibly it is anticipating what might happen in other areas, but we would make this Act quite valid and sound and it would not need further amendment by this Parliament. If it were done that way, I think that it would preserve in its entirety what Senator Davidson is trying to do without including an inaccurate designation of the Monarch. In my view, it is inaccurate to refer to Her Majesty as Queen Elizabeth the Second of Australia. She is Queen Elizabeth the Second of Great Britain. We recognise her as Queen of Australia, and I understand that the Government does not propose to do anything other than so to recognise her in the future. I have been given to understand that that is how the Queen herself wants to be known, and we should always be sensitive about these things. I believe that we, as a country, are desirous of preserving these ties. I do not believe that this proposal would be in any way offensive to any new citizen to Australia, no matter from where he comes. This is how we regard ourselves, and as these people want to be Australians shoulder to shoulder with us they too will regard themselves in this way and will give allegiance to the Queen as we have given allegiance to her. If we accept my proposal I think this is what they will do.
I know that the approach of the Government of today is different from that of the Government of yesterday. We respect that. We are trying to make suggestions which will help the Government of today and those who formed the Government of yesterday to see this Bill through similar eyes because we feel that in tackling a re-organisation of legislation such as this it would be a constructive move to bring it up to date, to make it more efficient and to make it easier to offer citizenship to the new people of Australia - a citizenship which we all want them to have. We want them to want to have citizenship, too. This is even more important than wanting them to join us as Australian citizens.
We will support the Bill in the Committee stage when the amendment is moved. Having made my suggestion to the Opposition in relation to its proposed amendment I shall not speak again on this Bill. I signify, that irrespective of whether the Opposition changes its proposed amendment in accordance with the qualification which I have put, we will support the amendment.
– I think the contributions made by Senator Davidson and Senator Little on a fairly even plane indicate that this is an evolutionary exercise in which we. are indulging. This Bill relates back to the Australian Citizenship Act introduced in 1949 and the Bill which was introduced in 1969. People are much more mature than they used to be in considering the difference between Australian citizenship and being a British subject. I say that because it is inescapable when dealing with legislation of this type, that we should deal with this imperial connection. When looking at Australia’s role between the 2 world wars it is remarkable to note that it was a Canadian Prime Minister of Scottish ancestry - a very fine Canadian, Mackenzie King - who was the first leading parliamentarian of what was then the British Empire who rightly asserted that countries like Canada and Australia do not always have to have an inferiority complex in dealings with the British Government.
I speak in those terms because there have been occasions in the pre-war years when British governments have tended to use the Crown quite wrongly to support what they were putting forward. It is remarkable that, in those days, even up to the stage of the abdication of the Duke, of Windsor that most of what were known as “Dominions’ were much more forceful in their representations than was Australia. I do not say that as .ny carping criticism. But I think that when we reached the postwar era it was quite obvious that there was a greater degree of maturity.
Mr Carr the British Minister responsible for United Kingdom citizenship status in relation to Britain’s entry into the European Common Market indicated that even with the best intentions in the world the old links with Australia and New Zealand, and probably to a lesser degree Canada, were not quite the same. Nobody in Australia - I know that this applies to government supporters and I am sure that it also applies to those on the Opposition side - castigated the British Government. Even though I speak as a socialist senator I know that nobody, even those on the other side- of the Senate, will take umbrage at what Mr Heath has done because of what he has had to face up to.
I listened to the remarks concerning fear in relation to the format of the new oath. It was suggested that this is some sort of irrevocable step. This is just not so. I will take this a little bit further. In regard to the aspect of this legislation which relates to a person having to renounce his previous nationality, even though we are deleting in full the provisions in the Act we are not pioneers in this respect. If I may quote the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) on this point, other countries which do not require a person to renounce their allegiance to their country of origin encompass New Zealand, the United Kingdom, France, Israel, Ireland, Italy, Japan and the Netherlands. It may be said that in some instances those countries would not have a big intake of people from other lands, but some of them would. I believe that in view of that precedent many of the fears are virtually groundless.
If we adopted the stance of a devil’s advocate it may be asked: ‘If people are not clear cut in their renunciation, will it provide a potential spy ring?’ That is an extreme point. If that attitude were taken all I would say is that if we were to look at the various spy rings that inevitably exists in every country we would find that very often motivation does not relate to the land of origin. I would commend to all honourable senators a book called Hour of Maximum Danger’ by James Barlow. If a spy ring were found in Britain it might be found that at least 5 out of 6 people in it had become involved for motives such as money or jealousy.
I suppose that that is an unduly sombre attitude to take. I will give a better example. I think that the Dutch community is regarded as a pretty thrifty, very reliable and a sound segment of our migrant intake. In speaking to many Dutch migrants about having virtually to renounce their allegiance to Queen Wilhelmina it would be very insulting to them to equate them with some fiery radical, thereby implying that they were potential Trotskyites. This is a sort of situation which I know the Department of Immigration in its wisdom has been trying to overcome. It is something of which I know that the previous Government was aware.
I will take this argument a little further. I think what I have to say is common knowledge and I do not think I will be breaching any confidences in saying it. I know that the present Royal family is aware of evolutionary changes. If honourable senators were to read some of the very forthright addresses by the Duke of Edinburgh I am sure they would agree that what he has said in regard to the virtual coming of age of countries like Australia and New Zealand indicates conclusively that what the Government suggests is only a normal evolutionary process. But even if it is not I think I could do no better than quote a very fine Australian who represented her country at the Olympic Games. I refer to that outstanding swimmer Karen Moras who in her own right has become very successful in the business field. I will quote from an article which appeared in the ‘Canberra Times’ on 9 May 1973. She was talking about general attitude of the Australian nation and its symbols. She said:
It is disappointing to stand on a victory dais and hear God Save the Queen being played for Australia. I feel, and 1 know that many others think the same way, that Australia should have its own anthem. I put in a lot of time and effort to win but I would have felt so much prouder if I could have listened to an Australian anthem and not something which is identifiable to almost every country in the Commonwealth. It’s all right in Australia and possibly in other Commonwealth countries but in international games . . .
She indicated that in international games the situation was different. I have deliberately limited the quotation because it was a long interview. But the point I make is that that is the way in which modern young Australia speaks. When I walk out into Kings Hall I see the outstanding display which sets out how this Parliament works, its relationship between the States and the Commonwealth and the relationship between the Senate and the House of Representatives. There is a reference to the Constitution and a crystal clear explanation that the Queen is the symbolic head or the Queen of Australia. When I relate all those things to the sentiments of a successful ambassador for Australia - Karen Moras - I believe that the fears of the Opposition are grossly mistaken.
We should view this amending legislation in conjunction with many other reforms in the immigration (field. It is said that man does not live by bread alone. Matters such as the portability of pensions and the removal of the discriminatory provisions of the Crimes Act were all essential steps which the previous Government, I feel, had some hesitancy in taking. I think it was really unduly afraid of certain isolated criticism. I think that now that we are streamlining the law in respect of citizenship the next logical step is to take people on trust. I think that broadly that is what is being done in this legislation.
One of my colleagues in another place said, when speaking about inhibitions in regard to renunciation of allegiance, that what it means is that people are asked to destroy their past and mock their memories. I think that epitomises some of the Opposition’s fears in regard to this matter. I heard Senator Maunsell refer to the question of loyalty in time of war. I think we live in an age of total war. A person may have inhibitions about obtaining Australian citizenship. We would not be fools if we happened to be the Government at a time of war. We do not want to be in the sort of situation that the previous Government found itself in. We would certainly use national security regulations. So I think that the honourable senators argument about the defence criteria is not justified.
I simply wind up my speech by saying that this legislation is a continuation of the more genuine partnership that does and should exist within the Commonwealth of Nations. I think that the Queen herself is aware of it and I think that many of the Opposition suggestions amount to much ado about nothing. I commend the Minister for what is happening.I think that many young voters in particular will be wondering why this debate is being prolonged.
– I simply remind my friend Senator Mulvihill, who has just resumed his seat, that the Australian Citizenship Bill has nothing whatever to do with national anthems. If I may borrow an expression from Mr Whitlam, this Bill is a mish-mash of airy platitudes and the gallimaufry of high fallutin’ nonsense which comprises the second reading speech of the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) most certainly does not have the effect which the speech purports to state that the Bill has. The first guiding principle enunciated by the Minister is that there must be no discrimination between different groups of settlers. This is a most commendable attitude. The trouble is that this Government does not practice what is preaches. I wonder whether any member of the Australian Labor Party would be game to go into a Croatian camp and peddle the line that Croatians are not being persecuted in this country? Would they care to go to a Ukrainian association and tell the. Ukrainians that they are not being persecuted by this rabble of a Government? Would they care to go to representatives of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia and tell them that they are not being persecuted by this mish-mash of a Cabinet which comprises the current Government.
In his second reading speech the Minister went on to talk of equality before the law. This is a really decent socialist joke. As George Orwell said - I do not take the credit - some citizens are more, equal than others. I think that even Mr Grassby has referred to that. But the citizens who are more equal than others in my mind are the trade union secretaries and the trade unionists whom this Government proposes to make immune from tort in industrial action. How equal can you get? There is nothing new in the requirements for citizenship which the Minister set out. I find nothing to quibble at. I think I may say that I have had as much to do with migrants from Europe as have most senators in this place and I have found these wonderful migrants who have helped to build this nation to be splendid people. One only has to think of the Snowy River job and the other construction jobs which would not be finished yet if it had not been for the help of migrants from Europe. I have many friends among migrants; they visit my home.
Having said that, I do not resile personally from the proposition that in some ways the British migrant is a special migrant. I object - I will not take this belief to the, point of voting accordingly - that the British migrant should have to wait 3 years, exactly the same length of time as a migrant from any other country, before he is granted citizenship. I would not hesitate to afford him special considerations. There are good economic and social reasons for this. It is not a matter of jingoism. The British migrant does not need to be taught the language. By and large, we can understand an Englishman no matter where he comes from, although there may be some difficulties with accent. By and large he does not need to learn the English language. Also, he is familiar with the. political institutions by which we are governed. In general, he is absorbed into our community with a minimum of difficulty and fuss. I am one who believes in a strong migration policy.
On those practical grounds alone I think there is good reason for putting the British migrant in a special category. It does not seem odd to me to put people from the British Isles, including those from Eire, into a special category. After all, if it were not for James Cook we would not be here. This place in which we debate comes from the Westminster system; it does not come from Moscow, Vienna or any other place. Our legal system is identical with the British legal system. British precedents are virtually binding on our courts and in some cases decisions of the Privy Council are absolutely binding. Also, we have a British type of public service. There are very many ways in which our social, cultural and economic habits, customs and traditions are bound up with those of the British Isles. I think that the word ‘discrimination’ is wrong if it is said that the present system discriminates in favour of British migrants, lt is not suggested that we learn test cricket from Bessarabia. Most of our progenitors came from the British Isles. It is only by recognising the ordinary human trait in the family that in ordinary circumstances we realise that we have a somewhat more positive nexus with these people. I repeat that 1 am a great supporter of the migrant program involving Continental countries and I thank again publicly those people from those countries who have helped to build this nation.
Much of the Minister’s speech unfortunately was in keeping with standard Labor practice of attempting to make invidious comparisons between the present Labor Government of dynamic activity and its Liberal predecessor. I wonder sometimes whether Labor supporters know what is meant by the word dynamo’. The word means an engine which is given power by an outside field. I think that if they realised that they would cease using the term ‘dynamic’ as much as they do. The whole business of invidious comparison is a myth. Labor supporters talk about the injustice of leaving British migrants in ignorance. I do not know what Mr Grassby intends to do to inform them of matters on which they are at present in the dark. I do not know what he could have expected us to do in the past.
I think perhaps the silliest feature of the so-called improvements is the swearing of the oath to the Constitution and not to the Queen. I listened with interest to what Senator Davidson and Senator Little said in this regard and I find myself in agreement with their remarks. But I want to look at what I believe to be the rationale of the Labor Party in putting this proposition forward. The Labor Party says: ‘Do not take the Oath of Allegiance to the Queen because she is the
Queen of England’, and it ignores its own legislation in the matter. It says: Take the oath to the Constitution’. If ever there was arrant nonsense, this is it. Whatever objections there may be to the Queen - I do not see any - there are infinitely more objections to the Constitution because the Constitution is simply an Act of the Parliament of Westminster and it has nothing to do with this Parliament at all in its essence and origin. We will go along and tell a Dutchman - and this could equally apply to a Norwegian, a Britisher or anyone else - that we want him to take the oath of allegiance to an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain which was enacted 73 years ago and which the same Parliament can change any time it likes. We will tell him that he has to be loyal and swear allegiance to the old Act which was passed 73 years ago. But in law the Parliament of Great Britain can at any time repeal and change that Act if it wishes.
How silly and idiotic can you be? This sort of legislation will only thoroughly confuse a migrant. The Labor Party will take the Queen away from the migrant and will subsitute an obscure Act of British Parliament over which this nation has no control. I do not think that the swearing to the Constitution has an ominous ring about it. The voice is the voice of Whitlam but the mind is the mind of Cromwell. The current immigration legislation will do to the Queen, metaphorically speaking, what that man did to Charles I.
– Who are the Roundheads?
– I am no Roundhead. We seem to have a group of parliamentary roundheads opposite. They propose to carry out what their spiritual forbear did to Charles I. This Bill is a socialist attempt to downgrade the monarchy in the eyes of all our migrants and to do what that anti-constitutional Commonwealth man Cromwell did some hundreds of years ago. I do not get very agitated about the change of name of the Act. I cannot understand the Minister’s statement that the word ‘naturalisation’ is more difficult to pronounce than the word ‘citizenship’.
– But some people say nationalisation’, and that would be a terrible term to use.
– There may be something in what Senator Mulvihill says. I doubt it. It does not seem to me to be a valid reason for changing the name of the Act, but it isnot a matter upon which I am prepared to argue. It may have overtones for you, Mr ActingDeputy President, of the French Revolution, and to that extent it might well be sinister. Citizen Mulvihill might be apprehended and taken in a tumbrel to the place of execution and there disposed of in the way that citizens were disposed of in days gone by. I sincerely hope that that is not the intention; I would hate to see Senator Mulvihill in a tumbrel.
I agree with the commendation made by the Minister of the right honourable Arthur Augustus Calwell, the architect of our original immigration policy. I do not think this nation can be sufficiently grateful to Mr Calwell for these things: The precedents which he. established in dealing with immigration, the enormous work which he did and the tremendous benefit which his work in immigration has brought to this country. I feel sure that this chamber would not be divided on that matter. In any event, there would be one point on which all 60 of us would agree, and that is that this nation will be eternally indebted to Arthur Calwell for his work on immigration. Having said that, I add that the work of Arthur Calwell was carried on very well, very successfully, very intelligently and very humanely by a succession of Liberal Ministers for Immigration. Like a previous speaker, 1 am not terribly keen on the return of the renunciation of existing allegiances. Apart from the fact that I do not think it has any legal significance whatever in the country of origin, there must be a certain amount of heartburn and a certain amount of emotional turmoil when, at a citizenship ceremony, this phrase has to be repeated by the applicant for citizenship. As we know from the arguments which we have had about dual citizenship in Greece, Yugoslavia and the United States, we are not able, by any law which this Parliament passes, to remove the legal effectiveness of laws enacted by a person’s country of origin when that person returns to the jurisdiction of his country of origin.
I think it is right that we should say, having been through the Minister’s second reading speech, that we have never had a government so full of self praise and inordinate pomposity as this Government. There is scarcely a paragraph without some wellearned tribute to itself. The Government has dedicated itself to enhancing still further the significance and repute of the title “Australian citizen” ‘ must have been written by the humourist of the Labor Party. I think that this Government has done more to disgrace the idea of Australian citizenship among citizens of the free world than we thought possible in the palmy days prior to 2 December. We have had our reputations sullied by an oleaginous servility to every communist country in the business and by a sycophantic adulation of Peking. We truckle to every communist government from Peking to Cuba and from North Vietnam to North Korea. We have insulted all our friends from the United States to Thailand and from Great Britain to Malaysia. We are now entering the nation into what 1 regard as a disgraceful exercise by supping with the so-called Third World in Algiers.
This Government, which says that it wants all its migrants to be equal, has a shocking record already in the United Nations. It has truckled to nations such as Burundi, the Sudan and Ethiopia - countries with oneparty dictatorships and countries which brutally mutilate a convicted person. For example, in Burundi, the left hand is cut off on the first conviction for theft. In Ethiopia the same penalty applies. They are the governments which this Government has set out to impress, to truckle to and with which to try to improve its image, regardless of those nations among which we strode 10 feet tall before 2 December. This Government has been selectively racist. It makes a tremendous song and dance about Rhodesia. It actually was game enough to stop 19 girls from a religious society in Rhodesia stopping in Sydney. How it truckled to the people who voted in the United Nations for the sanctions. But it gives hundreds of thousands of dollars in aid to Uganda, Burundi and similar countries. How on earth this Government can justify the giving of money to the racist Amin is beyond me. If it says that it wants all migrants to be equal-
– Can you tell me how much the previous Government gave to him?
– I will get that information for the honourable senator. I will do that by asking a question tomorrow.
– You might embarrass him.
– I do the best I can. Frankly, I find it very difficult to accept the Minister’s statement that all migrants are to be equal and that we have no discrimination when we find this tremendous program of aid going forward to President Amin’s dictatorship in Uganda. This morning’s Press carried stories from Milton Obote, the former President of Uganda, Since he is not in the pocket of the Liberal Party. I suppose we can accept his assurance that Amin has killed 80,000 of his fellow countrymen. Still this Government pours aid to him to help him kill more, presumably. I hope we can abandon all the nonsense, humbug and hypocrisy and get back to the earlier pristine days when the Labor Party had ideas, put up by Arthur Calwell, when immigration was a reality and when the job done for this nation was one which we remember with pride and thankfulness. That policy was carried on by all Liberal governments.
The purpose behind the Bill is simply obscurantist. I shall support the amendment which will be moved by Senator Davidson, with the slight amendment suggested by Senator Little which is purely for the purpose of clarifying the matter. I think that other aspects of the Bill could very well be reexamined at another time, but since the Government says that it wants the Bill passed and since the issues at the moment are rot so significant that we should reject the Bill,I am prepared to vote for its second reading.
– in reply - Representing asI do the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby), until Senator Hannan had spoken I had intended to say that I appreciated the amicable way in which this very important Bill had been discussed by representatives of all political parties. With great respect to Senator Hannan, I suggest that he got on to a lot of irrelevancies when he talked about the mish mash of the Government, trade union secretaries getting it easier and things of this nature. I am sure that if we wanted to get into a confrontation on the remarks of Senator Hannan we would be here for at least another fortnight debating what he has tried to make a very controversial subject. Because of the lateness of the hour, I simply say that although we differ politically - indeed, we are about to differ on an amendment to be moved by Senator Davidson at the Committee stage - the simple fact arising out of this debate is that we are all Australians and that we want everyone who comes to settle in Australia to become and to remain Australians. I think that most, if not all members of the Parliament, will agree that the Government’s intention to do away with discrimination in regard to citizenship is a very laudable objective.
Henry Lawson wrote a poem entitled ‘Second Class Wait Here’. In this modern society and in this mature age there can be no second class in our Australian community. The principal reason for the introduction of this Bill is to remove all forms of discrimination against every Australian citizen. In fairness to Senator Little, who led in the debate for the Australian Democratic Labor Party, I point out that the gravamen of his remarks was directed to that end. He suggested that there are areas in the South Pacific to which Australia could well be looking for prospective migrants. It is not my intention at this stage to delay the second reading debate of the Bill. We will leave the contentious discussion to the Committee stage. I know that Senator Davidson, Senator Maunsell and Senator Hannan appeared to be referring to all British citizens coming to Australia as though they are all citizens from the United Kingdom. Senator Maunsell, during the course of his remarks, said that he could not see why British citizens could not obtain sponsorship earlier than 3 years, adding that a period of 12 months was the time involved prior to the presentation of this legislation. The simple fact is, as I pointed out in my second reading speech, that British citizenship, as we know it in this country, relates to no fewer than 31 different countries. Those countries have different forms of history and are different geographically and culturally. Therefore, how Senator Maunsell can suggest that British citizens coming from 31 different countries should receive preferential treatment in regard to citizenship in Australia over and above people coming to Australia from other countries who also want Australian citizenship is beyond me. Having made those brief remarks in reply, and because no amendment has been moved to the motion for the second reading of the Bill, I suggest that we should now proceed to the contentious committee stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 18 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
The Second and Third Schedules to the Principal Act are repealed and the following Schedules substituted:
I, A.B., swear by Almightly God that I will faith- fully uphold the Constitution of Australia and observe the laws of Australia and fulfil my duties as an Australian citizen.
I, A.B., solemly and sincerely promise and declare that I will faithfully uphold the Consitution of Australia, observe the laws of Australia and fulfil my duties as an Australian citizen.
I, A.B., solemnly and sincerely promise and declare that I will faithfully uphold the Constitution of Australia and observe the laws of Australia.
– An amendment has been circulated in my name. The Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) will note that there is a slight change in that there is a transposition of the word ‘Queen’ in the oath and affirmation. I move the following amendment in relation to clause 19:
Leave out the clause, insert the following clause: 19. The Second and Third Schedules to the Principal Act are repealed and the following Schedules substituted:
I, A.B., renouncing all other allegiance, swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Australia, Her heirs and successors according to law, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Australia and fulfil my duties as an Australian citizen.
I, A.B., renouncing all other allegiance, solemnly and sincerely promise and declare that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Australia, Her heirs and successors according to law, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Australia and fulfil my duties as an Australian citizen.
I, A,B., renouncing all other allegiance, swear by almighty God thatI will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty, Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Australia, Her heirs and successors according to law.
I, A.B., renouncing all other allegiance, solemnly and sincerely promise and declare that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty, Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Australia, Her heirs and successors according to law.”.
The Committee will note that the words ‘Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Australia, Her heirs and successors according to law’ are repeated in Schedule 3 in relation to both oath and affirmation. As I have pointed out, and the Minister will have noted, there is a slight alteration from an earlier amendment which was distributed. It is a compromise to the suggestion made by Senator Little. More importantly, it reflects accurately the wording that we understand is proposed in the Queen’s new styles and titles. Therefore, as I said in my second reading speech, the amendment describes accurately the head of State to whom we are proposing that citizens shall make their oath or affirmation of allegiance.
I do not put forward this amendment to the Committee or to the Minister with any measure of sentimentality, nor am I concerned about tradition, important though it may be. Nor do I underline it with our concern for the ties of kinship, important as they are and as they have contributed such a great deal over the years and at the present time. I have moved the amendment in terms of political reality. Australia is a monarchy. It has a crown and has a system of government which is a monarchy system. Whilst we have a monarchy and whilst we have this system of government I suggest that all citizens who take oaths or affirmations of allegiance should take them to the head of state and take them to the Crown. Therefore, the Crown should be designated in terms of the oath of allegiance or the affirmation of allegiance as the case may be. After all, honourable senators on this side of the chamber comprise Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition. On more than one occasion when the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) was the Leader of the Opposition I heard him use this term. Therefore, as the Government is Her Majesty’s Government in Australia and as we are Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition in Australia, surely the oath or affirmation of allegiance should deliberately and distinctly spell out “Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, Queen
Australian Citizenship Bill of Australia, Her heirs and successors according to law’. I cannot subscribe to the suggestion presently in the Bill To illustrate what I mean, I quote from Schedule 2 of the Bill which states:
I, A.B., swear by Almighty God that I will faithfully uphold the Constitution of Australia, observe the laws of Australia and fulfil my duties as an Australian citizen.
Of course, this may be commendable as it is read. But oaths and affirmations of allegiance do much more than indicate that a person will uphold certain laws and observe certain things. The Constitution of Australia is of very great importance. It has been worked out by great men. As the Minister probably will remind us, it applies to Australian circumstances and conditions. But as my colleague, Senator Hannan, pointed out it is an Act of the British Parliament. If the Minister talks about the Queen of another country, as he did during his second reading speech, surely he is also talking about an Act of a parliament of another country. It is true that there are clauses in the Australian Constitution that refer to the Queen. The Parliament of Australia consists of the Queen, the Senate and the House of Representatives. In the preamble to the Constitution reference will be found to the sovereign, but it is a reference to a sovereign of another era and of another generation. At best, the Constitution is only a document. It does not provide for a continued succession. As I said earlier, it does not provide, for the existence of a head of state as such.
– I am given to speculate on what symbol would be placed on a certificate of citizenship. The certificate now carries a photograph of Her Majesty the Queen which, I believe, is proper and is valued by the people who receive the certificates. What would we put in its place?
– You could put Mr Grassby’s photograph. What would be wrong with that?
– I do not think I would care to receive a certificate with Mr Grassby’s photograph on it. I would rather receive a certificate carrying a photograph of Her Majesty the Queen. As long as Australia has a system under which the head of state is
Australian Citizenship Bill 2329 a monarch and which provides for succession, I think that that is the course that should be followed. If the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) thinks that it causes confusion, surely that confusion could be removed by the Government’s own proposal to change the style and title of the Queen and by using the very words proposed in the Opposition’s amendment. I question whether there is any allegiance involved in simply upholding the Constitution of Australia. On the other hand the form of words proposed by the amendment are the very basis of citizenship and the declaration of the head of state. It is good that in Australia we develop nationalism and it is good that we develop internationalism, but we would be wise to keep for a long time within a Commonwealth of nations of which the Queen is the head of the Commonwealth and in which we acknowledge the Queen to be the head of the Commonwealth. It would be wise to keep within this group of nations which maintains links giving us a defence connection, a strong association with powerful friends and, more than that, an association with strong friends with whom we have so much in common.
I refer quickly to the other important part of the amendment, the renunciation of all other allegiances. In the second-reading stage of the Bill I spent some time speaking about this. Like other honourable senators, I recall the earlier forms of words when there were 2 declarations, one which renounced all other allegiances and a second one which declared allegiance. I was glad when that was changed. It may be true that renunciation has no legal effect in international law. Nationality is declared by a nation itself. The matter of dual nationality is a complex one, as events of recent days have shown. But if we remove the provision for renunciation we indicate clearly that we as a country are prepared to tolerate other people interfering in our affairs and, more particularly, having an influence over and an effect upon people who desire to become Australians.
We should be able to say at all times that our citizens have declared themselves .o be true and loyal to the head of state of Australia because they have officially renounced all their other allegiances. By having the declaration on our statute books that the Queen is our head of state according to the 5 June 1973 style and title which the Government is proposing, and by including the reference to renunciation, our migrant citizens will be protected and we will guard against situations in which migrants might use their citizenship unscrupulously. We must be in a position to say that we have official evidence of renunciation. I commend the amendment to the Committee and to the Minister.
– I support the amendment moved by Senator Davidson. I do not propose to traverse the matter at any length. I say simply that I accept the reasoning behind his amendment. I think it does 2 things: Firstly, it makes the matter more emotionally acceptable and, secondly, it makes it more legally certain. I support the amendment and I accept the logic which led so ineluctably to the propounding of that amendment.
– As an independent senator I would like to say a few words on this matter. I believe, as Senator Davidson pointed out, that the Bill commences in the right terms. It says:
Be it enacted by the Queen, the Senate and the House of Representatives of Australia.
I do not see anything wrong with the oath of allegiance because, after all, people are becoming citizens of Australia. There may possibly be some confusion as to whether they owe their allegiance to the Queen or to the Constitution of Australia. When one has to fill out an application for a passport one never knows whether to describe oneself as Australian’ or ‘British’. We are supposed to be British subjects holding Australian passports. Candidly, I think it is very confusing, especially for someone from another country. If a person who proposes to become a citizen of Australia and who has to swear an oath of allegiance looks at the Act he will find that the Queen is mentioned in it. I cannot see anything wrong with the clause and I will support the Government.
– I certainly support the amendment moved by Senator Davidson. It is completely unacceptable to me to have an oath of allegiance which will read, if the Government’s proposition is accepted, as follows:
It is essential that, while we have a migration program, people coming from other countries should be required to renounce their allegiance to those other countries. It has been said that this is unacceptable, but it is unacceptable to this country that we should have supposed citizens of Australia, or people who wish to become Australian citizens, who still feel in their own minds that they hold an allegiance to the country in which they were nurtured as infants or the country from which they proceeded to Australia.
– Just like the British?
– That is not quite the point. The Australian Labor Party wishes to break down all the tenets that have been followed by Australia in past years. It is not to the Government’s credit that it seeks to suggest to a proposed new citizen that he should not renounce his allegiance to the country from which he. came.If a new citizen is not prepared to renounce the country from which he came his Australian citizenship has no quality. I support the amendment.
– I want to defend the Government’s legislation. With all due deference, I noticed that Senator Davidson said that the matter was not just a question of jingoism. I know that he meant what he said. Following speakers referred to the use of the terms ‘the Crown’ or ‘the Constitution’. Some Australians, apparently as a result of a forum of inferiority complex, appear to expect migrants to become super-citizens. All honourable senators are exhorted at times to be aware of the oath we take to uphold the Constitution. That is always uppermost in our minds. But some people have the idea that if you keep referring to the concept of Australia you are more or less subversive. As I mentioned at the second-reading stage of the Bill, other countries, including New Zealand and the United Kingdom, do not expect people acquiring their citizenship to renounce their countries of origin or their relationships to those countries. Numerous Dutch people have objected to being forced more or less to pour scorn on their own monarch, but that has not made them starry-eyed radicals. It shows a gross inferiority complex on our part that we force our migrants to be more loyal than anybody else. A scrap of paper or something of that sort does not mean anything. If the Commonwealth of Nations means partnership and if New Zealand and Britain have an area in which to operate, that is sufficient here. It is quite obvious that Britain has said - Mr Carr in the House of Commons argued this - that with all due respect to our partnership of nations, to show a distinction between the rights, responsibilities and wellbeing of British citizens and those of citizens of Canada, Australia and New Zealand, Britain will draw a fine line. This legislation is on all fours with that approach.
I am prompted by the constructive suggestions of Senator Negus about passports. Honourable senators opposite have referred to Arthur Calwell as a former Minister for Immigration. In 1949 when he amended the then Citizenship Act so that it meant something in relation to Australian passports, the counterparts of the present Opposition were then just as vigorous in implying that it was semi-treasonable. It was not. However, with the effluxion of time they have accepted a lot of what Arthur Calwell said when he was a Labor leader. As far as the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) was concerned in his discussion with the residents at Buckingham Palace, it was not a question of any story seeping out that we are going to raise the red flag over Parliament House. This is a simple evolutionary process. There will be other legislation dealing with the titles and symbols that are used and it is for that reason that I now appeal to the Opposition, lt is virtually selling its country short. When citizens come here from another land their whole idea is to become Australians and in time they accept the fact that the official head is the Queen of Australia. This attitude shows a general tendency. Between the 2 wars Mackenzie King, the Prime Minister of Canada, was the first to question inferiority amongst members of the Commonwealth of Nations. We have progressed from that and this is a logical step to bring that concept through in legislative form.
– The Government does not accept the amendment moved by Senator Davidson and I propose to set out briefly the reasons. At present the Citizenship Act 1948-1969 provides in Schedule 2 for the following form of Oath of Allegiance to be taken by candidates for Australian citizenship:
I, A. B., renouncing all other allegiance, swear by Almightly God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Sec ond, Her heirs and Successors according to law, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Australia and fulfil my duties as an Australian citizen.
It will be noted that this Oath of Allegiance makes no reference to the Queen as the Queen of Australia. The Royal Style and Titles prescribed in 1953, 20 years ago, and still required by law, reads:
Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom, Australia and Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.
The Bill to amend the Citizenship Act provides in Schedule 2 that the Oath of Allegiance shall be in the following form:
I, A. B., swear by Almighty God that I will faithfully uphold the Constitution of Australia, observe the laws of Australia and fulfil my duties as an Australian citizen.
Two basic changes will be brought about by the adoption of the new form of Oath of Allegiance. Firstly, candidates for citizenship will no longer be required to renounce their former allegiances. Secondly, there will no longer be direct reference to the Monarch but rather .the candidate will undertake to uphold the Australian Constitution in which, of course, the role of the Monarch is just as important as before. General explanations of the reasons for the proposed changes are contained in the second reading speech that I made on this Bill on behalf of the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby). During the Committee stage of the Bill’s passage through another place, the Opposition in the House of Representatives moved an amendment that the Oath of Allegiance should be in the following form:
I, A.B., renouncing all other allegiance, swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second of Australia, Her heirs and successors according to law, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Australia and fulfil my duties of an Australian citizen.
That amendment in the House of Representatives was defeated. Now Senator Davidson, after having produced one amendment, came in here this afternoon with another amendment which he proposes should be inserted in the Schedule. It reads: 1, A.’B., renouncing all other allegiance, swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her ‘Majesty Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Australia, Her heirs and successors according to law, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Australia and fulfil my duties as an Australian citizen.
The Government is opposed to any amendment to the proposed new form of oath of allegiance and suggests that the following arguments are sound reasons for there being no change proposed or adopted by the Senate at this time. Firstly, neither the existing oath under the 1948-69 Act nor the oath proposed under the amendments moved in the House of Representatives or here refers to the Monarch in the manner appropriate to Her Royal Style and Titles as prescribed by the Royal Style and Titles Act 1953. Secondly, the Queen, in discussions with the Australian Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) during his recent visit to London, approved a change to the existing Royal Style and Titles for application in Australia. A Bill has already been introduced into the House of Representatives to change the Queen’s Royal Style and Titles in Australia to the following:
Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God Queen of Australia and Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth.
The Royal Style and Titles Bill if passed by Parliament will not receive royal assent before the Queen visits Australia in October next. Thirdly, there is doubt as to the propriety of the present oath which does not use the Queen’s approved Royal Style and Titles. Fourthly, in view of all these matters it seems common sense to have a form of words which leaves the allegiance unchanged but will end confusion under future legislation over the current description. Therefore, the Minister for Immigration and the Government are not opposed to promising a review of the oath of allegiance at some time in the future after the new Royal Style and Titles have been introduced, if this is necessary, but for the present time strongly wish the oath now proposed in the Schedule to this Bill to be enacted. For those reasons the Government cannot accept the amendment proposed by Senator Davidson.
I might briefly say that on the question of renunciation to which I made brief mention during the course of my reply in the second reading stage, I pointed out that in the second reading speech it was stated that renunciation of other allegiance has been a cause of great emotional misgivings amongst people who want to become Australians. People who have come to Australia for settlement have continued to live and remain in Australia but have not taken out Australian citizenship. I am given to understand that there are about one million people in that category. The Govern ment believes that one of the reasons why there remain in Australia so many people who have not yet taken out Australian citizenship is this clause requiring them to renounce other allegiance. For those reasons the Government believes that the amendment moved by Senator Davidson is not in the best interests of Australia. It believes that this legislation and the oath contained in the Schedule to the Bill should be supported by the Senate and I trust that the Senate will show its wisdom by supporting the Government’s legislation.
– I am surprised at the inadequacy of the argument put forward by the Government for the retention of the words which it proposes in the Bill. The Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) quite wisely and helpfully read through for us the several forms of words, both as they exist in the present Act and as they apply to the Royal style and title and to my own amendment this afternoon, and included a reference to the Constitution. After indicating his opposition to my amendment, the Minister gave what he described as reasons. He said that there had been a discussion between Her Majesty the Queen and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). There was a reference to the forthcoming Royal Style and Titles Bill and to the situation that arises concerning the royal assent, which we expect to be given later in the year.
The Minister said there was some doubt about the propriety of the present forms of words that were contained in the present oaths of allegiance in the Act and said, amongst other things, that the proposed form of words in the Government’s Bill was a commonsense form to meet a given situation. The Minister concluded by implying - I do not have his own words - that, at best, the form of words in the Bill were for the time being. They were there for a present circumstance and were to be reviewed later. I gained a strong impression that the Government in due course will give deep consideration to the proposed new style and titles for Her Majesty the Queen and although the Minister did not say so, I gained the impression that the Government might be inclined to include them in some later form of words. In short, we were clearly persuaded by the Minister this afternoon that the form of words in the Bill are only of a temporary nature. I turn now to the Minister’s second reading speech where he referred to this matter. He stated:
The second feature of the oathor affirmation is that allegiance is to be sworn to the Constitution of Australia. Specific mention of the Queen is not made, but of course allegiance to our Constitution fully embraces allegiance to the Throne. All that is sought by this change is to clarify the real position for those candidates for our citizenship who find it hard to understand why they are to swear allegiance to a monarch they have understood to be primarily Queen of another country where they have never lived and never intend to live. Again this seeks to remove a condition of granting citizenship that burdened some of our migrants more than others. It also obviates the confusion which exists in law between the Queen of Australia and the Queen of the United Kingdom, Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
If there is one continuing theme that runs through that paragraph of the Minister’s speech, it is permanency. The reference in the speech is permanent. It is to lay down a form of words that, in the opinion of the Government, will be permanent. Yet, when I moved an amendment this afternoon, the best the Minister can do about the form of words in the Bill is to say that they are only temporary. I reject his arguments and ask the Committee to carry the amendment.
– I intervene only briefly in the dispute in view of Senator Davidson’s last utterances. One thing that stands crystal clear is the constitutional aspect of the Queen and her Ministers. It so happens that the Australian Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), who received a mandate from the people in December of last year, attended Buckingham Palace and discussed with Her Majesty certain contemplated legislation. Opposition speakers, perhaps wittingly or unwittingly, have developed a dispute something like the one between Lord Strickland and the Maltese Government in years gone by or even the celebrated case of the New South Wales Premier Lang and the then Governor, Sir Philip Game. If either of those situations were to arise in this case, although it is 1973, does anyone imagine that some indication that the Royal Family was displeased with the supposed arrogance of the Prime Minister would not have percolated from Buckingham Palace to the British Government and even back to the Opposition in Australia? That has not happened.
I repeat even at this eleventh hour that this Bill is the simple implementation of the wishes of a Government that has the concurrence of the Queen who, after consultation, has accepted the fact that her Ministers have recommended a certain course of action.
Senator Douglas McClelland has indicated what is intended by the phraseology of the Bill. It simply means at this point of time that the Queen has accepted the advice of a legally elected Prime Minister. If there is one thing that has been argued in this and other debates, it is that the monarchy is above party politics. I repeat that the Prime Minister in his wisdom visited the monarch in London and outlined what was contemplated. I repeat that it was not an issue similar to the dispute between Lord Strickland and the Maltese Government or even Governor Game and Premier Lang in New South Wales. So, let us return to a degree of reality. It is a simple request which involves a number of other consequential legislative enactments and does not signify a dispute, as some people are trying to imply, between the throne and the Commonwealth Government. Therefore, it is a clear cut area of responsibility between a government having a mandate and a constitutional monarch accepting that fact. That is all that is involved and that is what Senator Douglas McClelland endeavoured to get across to the Opposition this afternoon.
That the clause proposed to be left out (Senator Davidson’s amendment) be left out.
The Committee divided.
The Chairman (Senator Prowse)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the clause proposed to be inserted (Senator Davidson’s amendment) be inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator Prowse)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Remainder of Bill- by leave- taken as a whole.
– I intrude in this debate for one purpose only and that is to seek from the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) some indication of the Government’s intentions. I notice that in the transitional provisions there is a number of clauses which indicate what is to happen in the intervening time. But I refer to the fact that an anomaly under the Electoral Act does not appear to have been taken up. The result of this measure will be that a British subject cannot become an Australian citizen until the lapse of 3 years but he may, as a British subject, enrol and vote in this country after 6 months. Is it proposed to alter that provision? What is to be the Government’s way of resolving that situation?
– While Senator Douglas McClelland is obtaining some advice from the Draftsman I shall add a little to the matter. My understanding is that under the present law a person who is a British subject and in fact a citizen, if one may call him that, of the United Kingdom is required to enrol here and vote after 6 months residence although he may never become an Australian citizen. So whatever anomalies it might be suggested are in the proposed law it is certainly less anomalous than the extraordinary situation where a citizen of a country can be forced to enrol and vote. The act of enrolling and voting is generally regarded throughout the world as an indication of citizenship. Indeed, it is regarded so strongly in some countries that I understand one could forfeit one’s citizenship if one is shown to have enrolled or voted in another country. Apparently Senator Douglas McClelland is now ready to give the formal answer which has been supplied to him.
– My advisers have advised me that this Bill has to go back to the House of Representatives for its acceptance of the Senate’s amendment.
– Or rejection.
– Or rejection. Until this Bill is in fact passed, British citizens will be able to become Australian citizens within one year, as is the situation at the present time. It remains to be seen whether the House of Representatives will accede to or reject the Senate’s amendment.
– Can one take is from what the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) has said that this matter will be looked at? I know that it was raised during the course of the debate in the House of Representatives on the motion for the second reading of the Bill. Whilst appreciating the point which Senator Murphy has made, the contrast becomes so much the greater when it is realised that a person may not become an Australian citizen, even though he be a British subject, until 3 years of residence in Australia have elapsed, yet he may vote after being in Australia for 6 months. The Minister has said that the Senate’s amendment will be examined when the Bill goes, as it now must, back to the other place. I trust that we can assume that this matter also will be looked at in the intervening period.
– The subject of voting rights has nothing to do with this piece of legislation, but I will draw Senator Greenwood’s comments to the attention of the relevant minister in another place. His attention will be drawn to those comments at the time when the House of Representatives is considering whether it should accept or reject the amendment which has been proposed by the Senate.
– The subject of voting rights may not have anything to do with this Bill, but I think the public of Australia, particularly the British people in Australia who hitherto have had certain privileges, ought to be alerted to the fact that if this Bill ever becomes law, unless someone makes very strong action against the present anti-British Government, British people in Australia will not have the right to vote for at least 3 years. That is the point which in my belief was raised by Senator Greenwood’s wise interception. The public should know what is happening.
– Lest the remarks of Senator Marriott should confuse the public, I should say that my understanding - confirmed by the nods of the advisers sitting next to Senator Douglas McClelland - is that there is no substance whatever in Senator Marriott’s suggestion. This Bill will not affect voting rights. Indeed, had Senator Marriott listened carefully to Senator Greenwood’s opening remarks on this topic he would have understood that not only the voting rights but also, as I understand it, the obligations are to remain exactly as they were. The point Senator Greenwood was making, as I understood it, was that he thought that this disclosed an anomalous situation. Senator Marriott can rest assured that his suggestions to those who are British citizens about any interference with their voting rights have no substance. Notwithstanding that they remain citizens of another country they will still be, in a curious way, compelled to enrol and vote after 6 months residence in Australia.
– I wish to add to what Senator Murphy has said by saying simply that my advisers have advised me that the Bill will not change the situation whereby citizens of Com monwealth countries, irrespective of whether they become citizens, continue to have the status of British or Commonwealth of Nations subjects and as such have privileges such as the right to vote and eligibility to be appointed to the Public Service under Acts of Parliament
Remainder of Bill agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment.
Motion (by Senator Douglas McClelland) proposed:
That the report of the Committee be adopted.
– I intervene simply to say and have it understood that, notwithstanding the fact that the Government, in accordance, with the usual practice, is moving for the adoption of the report of the Committee and that the report of the Committee includes an amendment to a clause of the Bill, the Government is not accepting that the Bill should be amended. It is clear that by proceeding with the present course of action and adopting the usual motions which will now be put the Senate is failing to pass a piece of Government legislation. It is on that understanding that this motion has been proposed, and of course proposed in accordance with the usual practice, by the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland). A motion for the adoption of the report of the Committee has been proposed because that is what the Committee decided, but that decision was against the wishes of the Government and the Government regards it as a further instance of the Senate’s failure to pass legislation.
– I rise to respond only briefly to Senator Murphy’s remarks. I do so lest there be some misconception arising from what he said. The essence of Senator Murphy’s proposition, if analysed, is that the Government’s will must prevail not only in the House of Representatives but also in the Senate. That is a view which has never prevailed in the Senate where the Government does not have the numbers. We heard and maybe have learned from what Senator Murphy said during the years that he was in Opposition, namely that the Senate had a role to fulfil as a House of review. When in Opposition he constantly challenged
Government legislation and constantly moved amendments to it. He was frequently able to persuade a majority of the Senate to carry amendments to Government legislation. That was justified on the basis that the Senate was fulfilling its function as a House of review. The position does not change just because there has been a change in Government. Those who have listened to the debate on this Bill will appreciate that the points of difference, between the Government and the Opposition on it were real and valid ones, and that the view which prevailed with the majority of the Senate - I think there were 31 senators in favour and 25 senators against - was that we should retain the oath of allegiance in the form in which the Government has itself proposed it in its Royal Style and Titles Bill. The arguments put forward by Senator Davidson were, I think very persuasive ones. The Government may say and take the view that this represents a failure to pass legislation, but I think it should, be recognised that we of the Opposition have a responsibility to scrutinise and examine all legislation and, in the manner of past Oppositions, to seek to persuade the majority of this place that the view we are putting forward is the right view. I believe that that is a part of our legislative process. The Opposition will continue to discharge, its functions responsibly.
– I wish to say that I see no necessity for Government senators, whenever we take action in regard to a Bill, to stand up and stress the point that we have failed to pass the Bill. We all know the constitutional situation; it is quite clear. What is the necessity for this meaningless repetition by Government senators that we have done a certain thing which means that we have not passed the Bill? I suppose this is meant to be a threat. AH I can say is that it is an empty threat. Therefore, I suggest that the Government make out its list of all the Bills which it claims we have failed to pass, and when the right time comes it can go over the road and put in its plea. But I see no reason why time after time we should be plagued with this kind of thing. We are now reaching the stage of the Government warning us about failing to pass Bills before we have even dealt with them. I have here a ukase or declaration, whatever one likes to call it, which is signed ‘Clyde R. Cameron’ and which was given to the Press at Stockholm on 2 June 1973. It reads:
The Senate has no mandate to withdraw the main ingredients from the Government’s prescription for healthier industrial relations and Liberal, DLP, and Country Party senators must now take responsibility for a continuation of the present breakdown in labour relations.
Mr Cameron also says:
I have now decided that during the Budget session I will recommend that the Senate be presented with another Bill restoring the vital clauses rejected by the Opposition senators because industrial peace is absolutely essential . . .
So we have now reached the stage where we are threatended with a double dissolution not only after we have dealt with a Bill but also before we have dealt with a Bill. The statement comes from Stockholm. If the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) were so interested in the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, I would have thought that he would have stayed here in Australia to supervise its passage through this chamber. I hope that we will not receive any more threats, either after the event or before the event.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Douglas McClelland) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
– In view of the remarks made by Senator McManus, perhaps the Senate is entitled to some explanation, which I thought was given shortly when 1 rose to speak previously. Under the procedures that are followed in the Senate, when a certain course is followed at the Committee stage and a report is then made to the Senate itself the Minister in charge of the Bill under consideration moves for the adoption of the report of the Committee and the Bill is reported to the Senate with any amendments that may have been made to it. But it is necessary to make it clear that in moving the motion for the adoption of the Committee’s report the Government is not thereby endorsing and accepting the alterations which have been made to the Bill at the Committee stage.
What might follow as a result of the Opposition’s action is quite obvious to us all, but it is important for the sake of the record and those who may have to peruse it that it be made clear that the Government is not accepting .the situation and it regards what is being done as a failure to pass its legislation. That is all that it is necessary to have recorded. What has been said by honourable senators about the rights of the Senate to take this course is another matter altogether. But the Government is entitled to have what is happening on the record in clear terms so that in the future there may be no misunderstanding about what has actually transpired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 8 May (vide page 1392), on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I understand that we are to have a cognate second reading debate on the States Grants (Advanced Education) Bill, the States Grants (Universities) Bill, the States Grants (Universities) Bill (No. 2) and the States Grants (Technical Training) Bill- If the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) would like to make, the necessary arrangements and if other honourable senators are agreeable, I indicate that the Opposition is happy to follow that course.
– If the Opposition requires that course of action to be taken, the Government has no objection to the 4 Bills being taken together. I understand that at the Committee stage the Opposition intends to move amendments in relation to two of these Bills; so perhaps those 2 Bills could be taken separately at a later stage.
– For the purposes of the second reading debate, it is proposed that orders of the day Nos 3, 4, 5 and 6 be taken together. Is that the wish of the Senate? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
– 1 confirm that at the Committee stage we wish to have two of the Bills taken separately from the others because it is proposed to move amendments in relation to them. I wish to speak in this cognate debate on certain aspects of these Bills, and my colleague from the Liberal Party Opposition, Senator Davidson, will be speaking on certain other aspects. I propose to deal only with the provisions of the Bills which make available a total of $3m for assistance to needy students. Senator Davidson will be dealing with the grants provided for libraries as well as the technical education aspects of these Bills.
I simply remind the Senate that the Bills with which we are dealing provide a total of $3m for application by the universities and the colleges of advanced education in Australia for the assistance of needy students who find themselves unable to continue their courses or unable to commence their courses for various reasons related to financial problems which can be overcome by the granting of assistance by way of either grant or loan. Of the total of $3m provided for, $2,096,000 is to be made available to the State universities, $69,000 is to be made available to the Australian National University in Canberra and the remainder is to be made available through the States to the colleges of advanced education.
The Oppostion entirely concurs in the proposal that these grants be made available on virtually a no strings attached basis. They are unmatched grants which are made under section 96 of the Constitution. They will continue, we believe, a form of assistance to students which has been an important part of the Liberal-Country Party attitude towards education for many years. We believe that there is a need for special assistance to be given to some students. This is outlined well in part of the third report of the Australian Commission on Advanced Education which was presented last year. I shall quote a small portion of that report to indicate some of the current thought in relation to this matter. At page 83 the report states:
Statistics have been quoted in various studies to indicate the incidence of mental and physical illhealth among students in tertiary institutions, but the unreliability of many of the quoted figures makes interpretation of them difficult. The Commission feels that further investigation should be undertaken to define areas of student need as a precursor to the establishment of effective medical, guidance and counselling services. It is only by exposing such areas of need that a suitable basis can be established for the development of services adequate to handle tha great variety of problems which presently exist. Such services would need to be staffed by people whose collective training and experience would represent sufficient scope and depth to accommodate problems ranging from the most severe to the comparatively minor.
An adjunct to the development which has already commenced in many areas of education in the provision of that type of service is the necessity to assist students the counselling of whom and contact with whom show that their problem is related to matters which can be overcome by the provision of financial assistance. The general need to provide assistance to students has been recognised for a long time. The attitude of the Opposition has been one of consistent development and consistent extension of the provision of scholarships and of assistance of various forms to students. Some comparative figures show this. In 1961 only 4,800 scholarships were available. These have now been increased substantially. Last year, as a result of progressive increases by the Liberal-Country Party Government through the 1960s and early 1970s, a total of more than 72,000 students were receiving assistance from Commonwealth Government scholarships.
One other aspect of this matter which should be referred to in view of some of the comments made by the Minister for the Media in his second reading speech, concerns the increases’ which were made by the previous Government in its recognition of the need., of education in Australia and its commencement and development of a program of proper assistance for education and the proper application of funds. Such assistance has shown a steady increase from the time that the Commonwealth Government recognised that the need was beyond the capacity of the States, and took steps to intervene to make money available particularly for tertiary education. Then there was the development of assistance to other forms of education. The annual increases varied from year to year - from approximately 33 per cent to between 15 per cent to 20 per cent during the last few years. For instance, in the last Budget prepared by the former Government there was an increase of 23 per cent in the total amount of fundi made available to education in Australia.
I comment further that the new Government had, as a plank of its Party platform and as a policy promise, that massive assistance would be given to education in Australia. Personally, as an individual interested in the development of education in Australia, I can only applaud some of the steps which have been taken already by the Government. I have been most interested to see, but I will not pause to debate it now, the Karmel Committee report. One of the points the Opposition would like to make is, that, notwithstanding any of the steps which may be taken by the Government next year to provide free university education or free tertiary education, a need will still exist to assist some students with their financial affairs. The Opposition sees the likelihood that the type of assistance provided by these Bills will need to continue and that it will be necessary to make money available to what could be known as the Vice-Chancellor’s Fund - a fund from which assistance can be given to individuals in particular and peculiar need within a tertiary education institution. The Opposition does not think that this proposal by the new Government is likely to terminate next year, as the Minister’s second reading speech seems to indicate. We see it as being likely to continue and therefore believe that it is necessary that there should be some degree of accountability and reporting in relation to the success, or otherwise, of the operation of the fund and the extent to which the moneys provided are adequate for the purposes. Therefore, when the Committee stage debate is reached, the Opposition proposes to move amendments to 2 of the Bills. The amendments will be in broad terms and will seek to have information provided, to the Parliament through the Australian Universities Commission and the Australian Commission on Advanced Education, so that it can determine the needs of students and the success of these forms of assistance to students in Australia.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– We are concerned this evening with a number of education Bills which provide funds for a variety of purposes, including advances for technical education, libraries, the training of an extra number of social workers and assistance to needy students. I wish to continue my remarks relating to assistance to needy students. I had pointed out that the former Liberal-Country Party Government supported the general theory of the need for and the desirability of providing assistance to students to enable them to undertake tertiary education. The type of assistance to be provided under these Bills by way of grants to needy students through universities and colleges of advanced education is supported by the Opposition as a continuation of the theme which it has supported for many years. The Opposition proposes to move an amendment in the Committee stage in relation to certain aspects of the Bills. I shall detail that amendment in the Committee stage. I simply point out at this stage that the Opposition in the House of Representative moved an amendment which contained a number of details as to matters upon which reporting through the Australian Universities Commission or the Australian Commission on Advanced Education should take place. As a result of discussion with some members of the Australian Universities Commission we now believe that this is unnecessary. I understand from the Australian Commission on Advanced Education that it has a similar view. Accordingly, the Opposition will be moving an amendment in a very abbreviated form which we trust will enable statistical information to be provided to ensure that in future years reconsideration can take place as to the effectiveness of and need for this type of assistance and so that the scheme can be reviewed from time to time.
We take the view that, notwithstanding the proposed alteration to provide so-called free education in tertiary institutions, there will still be circumstances in which it will be necessary to help individual students. We would also point out very clearly that we do not wish to be taken as interfering, either directly or indirectly, with the autonomy of universities and colleges of advanced education in exercising their own discretion in the application of funds in the best interests of students. Universities and colleges of advanced education know the students’ interests and will see that the students’ interests are served within the general terms outlined by the Minister for Education, Mr Beazley, in the House of Representatives. I emphasise that the proposed amendment should not be taken as indicating that the Opposition requires criteria to be imposed by the Parliament in relation to the application of these moneys, that is, other than the general requirement that the funds be used to assist needy students within the terms of the Bill. It is not intended to impose any restrictions upon the autonomy of those bodies in dealing with the funds which are provided to them. The Opposition believes it is desirable that there should be a reporting through the 2 Commissions which were set up by the Liberal-Country Party Government, that these are appropriate bodies to deal with the allocation of funds to universities and colleges of advanced education for the needs of students and that the reports from these bodies should make available to the Parliament information as to the operation of these schemes.
I refer now to the aspect of accountability. I think it is of some interest to look briefly at the report of the Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission which sets out a principle to which I think we could pay some regard in general terms. Page 162 of the report, which is commonly known as the Karmel Committee report, states:
The Committee believes that the establishment of regular reporting procedures regarding the use of Australian Government grants and the condition of schools is of paramount importance, lt envisages that after consultation with the appropriate school authorities the Commission should establish a set of standard statistical forms covering all aspects of pupils, staffing, buildings and equipment, and finance.
The Committee is generally supporting the principle which has been referred to in a number of other reports, such as the Martin Committee Report which was presented in August 1964. Page 68 of that report referred to the need expressed by the Australian Universities Commission for adequate up-to-date statistical information in many universities. The report went on to refer in more detail to the need for information in relation to students, how they were progressing, pass rates and various other matters. All those aspects are matters about which we are concerned so that the necessary background can be provided for other steps to be taken to improve the operation of our tertiary education institutions. I reiterate that the amendment which the Opposition is to move in the Committee stage will be moved in full support of the Bills Rather than in any way altering the operation of the Bills, the Opposition believes that the amendment will enable the principle behind them to be further developed in future years. It is to ensure that Parliament is provided with the information that we see as being necessary for the further development of this principle that we will be moving the amendment. We support the Bills relating to the assistance to be given to needy students. I will leave my colleague, Senator Davidson, to speak on the other aspects of the Bills, which by arrangement and in view of the time factors imposed upon this chamber at the moment we have divided between us. However, I make the point that there are a number of aspects that, given time, I would personally have liked to comment on. I shall take the opportunity when it arises in the new session of Parliament to do so.
– My comments on the 4 Bills will be brief for very much the same reason as Senator Rae indicated. The whole area of education these days is an exciting and challenging one. Developments in the field of education would excite a wide-ranging debate, given the opportunity. However, I shall comment very briefly on the 4 Bills that we have been asked to discuss together. The States Grants (Advanced Education) Bill 1973 provides $5m for libraries in the 1973-75 period without any requirement of a matching State contribution. It provides §40,000 for post-graduate social work in 1973. It provides $3m to universities and colleges of advanced education. A certain amount has been provided to colleges of advanced education for special assistance to students suffering financial hardship. I think these are all very worthy aims and provided the money is directed and spent wisely it will be of great benefit in achieving those aims.
AH the institutions which will benefit are centered in the capital cities. I think at this time we should be paying greater attention than we are giving to the needs of education in country areas. I know that it is an expensive business to do so. J know that it is much easier to concentrate on education in the cities, but the need is perhaps greater in the country towns, particularly for libraries in country high schools where there is” no alternative such as the public libraries which are available in the cities. Many alternative sources of library facilities are available to city students. If the Government wants to get mo/e balance in providing adequate education for our people it will have to broaden its approach, expensive though that will be.
The States Grants (Universities) Bill will provide assistance for needy university students. However, I think that the decision to abolish fees in the 1974 academic year is a great mistake. It will remove the necessity for a great number of students to pay fees, although they or their parents could afford to do so, and to that extent it will impose a greater load on the general taxpayers who have to finance universities. In the past the Commonwealth has provided scholarships for the payment of fees and I think it would have been better to have expanded that approach rather than to abolish fees. I think the approach adopted is mistaken and shortsighted. The States Grants (Universities) Bill (No. 2) will provide additional money to train qualified social workers and obviously they are needed. The purpose behind the Bill is to provide something for which there is a great need and we welcome it.
I am interested in the additional $10m which is to be provided under the States Grants (Technical Training) Bill, one of this group of 4 Bills dealing with education. The proposal is to increase the amount of money available over a 3-year period from $3 6m to $46m. I hope that the extra $10m will pro*, vide some increase in the benefits obtainable, from expanded technical training and will not be absorbed in the overall costs. We can visualise costs escalating in the general inflationary situation and within the next 3 years that escalation could very well absorb the whole of that $10m without providing any real increase in the benefits which are the ostensible aim of this Bill. Again I wonder how much of this money will be available in country centres. I note that the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) said that additional sites will be acquired. In doing this I think it would be well to give more consideration to the needs of people outside the metropolitan areas. When the Government is considering the provision of extra assistance in order to develop technical train) ing facilities there is a case for a proposition that was put up many years ago to develop country centres in which Aboriginal and other Australian children could be trained together. There is a tremendous need for such centres, particularly for Aboriginal people. A great number of part-Aboriginal people live under difficult conditions in country centres where their future employment opportunities depend upon their gaining some technical skills. I suggest that if the Government wants to achieve the best from this expenditure it should look at the development of technical training centres in country areas which will provide this sort of education and training for all the people there and thus achieve a real advance in the status and usefulness of these people in our community. I support the Bil and I will be very interested to see the amendment which is to be moved during the Committee stage.
– My remarks will be “brief. These Bills are noncontentious. They provide for improvements in education for which the Government and the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) deserve commendation. However, I want to issue one warning. These Bills represent only a portion of the increased expenditure on education which the Government has promised and I feel a certain amount of concern after glancing at some of the amounts to be provided. Ali honourable senators know that in the community at present there is much concern over the economic situation. The stock market is down and prices of real estate are rising. Real estate prices are rising because the people in the community who believe that they know the economy are taking their mosey from the stock market and other places and investing it in real state which they believe will retain its comparative value whatever happens. Therefore I think that this Government is too lavish in the expenditure which it is undertaking.
Many of the projects on which the Government is spending money are of a desirable character but I do not see how it can bring about the millennium in the first 12 months of office. There is an urgent necessity for a scale of importance to be developed in connection with many of these projects and they should take their turn as finance becomes available rather than imposed on the community at the one time as appears to be the case at present. Honorable senators can understand that people become scared when they hear the 35-hour working week, equal pay and all kinds of other measures being advocated. They are all desirable but are we able to achieve these aims all at once? In the case of education, I saw a statement by one of the teacher organisations that it had been promised $ 1,434m by the Australian Labor Party last year if it was elected and that was only for certain aspects of education. Without desiring in any way to suggest that I do not support improvements in education, I would say that when so many things have been promised there is need for a little more caution.
Finally I want to say that the Government has promised to do away with fees and in the case of students and parents of students whose resources are not very great that decision will be very welcome, but I think that the Government, particularly in view of the many avenues in which money is to be spent, ought to say to itself: ‘Are we sure that we are going to get value?’ Honourable senators should look at the records of Australian universities. I made a survey of them last year and would like to quote from them but I shall not do so because that would take a long time. However, if they look at the records they would be appalled at the number of students who enter Australian universities and do not complete the first year. The lesson is that instead of building more and more universities we ought to bring about some system of testing or examining students to ensure that those who go to universities and cost the country these immense sums of money really are qualified to take advantage of a university course.Their education should perhaps proceed in another direction. But I do believe that the fact of so many students attending universities - at immense cost to this Government - who the records show are unable even to complete the first year must be taken into consideration before we start spending money widely on education. I conclude by saying: Let us provide all the money that education needs but let us be very careful to ensure that it is spent wisely and that we are getting value.
– The 4 Bills before the Senate tonight - the States Grants (Advanced Education) Bill 1973, the States Grants (Universities) Bill 1973, the States Grants (Universities) Bill (No. 2) 1973 and the States Grants (Technical Training) Bill 1973 - are 4 major operations, each of a major nature in itself. I am bound to say as I commence my contribution to this discussion that it is a matter of some disappointment to me that we have not had an opportunity of devoting a little more time to them and at the same time devoting a little more time and attention to each Bill individually because, as you, Mr Acting Deputy President, will recognise, they simply cannot be lumped together as education measures. One Bill deals with avanced education and 2 with universities. They deal with a social situation, as my colleague Senator Rae has referred to it. They deal with technical training, libraries and related matters.
– Then why hurry them? We have plenty of time.
– I am not hurrying them, I am just expressing my sense of personal disappointment that they have been grouped together. I know it may be easy to have a common debate on 4 cognate measures but I emphasise that these are 4 measures which cover a wide range of education, a vast range of people and a wide range of areas which I shall call, simply and fairly generally, social and community affairs. As was said earlier tonight, one Bill provides for grants to the States for the assistance of needy students while others will enable the University of Sydney and the University of Melbourne to increase the number of students being trained as social workers. Yet another provides for a grant of §5m for libraries in Colleges of Advanced Education while the fourth deals with matters relating to technical training. I want for a short time tonight to deal with some of the measures that are covered by this fairly inclusive arrangement of Bills. 1 want to refer in particular to the measure which provides for the training of social workers. In the second reading speech on this Bill the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) said among other things:
Present day living is becoming increasingly more complex and this complexity provides social problems, especially m urban communities, which demand the expertise of the professional social worker for their solution.
Attention has been drawn in many ways and in many debates in this Senate to the danger of making sweeping generalisations about social problems. It is a fairly easy thing for those of us who are interested in social welfare to make sweeping generalisations. I think that one always has to be careful that such generalisations are supported by evidence, be it statistical or otherwise. There is always a need for careful examination of the social indicators which enable judgments to be made about society and about the steps which the Government of the day may take on welfare issues. Nevertheless, consistent with what I have just said, it is fair enough to point out that the Minister’s second reading speech lacked statistical content to show that there would be approval of his statement that present day living is becoming increasingly more complex and that this complexity does tend to produce a great number of social problems. It is true to observe that the problems are not confined to urban communities for although population tends to concentrate in urban communities where there are a greater number of social problems, there are social problems within rural areas, but because of the fewer people involved little is heard or known about some of these problems.
Of course there can be little objection to a proposal which increases the number of qualified social workers in a community. I think there is generally an inadequate appreci ation of what social workers are. We tend to think of them as people who help individuals, families, communities or groups of persons who happen to be disadvantaged in one way or another and that social workers are expected to contribute to the creation of conditions which will enhance social functioning and prevent personal breakdowns. So traditionally the social worker is committed to helping people adapt to their particular problems and to the social environment in which they find themselves and generally to understand the norms and the quality of life of individuals, families and groups. It is a strange thing in these days when we talk about affluence and our advanced society and quality of life that greater numbers of social workers appear to be needed than ever before in our history. I do not know that it is a credit to our society that at a time when technological advances are so pre-eminent we have a situation in which the same technological advances are imperilling personal relationships and creating problems which require an increasing number of professionally trained social workers who can provide a helping, supporting and enabling role for people in the community.
At the risk of interfering with the judgments that are made by qualified and fairly eminent social workers, it may be queried whether scarce resources in money ana in qualified and experienced teachers should be diverted to provide that which, as honourable senators will recall, is quoted in the secondreading speech as an unmatched grant of $40,000 in 1973 as additional finance in 1974 for the Tasm’anian College of Advanced Education. I have no particular objection to the areas in which these people work. I merely quote this to refer to what is described in the second reading speech as a post-graduate course in social work. Everybody knows that the post-graduate level is in an eminent level from which we expect and indeed do have returned to us advanced and sophisticated services. But I want to make a plea for the area in which the undergraduate level social worker is placed.
I find that there is no statistical evidence that the quality or work capacity of social workers from the post-graduate level is any greater than the work performed by social workers in the undergraduate level. This may be only a passing observation but I do take the opportunity of saying in this context thai it seems to me that there may be a danger that graduates or those in the discipline of the arts who go on to complete a degree in post’graduate social work see themselves perhaps as administrators rather than as social workers. In saying this one may well be accused perhaps of reflecting on the good intentions of these people. But there can be a temptation for people such as these to be more concerned about other matters in the social environment than involving themselves in providing a helpful service for the needy and for those socially disadvantaged. I have no fixed views on this; I merely put it forward as something that I have observed and which has been put to me as being in existence. I use it as a warning that the mere provision of money and circumstances which we all applaud does not necessarily solve all social problems. The people who benefit from this legislation will respond, and the people who have the opportunity of undertaking courses in this discipline, of course, have an even greater responsibility. The need today is for social workers who not only have the capacity to understand what the problems of our society are but also will be prepared to work with people and, of course, to work for them.
In this complexity of Bills before the Senate this evening the second matter to which I want to devote a little time is related to measures to which I referred at the outset of my remarks. Provision is made for grants of money for the provision of libraries in colleges of advanced education. I have been very interested in this matter because I am an enthusiast for the role of libraries in our community as well as in our institutions. We have spoken in previous debates of the great importance of libraries in institutions of learning as well as in communities, States and the nation at large. As with the issue of social workers, it is very easy to generalise and it is also very easy to become enthusiastic aboutsuch an institution as a library and its role in a learning academy or in a community project.
I certainly support what is envisaged in the Bill, and I hope that the library services that are provided for the people who are concerned will be of the utmost value and satisfaction to them. But when we talk about libraries we must move very rapidly beyond the matter of what I call library empire building and filling up great areas of shelves with huge numbers of volumes. As most honourable senators and many people outside the Senate are very well aware, the historic role of libraries is changing. We who are entrusted with consideration of legislation which refers to libraries must seek constantly to underline the fact that the role of libraries is changing and to ask the Government and the Minister concerned what are the changes that are envisaged, what is the research being undertaken regarding the role of a modern library and what is the research being undertaken regarding the many new phases with which a modern library is concerned.
The historic role of a library in communities and in the schools is that of a kind of memory store. Filed away are facts and accumulated knowledge on a wide variety of. subjects assembled over a large number of years. Generally speaking the role of a library is to keep this in storage one way or another and make it available on demand. To this extent a library has filled the rather traditional role of being a passive instrumentality. As such its reputation has sometimes suffered. Perhaps in the future the role of a library will undertake a change insofar as it must be prepared or be in a position to take to itself facilities that make it a centre of information distribution. A library must be able to provide information services. The traditional role of libraries, as you and I understand them, Mr Deputy President, will probably decrease in the future, but even so the traditional role which we understand will still continue. Libraries will continue to play a major role in the information services, although the form of those information services and the form in which information is disseminated to the people depending on such a library will probably change quite dramatically in the next couple of decades. Libraries will have greater and more diverse demands from their users and, what is more, libraries will have more urgent demands from their users than they had in the past. If we are talking about libraries, even in debating a Bill on education, we have to take into account that libraries have to learn to cope with greater, more urgent and more diverse demands upon them. As we say this, of course, we become very well aware that libraries will find that their operating costs will increase quite considerably from year to year, the pressures of these increasing costs will continue.
But the libraries about which we are speaking tonight are not necessarily community libraries, State libraries or city libraries, but they are libraries in colleges of advanced education. They have their special uses, they have their special locations, and their users or clients are in a particular category. Their purpose is also very special because they are related to an educational institution. As we allocate funds for libraries in colleges of advanced education I think it is important to write into the record that a library in a college of advanced education is not just a library placed on its own. A library in a college of advanced education is a series of libraries in a series of colleges, and because they are libraries in a series of colleges they are also libraries situated within ‘the wider and larger community. I express the hope that there will be co-operation between the libraries, particularly within the colleges, and co-operation between the libraries in the colleges and any other libraries which may be adjacent or related in a similar or neighbouring community. So the system of providing funds for libraries, while it may be very laudable in every way, needs to be examined as to the best possible use to which these quite extensive funds can be placed. I hope that as the library system in educational institutions is developed attention will also be paid to a co-operative system and an inter-relationship and inter-dependence both between libraries within colleges and between college libraries and libraries in other educational institutions.
But be that as it may, we also have to think about how libraries will respond to the needs of the users in the future. We have had a feeling within our community that libraries often think of themselves in terms of the collections, the staffs and the buildings; they tend to subscribe to an idea that a library is a place and not a process. I suggest that a library is a process, and the most important ingredient in a library is, of course, the users of a library. Without those users a library simply becomes a place and not a communications centre. If a library is to be of any use at all it must become a communications centre. I hope that as the Bill goes through and as the Government gives attention to the use of libraries it will always regard libraries, especially in colleges of advanced education, as communications centres, because it is essential that the area and discipline of communication be developed to the maximum degree.
Finally I turn to technical training. As the Senate knows, the Bill relating to technical training seeks authority to provide additional $10m to the States for technical training facilities. The existing legislation, as the Minister said in his speech, provided for grants totalling $36m during a 3-year period up to 30 June next year. The purpose of the Bill ls to increase by $10m the funds available in that period. I am interested in the breakdown of this $10m. I see that South Australia is to receive some $933,000. The first thing to be said about this section of these Bills is that the funds that are referred to commenced with a scheme introduced by the previous Liberal-Country Party Government. It goes back some 8 years to 1965 when the scheme was introduced for the provision of unmatched grants to the States. That was $10m for building and equipping technical colleges. The Liberal Government, 2 years ago - that is, in 1971 - increased the amount to $12m. The next step, indicating the concern of the former Government for this area of education, was contained in the policy speech of the then Prime Minister when he made the proposal to provide $20m per annum for this purpose. So, the States Grants (Technical Training) Bill, which is one of the 4 Bills now before the Senate, is an extension of the policy introduced by previous Liberal-Country Party governments.
In the past few years there has been a growing interest in the needs of technical training in Australia. As other honourable senators have done, I wish to refer to the report of the Tripartite Mission on the Training of Skilled Workers in Europe. In that report, which was published a couple of years ago, the Mission stressed in part that ‘there should be adequately trained technicians as there are adequately trained university graduates in the liberal arts and the sciences’. The report stressed the need for greater flexibility to meet technological changes of the future. It seems to me that the increased emphasis on technical education in the future will arise from two or three principal factors. One of these is that, as education standards improve, we will ind that the demand for job satisfaction and the advancement of the individual worker will receive greater emphasis. There will also be a need for increased productivity with growing industrialisation.
As I said at the outset of my remarks tonight, these Bills not only cover education matters but also have a very strong emphasis on social affairs. In the social context there will be a growing demand in the important field of retraining or further training during the working lives of many workers. This will mean that facilities and resources at technical institutions must meet this demand. To do this technical institutions will need to grow at a faster rate than the rate of growth of the skilled work force. I take the opportunity to point out that 2 years ago technical colleges in Australia enrolled a greater number of post-secondary students than all other institutions combined. My research indicates that it is estimated that there were more than 400,000 students enrolled and that they studied in more than 500 distinct courses. These figures alone indicate to the Senate the demand for technical training which existed then. I think you will agree with me, Sir, that that demand is likely to increase.
The role of technical education is not limited singly to the provision of purely vocational courses. Technical education is playing an increasingly important part in providing cultural skills and other varied skills courses for adults who are given the opportunity to develop their talents and their abilities. We talk a great deal today about greatly increased leisure time. It may be one of the factors in a technological age where technical education and technical colleges can play an important part in helping people to use their leisure time, if I may mention that very much overworked and misused word, creatively.
I am interested in this measure also because of my involvement in the work of the Senate Standing Committee on the Commonwealth’s role in Teacher Education. In the course of its meetings that Committee examined the needs of technical education and in the report that it put down in the Senate the Committee found that a very large section of the Australian skilled work force was provided with vocational training by the technical colleges. The Committee recommended that the Commonwealth, through the Australian Commission on Advanced Education, or through another interdepartmental committee, should undertake extra research in this field. We recommended further that special unmatched grants to the States be made by the Commonwealth. We had in mind that these grants could be used to establish or to rebuild technical teacher training institutions because we felt that such institutions should have continuing Commonwealth financial support. We reached these conclusions after an examination of the provisions in each State for the training of technical teachers and a recognition that the provisions in some areas were not satisfactory. In view of the increasing demand for technical education, some areas of which I outlined a few moments ago, we felt that substantial assistance would be needed in the future.
The report on teacher education by the Australian Commission on Advanced Education also underlined the very factors which were contained in the report by the Senate Committee. The Commission recognised that there was a need for special consideration to be given to the need for training of technical teachers. It is interesting to look at the reference made by the Commission to this subject. It stated:
It is necessary to distinguish between preparation for teaching trade certificate and diploma courses of technical colleges, and that for teaching such subjects as industrial arts and crafts, the visual arts, or home science in secondary schools.
So, teachers in technical colleges have a wide variety of qualifications including trade diplomas or certificates. They also have a wide variety of opportunities to assist not only in the technical training field but in the total social context of our society. Teacher education in the technical field is usually acquired by in-service training or part-time courses. Technical teacher training courses often have many years working experience and the report from which I have quoted suggests that the scope of technical teacher training courses may need to widened to include co-operation with industry in the preparation of training officers and other instructors. This means that the measure which is before us tonight still has a wide ranging influence on our society not only with respect to technical training but also in the quality and style of life, which phrases I used earlier today in another debate. Nevertheless, all of the 4 Bills to which I have referred have this kind of wide ranging relationship. The States Grants (Technical Training) Bill will make available additional assistance of $10m I support what my colleague, Senator Rae, said, and we undertake to give support to the amendment which he has foreshadowed for the Committee stage.
Senator RAE (Tasmania) - by leave- I wish to clarify some remarks I made earlier in relation to certain figures. I referred to the total number of student scholarships. I was referring in that context to all types of student scholarships. In 1972 there were, in round figures, 72,000 holders of student scholarships of which more than 46,000 were tertiary student scholarships. I wish to clarify that point as it has been drawn to my attention that there may have been some misunderstanding as a result of what I said earlier.
– In reply - The Government is appreciative of the reasonably expeditious passage that the Opposition has given to these 4 pieces of legislation relating to education. Because of the importance of the legislation I feel that I should reply briefly to some of the comments that have been made by honourable senators opposite who have spoken in this debate. I was delighted to hear Senator Rae make his statement by leave a moment or two ago about the number of scholarships that have been made available. For the record, in 1972 the total scholarships held were made up as follows: University and post-graduate, 38,672; colleges of advanced education, 7,739; secondary and technical, 23,963; in total, the number of scholarships held was 70,374. Senator Rae also said that, apart from the money going to universities, all of the other funds provided by these 4 pieces of legislation would go to the States for the purpose of colleges of advanced education. Basically, what he said is true except that $29,000 will go to the Canberra College of Advanced Education, which is treated in somewhat the same manner as the Australian National University. Certainly that portion of the funds is not going to the States.
Senator Prowse, speaking on behalf of the Australian Country Party, suggested that more attention should be paid to the needs of country students, with particular reference to country high schools. He suggested that there should be a broader approach to the question of libraries. He suggested that aid to schools is not sufficiently broadly described. Of course, aid to schools is catered for in the report of the Australian Schools Commission, a copy of which was tabled in the Senate only last week. That report is yet to be considered by the Government. I think from recollection that Senator Rae, who led on behalf of the Opposition, made brief reference to that report.
Senator McManus, who spoke on behalf of the Australian Democratic Labor Party, suggested that the amounts involved in these pieces of legislation represented only a portion of the increased expenditure that the Government has promised for education. He suggested that the Government should look at the manner in which it is spending its money and that it should ensure that we get value for all the money that is spent on education. He also suggested that we should look at the number of university students who had commenced university courses and who had left the universities either during the course of the year or at the end of their first year. I point out to the honourable senator just briefly that in fact colleges of advanced education on a percentage basis are growing faster than the universities in order to provide the alternative form of education to which Senator McManus has referred. Of course, there is provision in these 4 pieces of legislation for additional assistance for technical training.
Senator Davidson mentioned the expenditure involving social workers. Of course, it is Government policy to provide for an increased number of social workers throughout the community, having regard to the social needs of the community. I do not think for one moment that any member of the Senate, especially one who served on the Senate Standing Committee on Health and Welfare and particularly one who served on the committee of inquiry into the problems of the physically and mentally handicapped, would doubt the desirability of and the great need for additional social workers to be provided in the community. The purpose of the Bill to which Senator Davidson alluded and which is the subject of this legislation provides funds to increase the number of places at 2 universities to achieve this aspect of Government policy to some extent. Of course, postgraduate social work courses are desirable in order to provide for future teachers of social work.
Senator Davidson also referred to libraries. I would refer the honourable senator to the third report of the Australian Commission of Advanced Education, 1973-1975. If the honourable senator looks at page 57 and subsequent pages of that report he will see that fi very large section is devoted to a consideration of college libraries. Alluding to the postgraduate course in social work for Tasmania.. I am told that the provision of this course was due to the particular situation in Tasmania where at present there is no course in social work. There is a demand for social workers in Tasmania and there is a known demand for training in social work from graduates in the arts. Hence, a 2-year postgraduate course will provide the professionally qualified people more quickly than would an undergraduate course which, of course, is normally a 4-year course.
Having answered briefly the important points that have been made by honourable senators opposite, I appreciate the reasonably expeditious manner in which the Opposition has dealt with this legislation. I understand from Senator Rae, as he has said during the course of his second reading speech, that the Opposition will be moving 2 amendments at the Committee stage. One is in relation to the States Grants (Advanced Education) Bill and the other is in relation to the States Grants (Universities) Bill. I appreciate that the other Bills have received the support of the Opposition and perhaps when Senator Rae moves his amendments the Government will consider them and possibly could accede to them. I suggest that we now move from the second reading to the Committee stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I refer to clause 4 which reads in part:
After section 7 of the Principal Act the following sections are inserted:
The financial assistance by way of payment of an amount to a State under sub-section (1) is granted on the condition that the State will ensure that the amount is applied towards assisting students in need.
Leave out sub-section (2) of proposed section 7a, insert the following sub-section:
The financial assistance by way, of payment of an amount to a State under sub-section (1) is granted on the conditions that -
the State will ensure that the amount is applied towards assisting students in need; and
the State will furnish annually to the Commis sion statistics and information in respect of the application of the amount by the State.
By way of brief explanation I simply refer back to the matters which I raised in the second reading debate as to the reasons why the Opposition wishes to move this amendment. I reiterate that it is not intended in any way to curtail or inhibit the operation of the colleges of advanced education in the application of these funds but rather to assist in looking at the future operation and assessing the need for further assistance of this or some other similar type. The amendment is in this form because the Bill provides that the money is to be paid to the States and not directly to the colleges. It is the States which then organise for the money to be paid to the colleges. Provision (a) of the amendment which I moved is already contained in the Bill. The only additional part which we propose is the part under sub-paragraph (b) which requires the States to furnish annually to Colleges of Advanced Education Commission statistics and information in respect of the application of the moneys by the States. It is my understanding that the general aspects of what information is required are well known to the Commission and will be known to the States. It will be possible to be able to supply the statistics in the Commission’s report which is presented to the Parliament. I have therefore moved the amendment and seek the cooperation of the Committee in supporting it.
– The amendment that has been moved by Senator Rae has been discussed by me with my colleague the Minister for Education, whom I represent in the Senate. He and his departmental officers have given consideration to Senator Rae’s amendment. Because it does not interfere with the administration of Government policy on education, and the Department can see nothing wrong in principle with the amendment, the Government is prepared to accept Senator Rae’s proposition.
Amendment agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 8 May (vide page 1393), on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I refer to clause 3, which reads:
After section 11 of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: 11a. (1) In relation to each University specified in the Eighth Schedule there is payable, in the year that commenced on 1st January, 1973, to the State in which the University is situated, for the purpose of financial assistance, the amount specified in the second column of the Eighth Schedule opposite to the name of that University.
The financial assistance to a State by way of payment of an amount under this section in relation to a University is granted on the conditions that -
the State will, without undue delay, pay, that amount to the University; and
the State will ensure that the amount so paid to the University is applied by the University towards assisting students in need.
In this section, “student in need” means a student enrolled at a University specified in the Eighth Schedule who is determined by that University to be experiencing hardship by reason of his financial circumstances’.
At end of sub-section (2) of proposed section 11a, add the following paragraph:
The first 2 amendments are. simply consequential alterations to provide for an extra paragraph and are of only a technical nature. The third amendment seeks to insert words which will provide as a condition of the payment to the university that the university will be required to provide to the Australian Universities Commission statistics and information in respect of the application of the moneys provided to that university for use in assisting needy students. The reasons for the Opposition’s amendment have already been outlined. I simply explain that there are no changes from the situation outlined during the second reading debate on the Sates Grants (Advanced Education) Bill.
– The Government has considered the amendments moved by Senator Rae, and we have no objection to them. We point out, though, that this is a lump sum Bill, as it were, not a recurring annual Bill. It is unknown at this stage whether it will be necessary for reports to be furnished annually. If a certain amount of money is left in the fund and needy students are drawing from the fund after a period of 12 months and if the Opposition thinks that an annual report should be furnished until such time as the fund is exhausted, the Government has no objection to that course of action. Therefore we are prepared to accept the amendment, I having discussed the matter with my colleague the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley).
– Senator Rae has moved 3 amendments which I suggest might conveniently be taken as one amendment. Is it the wish of the Committee that the 3 amendments be taken as one amendment? There being no objection, that course will be followed.
Amendment agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 8 May (Vide page 1394), on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Consideration resumed from 8 May (vide page 1395), on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from Committee without amendment.
Adoption of Report
Motion (by Senator Douglas McClelland) proposed:
That the report of the Committee be adopted.
– I take the opportunity simply to indicate that whilst the Opposition supports this Bill, the Bill provides for less than what the Opposition would have proposed had it been re-elected to government.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) read a third time.
Senator MURPHY (New South Wales
Leader of the Government in the Senate) - try leave - I move:
We have discussed the starting time for tomorrow with the leaders of the other Parties. Instead of starting at 11.30 a.m. we will start at 10.30 a.m. 1 have not discussed the starting times for Thursday and Friday but it is proposed that we start at 9.30 a.m. Otherwise, the times will be the same except for Friday, the intention being that at 4.30 p.m. on that day the usual motion for the adjournment will be put.
Question resolved in the. affirmative.
Debate resumed from 29 May (vide page 2020) on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of the Grants Commission Bill 1973 is as it has been stated in the second reading speech of the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland). Its objective is to make local government a genuine partner in the Federal system and to give local government adequate access to national finance. These, of course, are all most laudable aims and one would support them in general principle. But one should mention very clearly that local government is and has been the child of the States and they are charged legislatively to care for it. It is not in the Commonwealth’s legislative area. It is the child and the creature of the States. Many of us in the Senate have come from local government. I was myself in local government in earlier years. Many of my colleagues both on the Opposition side and the Government side of the chamber are from local government. I think it can be fairly said that the Senate has a particularly strong sympathy and affection for and an understanding of local government, its aims and aspirations.
One might ask at the outset of a consideration of this measure why the pattern of responsibility cannot be maintained. Why was it not possible to give extra finance to the States for local government specifically and adequately? Why was this particular device necessary, anyway? New South Wales, my own State, has an arrangement for the New South Wales local government assistance fund. The sum of $6m per annum is allocated by the State Government out of its own funds for assistance in remedial areas in local government. The New South Wales local grants group examine carefully the needs of local government, take evidence, study the problem, evaluate it and make adjusting grants accordingly. I can see no reason why a similar arrangement to that should not have operated in the other States, supported by grants in aid from the Commonwealth, thus obviating the necessity to create this extra device.
There is an interesting book called ‘Labor and the Constitution’ by Mr E. G. Whitlam,
Q.C., M.P. On page 26 Mr Whitlam discusses the role of State members of parliament and he says:
Much can be achieved by Labor members of the State Parliaments in effectuating Labor’s aims of more effective powers for the national Parliament and for local government. Their role is to bring about their own dissolution.
So while purporting to help local government this is doing so in a way which will destroy the State governments, and that, I think, should be made quite clear. I hope that the State governments will take note of this. Mr Reece, Mr Dunstan and Mr Tonkin will derive very little joy from this exercise in centralism. Sir Robert Askin, Mr Hamer and Mr BjelkePetersen, I imagine, will find it but a part of a pattern in which they have seen the responsibilities of State governments steadily and persistently eroded.
The Bill provides for the Commonwealth Grants Commission to inquire into and report upon applications by local governments for financial assistance from the Australian Government. The Grants Commission, for its own part, is a notable body in the Australian Federal system. It ought to be noted that the Grants Commission is substantially a body to make the federal system work effectively. It was started in 1933. Some of the observations in its latest report are worth adverting to because it is a notable device in making the Federal system effective, responsible and uniform. I will quote from a report headed Inequalities Among the States’. It reads: 2.1 The economies of the Australian States differ’ from one another in ways which have an important bearing on the relative capacity of the several State governments to provide services for individuals and businesses. Among these differences are those of area, climate, topography, natural resources, size and distribution of population and productive capacity, and levels of income and expenditure. In addition, there are considerable differences among States in the average rate of economic growth, as reflected in the growth of population and output of goods and services. 2.2 These differences among the economies of the States give rise to fiscal inequalities. In general the fiscal inequalities take the form of differences in relative capacity to raise revenue from State taxes and other charges, in the relative cost of providing State government services and meeting public debt charges, and in the budgetary impact of the operations of State business undertakings. In total they may be described as differences in fiscal capacity. These interstate differences m fiscal capacity may be partially or wholy offset by the pattern of distribution of Commonwealth financial assistance to the States, and the Commission takes this into account in assessing the need for a special grant.
If one looks at the same report it will be found that in the year the report was presented, 1972, 3 States were given assistance to bring their standards up to a more comparable level with the 3 other States. Queensland received by way of a grant an amount of $10m. South Australia received $21m and Tasmania received $7. 6m. Honourable senators will find that the comment on page 10 of the report on the importance of equalising standards is an important consideration for the Senate. It reads: 1.6 The Commission modifies the published budget results of the standard and claimant States to render them more comparable for its purposes. The modified results of the standard States are taken into account in determining the budget standard. The modified result obtained for a claimant State is then subject to adjustment to allow for estimated differences between it and the average of the standard Slates in efforts to raise revenue and in the range and quality of State services. The grant recommended by the Commission is based on a comparison of the adjusted budget result for a claimant State with the budget standard.
What that means in simple terms is that in the Australian federal system those States that are better off are expected, through the Commonwealth’s total pool of revenue, to aid in the improvement of standards in those States that are not as well off.
– Provided those States have been giving their best efforts.
– That is perfectly correct - provided in the view of the Grants Commission that the States concerned have made a genuine effort to look after their own position. No one would quarrel with that.
– Look at the position in Queensland.
– Is the honourable senator making a speech or am I?
– I am only helping the honourable senator.
– I do not want Senator McAuliffe’s help. His remarks are of no possible help whatsoever.
– I thought the honourable senator was labouring a bit.
– The honourable senator is in a state of total ignorance now as always. We have claimant States seeking assistance from the Commonwealth to aid them in providing a better standard than they would otherwise have in their revenue raising activities. I think it is a very good arrangement in the federal system. It has been a very beneficial one. There are States which have been in the claimant State category for a period, have opted out and have come back in again. There are States which are now in the claimant State category and which one hopes in due course will be able to pass out of it. From my investigations I have found that since 1933 the record of the Grants Commission is quite unique. Its recommendations have never been opposed; they have always been accepted. Therefore, it is to be accepted as a very good device and one whose reputation is very high.
There certainly is some scope for expansion of the work of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. I had to deal with this matter in 1971 in giving what I call a Liberal view of how to handle the federal system. This was what I call a co-operative federal view, as against that of Mr Whitlam who gave what I call a centralised view. These were papers that were given in an atmosphere which was non-political. Nonetheless, the view I had then is the view I retain and the view Mr Whitlam had then obviously is the view he retains, as does his Party. The Labor view is a simple one. It is, as far as possible, to preside over the dissolution of State parliaments. I think that we should understand that. Those who are in favour of that should say so.
– There is not very much response from the Labor Party now, is there?
– No, not a great deal. We are now considering a proposition that the Grants Commission is a device that could be used to overcome inequalities between regions of local government within States. This Bill will repeal the 1933 Act and replace it with a new Act. The Special Minister of State (Senator Willesee) said in his second reading speech that this Bill will continue the role of the Grants Commission for States as between States. Therefore, one is to assume that the position of a claimant State such as Tasmania, Western Australia or Queensland in no way will be diminished in its applications for assistance or in regard to delays in hearings by the Grants Commission of its problems.
Section 96 of the Constitution is very relevant to this measure and the purpose of making it possible for a State by reasonable effort to function at a standard not appreciably below that of another State. Clauses 6, 7 and 18 of the Bill contain provisions dealing with local governing bodies. They can be adverted to by other senators because, as has been mentioned earlier, there is a lot of work to do and the Opposition, broadly speaking, is in favour of assistance to local government. Therefore, the Opposition is not opposed to the Bill. However, the Opposition feels that it would be wise to make certain amendments to the Bill. In general, the Opposition believes that local government needs to be helped and therefore no good purpose can be served by prolonging a debate in which, generally speaking, we members of the Opposition have views which are fairly consistent.
There have been some changes in the legislation. We really have 2 Bills before us. One is what I call the old Bill and the other is what I call the new Bill as amended in the House of Representatives as a result of arguments put forward by the Opposition. Although we regard those amendments as having improved the Bill to some extent, we do not think they have improved the Bill in total and we think it could still stand improvement. The legislation before us is not a substitute for normal revenue raising by local government bodies or for any assistance they now receive from State governments. The legislation is described as a ‘topping up’ measure for financially less well-endowed States. Money will be paid to local government bodies through the States on what I call a letter box principle. The States will be little more than letter boxes for the purpose of transmitting Federal money through them to local government.
The Grants Commission has functioned on the basis that generally it hears evidence from 2 or 3 States seeking assistance from the total revenue pool. But under this new arrangement it could have to deal with a total of 900 local government bodies which can be grouped into regions. But under the Bill any one local government body can become a region for its own purposes. So the increased scope of the work of the Commission will be apparent to anybody who has any capacity for studying this subject.
There are people in local government who have been in communication with the Opposition. They are disturbed by the entire proposal. They have said that the measure is the first step in bringing into being a rash of regional bodies which financially will be totally dependent on the Federal Government. Whilst the legislation does not say that - it says that the measure is a topping up device - it is thought in many areas of local government that in the end local government bodies will become financially totally dependent on the central Government. It is said that large councils will be able to aid their ratepayers and other people much better than small councils. There is some historical evidence that large councils do not necessarily provide better services for their people than do smaller councils.
– The greater Brisbane area is not evidence of that. The Brisbane City Council is the best in the Commonwealth.
– Once again we have the loud noise men from north of the border. The only council they know about is the Brisbane City Council, which is one of the most expensive councils in Australia. There are other councils on which I and other senators have served and which will stand comparison with that great wen in the north - the Brisbane City Council - in regard to services to the people. So do not give me all that rhubarb; I have heard it before.
Local government applications are to be made to the Special Minister of State. He has to receive the applications and decide whether they will go to the Grants. Commission.
– He may not recognise the Brisbane City Council.
– Of course he may not. We may well find that the Brisbane City Council - this great darling of the Labor Party - will receive all the money. Who knows? It is an extravagant body anyway.
Applications will be considered by a new Commission. This new Commission will be larger than the old one. On the old Commission the Chairman and 2 members operated on a part-time basis.
– What about the Gold Coast?
– This is not an Egg Board matter; it is a council matter. We are now dealing with a new situation. This legislation provides for a full-time Chairman, 4 fulltime members and 2 part-time members. The real problem is this: The Grants Commission has been a most effective and useful body. But a part-time Chairman and 2 part-time members have dealt with the affairs of a maximum of 3 States, whereas the expanded
Commission will have to deal with possibly 900 bodies. Contemplate the delay, the confusion and the procrastination.
– But contemplate the number of jobs for unionists.
– I did not want to advert to that.
– The honourable senator brings up the question of jobs for the boys. Turn it up.
– It is interesting and fascinating to listen to honourable senators opposite. One can detect the real interest that they have in the problems of local government! They would not know or care about it. All they want to do is to make a lot of noise about nothing. They would not be worth feeding on a bad day.
Sir Leslie Melville, who is the Chairman of the Grants Commission at present, has been a very great Australian and has performed notable work in this - field/ Mr Lane, who assists Sir Leslie on the Commission, comes from Brisbane. I hope he has a better understanding of the problems of local government than honourable senators opposite have. It would not be hard for him to. do so. Sir John Goodsell, a notable New South Wales public servant and a man with great knowledge and ability, contributes considerably to the Commission as its third member. I believe that these 3 men form a good Commission. Only time will tell who will be the new members of the Commission. The Commission necessarily, in its expanded situation, will take its reports in the Parliament. lt is quite clear that the Commission will aid local government from a central financial pool. This is a good arrangement and it is supported by us. However, the arrangement has been based on the Whitlam proposition that the States should be present at their own dissolution. That is a bad proposition. The Government is adding an expensive device to do work that can now be done in a simpler form. Why would it not have been possible to provide finance by way of per capital grants direct to the State governments which could use their own local government knowledge to do the same thing? Why would that have been hard?
– That would be a centralised exercise.
– I understand that. It would mean the dissolution of the State parliaments. It is Labor policy. Mr Whitlam said so. The book can be obtained from the Library. There is no charge. When I have finished my speech I shall return it. Why not leave it to the States to adjudicate these local government financial problems? They understand the matter. They have spent years dealing with the problems. They have a lot of experience and a lot of knowledge.
– Why do the local authorities keep going backwards?
– I suppose because you have been involved with them. The next thing is that we could have more knowledge available and more experience available because the State local government departments have had this knowledge for all these years. It would cost much less if the States administered the scheme. It would avoid great delays. So we can see no reason why it would not have been just as sensible to have done this operation in a co-operative federalist style by using the State governments with their experience. We feel that the Commonwealth has intruded directly into a matter which, in the interests of co-operative federalism, it could have wisely left to somebody else. It could have made a per capita grant, as I have said. The States could have done their appropriating adjustments accordingly. It could have received applications in the Grants Commission style which had been received previously by the States as clearing houses and which had been checked, processed and evaluated by them. Why could not the Commonwealth do that?
We are pleased that local government is being helped. We believe that it is a good, sensible and wise move. As I have kept on saying, as I have been trying to say during this speech and as others will say, there is a better way to deal with the problem than the way in which the Commonwealth has done in this Bill. We believe that, in simple terms, this is probably the virtual end of local government in a State sense. We understand quite clearly that this is a watershed in the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States. It is, without any doubt, a further assumption of power at the centre, and it is in line with Labor’s philosophy which has been laid down by Mr Whitlam. I quoted from that for the Senate. I think honourable senators opposite should not leave themselves in any doubt that what I have said is what it is all about. Assistance to local government has to be given very properly and very sensibly, but it is being given in a style which will contribute towards the destruction of State governments, will take away a substantial arm of their authority and responsibility, will do the job on a more expensive and time consuming scale unnecessarily and will add a great bureaucratic element which was not called for.
In simple terms, we are presiding at a takeover by the socialist central Government, in line with the Whitlam philosophy on local government. It is a takeover of local government that we are dealing with.
– A socialist republic.
– I think you may be right. As the debate proceeds an Opposition speaker, on behalf of the Opposition, will move an amendment which will express in a positive style our feelings on this matter. I was disappointed at the interruptions that came from the Government side. I thought to myself that the Australian people, when they chose a government last December to try to run this country deserve better than that. What did they get? They got a lot of loud, useless noise from people who do not know what they are talking about.
– The Government regards this Bill as one of the most important Bills to come before the Parliament because since the end of the last war local government has been endeavouring to convince the Commonwealth of the need for financial assistance. As one who attended about 15 local government conferences during the 1960s and the 1970s, I can assure Senator Cotton that he is not speaking for local government, either in New South Wales or in the other States, because when Mr Whitlam outlined his policy considerations at local government conferences during the past 3 years in particular he was accorded a tremendous ovation. He has accepted the principle which has been put forward by the Australian Council of Local Government Associations for Federal Aid since the end of the war. Such submissions have been consistently and contemptuously rejected by various Liberal-Country Party Administrations over the years.
This is an historic piece of legislation for the simple reason that for the first time ever local government will have access to Federal funds. Local government had its origins in the early days of the colony. It received some financial assistance from the State governments in early times. But until it became apparent that local government could not carry out its obligations it was never suggested that there was a need for the Commonwealth to become part of the third arm of government, that in fact local government should have access to Commonwealth funds in the same way as the claimant States have been able to have, access to the Commonwealth Grants Commission. The Bill represents an endeavour on the part of the Government to redress the deficiencies of nearly 50 years of neglect of local government activities. If we have any regard for the problems that have faced people living in local government areas, surely there must be a recognition that, using only money received as property tax, local government has not been able to carry out its obligations to provide public facilities for the people within its regions. So the purpose of the Bill is to involve the Commonwealth in the whole area of local government. This means that this legislation is an historic departure from the past Commonwealth indifference. For the first time the Commonwealth will make available on the basis of needs such funds as will enable local government to augment its revenue or rates in order to carry out a more effective, part of its responsibility.
We have to look at why this position came about. The Commonwealth had to be persuaded some years back to enter the field of education. Earlier, when it was suggested that the Commonwealth should become. involve. in education, the tendency of the Commonwealth Government was to say that it was a matter for the States. I am sure that honourable senators will appreciate that this attitude changed as it became apparent that education could not play its part in the development of our nation if it had to rely solely upon State funds. So we have seen a gradual change over the years to the point where the Commonwealth Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) announced recently that in the next Budget $660m - a massive sum - will be made available for distribution to the States. That is a great change from the previous indifference displayed in the early 1950s when the Commonwealth was asked to become involved’ in the whole area of education. This Bill repre sents an endeavour on our part to extend the principle into the area of local government. I just cannot accept the rantings of Senator Cotton. That is the only way I can describe what he said. Having been involved in the sphere of local government, I can say that there has been an evolution in thinking. For example, it was not until 4 years ago that we could get the various State Ministers for local government at a meeting in Launceston, finally to agree to make a direct application to the Commonwealth for Federal assistance. Hitherto, because of the various situations that existed in different States and because the major problems existed in the major States, there was a reluctance on the part of Ministers for local government from some of the smaller States to become part of this move to request Federal assistance. So a turning point was reached where they were convinced that local government could no longer be left to stand on its own financial legs. Therefore, a direct submission was made to the Commonwealth. The last 2 Prime Ministers of the previous Administration, Mr Gorton and Mr McMahon, rejected the submissions that were made in this area.
The proposal of the Grants Commission is to extend to local government bodies the principle that has been used effectively over the years to enable the smaller States to equalise their public works responsibilities. I do not think that any honourable senator would suggest that that has not been a worthwhile proposition. But where the Government and the Opposition disagree is that we see this in the context of the Australian Government’s intended involvement in the whole urban affairs picture. Our basic proposition is that the Austraiian Government is no longer prepared to stand aloof from the problems of life in the cities or the rural towns. Those of us who have been involved in local government know only too well that we cannot expect State governments to provide funds for local government. They have been asked to do so time and time again.
We all know the pressures that have been put on the States to provide funds. Of course, the States are not able even to carry out their own public works responsibilities so there is no possibility of their being able to assist in this direction. It is true, as Senator Cotton said, that some years ago the New South Wales Government established the New South
Wales Grants Commission. I have met the Grants Commission on a number of occasions and I know that it has done very useful work in assessing the needs of local government. The New South Wales Government currently makes available $6m for local government. It has a full-time staff to go around to various local government areas in New South Wales. There are about 250 local government bodies, the needs and responsibilities of which have to be assessed. The New South Wales Government then has to carve up the $6m cake. That amount of money is small when one considers that councils in the outer suburbs of Sydney, with something like 150,000 to 200,000 people living within their boundaries, generaly receive about $30,000 to $40,000. No one suggests that that sort of money that comes from the resources of the State government can possibly meet the needs of our modern communities. The Commonwealth, concerned as it is with the quality of life in urban areas and regional centres, recognises that it has to break new ground.
Senator Cotton made some comments about the States being bypassed in the proposed arrangement. We must accept that the States have become very rigid in their attitudes and particularly in their attitude to local government. In this a country of 13 million people there are 950-odd local government bodies, the boundaries of which were established 70, 80, 90 and 100 years ago. Surely there is a case for rationalisation of resources. I know that governments hesitate to enter this area of rationalising resources and to create stronger and more viable local government bodies, but I challenge Senator Cotton to say that the larger the council, the less efficient is the organisation. It has certainly been the experience in New South Wales, and I am told that other States have had the same experience, that the larger the council the more efficient it is and the more resources it has.
– Would the honourable senator say that about the Brisbane City Council?
– I would say that when I compare its public works responsibilities with those of other urban government bodies. I would say that, in terms of its total responsibility, it is recognised in local government circles throughout Australia as being one of the best and most efficient organisa tions. Of course, that is a matter of political judgment. We have found in the 1970s that the great majority of councils in Australia do not have town planners on their staffs because they lack the resources properly to plan their areas. Of course, the phenomenon we must recognise as having occurred in recent years has been the upsurge of community interest in local government matters, in the quality of life, in environmental matters, in rezoning, in high density developments and so on. Many of the problems flow from the lack of resources of local government, which, relying as it does almost entirely upon property tax as its source of revenue, has been pressed to provide a greater number of facilities from smaller and smaller proportions of total public funds.
There is obviously a tremendous need for co-ordination and development of administrative programs in our urban areas as a whole. When we study administrative and development programs in our urban areas we have to be concerned with a great variety of functions such as the collection of taxes, the provision of roads and of transportation, health and welfare services. These days many of these matters come within the orbit of local government. Of course, the purpose of the Grants Commission will be to help the less developed local government authorities to apply the principle that has been tried and proven a viable proposition over the years in State and local governments generally throughout Australia. What has been suggested by the Opposition is that we will be setting up some highly bureaucratised organisation. It is precisely because it wants to avoid this development that the Government accepted certain amendments in the other place to provide that regional councils would have the right to make submissions to the Grants Commission and that in certain circumstances that same facility and privilege would be afforded to a selected number of local government areas. Yet the Government is accused of wanting to set up some sort of heavy bureaucracy, some centralised apparatus and something that will separate local State and Commonwealth governments. The Government’s concept, of course, is of a co-operative effort between Commonwealth, State and local governments.
Senator Cotton stressed that there were 950 local government bodies in Australia. How does he suggest that each one of those bodies should have access to the Grants Commission without applications being processed on the basis of need? Honourable senators opposite are contradicting themselves. Of course, the purpose of the legislation is to prevent the development of a heavy bureaucracy, to try to convince local authorities to come together as a region, to consider their problems as a region, to think in terms of regional development and consequently to make applications as a region to the Grants Commission. For instance, I would imagine that in my own State one could not isolate the various areas in the northern part of Sydney where there are about 7 local government authorities. Surely no one could disagree that what happens at Mosman would have some effect on the Lane Cove Municipal Council, or that what happens at Manly would have some effect on the Warringah Shire Council, or that what happens at Kuringai would have some relationship to what happens at Hornsby. The Government’s proposition is that all these councils which might have specific problems - whether it be an expressway or sewerage problem or one related to some improved traffic movement or the provision of a local amenity involving as the purchase of a large open space for the benefit of the people within that region - should come together and make an application to the Grants Commission.
– Should they be amalgamated?
– I am not suggesting that they be amalgamated but that they work together as a region in order to plan for the needs of the community within that region. If it finally leads to greater co-ordination of effort it is a step in the right direction. Quite clearly of course the Opposition sees this as some terrible weapon of amalgamation, of getting away from the little councils and the little people and so on. I have heard these arguments produced so many times by some of the conservatives at local government conferences. I well recall some of the Liberal members of Parliament from my own area talking about the need to break big councils into smaller local government bodies and yet one of the last things that Mr Morton, the former Minister for Local Government in New South Wales did, as a result of his experience, having espoused this principle of smaller councils over the years was to establish a boundaries commission in New South Wales with a view to rationalising local government boundaries so that local government could become a more vital and effective part of the trinity of government in Australia. Mr Ferris, a former president of the Local Government Association in New South Wales was reported recently as having said in Tamworth:
Local government, to maintain its strength, had a lot to do to improve its structure and operations. It had no time to lose, otherwise its powers would diminish and be progressively handed over to other bodies.
It is not this Government’s intention to whittle away the powers of local government. In fact, we would want to extend the powers of local government being, as it is, much closer to the people and much more responsive to their needs. The report continued:
Councillor Ferris said local government must be prepared to change with times and accept that ideas of 20, 10 or even 5 years ago may not be applicable in solving current problems and those of the immediate future.
We cannot remain static if we are to fulfil our obligations. In other words we must be with it and think ahead and not back in building a better local government to serve those who will follow us,’ he said.
There is much to do to update local government, and people who serve must give more of their time to the broader and major issues, . . .’ Councillor Ferris said.
This of course is what this legislation seeks to do - to provide what I hope will be sufficient funds. I am aware of what Senator Carrick has been saying in this Senate over the last few weeks - that there is too much money being spent in the public sector and that there ought to be a curtailment of public expenditure. I wonder whether he will say in respect of this Bill that in fact no money should be available to local government. We on the Government side stress the need for greater expenditure in these areas in order to improve the quality of life in our urban regions, and the Grants Commission, of course, possesses just that facility. It will act as a co-ordinator. It will seek out the needs of local government and examine their propositions on a regional basis and if there are certain cases where local government, as a single entity, can show that it is a region in its own right, then the Minister for Urban and Regional Development under certain circumstances will have the opportunity to consider the application from that particular council.
It must be emphasised that the intention of the Australian Government in bringing in this legislation basically is to give local government the opportunity to communicate and to express its needs on fiscal needs at the level of the Australian Government. At the 6 local government conferences throughout Australia, local government consistently has put that point of view to the State governments and the State governments have wrung their hands and said: ‘We do not have the money to provide our own requirements, least of all to make it available to local government’. So, it was inevitable that they should come to the main tax gathering source - the Commonwealth - with a view to trying to solve their problem. This Government of course is in the invidious position of having to run the gauntlet of the Opposition with its legislation on 2 occasions. Amendments are moved to Bills in the House of Representatives, as they were in this case. The Government accepted the amendments and then, when the Bill came over here, the Opposition had a second bite of the cherry. Maybe that is considered good tactics.
– Is that something new?
– But to me this seems unfair on the part of those who want to amend Government legislation. Senator Drake-Brockman was a member of a government for a great number of years. It was his Government which flatly refused on every occasion to make any financial assistance available to local government. It is only in the last 6 months or so that the honourable senator’s leader has become a bit trendy and decided to try to find some new interest and to establish some new national outlook. He has spoken about the need for the Opposition to involve itself in national matters and urban affairs. But I suggest that he never put that point of view forward and neither did the honourable senator when the Opposition had the financial ability to accede to the requests of local government.
The Grants Commission will be estimated to consider the needs of local government both on a regional and an individual basis. This Bill for the establishment of the new Grants Commission contains clause 17, which is a requirement for the Minister for Urban and Regional Development to approve regional organisations from among local governing bodies. This is a general executive act. This applies in practically all cases which can be envisaged at the present time. Under clause 17 a regional organisation may be approved by regulation in the case where the local government body is the only local government body established in the region.
An example of this is Brisbane. Where there are special reasons, any other local government bodies will receive consideration. We have to have this exception to the general rule because there are functioning local government bodies capable of acting on behalf of a region. The Bill therefore provides for parliamentary scrutiny.
– Does the honourable senator mean that local government authority would become the region?
– There may be other local government authorities in this but would this determine the matter?
– There is a discretionary power vested in the Minister.
– But would that local authority become the region?
– I cannot say what the Minister’s view would be. Under the Bill he has a discretionary power to recognise that authority as a regional authority. Of course, that has certainly happened in New South Wales. There are about 9 regional bodies already functioning throughout the rural areas. There are many regions within the Sydney metropolitan area. For example, for some years I was chairman of the St George and Sutherland Shire Assembly, which was made up of councils in the Sutherland and St George areas. We concerned ourselves with such things as the development of Botany Bay by the New South Wales Government and with extensions to the Sydney (KingsfordSmith) Airport because that affected the region. However, it seems to me ‘that it is still a functioning body and under the terms of this Bill it would be a regional authority.
– There was water pollution of the George’s River.
– Yes, water pollution of the George’s River and a whole variety of matters which could not be dealt with by a single authority. Of course, if a strong enough case were made out that in that region there was a need for specific funds to acquire an open space area - as there is in that region to which I am referring - that group of councils could apply to the Grants Commission for special consideration and special funds.
– Were they voluntary regional organisations or under the administration of a government?
– This is breaking new ground. This is what has to be seen. We are not suggesting and I do not think any Minister or the Prime. Minister (Mr Whitlam), who spoke at length on this matter in the House of Representatives, has suggested that the Grants Commission will be the panacea of the financial problems of local government. It has already been announced that the Commonwealth Government has granted local government access to the Loan Council. A ludicrous position existed for a long time whereby every local government body in New South Wales - the situation varied from State to State - regardless of size was limited to borrowing $200,000 in loan moneys. The limit was subsequently increased to $300,000. It is currently $400,000. Councils of areas of 1.4 square miles were able to get the same amount of loan moneys as council of arias of 140 or 150 square miles. That is the absurdity of the position that exists in the Commonwealth, State and local government area of finance and operations. The Government has now said that it will not only establish machinery to enable councils to make a case based on need to the Grants Commission but also give local government ready access as individual councils to the Australian Loan Council. In this way the sort of money that has been spent in recent years on trying to solve education problems will become available, 1 hope, in sufficient amounts from the Commonwealth Government to make a very big change in the whole area of local government.
The real argument seems to revolve around the way in which regional organisations are approved. That seems to be what Senator Cotton is concerned about. He wants to put the State governments in a position where they are the clearing houses. Quite frankly, only 2 of the 6 States have a Grants Commission organisation operating and they are not able effectively to handle the spate of applications received. So even if we were to agree to the States becoming an integral part of this new operation we would still have the problem of having to set up organisations in the States to carry out this function. We believe that the Bill does provide safeguards in that the Minister for Urban and Regional Development is required to consult with the appropriate Minister of the State concerned before giving his approval to a regional organisation. The Minister for Urban and
Regional Development has been able to effect a working relationship with the respective Premiers and Local Government Ministers in Victoria and New South Wales on the AlburyWodonga project. In view of that, I do not envisage any particular problem developing in this respect.
I think that any problem there is exists in the minds of Opposition senators rather than in reality. I do not think that we could succeed in our endeavours to build the sorts of new cities envisaged and in rectifying the deficiencies that exist in our cities at present if we do not see this measure as being part of some co-operative effort and if we do not accept the challenge of putting local government in the forefront of Commonwealth responsibility, as was done by the Commonwealth in the area of education. The Grants Commission Bill is a very important piece of legislation. For the first time since Federation the Commonwealth is to make funds available to local government bodies to enable them to reach a minimum standard of development.
I do not think Opposition senators would seriously challenge me if I were to say that a great disparity exists in our capital cities in particular between local government areas, especially in the regional areas on the outskirts of the major cities. That is where the main problems exist. Streets are unsealed, drainage systems are inadequate, amenities are non-existent, rates are high, sewerage is lacking and the road systems are insufficient to carry the traffic on them. In recent times metropolitan councils on the northern side of Sydney have taken the extraordinary but desirable step of stopping the movement of traffic along certain streets to try to protect the environment of the local residents. Matters of this nature are not the responsibility of the local councils. The State Government agencies have been unable to provide the necessary funds to ensure the ready movement of vehicles.
No honourable senator could possibly deny that there is a great demand for funds in the local government area. No honourable senator could disagree with me when I say that the public facilities provided by the local government councils on the perimeter of our major cities, particularly Sydney and Melbourne, leave much to be desired. But local government authorities, relying almost entirely upon rates as their source of income, are not able to meet the needs of the people who live within their region. Therefore it becomes the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government which, after all, has pioneered a migration program which in the post war years has brought to our shores more than 3 million people, 73 per cent of whom have settled in the major cities, particularly in the new outer suburbs in Sydney, Melbourne and other capital cities. So in part, or perhaps entirely, the Commonwealth is responsible for the present state of affairs. It is right that the Commonwealth should accept the responsibility of trying to redress the years of neglect and to subject the local government authorities and their responsibilities to some levelling process so that the people who live in those regions will enjoy during their lifetime the sorts of facilities that perhaps exist in developed parts of the Sydney and Melbourne metropolitan areas. It will be the responsibility of the Minister assisting the Prime Minister (Senator Willesee) and the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) to consider the applications for funds as they come in from the various local government authorities. If it is intended to hamstring this legislation by moving amendments to give the Commonwealth sole responsibility in this area, clearly the whole system will clog up and break down. I am sure that is not the aim of honourable senators opposite. I am sure they realise, as we do, that the time is long overdue for local government authorities to be recognised as the effective third arm of government. It should not be put at the end of the queue but should work in partnership with the other 2 arms of government. That has been our policy. It has been the policy of local government authorities. It is now the policy of the Government. I am sure it is a policy with which the people of Australia agree. I commend the Bill for the support of the Senate.
– The Grants Commission Bill which is before the Senate provides for direct Commonwealth assistance to local government authorities. I feel sure that no one in this chamber will quibble about that aim. As I look around the Senate chamber I see many men who have spent a considerable period in local government and who know the problems that face it. I say to Senator Gietzelt that there are a number of men on this side of the chamber who, for some years now, have represented their States on local government matters on what is known as the Canberra Committee. This Committee generally has on it one representative from each State, who is a Government supporter, who liaises with the Federal Council of Local Government Associations. The men who come to mind readily are Senator Davidson, Senator Lillico and myself. Until the change of government I represented Western Australia for some 10 years on the Canberra Committee. I take it that some honourable senators on the Government side are filling those positions which we have vacated.
The problem that the Australian Country Party has with this Bill is that it deplores the establishment of a complex new bureaucratic Commonwealth mechanism to look after this matter. The Country Party feels that there is nothing wrong with the Commonwealth providing financial assistance to local government. This is something that has been wanted for a long time. But again I say to Senator Gietzelt that the Labor Government is not the first government which has given thought to this. My mind goes back to the days when Sir Robert Menzies - then Mr Menzies - was Prime Minister. In the middle 1950s, the Local Government Association of Australia approached him and asked for Commonwealth assistance. The Prime Minister at that time replied that, if local government bodies could get together with the State Premiers to work out their problems and make a submission to him, he would listen to their case and endeavour to assist them. However, the problem has been that the Premiers of the States and the State local government representatives have never been able to get together and put forward a submission to the Commonwealth Government.
Senator Gietzelt said that when the Opposition was in Government it was never interested in local government. This is far from the truth, because I recall that the former Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Bill McMahon, in October last met a delegation from the Federal Council of the Local Government Association and listened to the case it put forward. Under the provisions of the Bill the Commonwealth Government will make assistance available to the local government authorities, but certain qualifications are to apply. One qualification is that all applications from local government bodies for financial assist- ance must be lodged with the Special Minister of State who may, at his discretion, refer them to the Grants Commission for inquiry and report. Another qualification is that applications will be considered only from local government organisations or bodies which are approved by the Minister for Urban and Regional Development as approved regional organisations for the purposes of the Act. I do not think any Opposition senator would say that local government does not have a case to present. What we do say is that we do not accept the proposed administrative arrangements. Local government in Australia is a creation of the State governments and is legally subordinate to them. During the course of his remarks Senator Gietzelt said that local government boundaries within the States were determined in 1900 or even earlier and nothing has been done about them since. But the boundaries and functions of local government are a responsibility of the States. I recall - other Western Austraian senators will support me on this - an interesting situation in Western Australia where a boundaries commission has been set up. This commission has been investigating the realignment of the boundaries of local government in that State. At present a report is before the local government organisations in Western Australia. We all know the situation of local government, and the problem is formidable. My investigations reveal that the total expenditure by local government authorities in 1970-71 amounted to $766m, which was about 7 per cent of total government expenditure in Australia. This percentage of expenditure has been fairly constant over the years. A breakdown of that figure shows that about 9 per cent is provided for cultural and recreational facilities, about 9 per cent is provided for the development of resources and assistance to industry within the boundaries of local government, about 37 per cent is expended on roads and bridges, about 11 per cent is for interest on borrowed money and about 9 per cent is provided for administration. The local government interest bill has been growing quite rapidly. For instance, in 1969 it was about 8 per cent of the total expenditure. At the present time it is about 11 per cent. The administration percentage is also rising. In view of the attitude of the present Government to wage and working conditions one can say that this percentage will increase quite considerably.
I refer now to the revenue received by local government authorities. Taxation provides 55 per cent of the revenue, profit from private enterprise provides about 14 per cent, and State grants provide about 11 per cent. Local government authorities are therefore called upon to raise about 80 per cent of their revenue from their own resources. This is where the rub comes. Many local government organisations have gone into debt over the past years in trying to improve facilities within their particular areas. The local government debt now stands at $1,6 19m, which is about 8 per cent of the total government indebtedness. It is quite obvious from those figures that local government revenue in recent years has failed to keep pace with the level of other government revenue. Between 1967-68 and 1971-72 Commonwealth revenue has risen by about 61 per cent, State revenue has risen by about 63 per cent, and local government revenue has increased by only about 38 per cent. This is the problem that has been facing local government over the years. The local government organisations have endeavoured to do something about it. They have, of course, had to increase their own taxation and this has never been popular amongst taxpayers of a community, whether they be Commonwealth, State or even local government.
Local government authorities have suggested that perhaps the best way they have of raising the required revenue is by the Commonwealth adopting a proposal that perhaps 5 per cent of the total tax collection be allocated to local authorities. I know the federal body looked at that suggestion very thoroughly and proposed that it be adopted. On a close examination one finds that this suggestion runs contrary to the Commonwealth’s basic budgetary principle that revenue from any particular source should not be earmarked for a specific purpose. If this matter is investigated further it will be seen that the revenue from income tax over the years has fluctuated. I remember that in one year back in the late 1950s it did not change. I think that in the early 1960s there was again a period of stagnation or of very little increase. If local government were to get 5 per cent of income tax revenue, it would still want some source of finance which would provide it with an increased and predictable amount each year so that it could budget its resources for the years ahead.
I believe that another difficulty is involved in this problem. I am a Western Australian and that State has a smaller population than have New South Wales and Victoria. New South Wales and Victoria would take the biggest percentage of funds provided from this 5 per cent if it were earmarked for local government. I believe that Western Australia, South Australia and perhaps Tasmania would get a very much smaller amount than they expected. The previous Government did not go to the lengths proposed in this Bill, but it gave a considerable amount of assistance to local government. I think it would be fair to say that over the years the previous Government earmarked large increases in general revenue grants to the States which in turn made the funds available to local government. I believe that the transfer of payroll tax to the States was of considerable advantage to local government. I believe also that large sums of money went to local government through the Commonwealth aid roads scheme. In the last S-year period the Commonwealth made available to the States, under the Commonwealth aid roads scheme, something like $ 1,252m. All these things have been done to try to assist local government.
The prime objective of this legislation should be a yearly allocation of a predictable amount made available by the Commonwealth to the States for forward planning by local government. I believe that the grants should be aimed specifically at a reduction or, at least, a stabilisation of local government rates. I do not believe that local ratepayers in a particular area should be called upon continually to provide facilities, often at the request of the State or the Commonwealth. I believe above all that these grants should be channelled through State governments, but I believe also that local government and the ratepayers should have some say in the distribution of these moneys. We find that in this legislation that the distribution of the money is to be on a regional basis.
Senator Gietzelt cited some experiences in Sydney. I remind the honourable senator that in Sydney, although it has areas with vast populations, the problems of one local government area would not vary greatly from those of another local government area. However the problems are very great indeed in the north-west of Western Australia where part of a regional area has representatives from Derby and another part has representatives from Port Hedland, some hundreds of miles away. Whilst those 2 areas may be similar, they have many different problems. It is quite true that that regional area may apply to the Commonwealth for assistance, but what of the local districts within that regional area? What are ratepayers going to say when a case is put forward on behalf of the regional area and one of the local government bodies within the region gets no assistance whatsoever? What is the Opposition’s reaction to this Bill? The reaction of my Party, and I believe of my colleagues in Opposition, is that we deplore the fact that the Government should see fit to set up this great new bureaucratic Commonwealth mechanism. We believe there ought to be immediate consultation with the States to determine the financial requirements of local government bodies, taking into account their loan commitments and overall financial responsibilities and the burden on ratepayers. Further, we believe that the funds provided to meet these requirements should be allocated to the State governments for distribution to local government bodies in accordance with priorities determined by the State governments after consultation with the local government bodies. I believe that this is a prime essential for who would have a better idea of the requirements of the local government bodies within a State than the State authorities themselves?
– Oppose the Bill and see how you fare.
– I shall be interested to hear your contribution to the debate, senator.
– You will hear my contribution.
– It would not be worth anything. Mr Deputy President, I say finally that if the Government is to make this contribution to local government bodies then it should make it in the 1973-74 Budget. I move the following amendment to the motion that the Bill be now read a second time:
At end of motion add: ‘but the Senate deplores the establishment of a complex new bureaucratic Commonwealth mechanism and is of the opinion that the Bill should have provided that (a) immediate consultations be held with the States to determine the financial requirements of local Government taking into account their loan commitments, their overall financial responsibilities and the burden of rates on ratepayers, (b) funds provided to meet these requirements should be allocated to State Governments for distribution to local Government in accordance with priorities determined by the States after consultation with local Government, (c) payments should commence in 1973-74, and (d) if it is necessary to establish new regional authorities, those authorities ought to be determined and established by the States’.
– Having been in the Chair for the last few minutes I am aware of the great number of honourable senators who have submitted their names as participants in this debate which threatens to be very protracted in the later hours of the sitting of the Senate. Therefore it is not my intention unduly to prolong the debate on this measure which will be fully canvassed on all sides. However, I believe that the Democratic Labor Party must be heard on this matter which is of such significance to the Commonwealth of Australia. We ought not, I think, underestimate the real significance of the Bill that is before the Senate. Honourable senators, more particularly those who have been connected with local government, will direct their remarks to the financial plight of local government authorities and the necessity for some measure of financial independence for them and to the best method by which that independence and financial viability can be established and maintained. All these propositions are very valuable and I agree with the propositions which so many honourable senators have presented.
However, I should like to advert to the true dramatic significance of what is being effected by this legislation. We are now writing local government into a new place within the Australian Federation, not perhaps in any formal constitutional sense, but pragmatically as a situation which is accepted and which from now on will be acknowledged. While we shall to that extent raise the status of the local government authority and give it new financial strength and greater independence of action we must recognise also that in that process there will be necessarily by the sheer operation of the legislation a certain circumscription and truncation of the power and authority of the States. I know that that is not any formal delimitation of the power of the States, but in fact it will operate in that section as it will remove local government authorities and many of their projects from the scrutiny of the States. If we consider that local government should more particularly come under the jurisdiction of the States and be subject to some measure of scrutiny by the States, to the extent that that is now being avoided, the States will suffer a delimitation of their function and perhaps their effectiveness in controlling their whole area of sovereignty which is their particular concern. Therefore I do not think that the Senate should allow this legislation to pass without at least adverting to that situation.
Desirable and all as devising of new methods of providing finance to local authorities may be, I think we should acknowledge the ultimate consequence of this measure, and it should at least give us cause for concern. The concept in this Bill, of course, is really a rewriting of the Grants Commission Act. The Bill retains the traditional functions of the Grants Commission in the provision of special grants under section 96 of the Constitution to claimant States. There is no alteration to that provision and the States which are claimant States and elect to be claimant States will still be able to come in their traditional manner to the Commonwealth asking for special grants. The only essential difference which is now projected in the legislation is that instead of those applications going on the reference of His Excellency the Governor-General to the Grants Commission applications will now go to the Minister and reference will be made by the Minister to the Grants Commission. What exactly is the implication of that alteration I do not know. It would appear that the reference by the Governor-General to the Grants Commission may be somewhat anachronistic, yet it gave a measure of impartiality in the reference of such matters, whereas now the matter will go to the Executive Government and the reference will be by a Minister of that Government. That may or may not be good. I do not fulminate on it and I do not intend to dogmatise on it. I merely advert to it as a change which could be more significant than the mere substitution of the words that now appear in the new Bill.
One of the interesting concepts, of course, is the concept of regionalism in relation to local government. I think that this is valuable and important. Members of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution found that there were certain difficulties associated with the operation of sections of the Constitution where waterways moved from one local authority area to another. If it is wished to control such a waterway for the purpose of obviating pollution or controlling pollution there are grave constitutional difficulties and grave differences between various local government authorities. This measure may be one method by which, at least within a State these problems can be overcome. If a number of local authorities were seeking finance for the conservation of the environment or the elimination of pollution related to a stream running through their areas they might well be considered as a regional organisation much more efficiently equipped to handle that situation.
The Bill, of course, will not overcome the difficulty associated with the passage of waterways between States because whatever regionalism might be created obviously a region can be declared only within the boundaries of a particular State or States and a region cannot trespass across interstate boundaries, enabling the whole of the waterway to be considered as one entity subject to legislative or administrative control so that the whole matter can be considered as one problem, met as one problem and solved as one problem. Nevertheless the concept of regionalism is good because, while local authorities have their own loyalties and their own interests, we know as a matter of practical experience that as they impinge one upon the other there are areas which are common to each of them. Great projects may have to be developed over a number of local authority areas. The concept of the region is one which makes these viable propositions and one which can enable things to be done more effectively which otherwise could not be done so well, or in fact enable things to be done that could not otherwise be done at all.
I think that a great deal of authority is given to the Minister to determine that a particular local authority may become a regional organisation. I wonder whether we are vesting the Minister with too wide a discretionary power? I think that is a matter that might well be looked at in the Committee stage of this Bill. We might consider the power under which the Minister, for purposes which seem good and sufficient to him, without any intervention by the Parliament to disallow his determination - I presume that Parliament would have no right of disallowance - may determine that a particular local authority shall be a regional organisation for the purposes of the Act and enable such local authority to come to the Commission to ask for a grant within the terms of the statute.
– What was the particular point that you were making with respect to ministerial authority in this area?
– The Bill provides that the Minister may determine that a particular local authority shall for the purposes of this Bill be a region itself. Regions, that is, groups of local authorities determined as regions, are the only ones which will be applicants as contemplated by the Bill.
– The Minister may determine that. Are you saying that-
– I am saying that the Minister may determine that local Authority A - a particular authority - may be a region for the purpose of becoming an applicant under the provisions of the Bill.
– And he may say that a local authority may not so qualify?
– Normally, it would not. It will not be necessary for him to say that it will not. The power will be given to the Minister to say that a local authority may bc a region. This is a very wide power to be given to a Minister without the possibility of intervention, disallowance or the exercise of some method of scrutiny by this Parliament.
This is quite an historic Bill, the full historic significance of which possibly escapes us at this stage. Local government for many years has laboured under a shortage of funds and a great series of frustrations. Those involved in local government are some of the most dedicated members of the community. Those who have sat on local government authorities have been very often associated with them in an executive capacity ‘for virtually a lifetime of work and dedication. This is an indication of the tremendous local interest and the loyalty which is given in the area of local government. It must have been frustrating to see, in the course of this lifetime work and dedication, that local authorities were not supplied with sufficient funds to enable them to function properly according to the concept of those who were trying to do the best that they possibly could.
– Local authorities were not even recognised by previous Federal governments.
– As Senator Devitt interjects, local authorities were not directly recognised by previous Federal governments. They were, as it were, subsidiaries of the States.
But I do think that the principle which is called the principle of subsidiary has a great deal to recommend it.
– As it ought to be.
– Yes. To put it in physiological terms, the body does not do what may be done by the arm, the arm does not do what may be done by the hand, or the hand does not do what may be done by the fingers. That is the social principle of subsidiarity. I think that it is a good and an efficient principle. It enables those who are closest to events to be intimately and personally associated with them and to try to discharge most efficiently the functions that are associated with the execution of those provisions. This Bill does in that sense create a different situation.
Senator Drake-Brockman has moved an amendment to the motion for the second reading of this Bill. It is an amendment which, I think, should appeal to the Senate. It is an amendment that does not destroy the purpose of the Bill. It does not purport to destroy the Bill. The principles of the Bill, including the recognition of the position of local government and of the needs of local government, are adequately acknowledged, I think, by those who propound the amendment. The quarrel is with the means which have been adopted by the Government to give effect to the alleviation of these problems. It is suggested that there will be a very heavy bureaucratic intervention which is rather unnecessary and that if the States were allowed, with their expertise in their traditional role, with their knowledge of local government and their identification and association with it now and over a century, to continue in that role and if the funds were channelled through the States to various local authorities, a heavy bureaucratic machine and a heavy infrastructure would be avoided and the ultimate effect to be achieved would be achieved more easily, probably more cheaply and more to the satisfaction of all concerned. Therefore, I think, the amendment expresses a firm view and a most practical view which warrants the attention of the Senate and should receive its support. The amendment states in part:
I think that is the most important part of this amendment. As 1 see it, the States have co-operated for years with local government. In many cases they have sustained local government and have stimulated activity in local areas where stimulation was necessary. They, more than anybody, know the problems of the local governments within their State area of sovereignty. They certainly should be the ones who should be consulted in the establishment of a region which could be recognised as an applicant for the purpose of receiving grants as contemplated in this Bill. I think to bypass the States in this way will be not only unfair to the States, but also will not be likely to achieve the best possible result. Undoubtedly local governments will have their own views. Naturally they will want to project their own position. That is natural and probably in a sense it is desirable. However, there will have to be some co-ordination and somebody will have to say why certain local governments should or should not be grouped in this region or in that region.
– You are writing them down as equal partners, are you?
– Obviously they will not altogether be equal partners any more than the States are considered equal partners. The local governments are recognised with the new stature and status within the troika. Nevertheless, applications by those areas for grants will be subject to reference by the Minister to the Grants Commission. The States will be consulted on the question of the function of the grant - the purpose to which it is to be applied - and therefore to that extent the local authorities will still be subject to some rather severe scrutiny and inspection, just as the States are which make applications for special grants to the Grants Commission. Of course, although the States are sovereign in the constitutional sense, if they become applicants to the Grants Commission and recipients of special grants, their budgets also are subject to inspection and scrutiny by the Grants Commission.
While we may accept the States or for that matter local authorities as partners within the troika, I think it must be accepted that they will not enjoy the status of the Commonwealth. To a lesser extent they still will not enjoy the status of the States. But they will enjoy a new and improved and enlarged stature within the federation. I think that is of very great significance and importance. I have indicated that it was not my intention unduly to prolong my contribution to this debate, because we acknowledge the desirability of the principles embodied in the Bill. Our quarrel, if at all, is with the method that has been adopted. We feel that the States should have been given the opportunity of greater consultation, in co-operation with the local authorities, in determining the disbursement of those moneys. The determination of regions might more effectively have been accomplished by that method than by the method which is contemplated in the Bill. For those reasons, while welcoming this new recognition of the role of local governments, which are so close to the people, so involved with the actual physical improvement of areas in which people live, with the day to day affairs of the ordinary person within the community, we only hope that in the methods proposed to be adopted there will be a successful accomplishment of these aims. But while expressing that hope we express it with some little concern. We trust that the bureaucratic structure which is necessarily created will not render innocuous, less effective, futile or arid the propositions which are now embodied in this Bill.
I think local government now has a challenge presented to it; a challenge to cooperate with other local authorities in constituting viable, effective and relevant regions which will move with unity to approach the Commonwealth government for special grants. We should see areas of co-operation where before we may have seen areas, if not of confrontation or conflct, at least of difference. We should now see areas moving together towards a common purpose. As the things that are to be effected are those which are not usually peculiar and isolated in particular areas but are shared with contiguous areas and certainly with adjacent areas, I think this Bill might help to achieve these aims. For those reasons we welcome the Bill but for the reasons which are recited in the amendment, we support the amendment for which we will vote at the appropriate time.
-Although this measure does not provide specifically for the amalgamation of municipalities-
– Mr Deputy President, I raise, a point of order. I draw your attention to standing order 140 which states:
An Amendment proposed but not seconded shall not be further debated.
An amendment has been submitted to the Senate but no seconder was forthcoming. Since the amendment was moved there has been a speaker who said that he would support the amendment, but there has been no seconder of the amendment. Under standing order 140, the amendment therefore shall not be further debated.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - I have, considered the point of order. I understand that it is the practice when an amendment is moved by the leader of a party it is deemed to have the support of that party. To that extent, in practice such an amendment has not been required to be seconded.
– Mr Deputy President, I accept your ruling, but I do not see in the Standing Orders provision that this applies to the. leader of a party.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT - I think that it is the practice of the Senate rather than a provision in the Standing Orders.
– I have not seen it happen previously. This practice applies at the Committee stage of a Bill but not during the second reading stage of a Bill.
– Mr Deputy President, we will overcome the problem by moving the amendment again, if necessary.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- My ruling stands.
– I was saying that while this measure does not provide specifically for the amalgamation of municipalities, Senator Gietzelt said something along those lines. For 40 years I have heard it said with consistent regularity by some people that the way to overcome the difficulties confronting municipalities was by their amalgamation. I have always been one of those who hold the view that no matter how one alters municipal boundaries and no matter how one amalgamates municipalities, it does not alter the fact that if one alters the boundaries of 2 impoverished municipalities all one gets is one bigger impoverished municipality. It would not alter the fact that for many years there ..as not been sufficient money to finance local government. It has been dependent almost entirely upon rates levied on properties, and in cases those rates have become so high in order to finance the functions of local government that in some cases they have almost become rent for the property concerned.
I rise to speak because I believe that if any State in the Commonwealth can claim credit for the inauguration of the Commonwealth Grants Commission it is the State of Tasmania. I recall to mind what happened about 40 years ago when Tasmania, being probably the poorest State in the Commonwealth, was in the position that when things became desperate its Premier would go to Melbourne, and latterly to Canberra, and consult with the Prime Minister of the time to try to prise a few pounds from him in order that the State should continue to function economically. It is reputed that one Tasmanian Premier came to Canberra, saw the Prime Minister and said: I have come to speak to you about Tasmanian affairs’ and the Prime Minister of the day said: Damn you and Tasmanian affairs’. I think he went back empty handed or close to it. It was the late J. A. Lyons who was a Premier of Tasmania who experienced the awful cap in hand business that every Premier of that State had to go through. When he became Prime Minister of this country he inaugurated the Commonwealth Grants Commission. He said:’I am going to put State-Commonwealth financial relations so far as the claimant States are concerned on a very different basis. I am going to have some machinery that apportions finance to these States in a fair and equitable manner so that it will not be necessary to go cap in hand on one’s knees to the Commonwealth Government in order to get a little bit of extra finance to carry on’.
I suppose that if there is an institution in this Commonwealth ‘that has proved to be an outstanding success it is this same Grants Commission. Premiers of my State at least, both Labor and Liberal, have all been consistent in their eulogies of the work that has been done by the Australian Grants Commission. So I believe that most Tasmanian people in public life and others are jealous of it and anxious to see it continue to function as satisfactorily as it has functioned over the years. In his second reading speech the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) said that there would be approximately 900 local government areas which would be grouped into regions and that this same Grants Com mission would investigate their finances and recommend that funds be allocated to them in the same way as it functions so far as the claimant States are concerned. Over the years the Commission has with regularity gone to Hobart, to Perth and Adelaide every 12 months and it has investigated the affairs of the State governments concerned and made recommendations accordingly. The fear must be present that this same body can be so overloaded by the inclusion, although they are to be grouped into regions, of 900 bodies whose financial affairs are to be adjudicated upon and recommendations made accordingly.
I believe that it would be a sorry day for the small States in this Commonwealth if the Grants Commission were to fall into the same state of existence as the Tariff Board where it has been said that it takes 2 years to make an inquiry into some things, some of the law courts and other commissions and organisations that function under the jurisdiction of the various States and the Commonwealth. I do not believe one of them compares with this same Grants Commission so far as regularity of its findings and its investigations are concerned. I for one would be very sorry to see anything done that would disturb it and be detrimental to its continued efficiency. This problem has always been with us. For 70 years since the cessation of the Braddon clause - I think that is what it was called - which continued for a few years after federation, all of the States, not just the claimant States, have been in financial difficulty. This situation applied even before ‘the introduction of uniform taxation which some States have claimed is one of the things which has impoverished them.
Not long agoI came across a statement which was made 40 years ago by R. G. Menzies when he was Attorney-General of Victoria. He said:
I believe that we cannot cure this trouble of disequilibrium by making some special grant to a State in 1934, by giving to the States some share of revenue raised from petrol taxation for two or three years, or by conferring some other temporary financial benefit. Every time the States ask for additional assistance, every time they are forced to place themselves on the bounty of a financially all-powerful Commonwealth, they strengthen the position against themselves under the Constitution.
This is R. G. Menzies speaking when he was Attorney-General of Victoria.
– Was he an authority on local government?
– Well, he is an authority en State and Federal government and I would say that he would have a fair smattering of the difficulties of local government. He went on to say:
Unless the States are to be placed permanently in the position of mendicants, whose sovereign independence is a mere sham, it is imperative in their interests and in the interests of the people of Australia as a whole, that some way should be found under the Constitution to get rid of this want of balance, so as to make the independence of State legislative and executive authorities a real thing.
– Who said that?
– R. G. Menzies.
– In what year did he say that?
– R. G. Menzies made those remarks in 1934. They were part of a case that was prepared by Mr E. Dwyer-Gray, the Labor Treasurer of Tasmania for submission to a Premiers Conference at which R. G. Menzies was present. Mr E. Dwyer-Gray went on to analyse the position that had existed right up to that year from federation.
He pointed out that over the years to 1941-42 the Commonwealth, on the one hand, had shown an aggregate surplus - not a big one - of $1.5m and that the States, on the other hand, from the cessation of the Braddon clause in 1909-10 to 1941-42 had shown a deficit of $85. 3m. I repeat that this was before the introduction of uniform taxation. It indicates clearly that the founders of the Constitution, the various State Premiers Conferences and Commonwealth Parliaments have never found a way out of this impasse of StateCommonwealth financial relations.
– Order! In accordance with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11 p.m. .
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Housing, upon notice:
Senator CAVANAGH- The Minister for Housing has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice:
Senator MURPHY- The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice:
Senator MURPHY - The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
This Day Tonight’, on 26 March 1973, in which it was suggested that major development companies have been large-scale borrowers of funds to the detriment of individual home-owners from the permanent building societies operating in New South Wales.
Senator WILLESEE- The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Since the Auditor-General’s Report for 1971-72, the financial statements for the year 1968-69 have been certified; I am informed that the preparation of statements for subsequent years, to meet the queries raised by the Auditor-General, is well advanced.
Almost all of the amount of $226m was invested with authorities responsible for the provision of water, sewerage and drainage services, gas and electricity, hospitals, housing, primary industry and education in the States and Territories. A further sum of $77m, not included in the $347m, was invested with local Government authorities for similar purposes.
The amount of $121m was secured by longer-term first mortgage loans on land and buildings. In accordance with past practice the various types of property over which mortgages were taken will be shown in Table 5 of Appendix ‘C to the 50th Annual Report of the Board whichis due to be tabled in the Parliament during the current session. The borrowers concerned were from a wide range of industries, including the property and construction industry. By not publishing details of its commercial loans the Board avoids breaching confidentiality and prejudicing its position in negotiations.
The Superannuation Board has a responsibility to invest the Fund, within the avenues available to it under the Superannuation Act, in the interests of members of the scheme as a whole. The consistent improvement in the earning rate of the Fund in recent years would suggest that the Board is satisfactorily discharging its responsibility to members.
asked the Minister for the Media, upon notice:
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLAND- The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Attorney-
General, upon notice:
What is the general range of fees charged by Queen’s Counsel throughout Australia?
Senator MURPHY - I am unable to answer this question from my own direct personal knowledge. The answer that follows is based on information obtained as a result of enquiries by my Department:
The range of fees charged by Queen’s Counselin Australia varies as between the different States. In any State, the fee charged for a particular case will vary depending upon the Court or tribunal in which the case is pending, the degree of difficulty and importance of the issues to be argued and the seniority and standing of the Queen’s Counsel who is briefed. But generally, the range of fees charged by Queen’s Counsel in each of the States on a brief to appear in Court is as follows:
asked the Attorney-
General, upon notice:
Will the Attorney-General consider introducing legislation to make it an offence to burn the Australian flag.
Senator MURPHY- The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The honourable senator’s suggestion has been drawn to the attention of the Special Minister of State who is responsible for the Flags Act.
(Question No. 175)
New South Wales $270-$750
South Australia $325-$360
Western Australia $300-$350
A ‘fee on brief’ generally covers preparatory work and the first day in Court. Subsequent days in Court are ordinarily charged for at two-thirds of their ‘fee on brief’.
Additional charges are made by Counsel for appearances outside the metropolitan area of the city in which he normally practises. Moreover, higher charges may also be made by individual Queen’s Counsel in the more populous States whose services are in heavy demand.
(Question No. 180)
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice:
Senator MURPHY - The answer to the honourable senator’s questionis as follows:
asked the Minister representing the. Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
Senator WILLESEE - The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Services and Property, upon notice:
Senator WILLESEE- The Minister for Services and Property has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
A.D.C. Investments Pty Ltd
A. J. Chown Pty Ltd
Albert Street Holdings Pty Ltd
Aliens Commercial Holdings Ltd
Alquay Pty Ltd
Ampol Petroleum Pty Ltd
Antipodes Pty Ltd
ANZ Bank Ltd
Argus and Australasian Ltd
Artagen Investments Pty Ltd
A. Shepherd and Co. Pty Ltd
Associated Chambers of Manufactures Australia
Australasian Temperance and General Mutual Life Assurance Society Ltd
Australian Gypsum Ltd
Australian Land Trusts
Australian Property Developments Pty Ltd
Baringa Pty Ltd
Barrier Holdings Pty Ltd
Barton Flats Pty Ltd
Bank of N.S.W.
Beston Properties Pty Ltd
Bight Investments Ltd
Birkdale Properties Pty Ltd
BP Co. of Australia Ltd
Brisbane Holdings Pty Ltd
Building Developments Pty Ltd
Cambewarra Pty Ltd
Canberra Shops Ltd
Carlow House Pty Ltd
Cemac Association Ltd
Chamber of Manufacturers Insurance Ltd
CIR Credits Pty, Ltd
City Arcade Pty Ltd
City Centre Development Ltd
City Mutual Life Assurance Society
Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Society Ltd
Commercial Union Assurance Co. of Australia Ltd
Commonwealth Banking Corporation
Commonwealth Travellers Association
Connors Shoe Service Pty Ltd
Co-operative Insurance Co. Australia Ltd
Cordell Nominees Pty Ltd
Craminster Properties Ply Ltd
D. C. Smith Pty Ltd
D. H. Investments Pty Ltd
Dockar Pty Ltd
DW and Co. Ltd
Dymocks Book Arcade Ltd
Eagle Towers Pty Ltd
Electrolytic Zinc Co. Ltd
Equiry House Pty Ltd
ESA Bank Ltd
Flemings Fashions Pty Ltd
Four Millbank Nominees Ltd
General Accident Assurance Corporation Ltd
General Agency Co.
Government Insurance Office of N.S.W.
Grace Church Holdings Pty Ltd
Greenway (No. 1) Pty Ltd
Gros Pty Ltd
Grosvenor International (Aust.) Ltd
Guardian Assurance Co. Ltd
Hammerson Property and Investment (Aust.) Pty Ltd
Hillman Investments Pty Ltd
Homeric Properties Ltd
John McEwen House Pty Ltd
Kalamazoo (Aust.) Ltd
KDH Trading Co. Pty Ltd
Legal and General Assurance Society Ltd
Lend Lease Corporation Ltd Companies
Lidcombe Developments Pty Ltd
London County Properties
London House Pty Ltd
Mackay and Co. Pty Ltd
Mastrantino Buildings Co.
Matheson House Pty Ltd
Melba Investments Pty Ltd
MEPC Australia Properties Ltd
MLC Assurance Co. Ltd
Murifield Properties Pty, Ltd
Mutual Management Pty Ltd
National Bank Australasia Ltd
National Mutual Life Association
NRMA Insurance Ltd
Owen Booker and Co. Pty Ltd
Padbury Building Pty Ltd
P and O Lines of Australia Pty Ltd
Parker House Pty Ltd
PGL Properties Pty Ltd
Phoenix Life Assurance Co. of Australia Ltd
Pirie Street Holdings Pty Ltd
Presgrave Buildings Pty Ltd
Prudential Assurance Co. Ltd
Queensland Insurance Co.
Queen Street Estates Pty Ltd
Reserve Bank of Australia
Rex Building Co. Pty Ltd
Royal Globe Insurance Co.
Sabemo Pty Ltd
Sanderson and Co. Pty Ltd
Savings Bank of SA
Security Life Assurance
Shlager Investments Pty Ltd
Southern Shipping Co. Ltd
Spencer Pty Ltd
Steamship Building Pty Ltd
St. George Investments (Aust.) Pty Ltd
St George Properties Pty Ltd
Stocks and Holdings (Freehold) Ltd
– On 3 May, Senator Negus asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport the following question, without notice:
Has the Minister representing the Minister for Transport seen the reported statement by Dr K. G. Jamieson, President of the Neuro-Surgeons Society of Australasia, in one of today’s Melbourne papers that more than two-thirds of the injuries received in motor car accidents throughout Australia are head injuries In view of this fact, will the Minister introduce necessary legislation to makeit compulsory for drivers and all front-seat passengers to wear approved crash helmets?
The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The Minister for Transport has advised me that the report referred to by Senator Negus actually said two-thirds of the people killed or admitted to hospital after road accidents in Australia had a significant head injury’. This of course means that the interpretation placed on Dr Jamieson’s statement by Senator Negus overstates the incidence of head injury amongst accident casualties.
Vehicle occupants comprise about 70 per cent of people killed and about 75 per cent of people injured in road accidents. The remainder is made up of pedestrians, motor-cyclists and pedal cyclists.
Generally, vehicle occupant injuries result from an unrestrained occupant being thrown about in the car and hitting different parts of the vehicle interior. A number of Australian Design Rules are now in force which have led to a decrease in bead injury. These cover measures such as seat belts and energy absorbing dashboards, sunvisors and rear view mirrors.
Occupants can also be seriously injured when ejected from a vehicle. The use of seat belts and the introduction of Design Rule covering door latches and hinges are highly effective in reducing this type of injury.
The correct wearing of seat belts in particularis an effective means of reducing occupant injury. In a current study being carried out by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, it has been found that of drivers and left hand front passengers requiring hospital treatment the proportion with head and neck injury is substantially lower than two-thirds when seat belts are worn.
Recently intensive investigations have been carried out to improve the seat belt system. A revision of the Australian Design Rule on seat belt anchorages to provide for a more suitable location of the upper anchorage point has already been endorsed by the Australian Transport Advisory Council. At its next meeting in July, the Council will be considering an upgraded Australian Design Rule for seat belts which is aimed at making them more convenient to use, especially in regard to ease of adjustment.
The Advisory Committee on Safety in Vehicle Design is continually investigating vehicle design measures to reduce occupant injuries in a crash. To date no evidence has been found to support the introduction of legislation requiring the compulsory wearing of crash helmets by all drivers and left hand front passengers. In fact it is possible that crash helmets worn by vehicle occupants could increase some types of injuries such as neck injuries. It is noted that Dr Jamieson’s reported statement did not suggest the wearing of helmets, although it did mention several other safety features.
– On 8 May Senator Rae asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport the following question, upon notice:
Is the Minister aware that there is a severe shortage of shipping available to transport goods from Northern Tasmania to Victoria and that this is particularly serious in relation to accumulated loads of timber awaiting shipment from Bell Bay? Will the Minister as a matter of urgency make inquiries as to whether his colleague can arrange through the Australian National Line for ships to be made available to reduce the backlog awaiting shipment at Bell Bay?
The answers to the honourable senator’s questions are as follows:
I am not aware that there is any substantial quantity of timber at present awaiting shipment from Bell Bay. I understand that there was some build-up cf timber cargoes at Bell Bay during March and April. Unfortunately the Australian National Line’s initial plans for relieving this backlog were unable to be implemented in full because of industrial and mechanical difficulties which were entirely beyond the Line’s control. However, I am advised that, by tescheduling ‘Searoader’ vessels normally employed in the Brisbane and North Queensland trades and using the 1,400 ton vehicle deck contained ship ‘Australian Enterprise’, the Line was able to clear the backlog.
– On 2 May 1973, Senator Laucke asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation the following questions, without notice:
Is the Minister aware of the difficulties now being experienced by the Kangaroo Island residents in respect of regular air communication with the mainland arising from the unsatisfactory condition of the Kingscote Airport runways in wet weather? Is he aware that the airport has been closed to air traffic after as little as 65 points of rain as was again experienced this week? Will the Minister draw the attention of the Minister for Civil Aviation to the urgent need for the sealing of the main runway at the Kingscote Aerodrome?
The answers to the honourable senator’s questions are as follows:
The Minister for Civil Aviation is aware of the problems which have been experienced in endeavouring to achieve the all-weather serviceability of the aircraft movement area at Kingscote aerodrome.
Quite effective drainage works have been undertaken to stop the aerodrome being flooded by ‘lie nearby Cygnet River.
More recently the main runway has been substantially reconstructed and the design was such as to permit that runway to be sealed immediately funds can be made available within our National Works Programs.
The Minister understands that the 65 points of rain under reference by Senator Laucke is the record of what occurred at the town of Kingscote. Much the same occurred at the aerodrome on that day. However, on the preceding day there was an isolated and heavier fall of rain at the aerodrome and it was this succession of rain storms which caused the closure.
Very careful consideration is being given to the priority of the runway sealing at Kingscote aerodrome within our National Works Programs. As an alternative it may prove that this sealing is justified in terms of economic maintenance in that the very limited availability of runway resurfacing materials is now the real cause of the residual serviceability problem.
Over and above those considerations there have been further discussions with representatives of the Kingscote District Council, including the Chairman, with a view to transferring the aerodrome to Local Ownership. This would greatly improve the relative priority of any resealing work at Kingscote in that it could then be judged entirely within the Commonwealth’s commitments in providing Local Ownership grants as compared with its very wide-ranging and complex national works lists. In these latter circumstances every effort would be made to have the work undertaken as a Commonwealth responsibility, preparatory to transfer of the aerodrome under Local Ownership, during the summer of 1973-74.
– On 10 May (Hansard, page 1485) Senator Wright asked me the following question, without notice:
Is the Minister representing the Minister for Labour aware of the statement of his colleague Mr Clyde Cameron that he would support the Federated Ironworkers Union’s proposal for a series of rolling strikes affecting the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd? Does this statement represent the individual view of the Minister or that of the Government?
In reply I said that I had not seen the statement to which the honourable senator referred and I undertook to provide a supplementary answer, which is as follows
The statement to which the honourable senator refers was only one of a number of comments made by the Minister for Labour on 6 May during the course of an interview on the television program, Federal File.
I refer the honourable senator to my answer to a similar question asked by Senator Rae on 8 May and point out to him that the Minister’s statement truly reflects this Government’s very great concern for the welfare of the low wage earner and his right to a just and equitable reward for his labour.
T and G Mutual Life Society Ltd
Target Investments Pty Ltd
The London Assurance
Tilley Plastics Pty Ltd
Tyrell Co. Ltd
United Adelaide Properties Pty Ltd
United Land Properties Ltd
United Rubber Co.
Victorian Railway Employees Federation Ltd
V. J. Peters Holdings Pty Ltd
In addition there are some 70 firms, associations and private individuals from which the Government leases office accommodation.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 5 June 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1973/19730605_senate_28_s56/>.