28th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 166 citizens of the Commonwealth:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
That Australian citizens place great value on their freedom to choose their own doctor in all aspects of medical care.
That we believe in a doctor’s freedom to provide a personal service based on personal responsibility within a system based on quality rattier than quantity, as opposed to an impersonal service in which doctor and patient lose their identity.
That proposals to change the existing health scheme are unacceptable to the people of Australia.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pi ay.
Petition received and read.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is it not a fact that after the rejection by the Senate of the Commonwealth Electoral Bill yesterday a right existed under the Constitution for the Government to seek a dissolution of the Senate and of the House of Representatives? Is it not also a fact that earlier this year the Prime Minister and many other ministers stated that if the Senate did reject the Commonwealth Electoral Bill twice a double dissolution would be sought? Is it not also a fact that prior to his election last year the Prime Minister indicated that he would not engage in secrecy and that he would take the people of Australia into his confidence with regard to all decisions he was making? If the Leader of the Government is able to speak for the Prime Minister, will he say, firstly, whether the Prime Minister is a man of his word and, secondly, when he proposes to approach the Governor-General - now, next month or never?
– In answer to the honourable senator’s question as to whether the Prime Minister is a man of his word, I state that the answer is yes. He does not withdraw his word after he has stated something in the face of the chamber. As to the other matters that the honourable senator has raised, of course it is a matter of law, not of fact, that the Government is entitled to give certain advice in the events that have passed. The Prime Minister and the Government will continue to take whatever action is in the interests of the people of Australia. The interests of the people of Australia, as demonstrated by their decision on 2 December last, are that they want an Australian Labor Party Government. Such action will be taken as is conceived to be the best course to see that the Australian Labor Party continues in office as long as possible to serve the interests of the people of Australia and to advance their welfare.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. I refer to the answer which he gave to my question on Tuesday last in which he stated that ‘indications are that this year the wheat growers will pay into the stabilisation scheme as the prices will almost certainly exceed the 5c limit over the guaranteed price’. As this is now the final year of the extended present plan, will the Minister state why this deduction is being made as the existing contract between the growers and the Government has concluded and the Government’s commitment under the contract has ended? Will the Minister give the Senate an assurance that these moneys will be paid to growers and that no attempt will be made to blackmail the industry into agreeing that the retained moneys be carried forward into the new continuing plan? Will the Minister agree that, on the basis of his answer to my question yesterday in which he said that he understood that export prices were now as high as $3.80 a bushel, the industry would be making a huge contribution to the new stabilisation plan in its first year of operation and, therefore, there can be no possible moral justification for the Government retaining proceeds from the previous harvest?
– I reject the use of the word ‘blackmail’. That is a completely unwarranted word to use. I am surprised that
Senator Drake-Brockman would use it. I suggest that he, as a farmer, might consult the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation and ask it whether I am likely to use blackmail on that organisation or this industry. It is true that, because of the proposed introduction of a new stabilisation scheme, there is a problem in relation to the amounts which will be received this year. Under the present scheme, which continues the same conditions as obtained under the previous stabilisation scheme, the growers commence their contributions to the stabilisation fund once the price is 5c over the guaranteed price. They pay in for an additional 15c above that figure. Payments received over and above that figure are returns to the grower in that season. So it is only in that limited range that the grower is required to pay into the stabilisation fund. At this stage it appears likely, but we cannot be sure, that that situation will actually obtain this year.
I can assure the honourable senator, as I did yesterday, that there is no intention on the Government’s part to deny to growers the amounts which would be paid into the fund by growers. In fact, that had not been suggested to me until such time as Senator DrakeBrockman raised it.
– It could happen.
– If you wish to imply that that is the sort of thing which might be done-
– I am not implying that.
– You used the word blackmail’. That is a stronger word than imply’. I can assure the honourable senator and the Senate that there will be no efforts on the part of this Government to deny to wheat growers their just reward because prices are high. They will get whatever accrues to them. I am hopeful that when we devise a new scheme it will not be the sort of scheme which obtained in previous years when growers were compelled to wait 3 or 4 years for their second payment. The previous Government appeared to be quite happy with that arrangement.
– I address a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. By way of preface I refer to an article headed ‘Customs
Computer Checks’ in last night’s edition of the Sydney ‘Sun’ newspaper. Is it true that the Department of Customs and Excise intends to use a computer to check on passengers entering Australia? Will the Department maintain detailed records of persons travelling to and from Australia?
– No records will be kept of persons travelling to and from Australia. My understanding is that records are kept by the Department of Immigration. It is true that the Department of Customs and Excise is endeavouring to find more efficient means of dealing with the procedures of passing through customs checks in order to cope with the enormous volumes. Everyone knows that travel overseas is increasingly heavily and that there is a great deal of inconvenience to people. The Department of Customs and Excise is trying to use various computer aids in these checks to cut down the time involved in manual checks. The Department conducts certain procedures on behalf of the Department of Immigration and other departments and computers are used in these procedures. But there is no intention that the Department of Customs and Excise should make a record of movements of all persons entering or leaving Australia because that is not a function of the Department.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. What is the Minister’s attitude to the insulting and lawless treatment given by students at La Trobe University yesterday to Counsellor Quang of the Embassy of the Republic of Vietnam when he appeared at the university as a guest speaker for a student club? Is the Minister concerned at the failure of the university authorities to afford this diplomatic representative of a foreign country the protection to which he was justly entitled when a section of students prevented him from speaking by tactics of personal menace and harassment and physical assault to his property? What action does the Government intend to take to ensure that the right to be heard is preserved for foreign diplomats when invited to universities as guest speakers? Finally, does the Australian Government intend to apologise to the South Vietnamese Government for the scandalous treatment given to Counsellor Quang?
– Senator Kane asks me what my attitude is. I deplore the fact that any person representing another country was treated, as 1 understand from the Press, as the representative of South Vietnam was treated. This has not been brought officially to the notice of the Department, but I read it in the Press his morning. I say quite unequivocally that I do not like that sort of treatment at all and I certainly would not like that sort of treatment to be handed out to one of our people in another country. Demonstrations, of course, are now a way of life whether we agree with them or not; they have become pretty commonly known. So that is the answer to the question. I do deplore such action and I would not like our people to be treated in the same way. It has not at the moment been raised on an official level.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer to the Government’s new proposals for the future of the car industry which involve the possible establishment of 2 Japanese manufacturers, namely Toyota and Nissan, in this country. In view of the labour shortage in this country, and in view of the Japanese policy, has the Government agreed that these countries could bring Japanese employees to help man such establishments? If so, what types of workers would be brought out? Further, in the event of the companies being established, has the Government agreed that it would provide assistance to help bring such employees to Australia and has the Government also agreed that it would provide priority housing for such people?
– I think I can say that the general answer to the honourable senator’s question is no. As this is a matter which falls within the responsibility of the Minister for Labour, I will refer it to him for a more definite answer.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Primary Industry by saying that in his Budget Speech the Treasurer indicated that funds would be provided by the Government to assist areas of the fruit growing industry that may be adversely affected by the removal of sales tax exemptions from carbonated fruit juices containing more than 5 per cent of fruit juice. As one sector of the industry, namely the lemon growers, is facing difficulties as the picking of the crop is now taking place, will the Minister consider urgently and sympathetically applications from any section of the fruit growing industry for financial assistance?
– The Treasurer did state in his Budget Speech - I forget the exact words he used - that the Government would assist any sections of the industry which were adversely affected by this decision. I think ] have received 3 or 4 letters in the last few days concerning this matter. I realise the urgency of the problem, particularly insofar as lemons are concerned. I can only say that I assure the honourable senator that we will be giving proper consideration to these applications providing they are properly documented, and that where there is a real urgency, as will apply with respect to some processing establishments, the applications will be given urgent consideration.
– I address a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is it a fact that the Government ignored the New South Wales Government when it made its decision to site a major second airport for Sydney in the Galston-Dural area? Is it not also a fact that the co-operation of the New South Wales Government will be necessary in the provision of proper protection for the airport and its surrounding population and of adequate access to and from the airport? Can the Minister tell us why the Government has so discourteously disregarded the advice of the joint Commonwealth-State committee which was set up by the previous Government to consider this important matter?
– Yesterday in response to other questions which were asked of me about this matter I made it clear that I am not the representative in this chamber of the Minister for Civil Aviation who is responsible for this matter. I have already put to the Senate my understanding that no final decision has been taken. I have already indicated that the Galston site is to be the subject of a feasibility study, or whatever the appropriate term is, of the matters which were referred to by -another honourable senator such as the safety aspect, the effect of the proposed airport on certain persons and the various technical matters which concern the setting up of an airport. In the light of that, the honourable senator’s suggestion that some discourtesy has been shown to the State of New South Wales is not appropriate. I suppose one must go about these matters in some way. A suggestion is made as to one place and if it is not suitable for some reason or another one looks at another place. That is my understanding of the matter. Unfortunately Senator Cavanagh, who represents in this chamber the Minister for Civil Aviation, is still unable to be with us. On his return he may be able to give the honourable senator a more definite answer to the question.
– I direct a question to the Minister Assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs. In the light of the current situation in Saigon, can he indicate when the flow of aid from Australia for rehabilitation purposes is expected to start? Will it be conditioned to a degree by some of the continuing incidents that seem to be hampering the pacification program?
– South Vietnam is one of the 4 Indo-Chinese states to which we are still able to send aid. Our aid has not stopped flowing into South Vietnam. I have stated in the Senate our general approach to this matter. The Government said some time ago that it stood ready to give generous aid to the Indo-Chinese states. Of course, it is obvious that we cannot give post war aid where there is no.t a post war situation. As I said in my answer to a similar question the other day, aid is flowing to South Vietnam and I think that aid will be flowing to North Vietnam before the end of this month. Aid is also flowing to other places. However, as I have pointed out, this is not yet post war aid.
It is true that peace is not going as well as it might be, but I think there has been much improvement over the last couple of months. The only thing that influences us is the question of logistics. If a place is still fighting we cannot get aid into it, but it is our intention to try to assist these 4 countries to get back on their feet as quickly as possible.
– My question, which is directed to the Special Minister of State, refers to a question I asked him on the matter of
Senate pairs on 15 May 1973. It concerned the breakdown of pairing arrangements that have been adhered to in this chamber for many years. I ask the Minister whether he has anything further to add to that reply which may help bridge any differences that still exist over the non-granting of pairs. Would he not agree that a system of pairs is essential to the efficient running of the Parliament?
– I agree that an efficient system of pairs is essential to the running of Parliament. The honourable senator might remember that the Prime Minister when answering a question in another place said - and this was at a time when this matter was pretty heated and a lot of things were said and questions were asked by both sides which probably would have been better left unsaid and not asked - that of course pairs should be adhered to in both places. The incident to which the honourable senator refers took place 31 to 4 months ago. I said at that time that this was an emotional thing that had blown up; that the Government Whip was faced with a difficult situation because of the unprecedented fact that he has to handle 4 different groups of people. This has never happened to a Government Whip before. I think that the situation has improved remarkably and the Senate is now running very much better than it ran at that time. I said then that I regretted what had happened then and what had happened leading up to that incident. I still regret the incident. I do not think that I have anything more to add to that. I agree with the last part of Senator Withers’ remarks that an efficient system of pairs should operate. It is now 4 months since that incident and I hope that the emotions that were expressed then have long passed.
– I ask the Minister for Repatriation whether he recalls making a statement on Dartmouth Dam during the debate on the motion that the Senate adjourn last Thursday night and saying that he would oppose any proposal that would prevent Dartmouth Dam being completed. In fairness to the Minister I will quote from page 195 of Hansard what he said on that occasion. He said:
I know of no moves which could have the effect of preventing any such construction from continuing.
Has the Minister now satisfied himself that a letter was sent to the South Australian Premier suggesting the deferment of Dartmouth Dam?
If so, is he now prepared openly to oppose the proposed deferment as suggested by the Prime Minister?
– The first part of Senator Young’s question is factual. During the debate on the motion that the Senate adjourn I mentioned that I had not received any information about the discussion until a minute before the debate began and I said that I would oppose any such deferment. My attitude is just the same as it was then. I might say that this matter falls within the responsibility of my colleague, Senator Cavanagh, in his capacity as the Minister representing the Minister responsible for the environment and water resources. I had hoped that Senator Cavanagh could have given a reply to the matters raised during the adjournment debate. I hope that he will do this when he comes back. However, I would have thought that the answers given by the Prime Minister would have cleared up the issue as far as Senator Young was concerned. The Prime Minister has given replies to questions asked by Mr Fisher and Mr Ian Wilson in the other place. The Prime Minister made the position perfectly clear by his own words. In answer to Mr Wilson, among other things - I do not want to disguise the fact that he said other things - he said:
All arrangements concerning the River Murray waters including the waters of the rivers which feed into the Murray can be altered only by the unanimous consent of the governments of Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and South, Australia. Accordingly, any of the matters which the honourable member mentions can be altered only if all 4 governments concur.
That is the actual position at the present time. In a personal sense I believe that the dam will be built and I think I feel that my South Australian colleagues would be of the same opinion as myself, having taken part in those contentious debates about the Chowilla Dam which I mentioned.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. In view of the reported refusal by the Victorian Government to accept the $9. 6m offered to that State by the Federal Government for railway works, will the Minister confer with the Minister for Transport with a view to allocating the $9.6m to the Commonwealth Railways for use in the commencement of construction of the railway to link Darwin with the northern boundary of South Australia as laid down under the terms of the Northern Territory Acceptance Act of 1910?
– Who will answer the question?
– I will answer for the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. This matter is important to the people of South Australia and also of the Northern Territory. I am aware of the honourable senator’s continuing interest in the matter. It will be discussed with Mr Charles Jones. We hope that in his usual efficient manner he will attend to the problem.
– I understand that the Minister for the Media has been good enough to obtain information in reply to questions which I asked him concerning the publicity campaign being conducted for the proposed new health scheme.
– Senator Marriott addressed a question to me on this subject on Tuesday and again yesterday. I have now been able to obtain the information. The question which he directed to me on Tuesday was whether the advertising agency which did the ‘Its Time’ publicity campaign for the Australian Labor Party at the last Federal election was the advertising agency which carried out the health advertising on behalf of the Australian Government. The fact is that there is no connection between the 2 companies. The advertising agency currently handling the proposed new health scheme publicity campaign is a company known as Coudrey, Cowcher, Dailey Pty Ltd.
The work was allocated to that company by my Department through the Australian Government Advertising Branch as that section of my Department, in the choosing of the agency, believed that this agency would have o particular facility for this type of advertising campaign. The company concerned is 90 per cent Australian owned with only a 10 per cent overseas equity involved. In relation to the other aspect of the question which Senator Marriott directed to me yesterday, that is as to why a company known as Specialty Press was doing the printing, I am told that last month the Australian Government Publishing
Service was requested by the Department of Social Security to arrange for the printing of a number of booklets required urgently as one element in the advertising campaign. Delivery was sought by 10 August.
– Order! This is getting out of hand. This is a question which should be asked in the proper order of business of the Senate after questions without notice. When I call on questions which have been previously asked and to which replies are available, the Minister can then seek my eye and answer the question. I hope that the Minister will conclude quickly. A great number of honourable senators wish to ask questions without notice.
Because the Government Printer was heavily committed to Government printing work tenders were called and Speciality Press was given the work.
– Can the Minister for Customs and Excise advise the Senate on the degree of co-operation existing between Australia and overseas countries in respect of the suppression of the illicit drug traffic?
– Yes, 1 can. There is a high degree of co-operation between the customs departments and the various narcotics bureaux in South-East Asia, the United States of America, the United Kingdom and elsewhere. That degree of co-operation has been manifested in recent times. During the last few. months a number of incidents have occurred both here and overseas which, following international co-operation, have resulted in the capture of hard drugs. One incident involved the capture of, I think, 80 lb of heroin in San Francisco. This was as a result of the kind of international co-operation in which Australia is involved. Recently the Customs Co-operation Council met in Japan. At that meeting Australia took an initiative in proposing even more co-operation in the Asian area, and that co-operation is being given. There was very strong support for the view that Australia advanced. I can assure the honourable senator that the Australian Department of Customs and Excise is extremely vigilant in doing everything it can. It asks for and gets as well as gives a great deal of co-operation in these international efforts to stamp out the growth of a very injurious and dangerous practice.
– Will the Minister for Primary Industry agree that many rural areas, particularly wool growing areas, have suffered severe economic hardship due to conditions of drought and depressed prices? Will the Minister also agree that measures taken in the Budget, particularly in respect of the additional price to be paid for petrol in rural areas compared with that applying in city areas, and the withdrawal of income tax concessions, will seriously hamper the recovery of country areas?
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question obviously is no. I concede that what the honourable senator said in the first part of his question, namely, that rural industry has been through difficult times over the last 2 or 3 years, is true. The honourable senator knows as well as I and everybody else knows that there has been an upturn in the fortunes of those engaged in rural industry. But the short answer to the question is no. The measures which have been taken by the Government will not create any great disaster in country areas.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate in the absence of the Minister representing the Minister for Housing. My question relates to home savings grants. No doubt the Minister is aware that last weekend the Minister for Housing, in attempting to justify the cessation of the home savings grant as detailed in the Budget, said that some applicants for such grants had fiddled government money. Will the Minister say whether such action is widespread and whether it is illegal? If it is illegal, can he say whether any charges have been laid against those reputed by the Minister to be guilty? If it is not illegal, is it right for the Minister to imply that people acting within the law have fiddled government money?
– My understanding is that although some of the actions taken may not have been in breach of the law they were not in conformity with the spirit of the law. I am assuming that the honourable senators version of what Mr Johnson, the Minister for Housing, stated is correct. I suppose this situation is similar to that of trying to distinguish between tax evasion and tax avoidance. These expressions are sometimes used when certain things are done which, while they may not be in a breach of the law, are such that the law ought to be altered. Mr Johnson has taken the view that the way in which the scheme was being used was not in the interests of the community; it was not in the interests of better housing; that in any event the cost of housing was increasing as a result of the operation of the scheme, and that the public would be better served by that scheme being phased out and being replaced by the mortgage interest proposals and other proposals which the Minister has made energetic efforts to have implemented. I think that was part of his approach to the matter. I do not know whether there were any actual breaches of the law; there may have been. I do not know that there has been any prosecution. I will ask the Minister for Housing whether in fact what he described as undesirable practices in many cases amounted to an actual breach of the law.
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer whether I am correct in understanding that personal income tax paid in 1973-74 is estimated to rise by SI, 089m, or an increase of close to 27 per cent. My question relates to personal income tax. Am I right in understanding that the increased yield this year is expected to be SI, 089m, or an increase of 27 per cent?
- -Senator Wright asks me whether he is right. That is his name. I have often thought that it was a misnomer. 1 do not know whether those are the figures. I would have to check them to find out whether they were correct.
– I read them out from the Budget speech.
– The honourable senator asked me whether they were right.
– I direct a question to the Minister Assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs. In view of the Government’s preoccupation with African affairs, has the Minister’s attention been drawn to the fact that, probably under Chinese pressure, the Government of Senegal has recognised the socalled Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam - in other words, the Vietcong? Is the Minister aware that the lawful Government of South Vietnam immediately broke off diplomatic relations with Senegal? Is it not a fact that the Whitlam Government is endeavouring to accord diplomatic recognition to the Vietcong as soon as these people can seize a reasonable size town and hold it? In view of the lesson to Senegal, will the Minister give an assurance that Australia will not risk such a rebuff by further deserting our former ally?
– Regrettably, Senator Hannan begins on a wrong premise again. He talks about a preoccupation with African affairs. It is not a preoccupation with African affairs. Very obviously there are other areas which are much more important and in respect of which we will need to have much more daily dealings than the African situation. I have explained previously that I went to Africa to make the first such tour in the history of the Commonwealth Government. I did it to explain our new attitudes - the fact that we were going to throw racism off our shoulders at long last - and to make contact with these people before they met Mr Whitlam at Ottawa. That does not mean a preoccupation. In fact, it is quite the opposite to preoccupation; it is overcoming the problem of ignoring these people, which the previous Government did.
I am aware that Senegal has recognised the Provisional Revolutionary Government and that South Vietnam has taken the action of asking Senegal to withdraw diplomatic recognition. Senator Hannan is again quite wrong when he says that the Whitlam Government is waiting for the Vietcong to seize one town and then it will recognise the Vietcong. There is no atom of truth in that at all.
– My question is directed to the Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence. Is it the Government’s intention to consult the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the trade unions representing employees in government factories and shipyards about the likely workload for the coming year?
– As soon as the position was clear, Mr Barnard, the Minister for Defence, advised the Australian Council of Trade Unions that he was prepared to discuss with it and with the unions concerned the position regarding defence factories and shipyards. The ACTU has replied that because of the holding of its Congress, it is not able to meet Mr Barnard and the Minister for Labour until 17 September. That date has been fixed for the meeting and it is expected that Mr Barnard, Mr Clyde Cameron and I will meet the unions and confer with them in respect of the present workload position.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate as the representative of the Prime Minister in this place. In view of the widespread and mounting concern and criticism of the Council for the Arts over alleged undue extravagances in administrative expenditures and the arbitrary allocation of funds, will the Government give consideration to setting up a task force composed of business efficiency consultants to inquire into and report to the Parliament on this matter?
– I ask that the question be placed on notice as it is appropriate for it to be answered by the Prime Minister.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. The Treasurer’s Budget Speech makes no mention of any alteration to fertiliser bounties which 1 am sure are welcomed by farmers at a time when Australia should be looking for increased meat and grain production. However, I note that the Budget provides for 1973-74 bounties totalling $8m less than the expenditure for this purpose in the last financial year. Can the Minister explain this reduction?
– There is a reduced appropriation in the 1973-74 Budget for fertiliser bounties. This is due to the fact that during 1972-73 there was a very big increase in the amount of phosphate used on Australian farms compared with the amount used in the 2 years prior to that. It is expected that this year normal consumption will return, but if this is not the case the Act provides that the bounty shall be paid on the amount that is used. If the use of phosphate is greater than expected a further appropriation will be necessary during the year to provide for that additional amount.
– My question is directed to the Special Minister of State and follows the reply which he gave to my leader, Senator Withers, earlier this morning when a question was asked about the pairing situation in this chamber. Appreciating what the Special Minister of State said and appreciating the intent with which he said it, I ask whether if the pairing arrangements which used to exist in this chamber were restored he could say on behalf of the Government that pairs would be respected.
- Senator Willesee, do you wish to answer that question now or make a statement about the matter later?
– I answered that question in accordance with the way that I saw the situation because I had answered it in Senator Murphy’s absence some time ago. If it is desired to discuss this matter I think the 2 leaders should get together on it. Honourable senators will remember that at the time I answered the original question I was acting on Senator Murphy’s behalf and had carriage of the matter. I repeated today what I said on that occasion and I repeated what the Prime Minister had said.
– Mr President, my question is directed to you as the Presiding Officer of the Senate. I seek your guidance and indulgence. What recourse has the Senate to contest a claim by a senator to have been misrepresented by Hansard and a request for the deletion of remarks attributed to him? By way of explanation I bring to your notice that on Tuesday, 28 August 1973, at page 210 of Hansard, Senator Greenwood sought leave to make a personal explanation and leave was granted. On page 211 the report shows that when Senator. Greenwood had completed his personal explanation the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Murphy, asked leave to say something in relation to what Senator Greenwood had said. You then asked whether leave was granted and Senator Greenwood is reported as saying: ‘No’. Senator Murphy then asked:
Am I to understand that the honourable senator - he was obviously referring to Senator Greenwood - having been given leave to make an explanation, denies me the right to correct a reflection which he made upon me in the course of making thai explanation?
The reply from Senator Greenwood was: Yes’. I understand that Senator Greenwood has sought through your good office to have that remark which was attributed to him deleted from the record. 1 say emphatically that I have a very vivid recollection of the incident and that I can recall quite vividly the response by Seantor Greenwood at that time. So I ask you, Mr President: What right of redress or what recourse has the Senate to ensure that the record of Hansard is a correct record of what is said in this place and not a distortion?
– I would be grateful if the honourable senator allowed me to give some reflection to this matter during the balance of question time and I will make a statement at the end of question time.
– May I seek leave to make a personal explanation with regard to the statement seeing that that has been broadcast?
– No, I would prefer to-
– I specifically ask. If leave is refused I will accept the fact that leave is refused.
– Order! No, it is not a question of that. I had better deal with the matter now in view of the fact that we are getting to an area of contention. Honourable senators will realise that the Presiding Officer either in the Senate or in the House of Representatives has the control of Hansard and can order matters to be eliminated from the transcript if this is necessary in his opinion for various reasons which honourable senators well understand. Yesterday I received from Seantor Greenwood a request in which he asked me to consider eliminating the affirmative word ‘yes’. I sent for the Principal Parliamentary Reporter and I discussed the matter at some length. Senator Greenwood will recollect that I sent a letter to him yesterday. I also sent a copy of that letter to Senator Murphy. Subsequently, I received a letter from Senator Greenwood and I have come to the following decision which I now announce to the Senate: It is Senate tradition to accept the assurance given by an honourable senator. I heard the replay of the Hansard tape recording of that part of the proceedings and the interjection cannot be heard but the words ‘very well’ spoken by Senator Murphy are perfectly clear. The acoustics of the Senate can play strange tricks on hearing. The reporter at the table heard a sound from over his right shoulder which he thought was ‘yes’ spoken by Senator Greenwood. In the circumstances I have accepted the assurance of Senator Greenwood that he did not say this. I have ordered it to be taken out of the definitive production of Hansard which will be published next week.
– Has the Minister for Primary Industry given consideration to the plight of navel orange growers whose market with the fruit juice processors has been destroyed through the abolition of the exemption of sales tax on aerated waters containing 5 per cent of fruit juice? Is the Minister aware that it is the assessment of the Berri Fruit juice Co-operative in South Australia that inundation of the case market by fruit hitherto crushed into juice will so depress the case market as to cause an overall loss of approximately S2m to the growers. In view of the seriousness of the matter, will the Minister facilitate an early conference with representatives of the citrus industry in South Australia to discuss the full implications of the sales tax decision?
– I indicated earlier in answer to a qestion along similar lines to the one asked by Senator Laucke that the Government recognises there may be difficulties flowing from the decision concerning the taxation concession being discontinued. I would not undertake personally to speak to the members of the industry, not because I do not want to, but because I would not have time to make a personal visit to all the places concerned. All I can say to the honourable senator is that the industry should make a detailed submission to the Government setting out the problems. This is a practice that we have adopted in the past on matters such as this. I can assure him that it will be given sympathetic consideration. There is no point in my seeing groups of that nature without a proper submission before me in order that I might know exactly what it is the growers have in mind. I would suggest to the honourable senator that if he is in a position to convey information to the growers, he suggest that they should make a submission to me.
– Has the Minister for the Media made statements from time to time that there should be greater public access to broadcasting and television facilities in Australia? Has he taken any action to bring this about?
– For some time I have been looking at this matter of public access. I have had discussions with the General Manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission following the introduction by the British Broadcasting Commission of a public access program on television in England. I know that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is now looking at the prospects of this type of programming. I am hopeful that the Commission will be able some time next year to introduce a program similar to that which has been screened in Britain. I have also discussed the matter with the Federation of Australian Commercial Broadcasters and it has asked me to prepare a list of the types of organisations which might be interested in obtaining some form of access to the commercial broadcasting area.
I am given to understand that one or two frequencies might be available in the medium frequency band for this type of operation. Bearing in mind the decision of the Australian Labor Party at the Surfers Paradise Conference that this area of broadcasting should be looked at, I have how written to the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board asking him to request his excellent engineering staff to investigate the possibility of using the medium frequency band, limited and restricted as it might be in the short term, for giving the public freer and better access to the air waves of this country. If such a proposal is feasible, I will be making a submission to Cabinet for its consideration.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, is supplementary to the one asked by Senator Cotton about the site of the second Sydney airport. I refer to the statement made by the Minister for Transport, which I hold, which was circulated as a Press relase on 28 August and in which he said:
Galston has been chosen by the Australian Government to meet Sydney’s airport needs for the 1980s.
How does the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation reconcile his reply that no decision has been made with the Press statement of the responsible Minister that Galston had been chosen by Cabinet decision? ls there in fact a ‘Galston’ blockage in Caucus as a spill over of political bile? Is the Minister aware that Galston was rejected on a costbenefit basis by the authoritative specialist study group set up by the Government? Finally, is it proposed to ignore the statements by all conservation authorities - although the Minister is not prepared to listen now he was willing to capitalise on this before the election - that the Galston area must be preserved in its natural state? Does not this make a hollow mockery of the Government’s claims to support conservation?
– The honourable senator asked me how I reconcile what has been said. I did my best to indicate to the Senate that, as 1 understood the position, there had been no final decision and that there were to be studies made of the nature which I had indicated earlier. I ask the honourable senator to put the remainder of his question which relates to Galston on notice so that the Minister for Civil Aviation may answer. As for his remarks about the attitude of the Government to conservation, I suppose that no government anywhere else in the world has done as much as the Australian Government has done in the short time that we have been in office. We have established a new Department of Conservation and the Environment. We have come into this Parliament with proposals for joint committees. The moneys have been allocated - millions of dollars - for the establishment of national parks and wildlife areas. In my own modest way as the Minister for Customs and Excise I have invoked certain restrictions which have been lying fallow since about 1922 in order to ensure that proper conservation programs were brought in to preserve the kangaroo. We have stopped the wholesale export of crocodile skin products. The crocodile population has been ripped down to one-tenth of what it was some years ago. We have a Department of Urban and Regional Development where all the decisions which have been taken for transport and other matters have been considered, and where even this very matter of the airport has been very carefully considered in conjunction with the requirements of wise conservation and environmental approaches as developed by Mr Uren, the Minister in charge of that Department. On every hand the Government has been trying to overcome neglect and, incidentally, to pay attention to the reports of this Senate on environmental matters such as water and air pollution. I think it is a happy event for the people of Australia that a government so dedicated to conservation has come on to the treasury bench.
– My question is addressed to the Attorney-General. I preface it by saying that on 27 February I asked him this question on notice:
As it is 6 months since that question was asked, which would seem to be adequate time for research, when can I expect a reply from the Minister?
– The honourable senator is quite right: There, has been adequate time for research. The problem about the question is to find the person whom the honourable senator refers to as a spokesman. There is no spokesman for the Attorney-General. Statements are issued by me or by the Department and this peculiar expression is not acceptable to me. The statements by the Government as to what would be done in respect of those who had broken the provisions of the National Service Act have been mostly given effect. Legislation has been introduced to do away with the various aspects of the National Service Act. The honourable senator will be aware that persons have been freed from prisons and that proceedings against people have been discontinued. Legislation to implement completely the policy on the expunging of convictions has been announced. Further than those definite statements which have been made by the Government there is nothing I can say. I trust that that will serve as an answer to the honourable senator’s question.
– I seek to ask a supplementary question. I specifically asked the Attorney-General when I was likely to receive an answer to a question on notice, which I understand is due to me in writing. The answer that he has given today has skirted around the question but does not answer it.
– I will give the answer that the honourable senator seeks. He will receive the answer on the next day of sitting of the Senate.
- Mr President, I wish to ask a question of you. Does the President realise that I have been doing exercise for some time and during question time have become practised in the art to a degree that few in this place can equal my speed in this art? Whilst recognising your preferences for the Leaders of the parties, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the Whips in this matter, I ask whether the President will investigate .the possibility in this enlightened computer age of providing an electric panel on his desk to record the order in which senators stand on both sides of the House and thereby assist him in assessing the allocation of questions? This would not only help the President but would prevent fatigue symptoms which arc an occupational hazard in this place.
– I remind Senator Jessop that one of the requirements under the Standing Orders of the Senate is that honourable senators may not use ironical terms. I think that ironical terms have been used on this occasion. I have been aware of Senator Jessop’s desire to catch my eye since question time began this morning. This is a problem which bedevils me at question time every day. All honourable senators seek, quite emphatically and properly, to ask a question. To be fair - I have explained this on at least a dozen occasions - I begin by calling firstly honourable senators at one end of the Senate, as I did today, and finish by calling honourable senators at the other end of the Senate, Senator Jessop being at the end of the allocation. On the next day I reverse the process. Yesterday Senator Jessop was almost the first honourable senator to be given the call at question time.
If it is the will of the Senate, I will revert to the practice of calling honourable senators as I see them bob up and down all over the place. The report of the Standing Orders Committee will be tabled in the Senate very soon. When that is done, honourable senators will have an opportunity to air their views on how question time should be conducted. I confess that I have an enormous amount of sympathy for the undue fatigue that Senator Jessop has had to undergo today. On Tuesday I shall seek to ensure that he is the first honourable senator called to ask a question.
– I ask that further questions be placed on notice.
- Mr President, I too wish to comment on the procedure followed at question time. I have been rising continually during question time in an endeavour to catch your eye. I draw your attention to the fact that today you have allowed some honourable senators to ask 2 questions while others who wish to ask a question did not receive the call from you.
– 1 have indicated that I will allow a supplementary question to be asked when in my opinion-
– It was not a supplementary question.
– Order! I am replying to your comment, Senator Webster, that I have allowed some honourable senators to ask a second question.
– That is correct.
– Last week I ruled that I would allow a supplementary question to be asked when, in my opinion, a Minister had not completely answered the question originally asked of him. Therefore I called Senator Little for a second time today in the interests of the Senate. By arrangement with the leaders of the political parties in this place, I also called Senator Greenwood for a second time to enable a matter of general interest to all honourable senators to be elucidated. Not so many questions have been asked today as were asked yesterday because some of the questions asked today have been longer than those asked yesterday and certainly some of the answers given today have been longer than those given yesterday.
– Three times longer.
– I do not know about that. I have not worked it out. If honourable senators are interested, I will have a list compiled showing the number of words that some honourable senators use to ask a question, and the number of words some Ministers use to answer a question. We will then find out why on occasions honourable senators are not able to ask as many questions as they would like to ask.
– .For the information on honourable senators, I present the Tariff Board report on Nitrocellulose (Dumping and Subsidies) Act dated 6 July 1973.
– Pursuant to section 148 of the Social Services Act 1947-1973, 1 present the first annual report of the Director-General of Social Security for the year ended 30 June 1973.
– Pursuant to section 33 of the Australian National University Act 1946-1971 - I mention this particularly for the benefit of Senator Rae - I present the report of the Council of the Australian National University for the year ended 31 December 1972.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the initial reports of the migrant task force committees of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. I present also a transcript of the conference held at Brisbane on 1 1 May 1973 between the Minister for Immigration and State Ministers for Immigration.
– I bring up the reports from the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory on the 52nd, 53rd and 54th series of proposed variations to the plan of the layout of the city of Canberra and its environs.
Ordered tha: the reports be printed.
– I ask for leave to make a short statement in relation to the report*.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The reports that I have just tabled are 3 reports from the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory on proposals to vary the plan of lay-out of the City of Canberra. Under paragraph 1(a) of its resolution of appointment the Committee is required to examine and report on all proposals to vary the plan of lay-out of the City of Canberra and its environs referred to it by the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Enderby). It is the practice for the Minister to refer proposals to the Committee before he proceeds under section 12A of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act to notify in the ‘Australian Government Gazette’ his intentions to vary the plan or to table instruments of variation in Parliament as required by that section. This means that honourable senators have the advantage of the Committee’s report on these proposals before formal action to vary the plan is actually taken.
The last of the 3 reports that I have tabled - the report on the 54th series - covers 15 minor items of a mainly technical nature. The report on the 53rd series deals with one matter only, namely the proposal for a major interchange between the proposed Molonglo Parkway, the Tuggeranong Parkway and the corridor to the west. The proposed roads will include 2 additional access roads to Belconnen in order to relieve traffic pressure on Belconnen Way which is at present the only highway to Belconnen. It was explained to the Committee that the operation of the parkway systems involved in this proposal does not depend on the proposed Molonglo Parkway which has been the subject of an environmental impact study shortly to be subjected to public inquiry. Honourable senators will be aware that there is considerable opposition in Canberra to the construction of the Molonglo Parkway but the interchange considered in this report has been designed to operate effectively on its own and would be required even if the Molonglo Parkway was not proposed. The report on the 52nd series covers 17 items of which the most significant is the last which is a proposal to make reservations on the plan for the next territorial units of the new town of Tuggeranong.
Honourable senators will see from the report that a number of the other proposals covered in the report on the 52 nd series concern subdivision for residential development in established areas of Canberra. There is an urgent need to increase the supply of land to meet the high demand for residential blocks. This demand is most readily met by development in established areas already supplied with water, sewerage and electricity connections. It will also be noted from the report that some of these proposed developments - items 8, 13 and 14 in particular - have been the subject of objections from residents. In the case of item 8, which is for a new residential development between Cook and Aranda, the development has also been the subject of representation to the Committee by residents in the locality. Aranda and Cook are well established suburbs to the north of Canberra and the development proposed in item 8 would provide 106 additional detached dwellings in an area which is now bushland. The National Capital Development Commission has negotiated with representatives of the residents and produced a sketch proposal which would preserve 25 per cent of the development as open space including buffer zones between existing houses and the proposed new development. The residents are implacably opposed to any development in the area at all. We were quite satisfied, firstly, that some development should take place in this area as has always been intended. The area is very close to the Black Mountain reserve and is very well provided with natural open space. Secondly, we were satisfied that the NCDC had gone as far as reasonably to be expected in modifying its original proposal to preserve those features which make this particular area attractive to residents. We consider that in the wider public interest the development should proceed and have recommended accordingly. All the items covered by the report on the 52nd series are of some significance, and the Committee has examined them carefully and where necessary it has commented on the proposal in its reports. I commend the reports to the Senate.
– I bring up the second progress report of the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts on all aspects of broadcasting and television.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I ask for leave to move a motion that the Senate take note of the report.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
This progress report speaks for itself but 1 shall add a brief comment. We began considering this reference in May 1972. There was a gap of about 6 months in our sittings between September last year and April this year due to the intervention of an election and the rather belated reconstitution of the Committee. Although our beginning may seem to have been a long while ago we have really been sitting for only about 10 months. In that time between our other duties we have fitted in 20 sitting days, which is not bad all things considered. Unlike some matters which are referred to Senate committees broadcasting could not be called a politically neutral area. As we have found it is inextricably enmeshed in politics. Our deliberations are therefore an acid test of civility in the real meaning of the word; that is arguing and contending in a civilised way.
Anyone who takes the trouble to read this progress report will discover that we have reached the stage of posing questions and not of making firm recommendations except in the one area of frequency modulation. We have cleared the ground to some extent but we are not yet ready to erect the house. My estimate - and it is mine alone - is that our final report will emerge possibly in the autumn session of next year. I hope that we will be able to reach a consensus as to what is best for the future of broadcasting but I am afraid that I would not bet on it. I find myself developing passionate convictions on the subject and I know that I am not alone on the Committee in this respect. If we cannot reach a consensus I would be against a bland, waffling, compromise report. I would prefer to see two or more positive, even idiosyncratic, sets of recommendations. Of course in the meantime we will strive for a consensus in a spirit of civility.
– The Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts has just indicated .that the report which he has just put before the Senate is a progress report. He has also indicated that the very nature of the subject matter under inquiry has involved the Committee in some very intense discussions because the nature of the subject matter before the Committee at the moment is one involving technical, social and commercial issues of great importance. The report which Senator James McClelland has presented follows one which I presented in June last year. At that time I drew attention to the very many complex issues which the Committee then had to examine. The report presented today indicates the extent to which the Committee’s work has proceeded. Further, that it is designed to invoke public response. I would draw attention particularly to the section of the report which deals with frequency modulation as well as the recommendations and the views expressed by the Committee. I hope we shall have an early opportunity to discuss this report under the order of the Senate whereby the discussion of Senate committee reports takes precedence on Thursdays. In that spirit I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I present an interim report from the Senate Select Committee on Civil Rights of Migrant Australians. This report is very short and, in accordance with standing order 315, I propose to read it. By resolution of the Senate on 17 May 1973, the Select Committee on Civil Rights of Migrant Australians was established to investigate and report on five separate matters specified in section 1 of that resolution by ‘the last sitting day of the Senate prior to 31 August 1973’. The full terms of the resolution and membership of the Committee are included in the attachment, to the statement circulated to honourable senators. The terms of reference make particular mention of the Croatian migrant community in Australia, but embrace also other migrant communities who have settled in this country.
To ensure the greatest possible awareness by all migrant groups that the Committee was concerned with allegations of infringement of their civil .rights, submissions were invited by advertisements in the Australian metropolitan Press and in foreign language newspapers in 12 different languages.
From the submissions received and oral evidence so far presented, it is apparent that some members of the various migrant groups in Australia believe that, in one form or another, their civil rights have been infringed. Some believe they are being subjected to surveillance and psychological pressure by agents of foreign governments in Australia. Fears have also arisen from contact with the law and others arising from frictions which have developed between factions of certain ethnic groups. The Committee is not yet at the stage where it can judge conclusively whether these feelings are justified.
While the’ Committee does not wish to refer to special migrant communities or specific governments at this stage, it is worth reporting to the Senate that this aspect has been discussed in the evidence given by the Commissioner of the Commonwealth Police Force and the Director-General of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. Both have given assurances to the Committee that they would be prepared at any time to receive and fully investigate claims made by members of the migrant community who feel that they have been subjected to pressure by agents or agencies of various foreign governments. The Committee wishes to report these assurances now in the hope that they may allay fears that it believes do exist.
Early in the course of public hearings, it became apparent that a number of accusations would be made against individuals and the Committee was concerned, while it wished to examine the complaints made, that those against whom charges were levelled would be given an opportunity to answer them. As a consequence, it has taken the step, wherever possible, of notifying persons against whom allegations are made in submissions of the substance of the allegations, and assuring them that they will be given the opportunity to respond in submissions to the Committee if they wish to do so.
The Committee has held 11 meetings and has received evidence from a number of migrant groups, the Director-General of Security, the Commissioner of Commonwealth Police and representatives of the New South Wales Police. A number of further witnesses, both individuals and organisations, have indicated a wish to be heard and the Committee wishes to evaluate their submissions and make an appropriate decision. The Committee desires to take further evidence to assist its report and requests an extension of time until the first week in November.
The attention of the Senate is drawn to the fact that as at 28 August 1973 Hansard has been able to produce only the transcript of the first hearing which was held on 16 July 1973. The Committee is unable to proceed with its deliberations in the absence of these transcripts of evidence. I therefore ask leave to move a motion requesting an extension of time for the Committee to complete its task.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That unless otherwise ordered, the Senate at its rising adjourn until 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 11 September next, unless sooner called together by the President or, in the event of the President being unavailable owing to illness or other cause, by the Chairman of Committees.
Inquiry into Australia-New Zealand Trade
Debate resumed from 23 August (vide page 141), on motion by Senator Wilkinson:
That the Senate take note of the Report.
– The Senate Standing Committee on Industry and Trade was asked to investigate the New ZealandAustralia Free Trade Agreement and the way in which the Agreement has functioned since its inception a few years ago. As the Committee stated in the forefront of its report, public hearings were conducted in Canberra and Melbourne and evidence was taken from 37 witnesses. The Committee also considered supplementary written submissions from witnesses and many other written submissions. It was a fairly thorough inquiry but, of course, the effectiveness of it will depend, as always, on just how much notice is taken of the report. If the report is just pigeonholed and forgotten and no attempt is made to remedy the malworking of some parts of the Agreement, the Committee’s inquiry will have been a waste of time and money.
I want to say at the outset that I believe that New Zealand is probably one of the most prosperous countries in the world today. I really believe that. I do not know how much notice one can take of these IPA Facts’ publications of the Institute of Public Affairs which are sent round periodically to honourable senators, but I noticed in a list contained in one of them that in respect of television, radio sets and all the rest of it, New Zealand leads Australia by a little bit. Because of its terrific stock carrying capacity, its wonderful fat lamb production, its wonderful beef producing potential and the uplift that has taken place in its dairying industry over the past 12 months or more, New Zealand is passing through one of the most prosperous eras in its history. Strange it is how things so contradict themselves. I recall that when I was in England five or six years ago some members of the then British Labor Government said in regard to the European Economic Community negotiations that something had to be done about New Zealand, that they had to do something to help New Zealand. I have heard the opinion expressed in Australia, and in this Parliament, that we should do something to help New Zealand and that New Zealand’s economy was very vulnerable inasmuch as it depended so much on the export of primary products. I agree entirely. I speak as one who is a great lover of New Zealand.
I believe that wherever it can reasonably be done the 2 countries should get together as much as possible. The question so far as Australia is concerned is: How are we to get together and who will be hurt? Rest assured that someone will be hurt. Some people already have been hurt. What are we to do about those people who are hurt as a result of free intercourse between the 2 countries? During the inquiry we were told that the imbalance of trade between this country and New Zealand was an emotional issue in Australia. I believe it is. The New Zealander very much resented the fact that there was this imbalance of trade between the 2 countries of about 3 to 1 in Australia’s favour. This agreement was aimed largely at trying to bring about a reduction in that imbalance. We we<-e told in the concluding stages of the inquiry that the imbalance had been reduced from 3 to 1 to 2 to 1. lt is perfectly certain that in that reduction someone in this country has suffered. Looking back over this situation of imbalance in spite of what has been said by some of the Department of Overseas Trade officials who gave evidence to the effect that the 2 economies were complementary to each other and there was no reason at all why they should not coalesce and eventually form one trading union. I never did accept that. I believed that the economies of Australia and New Zealand, unfortunate as it may be, are competitive. They are not complementary. They are competitive because both countries to date - Australia not so much now as formerly - have depended upon the export of primary produce to almost the same world markets.
Australia has had a manufacturing potential in advance of the potential of New Zealand. Because of that fact it has suited New Zealand to purchase a substantial quantity of secondary or manufactured goods from Australia. It suited New Zealand’s economy to do that. In addition to that, circumstances have made it necessary for New Zealand to purchase tropical fruit from Australia. It is a fact of nature. Australia has an adverse trading ratio of 2 to 1 with the United States of America and an adverse balance ratio of 2 to .1 with the United Kingdom. At least, that was so until the entry of the United Kingdom into the European Economic Community. On the other hand, New Zealand has a favourable trading balance with both those countries.
The position boils down to this: No country can expect to trade around the world and break with every country with which it trades. I am one of those who has been looking askance at the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement. I believe that Tasmania has been hit harder by that Agreement and is less able to bear the economic result of it than any other State in the Commonwealth. Further, I believe that if each of 2 countries can grow a surplus of a given product and then attempts to encourage a reciprocal trade in that product one with the other, then there will be trouble and plenty of it. That is what has been wrong with the New ZealandAustralia Free Trade Agreement. I cannot get away from this thought - although it may be falacious: There are good deposits of coal at Greymouth in New Zealand and we have deposits of coal at Newcastle in New South Wales, ls there much difference between attempting to start a reciprocal coa] trade between the 2 centres and attempting to start a reciprocal trade between the 2 countries in a given primary product? What is the difference?
– That is allowing for a comparable quality. For instance, in the case of New Zealand lamb and Australian lamb, one product may be better than the other. I do not know. I am just suggesting this.
– So far as the products that I have in mind are concerned, I believe that there is very little difference in quality. It is true that at the time this Agreement was first mooted and the arrangements were made for its implementation I wrote a letter to Mr McEwen. I told him about the terrific production capacity of New Zealand and what could happen if an attempt were made to bring about reciprocal trading in certain commodities. Those things have eventuated. Our consumption of canning peas, frozen peas or whatever you like to call them is only about 80 million lb. In the same year in which this country produced 120 million lb of canning peas the imports from New Zealand were the highest for any year since the implementation of the Agreement. We were told so often that we had nothing to fear, that there were safeguarding clauses in the Agreement which adequately protected the Australian producer or the New Zealand producer and that if any damage were done these clauses would be implemented. Nothing could convince the powers that be in Canberra - some of the gentlemen who sit up in ivory towers and who have no knowledge of the practicality of the position - that damage was being done to the Australian industry. It was perfectly obvious that, with consumption of 80 million lb a year and a production of 120 million lb a year, the bringing in of imports must damage the local industry. Surely that is elementary.
– Did we export any primary products to New Zealand at the same time?
– Very little. The position was reached where after much representation to the Minister for Trade and Industry and his Department a pea panel was set up. We did not do what the New Zealanders do - just cut off the imports. That has been done by them on several occasions. We did not do that. We set up a panel. Its function was to regulate the imports of peas from New Zealand to Australia. I will say, till all is blue, that it is a most reprehensible proposition that the people who have a vested interest in exporting as many peas as possible to Australia are the people who, in the main, are the members of this panel.
– They sit as representatives of Australian interest.
– Yes. J. Wattie Canneries Ltd is one New Zealand representative on that panel. British Tobacco Co. (Australia) Ltd is one Australian representative on that panel. Both these companies are amalgamated. Unilever (Aus.) Pty Ltd is another company that is represented on the panel. If ever there was a case in which companies were dealing with and had jurisdiction over a product in which they had a positive vested interest, this was it. I say, without any hesitation, that in my view to allow the men who want to export as many peas or beans as possible to sit in judgment and say what that quantity should be is a thoroughly scurrilous proposition. I have said so in a minority report in regard to this matter. Add to it this evidence by a Mr Clifford, a member of the Victorian Farmers’ Union:
A recent development of significance has been the view taken by the Panel that in future New Zealand processor to Australian processor imports (as distinct from processor to trade imports) should be unrestricted.
Is that not beautiful? It means that Wattie can send its peas to British Tobacco in Australia - and they are not taken into account at all in the quota of peas which may be shipped to Australia. I cannot understand that attitude of our Department of Trade and Secondary Industry. The New Zealanders without any hesitation - I do not blame them - have taken action on imports from this country if they have thought that their local industry would be affected by them. Not so our Department. A Mr Allwright, who has a splended reputation in the State of Tasmania, came to us in Melbourne and said: ‘What are we going to do? Practically none of last season’s blue pea crop has been sold. It is still in the stores of less than half a dozen merchants’.
– What is the principal market for blue peas?
– The mainland - Sydney and other cities.
– Why has the crop not been sold on the mainland?
– Because, as Mr Anthony admitted in a letter to me, of the dumping of an inferior quality New Zealand blue pea. That is the reason. The local farmers could not sell them at all.
– Were the New Zealand blue peas available at a cheaper price?
– Yes, they were much cheaper. I still have Mr Anthony’s letter. It took representatives of other organisations and me 6 months to obtain that information. This Committee was so concerned in Melbourne about the position of these people - its members said: ‘What are we to do? Are we to put in any more blue peas?’ - that they commissioned me to write to Mr Anthony on their behalf. I was authorised to speak for the Committee and to urge Mr Anthony to do something about the position. What he did was to refer it to this same panel about which I have spoken. I do not know what happened and Mr Roberts-Thomson did not know what happened. He said that when it was referred to them, the New Zealand representatives said that they knew nothing about it; he said he did not know whether anything had been done about it. If we are : to have a trading partnership in these commodities which are produced in a sufficiency in the 2 countries, surely it is possible to appoint a panel of men, if it must be a panel, who are not themselves financially interested in the commodities and who are able to adjudicate without bias or without benefit to themselves as to how many peas shall flow from one country to another.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was talking about the Australian Pea and Bean Imports Panel. Although it has two producer representatives, the majority of the membership of the panel is composed of representatives of companies whose interests are interwoven and who adjudicate on the quantity of peas and beans to be imported into this country. One could probably search the world without finding a condition in any agreement whereby one country can say to another: ‘You can have a 50 per cent membership on a panel which will adjudicate on the quantity of a given product that we will import into our country’. New Zealand does not do that; and 1 do not blame it. I give New Zealand credit for that. I think I am correct in saying that New Zealand has repeatedly, throughout the course of operation of the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement, stopped certain imports from this country or imposed restrictions upon them without going to a panel and asking it to decide whether that should be done.
Mrs Rolfe, an economist employed by the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation and beyond doubt a competent witness if ever there was one, has spoken about the fact that the representatives whom the Federation sent to a consultative panel - Mr RobertsThomson had something similar to say about the Pea Panel - had had a condition of secrecy imposed upon them. At a Committee meeting I asked Mrs Rolfe the following question:
When you say, ‘He was not in a position to communicate’, could you enlarge on that?
Well I understood, Sir, that conditions of secrecy had been imposed on the members of that consultative panel by the Minister.
She also said:
As the Federation’s economist, I wanted to know what was going on there.
Naturally she would want to know what was going on with respect to the panel. She went on to say:
In reports to the Federation I recall our representative saying: ‘I would like to report but I cannot’. Now we have some very upset delegates in the Federation, very upset. They may have called off their dogs a bit if they had known more, or they may have made a lot more noise. They did not know enough. I think it was only a process of hint and innuendo from people who were not our representatives on that panel that restored any degree of quietude, amongst our more upset delegates.
That is what happened to a delegate from an established federation in this country who sat on a joint Australia-New Zealand panel. He was precluded from reporting to his parent body. What an awful thing that is. I do not know whether the proceedings of the Star
Chamber were held in secret, but the operations of this panel remind me of it. There must be something wrong and I do not know what the present Government has done about it. Surely a delegate to a panel should be able to report to his parent body on its proceedings.
– When did this panel sit?
– I think the Pea and Bean Panel sits about twice a year. It too is subject to a condition of secrecy, according to Mr Roberts-Thomson who is a most estimable man in the primary production field in Tasmania. He has said that all that has been accomplished by the importation of peas and beans into a country which already produces a sufficiency has been a dog eat dog situation. He said that the growers of this country - he quoted figures - are not receiving as much as they were receiving a few years ago, and that the growers in this country and in New Zealand have been reduced to the breadline because of this situation. Surely the work this panel does on the regulation of imports into this country from New Zealand under the auspices of the Agreement, or outside of it, should be supervised by the Department of Overseas Trade. Producing as we do a sufficiency of a God-given product, why should we have to go to the representatives of another country and say to them: ‘You help us to say how many peas or beans we should import into our country’. What an awful setup it is, New Zealand has cut off our exports to it, which it is entitled to do. The Agreement gives New Zealand the right to do so and I do not blame it. But New Zealand has not come to us and said: ‘If you participate with us in a panel we will see what is to be done about the matter’. I repeat that I resent utterly people having a vested interest in the importation of a product into this country sitting in adjudication over the producers whom we in this place are supposed to represent, lt is wrong.
– Some of them have a foot in each camp.
– Yes, some of them have a foot in each camp. One company has a processing business in New Zealand and another in Tasmania. These companies do not say publicly that they do not care very much because they have a number of alternatives, including producing in New Zealand, but they say it privately. It seems to me that some outstanding anomalies exist insofar as the operation of the Agreement is concerned. Naturally one would expect to find some; nobody would expect perfection at once or after only a few years. But it is reasonable to think that an attempt should be made to iron out some of the very glaring anomalies that exist. That is what was said by Mr Jones, the Executive Officer of the Carpet Manufacturers Federation of Australia. In evidence to the Committee he said:
The statement is essentially a protest that whilst the New Zealand carpet industry has no limitation other than preference tariff duties for its large and increasing export of pile carpet to Australia - currently about 23 per cent of New Zealand production and abou: 91 per cent of New Zealand exports - the Australian carpet industry is almost completely deprived of opportunity to export carpet to New Zealand.
He did not say that this was because of either import restrictions or excessively high tariff protection. I forget what reason was given. He went on to say - and in my opinion rightly:
If the New Zealand Government is not prepared to remove import licensing from Schedule A goods promptly or within a stated time limit, as suggested by Mr Back, the goods should nol bc within Schedule A.
I agree with him entirely. Another man who gave evidence is a jam manufacturer from Sydney who was in dire trouble due largely to the fact that at that time - I do not know what the position is now - New Zealand manufacturers bought their sugar, which comprises about 63 per cent of jam, on the world market at half the price that he had to pay. Members of the Committee will remember that this Australian jam manufacturer instanced a whole range of prices at which New Zealand jam was put in Sydney shops. These were prices with which he had no chance on earth of competing. Finally, after a lot of representation the Government, seeing the justice of his case, imposed a dumping duty of 2c per lb on imported New Zealand jam. But here was the rub: He said that even if it was economically possible for him to export jam to New Zealand he could not export one tin because the export of jam to that country is prohibited.
I have mentioned just 2 examples. There were others. Is it any wonder that the adverse balance has climbed down from 3 to 1 to 2 to 1. Surely it is a misomer to call it a free trade agreement unless conditions in the main are reasonably free and allow a free intercourse of trade between each country. To conclude my remarks I would like to say a word or two about the butter market. Writers about the dairy industry remind me of people who look away down a tunnel and see a faint glimmer at the other end, and that is all the comprehension that they have of this industry.
– Do you say that of the Minister who has his head in the clouds in Canberra?
– I found- I say this with all due respect and my Committee members may not agree with me - that people in the Department of Overseas Trade had their heads in the clouds and their feet off the ground as far as the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement is concerned. They did not have any, or very little, practical comprehension of it. An article which appeared in the ‘Canberra Times’ had this to say:
Two methods of bringing the 2 industries together suggest themselves.
The author of the article wrote about including the dairy industry, or part of it, in the ANZUS Pact. The article went on to state:
One is an agreement under NAFTA to eventually allow New Zealand butter and cheese to compete openly on the Australian market according to the spirit of the Agreement . . .
If I wanted to kill the most decentralised primary industry in Australia, further to deplete the rural population in Australia and to build up the urban population, that is precisely what I would do. I would allow New Zealand butter to come into this country and compete on equal terms with the Australian product. I would then sit back and say: ‘Well, I have given the Australian industry a body blow from which it will not recover.’ I will tell honourable senators why this would be the result. I know New Zealand very well. One could search the earth and would not find a country that is more favourably placed by nature. New Zealand weather conditions are extremely favourable for dairy production. No other country in the world - not even Denmark or Holland - is more favourably endowed for dairy production than is New Zealand. I can think of an area of New Zealand in which anywhere within a radius of 20 miles of a factory one can pick up cream from one farm after the other and each of these farms is wholly devoted to butter production. This is what they call cow to the acre country.
Something was said in a document that was presented in this place last week about boosting inefficient industries. The document went on immediately to say that the subsidy to the dairy industry would be gradually phased out. The inference was obvious. I have heard it said often in this place that because butter or milk or anything else from New Zealand can be sold in that country so much more cheaply than the Australian products are sold in Australia, the Australian dairy industry must be inefficient. But nothing could be further from the truth. It is a fact of nature that New Zealand is more suited to the production of dairy products. It is the same as saying that the New Zealand sheep farmer must be inefficient because he does not produce as high a grade of wool as does the Australian sheep farmer. But the reason why the Australian wool farmer can do this is again because of nature. The discrepancy in the prices of milk and butter paid by a New Zealander and by an Australian was also lue in part to the New Zealand producer being subsidised. I do not know what the amount of subsidy is now. I know of quite a number of areas in New Zealand which are engaged in dairy production. I said to the farmers: ‘Do you cut any hay for the winter?’ They said: No. lt is such a risk. We seldom get a long enough dry spell in order to harvest the hay, so we make ensilage instead.’ Now, this happens in the summer. This gives honourable senators some idea of the bountiful summer rainfall which this country receives.
The New Zealand High Commissioner had a positive statement in the Press about a fortnight ago - he pulled it back afterwards - about New Zealand starting to export butter to this country. This is not a dog in the manger attitude at all. This is a real concern which some of us feel at the gradual depleting and reduction of rural areas in this continent. I believe that this is a rock on which we will perish if something is not done about it. There are some serious anomalies in the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement which, I believe should be ironed out. I further believe that the Agreement has been too ill balanced, too one-sided. I think the whole of the Committee’s report leans in the direction that it has been too favourable to New
Zealand. The time is long overdue - this Government should take some notice surely - when the administration of our imports should be in the Government’s own hands and not in the hands of a panel which is loaded because it has a vested interest in pulling down the barrier so far as the Australian producer is concerned.
– I rise to associate myself with the remarks of honourable senators who have supported this report on trade between Australia and New Zealand which has been brought down by the Senate Standing Committee on Industry and Trade. I think that it is an excellent compilation and that it has adequately dealt with all aspects of trade between the 2 countries. The report, which has been brought in under 15 sub-headings, can only bring credit to the honourable senators who were responsible for compiling it. Many observations and recommendations have been made in the report but I do not propose to deal with them because, after all, I was only elected to this Committee early in the year. Honourable senators will recall that the Committee was reappointed on, I think, 14 March this year and the new members were elected to it on 15 March. The task of the new Committee was to consider the draft report which had already been drawn up by the outgoing Committee.
If any rewards for the compiling of the report are due they are due to the members of the outgoing Committee. For that reason I feel that the retiring members are equipped to speak more adequately to the report than I am. Nevertheless I would not like to miss the opportunity to make some observations on one aspect of the report, that is, the very interesting segment which refers to the tourist trade which exists betweeen Australia and New Zealand. I do not need to remind honourable senators of the importance of the tourist industry to this country. It is built in to the Treasury. Overseas visitors alone bring $156m into this country per annum. This represents 3 per cent of our export earnings. When one considers that the tourist trade earns, in export earnings, more than our exports of iron, steel and dairy products one realises with some surprise the importance of the tourist industry to the Australian economy. In 1971 over 98,000 New Zealanders visited Australia. That represented 30 per cent of all overseas visitors to our shores. In 1972 over 100,000 New Zealanders visited Australia and spent $26m while they were here.
– I think Brisbane is closer to Auckland than it is to Melbourne.
– Well, it is still Australia. I like to think of us as Australians. I am not like Senator Byrne who wants to keep these fictitious boundaries which separate the States, boundaries drawn up by colonial secretaries years ago. I am speaking of trade between Australia and New Zealand. I do not want to be a partisan and think of Queensland trade with New Zealand. I prefer to think of Australian trade.
– Except in football.
– I am not going to be distracted by Senator Byrne or Senator Gair. I assure them that I welcome their interjections. I ask ‘them not to cease making them.
– The honourable senator is not doing too well.
– No, but I will as I warm up. I will improve in quality. I will give a reply of the same quality as that of the interjection. Anyhow, it will interest those more intelligent honourable senators to know that the 98,000 visitors from New Zealand who come to Australia annually represent 80 per cent of all New Zealand travellers. This is a remarkable position. Of all people who travel from New Zealand annually 80 per cent come to Australia. The critics might like to say: *Of course, that is understandable because there are financial restrictions on New Zealand travellers who go overseas’. I think that in ‘1969 the amount which they were allowed to take out of the country was $14 a day. In 1970 it was increased to about $20 a day. With the rise in the amount allowed the increase in the number of travellers who left New Zealand was noticeable. It is true that this would be a contributing factor in New Zealand’s desire to see Australia. It might be, as Senator Byrne suggested, that they use our ports as stepping stones before they travel further overseas. This may be a factor which contributes to the whole position of New Zealand tourists visiting Australia.
I would like to think that some credit was given to the activities of the Australian Tourist Commission. I know from the annual report that it has increased its staff and activity in that country. This can only result in an improved flow of tourists from New Zealand to Australia. I have seen the practical exercises of the Gold Coast City Council and the Gold Coast tourist industry which, by sending promotional tours to New Zealand, have increased the flow of tourists from that country to the Gold Coast. Those efforts have been tremendously successful and the tourist industry has become a very important part of the economy of that 23-mile strip of coast. I repeat that the promotional tours that were originally sponsored by the Gold Coast City Council, various tourist industries and sections of commerce and industry on the Gold Coast have proved to be tremendously successful. I like to think that this is because of the activities also of the Australian Tourist Commission which displayed a keen and active interest in promoting tourists to leave New Zealand and come to Australia. As a result of its enterprise we have ‘the healthy position where over 100,000 New Zealanders spend $26m here annually. This is very important. As I said at the outset, there are many aspects of trade between Australia and New Zealand which are covered in this report. The Committee has done an excellent job. It is a first class compilation and one that could provide a very profitable reference for honourable senators in the future.
I think it opportune to mention at this time that if the operations of the Senate standing committees and select committees are of the calibre of the Committee inquiring into trade and industry matters, it speaks volumes for the continuance of the Senate committee system. I believe that these committees are doing a wonderful job. I think that al! honourable senators are better informed as a result of the establishment of the committees and I am sure that the electorate also is better informed.
I do not intend to speak at any length. As I said at the outset, I am only a new member on the Committee. But I feel the report is so good that I would be remiss if I did not associate myself with the congratulatory remarks that have already been offered to the members who compiled it. I believe that the goodwill and the friendship engendered by tourism must surely aid trade and other aspects of relations between Australia and New Zealand. I have selected the area of tourism because I believe it is one area from which a lot of good can come, not only from the economic point of view but also from the point of view of promoting goodwill between the 2 countries. I hope that we in Australia will take a broad enough view to realise that the flow of tourists cannot be just a one-way affair. I hope that Australia will encourage its own people to visit our neighbouring nation of New Zealand and I feel sure that the New Zealand Government will be stepping up its activities to try to encourage Australians to go to New Zealand.
Once again I congratulate the retiring members of the Committee who were responsible for drawing up this report. As one of the current members of the Committee, I believe it was our task purely and simply to consider the draft report. Very little alteration had to be made to it. As I said earlier, rewards are due to the retiring members of the Committee. I commend the report to the Senate.
– lt is expected that I should say something about this report presented by the Senate Standing Committee on Industry and Trade. I had the honour and indeed the pleasure of being the Chairman of this Committee while the bulk of the work was being done. It would be remiss of me not to say at the outset that anyone who had been in a position similar to that which I occupied realises the tremendous load of detailed work that is thrown upon the officers who are employed to assist the Committee. They have to gather together all the threads, make the arrangements, organise the various meetings and arrange for the witnesses to appear before the Committee. In that regard I think that our secretary, Mr Bill Symington, and his assistant, Tim Mackey, did a magnificent job. Without their loyal co-operation this report would not have seen the light of day.
The investigations with which the report deals comprise only a part of the continuing task which the Senate has given to the Committee, namely, looking at Australian trade agreements. We chose in the first place to look at the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement, partly I think because we had on the Committee two distinguished Tasmanian senators who had a very real interest in this matter. Having listened to Senator Lillico’s remarks honourable senators would realise what a very strong advocate we had in relation to one section of trade between New Zealand and Australia. I do not think Senator
Wriedt, who is now Minister for Primary Industry, would mind my saying that even if he did not learn the difference between a corriedale sheep and a merino sheep at least he got a very solid introduction to some of the problems facing primary industry, and particularly that section of primary industry involved in trade between Australia and New Zealand.
Our inquiry was interrupted by a request from the Senate to divert our attention to another matter, namely, the proposed takeover of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd. This diversion did not help us very much in our inquiry into trade problems but we had to throw it aside. Subsequently I became ill and was unable to attend Committee hearings for some time. Senator Lillico also became ill. The loyalty and the hard work of the remaining members of the Committee, particularly Senator Wilkinson enabled this report to appear. Senator Wilkinson, while occupying the position of Acting Chairman, was untiring and loyal in his work. I do not want to mention every member of the Committee, but I know that Senator Young attended hearings at times at great inconvenience to himself in order to maintain a quorum and to keep the work flowing.
The report deals with a very important part of Australia’s trade relationships. New Zealand is Australia’s fourth biggest customer and Australia is New Zealand’s fourth biggest customer, and trade between our countries is important. At the outset of the inquiry we found an element of distrust. The history of the Agreement has been one of considerable doubt as to its advisability, not only on the part of Australia but also on the part of New Zealand. This mutual suspicion was a recurring factor. It is something which I think must be overcome. As Chairman of the Committee I tried to do everything possible to attain a degree of confidence and cordiality whenever we came into contact with New Zealanders. One of my greatest regrets was that we did not get enough evidence on the New Zealand side of the question. We had evidence from some firms represented on the New Zealand trade scene. We had one submission from a group of New Zealand farmers. But I think our work was hampered by our inability to look at the New Zealand side of the situation.
– How was that hampered?
– There are a number of reasons. We were hampered partly because of the limitations imposed on Senate committees as far as travel outside Australia is concerned. We came up against constitutional problems as well as a reluctance on the part of New Zealanders, with some exceptions, to submit evidence. I think this is to be regretted. If we are to have a Senate committee charged with the responsibility of looking at trade relationships, we should not be limited to looking at the situation on one side of the fence. I would prefer some means to be devised whereby we can get a proper perspective on the problems that we meet. When one looks at the geographical situation of Australia and New Zeland one realises how important it is that we come closer together and have a better understanding in trade matters. I submit that we are not a part of any other country or any other continent. Australia and New Zealand, together with the Pacific Islands, constitute a group of countries that could more properly be called Oceania than anything else. New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific Islands certainly are a region in which, I believe, we should develop our common interests. NAFTA has that as an idealistic concept.
In pursuance of that objective we have come up against the realities of life, the real problems of trade. We find that New Zealand and Australia produce, to a great extent, the same range of products but under different conditions. I think Australia has a considerable advantage in regard to manufactured products. On the other hand, New Zealand has a corresponding advantage, as Senator Lillico has so strongly stressed, in regard to some primary products. If we are to develop a reciprocal trade the problem is to see that we do not damage the interests of one section in promoting the interests of another section, the submission has been made that in fact this has happened with regard to the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement - that the primary products of Australia have tended to suffer in order to advantage the development of trade in manufactured products. Of course, this is something upon which witnesses commented. I think that those who read this report would need to go deeply into the question if they wish to arrive at a proper understanding of the problems in the way “>> nlarging Australia’s trade vis-a-vis New Z eland. I draw attention to this statement in the Committee report:
Overall, the NAFTA appears to have had little effect on the pattern of trade between the 2 countries, although New Zealand has gained more in terms of increased exports to Australia.
In fact, what has happened over a period of 6 years, from 1964-65 to 1970-71, is that although Australia’s exports to the rest of the world increased by 60 per cent, our exports to New Zealand increased by only 24 per cent. So in the overall position NAFTA has not increased the ratio of our exports to New Zealand. While Australia’s imports overall increased by some 34 per cent, imports from New Zealand increased by 43 per cent.
– Was John McEwen the architect of this?
– I am not concerned with, and I will not be drawn into, any political argument. As Chairman of the Committee, I kept away from that. Of course, Senator O’Byrne and I know that John McEwen, as head of the Department of Trade and Industry, was the Minister at the time this Agreement was signed. I think that the concept, the ideal, is a splendid one. We, as a Committee, were charged with the responsibility of looking at how the Agreement works and I believe that we reported factually on how it is working. We did not come down with any recommendations because it was not a report in which recommendations as such were appropriate. But we made some comments, and I think that would be about the only part of the report I would like to read to the Senate.
– There are some recommendations on page 10 of the report.
– Yes. I am concerned with the comments at this point. The Committee in its report stated:
In this respect, this is a criticism that NAFTA has not achieved some of the aims that it was set up to achieve. The report continues:
I would particularly ask the Senate to note comment (vi), which reads:
The final comment reads:
These ecn ments illustrate the difficulties. I regret that I had overlooked the list of recommendations. The recommendations really flow from the comments. We found these real practical difficulties and made recommendations regarding their amelioration. I recommend that all honourable senators read this report if they pre interested in this subject of expanding Australia’s trade with New Zealand. I think it is more than just expanding trade on a commercial profit and loss basis. New Zealand and Australia are near neighbours. We are people who are closely related in every possible way. Perhaps New Zealanders are the most isolated people in the world, at least in relation to distance. I appreciate what Senator McAuIiffe has said about thi need for developing a tourist trade, but it should not be on a dollars and cents basis because New Zealand has something magnificent to offer Australia in the way of tourist facilities. Australia is so different from New Zealand and therefore has something to offer New Zealand. There I think lies one of the great possibilities for expanding the tourist trade between Australia and New Zealand so that our people get to know one another better, to appreciate one another and to develop a better understanding of our problems.
Along that road, perhaps more than on any othe lies the solution to the problems that Sei. ?: Lillico is concerned about. A better understanding of each other will lead to a greater facilitation of trade and commerce between us .na a uniting of people who have so much in common.
It was an honour for me to serve in this capacity on the Committee. I v/as proud of the people who were working with me. I regret that the interest created by the report has not been greater because this is one subject which should concern the Australian people. I commend the report to the Senate and pay tribute to the present chairman, Senator Wilkinson, who I know will carry on the work of the Committee in the best traditions of Senate committees.
– As one of the very new members on the Senate Standing Committee on Industry and Trade, having been appointed only on 15 March, I rise to associate myself with this report of the Committee and to make a very small contribution to this debate. I realise that Senator Young and Senator Wilkinson also want to make some comments on this report in the time remaining for discussion on it and as they have both put a tremendous amount of time and work into this Committee it is only fair that we should give them as much time to speak as we possibly can. I did not take pmt in the hearing of the submissions placed before this Committee but I did take part in the Committee’s deliberations and in the compilation of this report. It was during these deliberations that I became very acutely aware of the valuable work performed by the staff which has been seconded to the Committee. I am very appreciative, as other members of the Committee are, of the work they do and of the courtesy they show not only to members of the Committee but also to witnesses and other people associated with the Committee. I am sure that without their co-operation and courtesy the Committee could not do the work it has to do on this and other aspects of its inquiries.
I want to refer to 2 recommendations in the report. I refer firstly to recommendation No. 12 which states:
That the two Governments examine the feasibility of joint marketing policies in regard to third markets.
I was very grateful yesterday to hear a reply by the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator
Wriedt) to a question I asked. Incidentally, Senator Wriedt was a member of this Committee before the change of government and was very closely associated with gs workings. I asked the Minister what sort of co-operation there v/as now between himself, as the Australian Minister for Primary Industry, and the New Zealand Minister for Agriculture. I was very pleased when he told me that he had bad some private discussions with the New Zealand Minister who had indicated quite strongly his desire to see maximum cooperation between Australia and New Zealand in world markets. The Minister went on to say that he was quite confident that we could look forward to the utmost co-operation with >‘-rv.’ Zealand. He said also that they had agreed that there would be reciprocal visits by both Ministers each year in order to discuss the various problems that we have with marketing our products around the world. The Minister concluded:
I believe that there is a great desire on the part of New Zealand to work as closely as possible with us on the marketing problems that both countries have.
We all realise that our problems in the marketing of primary products have increased with the entry of Great Britain to the European Economic Community. It is gratifying to know that both the Australian Minister for Primary Industry and the New Zealand Minister for Agriculture met in the last 5 weeks, I think during the last meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council, and that they are now to have regular meetings to discuss our problems in selling our primary products on the third markets which are available to us. I am sure that only good can come from these discussions. The only other matter I wanted to discuss briefly was recommendation 14 which states:
That the Government consider the advantages to be gained from the establishment of some competition with the entry of an Australian flag carrier into the trans-Tasman trade.
I hope that those recommendations of the Committee will be taken into consideration by the Ministers of the 2 Governments. The Committee states at page 118 of its report:
It therefore seems to the Committee that it would be advantageous for the establishment of some competition in the shipping services between the countries if an Australian flag carrier such as the Australian National Line were to enter the trade. The actual detailed arrangements for such an entry would be a matter for commercial negotiation by the parties concerned, but the Committee supports the idea in principle.
This is a very worthwhile recommendation by the Committee because we do have an Australian National Line. I am hopeful that the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) will have this report drawn to his attention and that something can be done to get one of the ships of the Australian National Line onto this run and so help us in many ways. I look forward to the continued co-operation between Australia and New Zealand not only in the marketing of primary products but also in the marketing of many things we manufacture in our secondary industries. I commend this report to the Senate and commend it also as good reading to all people who are interested in bettering our trade relations with New Zealand.
– I join with my colleagues on the Senate Standing Committee on Industry and Trade in speaking to this report. May I say at the outset how much I appreciated Senator Prowse when he was chairman of this Committee and admired the amount of work that he put into this task. Also I must pay tribute to the new chairman of the Committee, Senator Wilkinson, who has been on ‘ this Committee with me since its inception. 1 pay tribute to previous members of the Committee. I refer here to 2 Senators who have been mentioned today, the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) and Senator Primmer who served on the Committee for quite some time. I pay respect to them for the contribution they made in both the assimilation of the information and finally the preparation of the initial draft report that was placed before the Committee when it was reconstituted early this year.
Over the years with the development of trade between Australia and New Zealand there have been many discussions between the 2 countries in an endeavour to obtain a better understanding and to overcome some of the trading difficulties that have developed from time to time. As Senator Lillico said earlier today, these sometimes have been due to outside circumstances and influences. It was in 1965 when finally the 2 countries got together and negotiated what was to be known as the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement. It was to be a limited free trade agreement when it came into operation in January 1966 and it was suggested that it should remain in force for 10 years and continue beyond that if necessary, unless one of the partners decided to terminate the agreement by the giving of some prior notice.
For some time some sections of the Australian industry have expressed concern on the overall effect of the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement, particularly on some sections of rural industry. The Senate gave a reference to the Senate Standing Committee on Industry and Trade concerning the promotion of trade and commerce with other countries. At this stage I must pay tribute to Senator Lillico who had for many years in the Senate expressed grave concern about the effect of NAFTA on many areas of Australian rural industry, particularly in relation to the pea and bean industry. He was highly critical of its effect upon those industries, lt was due to Senator Lillico’s zeal, criticisms and strong desires because of the effects of New Zealand trade on certain sections of rural industry in Australia that the Committee decided to take as its first reference, within the ambit of its general responsibility, the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement. Again, I must pay tribute to Senator Lillico for the speech he has made in the Senate and also for the amount of work that he has put into this Committee in investigating and inquiring generally into the overall effects of NAFTA on Australian trade and industry. 1 do not intend to deal with rural industry specifically, particularly the pea and bean industry, because I feel that Senator Lillico has dealt with that in great depth. But I pass this comment: I feel that there is an area here where we will need closer scrutiny, as the honourable senator said today, because it is an area which I feel, to some extent, has been affected adversely by this agreement between Australia and New Zealand. One can express only concern and sympathy for his State of Tasmania which I feel has been more adversely affected in many ways under this agreement. The Committee studied the Trade Agreement and its operations in depth and took evidence from a wide range of representatives of industry and commerce involved within NAFTA. We tried to deal with this subject in depth and to get a very wide cross-section of evidence before the Committee because this is the only way in which we can operate effectively to bring down a report.
I must say that I was very disappointed that no representative of New Zealand, with the exception of Mr D. O. Walker of New Zealand Forest Products Ltd was prepared to give evidence to the Committee, although the Committee did receive one lot of written evidence. I can only reiterate that I was very disappointed because we had invited witnesses to represent New Zealand on more than one occasion. The disappointing part was that the Committee was unable to pass and comment on the New Zealand attitude towards the overall operation and effectiveness of NAFTA.
The agreement is characterised by a number of provisions designed to safeguard domestic industries. These include a restricted product coverage in Schedule A, the Schedule which lists the goods which are subject to the free trade provisions of the Agreement, procedures for dealing with injury or threatened injury to industries through the deflection of trade, which comes under article 7 of the Agreement, provision for the withdrawal of free trade obligations in order to encourage new industries and the suspension of the agreement in respect of any commodity where damage to an industry occurs or is threatened. It also provides for the maintenance of import licensing for balance of payments purposes. Other important features include the maintenance of New Zealand import licensing under certain conditions, the equalisation of British preferential tariffs and Australian rates in the New Zealand tariff, rules of origin and special arrangements made in regard to specific products. It covers quite an area containing many safeguards. At the same time, as has been stated today, the Committee found that there were quite a few anomalies within the overall agreement.
When the Agreement came into force the great bulk of items included in Schedule A were already free of duty. The whole idea of Schedule A is to have an increase in this particular area and so obtain a greater area of free trade between Australia and New Zealand. The duties on other items in the Schedule are being phased out in accordance with a formula which requires the immediate removal of duties in oases where they were 5 per cent ad valorem or less, elimination of duties in 2 years where duties were between 5 per cent and 10 per cent and phased reduction of duties to ‘free’ completely in 2 year stages over a period of 8 years where the duties exceeded 10 per cent. By consent, the duty phase-out may be accelerated. I mention this to show that here again is spelt out very clearly and in definite terms the intention of Schedule A. The intention is to obtain an area of free trade wherever possible between Australia and New Zealand.
Of course, Schedule A is naturally one of the main features of the Agreement as this deals, as I said earlier, with the free trade between the 2 countries in certain items covering a wide range of manufacturing, forest products and agricultural products. Items not under Schedule A may be added following an annual review and mutual agreement between the 2 countries. This was one area that the Committee looked at in great depth. It recommended that the period of review might be reduced from annually to a lesser time, perhaps 6 months. I am pleased to say that recently the present Minister for Overseas Trade and Minister for Secondary Industry (Dr J. F. Cairns) and his counterpart in New Zealand agreed to reduce this period of time to 6 months. I think it is important that we try to get down to a 6-month period. It allows for more frequent review and a greater opportunity for further inclusion of items under Schedule A which, of course, is basically what NAFTA is all about. As I said the intention of NAFTA was to establish free trade between Australia and New Zealand. One important aspect of the development of free trade under the Agreement is Article 3.7 which states:
In relation to goods not at the time listed in Schedule A to this Agreement, the Member states may agree on and implement special measures beneficial to the trade and development of each Member state and designed to further the objectives of this Agreement. Such measures may include the remission or reduction of- duties on agreed goods or classes of goods in part or in whole.
As the Committee states in its report, arrangements entered into under Article 3.7 usually involved an exchange of special import licences and in some cases the reduction of duties by New Zealand on Australian goods in return for duty free entry of specified New Zealand goods into Australia. Any arrangements entered into under Article 3.7 are usually on a 12-months basis with the opportunity for review and renewal by the industries concerned, with discussions quite often taking place between the businessmen concerned in the 2 countries. So there is this area of direct negotiation or discussion. Here again, I believe that there should be a reduction in the period of negotiation under Article 3.7 as we have done in regard to Schedule A of the Agreement. Of course, the concept of Article 3.7 is to give an opportunity to those sections of trade which are not on the free list of Schedule A, and would therefore be dutiable, to have some entry of their goods. The volume of trade is controlled by a special licence or an easing of the import duties in what could be described as a ‘trial’ to see whether the development of such imports adversely affected local industry and what is the overall national gain by such imports. Of course, with Australia this exchange usually involves completely free entry of New Zealand goods into Australia, as was emphasised so much by Senator Lillico in his address to the Senate earlier this afternoon. Whilst there were varying views on the effectiveness of Article 3.7, the Committee felt that it had not assisted free trade to the extent that was the intention and the hope. The Committee also felt that the development of Article 3.7 as a means of bringing in more items under the free area of Schedule A should be a matter of absolute priority because Article 3.7 is also aimed at encouraging rationalisation of production in the 2 countries to enable them to concentrate on different lines and avoid duplication for the combined market, with the aim of bringing in economies of production through increased throughputs in the various industries of the respective countries.
The importance of this aspect of Article 3.7 was recognised by the former Ministers for Trade of both Australia and New Zealand in their discussions in May 1972 when they agreed that an urgent study should be undertaken to define more clearly the aspects of rationalisation of the procedures under Article 3.7. I am pleased to say that in March of this year Dr J. F. Cairns and his counterpart, the New Zealand Minister for Trade and Industry, reaffirmed the need for new intermediate arrangements which would be complementary to each other. The 2 Ministers have committed themselves to make progress in bilateral trade under NAFTA more rapid and effective. Witnesses stated to the Committee that there should be less secrecy regarding Article 3.7 proposals and arrangements generally and that, where possible, these details should be published to give a better understanding to industry and to encourage further development of trade between the 2 countries. It is pleasing to note that this matter has also been taken up by the Government. Today details of current proposals are being published. I refer to one area in which they are being published, that is, ‘Overseas Trading’.
The Committee also recommended that it should be obligatory for goods concerned in a successful Article 3.7 arrangement over a period of 12 months to be considered for inclusion in Schedule A unless special factors, such as credit for a special pioneering industry or heavy developmental investment, mitigated against this. It was felt that greater encouragement for participation under Article 3.7 which is basically, as I described earlier, the transitional period of operation between the 2 countries, would encourage all goods to be included in Schedule A. Article 3.7 is basically a half-way house - an encouragement of rationalisation, an opportunity to test markets to see what effect there will be on a counterpart in the other country and from that to develop it until it reaches the stage of open, mutual export exchange on a free trade basis.
In evidence given to the Committee it was noted that there was no real incentive for New Zealand to approve arrangements which involved food products, for the reason that New Zealand food products generally entered Australia free and, as a result, some Australian firms had been denied the opportunity to enter into reciprocal trading arrangements with New Zealand firms in order to obtain some relief from the New Zealand import licensing. I shall not go into detail on that. I mention it again because it was a most important point which was spelt out very clearly and firmly by Senator Lillico today. Certain areas of the trade tend to disadvantage Australia more than other areas of the trade tend to disadvantage New Zealand. Import licensing by New Zealand has been the main bone of contention of Australian exporters for many years because, although trade may be free of any tariff, it can still be limited by its entry quota under a licence system which limits market expansion and development under the so-called free trade. This is a very important point and one on which the Committee expressed quite some concern. While it might be said that the trade is free there are still restrictions upon it because of a quota system which can still disadvantage Australian exporters. Under a licensing system, limitations on imports via licensing still operate on goods listed in Schedule A as being free of tariff.
I must, in all fairness, say that it must be noted that since the introduction of the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement New Zealand has reduced the incidence of licensing. Approximately two-thirds of all imports today are free of licensing controls. Nevertheless, there is still a very long way to go in this area. It is one thing which must be borne in mind in future discussions between the 2 governments. Little benefit is to be gained by removing a tariff from an article and then applying a licence to it because that is taking off one type of restriction and replacing it with another.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Poyser) - Order! The time for this debate having expired, the Senate will proceed to other business.
Bill received from the House of Represena first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wriedt) read first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Poyser) - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
The purpose of this Bill is to abolish the full time position of executive member of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission and to substitute a part time position of member. The full time position of executive member was established by amendment of the principal Act in 1958. At that time, each member of the Commission, including the Chairman, held office part time. The position of Chairman has been occupied on a full time basis for a number of years and it is unnecessary to retain a full time position of executive member. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Laucke) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wriedt) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Poyser) - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
The purpose of this Bill is to seek the approval of the Parliament for conversion to metric measure of the definitions of a winery and a distillery for the purpose of the requisition of a poll and voting, under the Wine Overseas Marketing Act 1929-1966. Any such poll would relate to the question of whether the Act - and so the Australian Wine Board - should continue in operation. Provision for such a poll has been included in the Act since its inception. The amendment proposed in the Bill has been introduced simply to accord with the wine industry’s progress in metric conversion. The intention of the present provision in the Act would not be altered. The change now proposed is simply to substitute the nearest rational metric quantity - 25 tonnes - for the imperial system quantity - 25 tons - of annual grape intake which at present determines whether an establishment is a winery or a distillery for the purpose of this Act.
In a Bill, which I will introduce shortly, to convert to metric measure certain references in the Wine Grapes Charges Act, a different quantity of annual grape intake determines a winery or distillery. The 10 tons currently specified in that Act is amended to 10 tonnes. This difference between the definitions in the two Acts has existed for many years. The lower qualification in the Wine Grapes Charges Act is intended to spread as widely as possible the burden of financing the Australian Wine Board. 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 Wriedt) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill he now read a second time.
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Poyser) - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
The purpose of this Bill is to seek the approval of the Parliament for conversion to metric measure of the definitions of a winery and a distillery, and for conversion into metric measure of the maximum rates of charges applicable to the grape intake of such establishments, under the Wine Grapes Charges Act 1929-1969. This Government has accepted that Australia should convert to use of the metric system as the system of measurement of physical quantitities. Some Australian industries have already converted to metric measurement, and many others are well advanced in their conversion programs. The wine industry is well to the forefront in this sphere. I understand that grape intake and wine making operations at all wine processing establishments have been converted to measurement by the metric system, and that many sales are being made in metric measure. The present Bill provides for amendment of the Wine Grapes Charges Act 1929-1969 in the ways necessary to give effect to metric conversion.
One change now proposed is to substitute the nearest rational metric quantity’10 tonnes’ for the imperial system quantity’10 tons’ of annual grape intake which now determines whether an establishment is a winery or distillery for the purpose of making charges under this Act. A second proposed change provides that the maximum rates of charge which may be applied will be converted from $2.50 per ton of fresh grapes and$7.50 per ton of dried grapes to the same amounts per tonne. This change also substitutes the nearest rational metric quantity - the tonne - for the imperial unit - the ton - on which these charges are based.I may add that the use of the tonne as the basic unit in this case results in a small increase of about1½ per cent in the maximum rates of charges. Funds raised under the Wine Grapes Charges Act provide virtually the whole income of the Australian Wine Board which is responsible, inter alia, for controlling and promoting the export of Australian wine. 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 Douglas McClelland) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I seek leave to incorporate the second reading speech in Hansard.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Poyser) - Is leave granted?
There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
When introducing a Bill to amend the Australian National University Act on 27 October 1970 the then Minister for Education and Science spoke of the introduction at a later stage of further amendments to the Australian National University Act to give the university power to control traffic within the university. The present Government agrees that there is a need for the university to have such a power and the measure I am now introducing is for this purpose. The Bill gives the university a general power to make statutes for the regulation of traffic and parking on the university site. It also gives the university specific powers: To appoint its own traffic officers; to regulate access to the university roads; to set up parking meters and charge for parking; to tow away abandoned vehicles; to prescribe fines for traffic offences proved in court; and where parking or stopping offences are involved, to fix a small penalty which the offenders may choose to pay rather than undergo prosecution. The provisions of a university traffic statute apply to members of the public on the university site as well as to those connected with the university, unless the statute provides otherwise. The statutemaking power proposed for the University with respect to traffic control, is, however, restricted to the making of provisions which are not inconsistent with the provisions of the A.C.T. Motor Traffic Ordinance. A similar provision already exists in the Canberra College of Advanced Education Act.
The provisions of this Bill will enable the university to secure its campus from overencroachment by traffic and enforce reasonable traffic behaviour within university grounds. The university’s council has pressed for a traffic control power for some time and I believe that without such a power the university will not be able to develop its site effectively or have adequate control over daytoday activities upon the campus. It is intended that the University should draft its traffic control statutes in consultation with the Department of the Capital Territory, a requirement which can be dealt with by administrative arrangement and needs no legislative provision. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
– The Opposition does not oppose this Bill. As a member of the Council of the Australian National University, I personally support it for it provides for the regulation of traffic within the university. A considerable number of problems have arisen in the control of the increasing numbers of motor vehicles which go onto the premises of the university. We support the Bill arid will give it a speedy passage.
– in reply - I appreciate Senator Rae’s remarks and I thank the Opposition for affording the Bill a speedy passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Willesee) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill proposes amendments to the export incentive grants legislation to remove some disabilities affecting statutory marketing authorities. Under the present law a marketing authority which acquires ownership of goods it exports or sells for export may, within 60 days of coming into existence, make an election which gives it the right to have these goods taken into account for the purpose of ascertaining its export grant. These requirements have been judged to be unnecessarily restrictive. In practice they can mean that exports made by the authorities on behalf of suppliers are not reflected in export grants. The proposed amendments will enable an election to be made by an authority whether or not it acquires ownership of the goods it exports and will also remove the 60-day limit for making an election. An election made after the commencement of the amending Act may, at the option of the authority, apply from as early as the commencement of the 1971-72 grant year. These amendments will also permit a marketing authority, by the issue of export certificates, to pass part or all of its grant entitlement for the 1971-72 year or a subsequent grant year to licensees associated with it in the marketing of Australian produced goods.
Other provisions of the Bill will permit wider participation by gold producers in the export incentives scheme. It will enable the Gold Producers’ Association to pass on to gold producers the benefit of export certificates received by the Association as a supplier of gold fabricated into goods for export. These provisions will apply as from the 1971-72 financial year. Apart from the amendments relating to marketing boards and gold producers, the Bill does no more than continue the present export incentive scheme for another year. What will happen after 30 June 1974 has yet to be decided. So it cannot yet be said whether the present scheme or some other scheme will operate or even no scheme. That will be decided later, in the light of a number of relevant factors. In the event that there were no schemes, consideration might be given to the need for hardship relief, but if that proved to be the situation such relief would not, of course, provide under a different name concessions as generous as the present incentives. These questions about the position after 30 June 1974 will be examined and the decision announced later. A memorandum providing detailed explanations of the provisions of the Bill is being made available to honourable senators. 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 Willesee) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill will make amendments to the Payroll Tax Assessment Act corresponding with those proposed in relation to gold producers in the Export Incentive Grants Bill which I have just introduced. The export incentive grants scheme is the successor to the pay-roll tax rebate scheme adopted when pay-roll tax was transferred to the states. The amendments will apply in respect of the financial years 1968-69 to 1970-71 and will enable the actual producers of gold to receive export certificates under the pay-roll tax rebate scheme as suppliers of components where, after having been sold by a prescribed company for industrial use in Australia, gold has been fabricated into goods and exported. The memorandum explaining the provisions of the Export Incentive Grants Bill also contains explanations of the provisions of this Bill. 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:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the Bill now before the Senate is to extend the operation of the cellulose acetate bounty until 30 June 1976. This is in conformity with the Tariff Board’s suggestion that the bounty be continued until the Board has examined this and other acetyl products in its 1975 general review of the chemical industry. The present Act expires on 31 December 1973 and it is desirable that there should be continuity of assistance until the Government has considered the Tariff Board’s report and recommendations. Opportunity is also taken to introduce metric measurement and the rate of bounty of 8.8c per kilogram is a conversion of the rate of 4c per pound as provided for in current legislation. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
– Before moving for the adjournment of the debate, I wish briefly to thank the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Murphy) and his Department for the way in which they have provided material on this Bill to the Opposition. This material will help us a great deal in our consideration of this matter. Other Ministers should emulate the practice. I move:
That the debate be now adjourned.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Poyser) - The President has received the following message from the House of Representatives:
The House of Representatives transmits to the Senate the following Resolution which was agreed to by the House of Representatives this day, and requests that the Senate concur and take action accordingly.
That a joint Committee be appointed to Inquire into, report on and make recommendations for -
a balanced system of committees for the Parliament;
the integration of the committee system into the procedures of the Parliament; and
arrangements for committee meetings which will best suit the convenience of senators and members.
That the committee consist of three members of the House of Representatives nominated by the Prime Minister, one member of the House of Representatives nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, one member of the House of Representatives nominated by the Leader of the Australian Country Party in the House of Representatives, two senators nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, one senator nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and one Senator nominated by the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party in the Senate.
That every nomination of a member of the committee be forthwith notified in writing to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
That the members of the committee hold office as a joint committee until the House of Representatives expires by dissolution or effluxion of time.
That the committee elect as Chairman of the committee one of the members nominated by the Prime Minister or by the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
That the Chairman of the committee may, from time to time, appoint another member of the committee to be the Deputy Chairman of the committee, and that the member so appointed act as Chairman of the committee at any time when the Chairman is not present at a meeting of the committee.
That the committee have power to appoint sub-committees consisting of three or more of its members and to refer to any such subcommittee any of the matters which the committee is empowered to examine.
That the committee have power to send for persons, papers and records, to move from place to piece and to sit during any recess or adjournment of the Parliament. <9) That the committee have leave to report from time to time and that any member of the committee have power to add a protest or dissent to any report.
That five members of the committee constitute a quorum of the committee, and a majority of the members of a sub-committee constitute a quorum of that sub-committee.
That in matters of procedure the Chairman or Deputy Chairman presiding at the meeting have a deliberative vote and, in the event of an equality of voting, have a casting vote, and that, in other matters, the Chairman or Deputy Chairman have a deliberative vote only.
that the committee be provided with all necessary staff, facilities and resources.
That the committee or a sub-committee have power to authorise publication of any evidence given before it and any document presented to it.
That the committee may proceed to the despatch of business notwithstanding that all members of the committee have not been appointed and notwithstanding any vacancy on the committee.
That the foregoing provisions of this resolution, so far as they are inconsistent with the standing orders, have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the standing orders.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That consideration of the message be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that Dr the Honourable A. J. Forbes, MC, being a member of the Liberal Party of Australia, had been appointed a member of the Australian Parliament’s delegation to the Constitutional Convention in place of the Honourable N. H. Bowen, Q.C., the latter member having ceased to be a member of the Parliament.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives without amendment.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that Mr Morris had been appointed a member of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts in place of Mr Hurford, discharged.
Debate resumed from 29 August (vide page 288).
– - I suggest that it may be more convenient for the Committee to consider firstly the second of the 2 amendments to this Bill that were circulated in my name yesterday. The second amendment relates to clause 3, which reads:
Section 18 of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-1972 is amended by omitting from subsection (8) the words ‘Seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars’ and substituting the words ‘Two million dollars’.
Leave out ‘Two million dollars’, insert ‘One million five hundred thousand dollars’
This matter was debated fully yesterday. Arising out of the response by Senator Willesee to the remarks of Senator Byrne and Senator Prowse, I thought that there might be some reflection upon this matter on the part of the Government that would enable it to agree to this amendment. I should indicate that I have taken into consideration the other observations which were made with regard to the proposed amendment concerning statutory authorities. If this amendment were to be adopted it would be a measure whereby control could be retained by the Public Works Committee for the time being over contracts of a lesser value that the proposed mandatory limit of$2m. I remind honourable senators that it was the Public Works Committee itself which in December advocated a mandatory limit of$1. 5m. I have already indicated that no figures as to the acceleration of cost could be referred to which would justify an increase by 160 per cent of the amount of $570,000. As the matter was debated at length yesterday, it is not necessary for me to go into the considerations that should determine the matter. I suggest that the appropriate amount as a mandatory limit for the Public Works Committee should be $1.5m.
– As Senator Wright has said, this matter was debated at length yesterday, but I wish to deal with what Senator Byrne said last night. Nobody can say with any precision whether the amount of $1.5m suggested by Senator Wright, or the amount of $2m suggested by me, is right. We all know why the mandatory limit is being increased. It is being increased to make the Public Works Committee a practical Committee a Committee able to handle the number of projects which come before it for examination. It is for that reason and for no other reason that the mandatory limit is being increased. There is no suggestion that the Government does not want certain projects examined. Any government would be silly if it acted in that way. The Public Works Committee is the Government’s own protector.
As I pointed out last night, because projects are not referred mandatorily to the Committee for examination that does not necessarily mean that they are not being watched. Such projects can be referred to the Committee for examination by a resolution of either House of the Parliament. Projects involving an expenditure of between$1m and $2m are always looked at by the Cabinet. Projects involving an expenditure under that amount may be referred to the attention of Cabinet by either the Minister for Works or the Treasurer. Cabinet can also refer a project to the Public Works Committee for examination.
So it is not as though the field is being completely vacated in this respect. I suggest that the mandatory limit of $2m be accepted and that the amount be kept under review.
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Wright’s amendment) be left out.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator Prowse)
Majority . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause 2a.
– I move:
The purpose of this amendment is to extend the definition of ‘public work’ from works constructed by the Department of Works to include works constructed by statutory Commonwealth authorities. One of the oddities that has pervaded the legal profession is that once it sees a corporation it begins to think that it is independent. Just because an agency of the Commonwealth is incorporated for some reasonor other in a department, the opinion has been expressed that work carried out by a corporate agency of the Commonwealth is not work of the Commonwealth. It has been held otherwise for the purpose of the High Court jurisdiction in section 75 and elsewhere and there is quite a division of opinion with regard to this matter. It all stems, I suggest, from the wrong basis that just because one has an incorporation one therefore splits the idea of an agency. But an artificial person and corporation can be just as much an agency of the Commonwealth for this purpose as a department. It is a distinction that should have no place in the governing by parliamentary committees of Commonwealth works.
Therefore the proposal I put before the Committee is that we should take action to see that the great number of statutory authorities which have authority to construct works come under the supervision of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Public Works. I name only one statutory authority - the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. Statutory authorities go gaily along under the jurisdiction of the Public Works Committee until somebody creates them into a corporation and then they blossom out and engage private architects, private builders and private processors and this work is completely unsupervised by the Committee. Any body can operate in this way so long as we give to it the crown called ‘corporation’. This is a juristic technical distinction that should have no place in the public works programming of the Commonwealth.
I invite . the Senate to make an advance here in recapturing the authority and jurisdiction of Parliament with regard to executive control of expenditure of public works which are under the’ authority of Commonwealth statutory’ authorities. We have made great strides in this place by gradual processes of endeavour. The Estimates Committees have been referred to. They do a good job but when considering the whole heap of estimates they do not have occasion to go into construction proposals. Another very valuable suggestion was made yesterday by Senator Byrne. He suggested that one authority be taken for examination each year. But before one gets around to the fifty-sixth year - there are about ‘56, if not 65, statutory authorities - 56 projects will have gone through.
– No, I quoted the House of Commons where they look at one authority each session. That was the term.
– Thank you, Senator Byrne. What I am suggesting is that now we are exempting works below S2m this is the occasion for the Senate to recapture the authority of Parliament.
– The way inflation is going we will not build anything for S2m shortly.
– Exactly. At the present time I am prepared to say: Let it be S2m but let us examine works whether they be undertaken by the Department of Works or by Commonwealth statutory authorities.
– I think that this amendment is a little futuristic. I agree with many of the arguments which have been put up in favour of an examination of some of the statutory corporation projects but I think it is unfair at this stage suddenly to place this burden on the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Public Works when it - is proposed to establish a committee to examine the whole system of committees as Senator Willesee pointed out last night. I agree that many projects in the Australian Capital Territory undertaken in the past by the National Capital Development Commission could well have been looked at by the Works Committee. I agree that Commonwealth funds are being spent without supervision. But I think that we should be entitled to have a complete examination of the operations of the committees and to look at the feasibility of these projects by statutory authorities being referred at this stage to the Works Committee under its present structure. We should have some guidelines for the Committee.
I and many other honourable senators know the work which is being carried out by the Committee as it is presently constituted. There are some arguments in favour of splitting the Committee into various areas of responsibility. For instance two or three committees could work as sub-committees and then finally the Committee, meeting as a whole, could consider the report on a project As far as I can see there are a lot of objections to that procedure. I think that the Government should be given an opportunity to examine the whole concept not only of the Public “Works Committee as it now stands but also of projects undertaken by corporations which exist. I think it has been suggested that there are between 50 and 60 corporations at the present time. In all seriousness I suggest that, if there were one project a year from half those statutory corporations with an expenditure in excess of $2m, then at the present time the Committee could not handle that weight of work because of the work which is imposed on honourable senators in this Senate and in their State. An honourable senator could not attend all the hearings on matters referred to the Committee. I think it is premature for this amendment to be imposed on us at this stage.
If this amendment is so urgent, perhaps Senator Wright when he was Minister for Works last year should have submitted it as an amendment to the Public Works Committee Act at that time. I am sure that he thought the same then as he thinks now. I repeat that I agree with many of the arguments which have been put before the Senate in relation to some control of the corporations by the Parliament. I do not dispute that at all. I think it is absolutely correct that this should happen. Whilst I think that the concept of the Australian Capital Territory is a good one, I think there are many things which have happened in the Australian Capital Territory which required and should have had the scrutiny of the Public Works Committee. For instance, under the present set-up we as a committee probably would not be able to examine the construction of a new and permanent parliament house if it were built under the NCDC concept. I agree that something has to be done. But I think that we should defer this amendment until a properana thorough examination is made of the committee system as a whole. Today a resolution has been tabled in this Senate for that purpose.
We should obtain guidelines which will work. If we do not do this we will have an overloading of the Committee under the present Act. I think that other amendments to the Act would be required simultaneously with the amendment that is now before, the Senate for it to be even workable in the present position. I hope the amendment is defeated without me, in my position as a member of the Committee, saying that we should not have that responsibility. We have to find an answer to this situation but the answer is not this amendment at this time. The answer is a thorough examination of the position and then a proper, well considered amendment or amendments, if necessary, to the Public Works Committee Act so that these authorities come within the scrutiny of a committee of this Parliament. I hope that this will be the decision of the Senate this afternoon.
– I think the concern which has been expressed by Senator Poyser at the level of work which is now imposed on Senate committees is relevant. It does bring into focus whether unduly an additional burden is now being imposed on the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Public Works by Senator Wright’s amendment. I imagine that the additional work load which will be imposed by the scrutiny of the works of statutory corporations will not be at a level which would be greater than the relief which will be given to the Committee by raising the level of reference from $750,000 to $2m. If my proposition is correct there will be an equation of work. Undoubtedly the present rate will continue but probably it will not be increased and it may even be reduced.
I think the virtual independence and immunity of public corporations is so important that we should predicate it at every opportunity, and this is one. While being sensible of the very valid proposition presented by Senator Poyser, as indicated at the second reading stage the Australian Democratic Labor Party still proposes to support the amendment moved by Senator Wright. Whatever our disposition is in relation to the paper which has been tabled for the scrutiny of the parliamentary committee system, it could be that a proposition such as this might persuade to an action and a process of rectification and adjustment which otherwise might be delayed. On all these grounds the DLP adheres to its point of view and it will support the amendment.
– I will just say a word on this matter and point out some of the difficulties associated with it. As a member of the Joint Committee on Public Works I realise only too well the pressures which are being brought to bear upon the Committee to deal with the many projects which are referred to it. We are subjected to added burdens of work due to environmental matters. We find that more and more people come before us to put their points of view on the environment as it relates to certain projects. This has imposed a considerable burden on the Committee. I commend Senator Wright for introducing this matter by means of his amendment. I support him in general principle, as I did when we were discussing the national pipeline project which, .as it involves the expenditure of billions of dollars in the long term, at least should have been referred to this Committee to determine, for example, the route to be followed by the pipeline grid system.
I believe also that projects such as the Commonwealth Railways line from Tarcoola to Alice Springs, which currently involves an expenditure of $65m and which will increase to S250m or more should we decide to extend it through to Darwin, is a project which is worthy of consideration by this Committee. 1 have taken out some figures in relation to the National Capital Development Commission. If the proposal contained in the amendment were adopted, during the current year 1973-74 the Committee would have to consider not less than 12 projects of $1.5m or more.
– I think there are more than that.
– There are more, certainly, but the number of projects costing in excess of Si. 5m is 12 according to the figures I have - I can be corrected on this - but there are something like 8 projects costing less than $1.5m. Some 20 projects are involved. The Minister may not agree with this figure and I would be interested to learn his assessment of the position. These projects involve something like S98m, which is an incredible amount of money to be expended without some scrutiny by a responsible Parliamentary committee. Added to this figure is the cost of projects carried out by other statutory bodies and the projects that Senator Wright mentioned. I think this is a very good point. The extraordinary amount of money under the statutory limit being spent by various departments on projects is a very strong case for the Minister and the Government to consider having a look at random projects costing less than the figure we have suggested. I believe that this would be a psychological deterrent to departments which may be carried away with enthusiasm, perhaps to the detriment of the taxpayer.
Harking back to the amendment, I heartily agree that there are projects which ought to be looked at. I know that the Minister for Works, Senator Cavanagh, would agree with this proposition, as he did during the debate on the National Pipeline Bill. The Minister and the Government should follow the example set by Senator Wright when he, as Minister for Works, referred the Darwin port extensions to the Public Works Committee. I agree with the principle of the amendment but because of the tremendous volume of work that it would create for the Committee at a time when we are looking at ways in which we can use the time of the Public Works Committee more effectively I cannot support the amendment at this stage. But I ask the Government to have a general look at the system under which these projects are referred to our Committee. I think there is a strong case to suggest that either House of Parliament ought to be able to refer certain projects to the Committee.
– They can.
– I know they can.
– No, they cannot refer a project to a statutory authority; they can refer only a public work.
– Very well. If that is not so-
– I am sorry, I was thinking of the general one.
– I thank Senator Wright for his interjection because that was my understanding of the position. I agree with him. The Minister misled me on that point. I think there is a strong case for both Houses of the Parliament to be given the right to refer any project from a statutory authority to the Committee if there is some valid reason for it. There may be an objection to a particular project. I earnestly suggest that the Government look at this matter. With those remarks, I conclude by saying that I am unable to support the amendment.
– I thank honourable senators for the suggestions they have made arising out of the debate which took place both last night and today. Some of the suggestions have been good, and I think Senator Jessop has put forward some good thoughts. I think the general feeling is that in some way we must have some supervision over projects being carried out by statutory bodies. Senator Poyser said many of the things which I intended to say. I do not know whether he looked at my notes. Senator Jessop pointed to the situation with regard to the National Capital Development Commission and he said that 12 projects are to be referred to the Committee. My figure is something like 25. But it is not very important whether it is 12 or 25. On top of those must be added works carried out for other bodies such as the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, which I had not taken into my calculations but which Senator Wright mentioned to me, the Australian National University, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the Australian Broadcasting Commission and so on.
It is obvious that the present system could not carry this workload. It may be that the present system is coming to an end. I do not know. We will have to see how the Committee operates under the new provisions we have just carried. The possibility of having 2 committees was a proposal which was looked at. Honourable senators will recall that in my second reading speech I said that the Public Works Committee itself rejected this proposal because it was afraid that the 2 committees would have different sets of criteria. Apart from that, Senator Poyser made the point that because of the proliferation of committees it would be difficult to find the extra bodies to man the 2 or 3 committees, even if the problem of uniformity were overcome. If the amendment under discussion is carried - Senator Jessop grasped this point very well - we will create a new system which will defeat the effect of the $2m limit and the whole system would just break down. There would just be no means of dealing with the situation.
Both Senator Byrne and Senator Jessop suggested that we should have some sampling system. Senator Byrne’s suggestion was that the Committee look at one, two or three projects during the year. Senator Jessop’s thought was that we may extend that section of the Act which provides for either House of the Parliament to refer matters to the Committee. That is the situation applying now, but the suggestion is that the Act be extended to include statutory bodies as well as nonstatutory bodies. I think that suggestion is in line with that made by Senator Byrne, which also involved investigating a sample of projects. If this suggestion is adopted, of course all the other relevant Acts will have to be amended, and I do not know when that could be done. I do not think there is any doubt that more thought will have to be given to this matter. As I said last night, as the Minister in charge of these matters I am not inflexible in my approach to them. I think the debate we have had on this matter has brought forward many good suggestions and action we have taken has been brought about by the effluxion of time.
Senator Prowse mentioned last night that the number of references made to the Committee increased from 3 to nearly 50, and the number would have reached 70 if we had not changed the system. That shows the changing complexion of the whole situation. I ask- the Senate - I do not like using the word ‘reject’ but it is the only one I can think of - to reject Senator Wright’s amendment because I do not think we have heard the last of this matter. As I say, I am flexible in my attitude towards it. I do not think there is any doubt that my Department will have to look at how things work out with the S2m limit. I know that I should not anticipate things, but as I mentioned last night the House of Representatives is discussing a proposition that we cooperate with it in looking at the whole committee system, which involves the rationalisation of manpower, where the committees should sit, the sort of matters they should inquire into, and so on. This proposition has not yet passed through this House, but I hope that it will be. I do not think any honourable senator would suggest that there should not be a rationalisation of manpower or that we should not have a look at the committee system, because the system has been operating for only a brief period and we know how it is interfering with the running of this Parliament. Last year I was asked to use my endeavours to get my Party to agree to allow the Public Works Committee to sit while the Parliament was sitting - something that prima facie I am against. I think it can be done on very urgent occasions, but I do not like the idea. All sorts of dangers can arise out of it. After all, the Senate is the important place where final decisions have to be made.
I hope that when the proposal for setting up this joint committee comes before the Senate it will be supported by the Senate. If it is, the joint committee will be set up and that will be the time to put forward submissions on this matter concerning the Public Works Committee. But if the joint committee is not set up, then certainly I will ask my Department to have a look at this matter and to present some sort of a paper so that we can see how this new arrangement will work in the next few months. We will be able to talk to the Public Works Committee about the matter. I ask that this amendment to the Public Works Committee Act be allowed to operate so that in the new year we may be able to have a further look at mis matter.
– I rise only because of the interest that the remarks which have been made by honourable senators during the debate evoke in me. The National Capital Development Commission has been mentioned. Its works programs this year are almost comparable with the programs of the Department of Works; that is to say, in the Australian Capital Territory itself we are building up, in a time of terrific inflation, a surge of constructional costs that almost equal the costs of civil works programs throughout the rest of Australia. That is the first thing.
The next thing I want to mention to the Committee is one of the absurd conundrums from which I think we all will get a little amusement. I notice that some of the legal advisers have retired from the chamber since I addressed them in a droll tone a few minutes ago. Because the National Capital Development Commission has taken on the statute of a corporation, if it gets an appropriation of $9m to construct buildings for the Department of Overseas Trade it does not have to go before the Public Works Committee. But about 18 months to 2 years ago there was a program of $2m for additions to Parliament House. By virtue of the fact that the appropriation was given to the National Capital Development Commission and not to the Department of Works, the Commission was able to employ the Department of Works to design and supervise the work. The Commission selected the Department of Works because anything to do with Parliament House is a very ticklish job to undertake and is likely to excite criticism if anything goes wrong. In that instance an appropriation was given to a statutory authority which employed the Department of Works to design and supervise the work. If the appropriation had been given to the Department of Works the whole job would have been scrutinised and reported upon by the Public Works Committee. That was work in respect of the edifice in which we sit.
We have got to a stage of asininity and it demands a little probing. I am very glad that my putting forward this proposition in regard to the pipeline authority and again today shows that opportunities are available to the back bencher to raise matters that are muffled in the Ministry. We have begun the steamroller steamrolling and even if my amendment does sot succeed today - and I do not ignore the practical difficulties concerning the workload on the Committee and the other matters as to interruption of the programs of statutory authorities - these practical matters have to be resolved. But are we to be governed by the seat of the pants of the members of the Committee, or are we to govern ourselves according to practical principle? I have no doubt that the construction of the new parliament house would be such that it would be adorned by a special statute for itself. But as regards the program for making additions to our own House of Parliament, the Public Works Committee was circumvented because the appropriation was given to a statutory authority and the statutory authority then employed the Department of Works to design and supervise the work.
So with no lack of appreciation of the objective and flexible way in which Senator Willesee addressed himself to the matter and also of the practical considerations raised by Senator Poyser, and without showing any undue deference to the dissent of my colleague, Senator Jessop, it is desirable that we should place on record the names of those who feel at the present time that this sort of project comes within the ambit of the Public Works Committee. Let us take it from there.
– I will be brief. Firstly, I hate to disillusion Senator Wright, but it was not his eloquence that drove the legal advisers away. There were no legal advisers here.
– They would have gone.
– Yes. The gentleman whom I have here was selected for his common sense and ability, not because he has a law degree. The only other thing is that Senator Wright was very critical of the way in which the extensions to Parliament House were handled. He said that these principles were all wrong. But he himself was a Minister, and this went on for 23 years. So I am glad that the Labor Government has done at least one thing - it has got Senator Wright suddenly up for some principles after 23 years.
That the proposed new clause (Senator Wright’s amendment) be inserted in the Bill.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator Prowse)
Majority . . 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill as amended agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Bill reported with an amendment; report third time.
Debate resumed from 1 May (vide page 1 190), on motion by Senator Murphy:
And on the Amendments moved thereto by Senator Withers-
At the end of paragraph (1) add ‘subject to the following modifications:
And on the Amendment moved by Senator Webster to Senator Wither’s proposed Amendment: After the words ‘subject to the following modifications - ‘, insert - (aa) paragraph (1), after the words ‘report on’, insert ‘the advancement of political responsibility and constitutional reform for the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory and’.
Amendment (Senator Webster’s) to proposed amendment agreed to.
– Senator Murphy moved that the debate be adjourned on this matter when Senator Withers and Senator Webster both moved amendments. I understand that we are waiting now for the reply from Senator Murphy to those amendments.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Poyser) - I looked for somebody to rise and nobody did. I suggest that we put the question again at a later stage.
– My understanding is that the amendment which has been circulated in my name is acceptable to the Opposition and that the amendment moved by Senator Withers is acceptable to the Government. However, I believe that Senator Webster’s amendment may be withdrawn. If that is the case, presumably there is no difference between the attitude of the Government and the Opposition on this matter. I understand that Senator Webster wishes to speak to the amendment.
– What has been said by the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) in relation to Order of the Day No. 2 is basically correct. The Opposition agrees with the amendment moved by Senator Withers and in respect of the amendment moved by me there has been some discussion which has brought about the situation where that amendment will be withdrawn. Consequently, the Opposition agrees that the amendment moved by me to Senator Wither’s amendment should be withdrawn. My amendment reads:
After the words ‘subject to the following modifications - ‘, insert - “(aa) paragraph (1), after the words report on’, insert ‘the advancement of political responsibility and constitutional reform for the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory and’ “
This matter was debated last on 1 May 1973. At that time the Senate could note the keen interest that there was in this motion which greatly affected the Northern Territory. It was pointed out in that debate that the Country Party had demonstrated over many years great interest in the Northern Territory, particularly through the honourable Sam Calder MHR, the member for the Northern Territory. Advice had been given to us regularly relating to the feelings of the Northern Territory towards some of the actions that were taking place under the new Labor Government. Certainly this attitude is shown in the Hansard reports of debates which occurred in the Northern Territory Legislative Council in Darwin. The matter had been of great importance and of particular interest. In the debate which took place here on 1 May it was stated that a committee which was proposed by the Government fo>- the Northern Territory could be agreed to because any deliberation on this matter could bring about some benefits to the Northern Territory. We said that we held the view that because of the on-going status of the Legislative Council in the Northern Territory, that was the body which represented the most up-to-date and more popular view of attitudes in the Northern Territory and certainly represented a view very close to that held by the people of the Territory. We said also that it would be a removed view that we would have in a debate in this chamber so many miles away from Darwin. But a view was held in the Country Party - to some extent it was supported by others - that if a Committee were to be established it should have a very definite aim. It is recorded on page 1189 of the Senate Hansard of 1 May 1973 that I said:
Its basis is that there should be a definite aim by a committee which is set up and which comprises members of the Federal Parliament who are to constitute themselves into a committee which is applicable to the Northern Territory. Such a committee should have as its main aim the advancement of political responsibility and constitutional reform for the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory.
I went on to say:
I have used those words in the proposed amendment.
Certainly, my Party emphasised at that time that the most important matter that the Committee should devote itself to was the ongoing constitutional reform for the Northern Territory. There had been some pride in the activity of the former Government in that it had gradually placed greater responsibility on the Legislative Council. I think that that had been appreciated not only by the people of the Northern Territory but also, certainly, by those who took responsibility in the Legislative Council itself.
An interesting matter came to my attention and to the attention of others when the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory, Mr Enderby, issued a statement earlier this month. He gave some assurance about what was likely to take place in regard to the Committee to which I have referred. I read into Mr Enderby’s statement that he accepted completely the proposal by the Country Party and that he had seen wisdom in the idea that such an inquiry should have predominantly in its terms of reference the matter which the Country Party suggested in the Senate. So again I claim credit for the Senate that it has prompted the administration and Mr Enderby to act quickly in this matter. A Press release from the Department of the Northern Territory stated:
The Minister for the Northern Territory, Mr Kep Enderby announced today that Cabins Had approved that he ask the Joint Committee on the Northern Territory, when formally constituted, to undertake a» a matter of priority a comprehensive inquiry into the Territory’s constitutional development.
I emphasise that the Minister for the Capital Territory and Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Enderby) has seen that the greatest priority should be given to that which the Country Party had prompted at that time. The Press release continued:
The terms of reference which Mr Enderby will submit to the Joint Committee are -
Examine and report on measures that might be taken in the long and short term to provide the Northern Territory with responsible self-government in relation to local affairs - including appropriate divisions of legislative and executive responsibility at the national and territorial or other level - having regard to:
The Government’s wish to establish a fully elected legislative assembly for the Northern Territory by 31 December, 1974.
Mr Acting Deputy President, in order to save time, I seek leave to have paragraphs b, c, d, e and f and the balance of this Press release incorporated in Hansard.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
Mr Enderby said that there appeared to be support for the principle of having a Parliamentary Committee Report on the constitutional future of the Northern Territory. ‘The Member for the Northern Territory spoke in favour of its course when the resolution for the appointment of the Joint Committee on the Northern Territory, was considered by the House of Representatives. The Opposition was moved to have an inquiry into Constitutional Reform for the Legislative Council included in the Senate Resolution for the Committee’s appointment’ he continued.
Mr Enderby said that while the Government strongly supported the principle of a Parliamentary Inquiry, the Government felt that the terms of reference proposed by the Opposition were inadequate. What is required is a far reaching inquiry into all aspects of the future Government of the Northern Territory including but not restricted to reform of the Legislative Council. It is the Government’s objective to afford residents of the Territory the fullest opportunity to indicate their consitutional aspirations. The terms of reference now proposed have been designed to achieve this’, he concluded.
– That places on record the full context of the Press release of the Minister. It cannot be but accepted that this was done due to pressure from the Senate. I suggest to the Minister that some of his pronouncements in regard to the Northern Territory have been politically unpopular. Perhaps this matter on which he has taken action to accede to the wishes of the Senate will bring him a little more popularity in the future. As honourable senators may recall, the Senate rejected the Land Acquisition Ordinance that was p aced before the Senate by the Government. I do not know whether honourable senators are aware of this, but within 5 minutes, if I may use that expression, of the Senate rejecting that Ordinance the Minister had reinstituted it again, showing his complete arrogance and his attitude towards the Senate. I do not continue along that line. I state that that demonstrates an attitude which is offensive to me and, I think, to the Parliament..
We can see in regard to this proposed Joint Parliamentary Committee that the Minister has acted in general terms on what has been proposed. I believe that generally people will be in agreement with the proposal to set up this Joint Committee, bearing in mind that the first measures to be undertaken will be those that are set forth in another statement by, I think, the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) who supposedly is to make a statement today on what the Government intends to do.
I must refer to one particular matter at this stage: It is the statement that I have just mentioned, by the Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Enderby) as to the reference that would be given to this proposed Committee as its first undertaking. I think that the Minister for Primary Industry who is at the table intends that the proposal that we have before us which is headed ‘Joint Committee on the Northern Territory-Draft Terms of Reference into the Constitution Development of the Northern Territory’, shall be incorporated in Hansard and that the Committee will be obliged to accept the Minister’s first requirement. I would like to have a response from the Minister at the table in that regard.
– I am not clear what the honourable senator is referring to.
– Perhaps it is as well that I have this document in my hand because it assures me that the Government will agree that the first reference to the Committee shall be a reference on constitutional development. I would be unable to proceed very far in this matter or even to say that I am pleased that the Government is taking this action if I did not have this document. So I must take it that the Minister will be incorporating the statement which is headed: ‘Joint Committee on the Northern Territory - Draft Terms of Reference for Inquiry into the Constitutional Development of the Northern Territory’. I seek that this document be incorporated in my speech at this time.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENTHow long is it?
– It consists of only one page. Perhaps if the appropriate Minister were present in the Senate he might have read that, in acceding to the proposal of Senator Withers but opposing the amendment that has been moved by myself, the Minister would be calling on the Committee which would be established to examine and report on certain matters. If the Minister had read out the statement it would have been the basis od which I would have been able to say: ‘The Government is taking action along these lines’. So I seek leave to have the document incorporated in Hansard.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
JOINT COMMITTEE ON THE NORTHERN TERRITORY- DRAFT TERMS OF REFERENCE FOR INQUIRY INTO THE CONSTITUTIONAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE NORTHERN TERRITORY
Examine and report on:
Measures that might be taken in the long and short term to provide the Northern Territory with responsible self-government in relation to local affairs - including appropriate divisions of legislative and executive responsibility at the National and Territorial or other level - having regard to:
The Government’s wish to establish a fully elected Legislative Assembly for the Northern Territory by 31 December 1974,
The relationship that will need to exist between a local executive and the national Government,
The size, composition and diversity of interest of the population of the Territory including the special difficulty of providing for effective participation by the Aboriginal people in a political system which is alien to their traditional culture,
The extent to which the people of the Northern Territory wish to accept greater responsibility for its government,
Any other special considerations which the Committee considers relevant to its conclusions.
– I wish to speak about one or two of the terms of reference. The first term of reference on which the Minister for the Northern Territory will ask the proposed committee to examine and report is:
Measures that might be taken in the long and short term to provide the Northern Territory with responsible self-government in relation to local affairs - including appropriate divisions of legislative and executive responsibility at the National and Territorial or other level . .
While indicating that we will be agreeing to the proposal, I take exception to the wording. This term of reference has been noted by interested people in the Territory. They question what the words ‘local affairs’ mean. The Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) may be in some difficulty as he is attempting to handle this matter on behalf of another Minister. The term of reference speaks of responsible self government but confines it to local affairs. The Minister for the Northern Territory will have to make a statement about the ambit of local affairs in that regard.
I can assure him that the people in the Northern Territory feel considerable concern about whether this supposed reference to inquire into constitutional development is really, in some manner or other, an attempt to tie down the Legislative Council. It has grown in stature and it has been handed considerable areas of responsibility during past years, and it should not now find itself confined to dealing purely with local affairs. I suggest that the matter is of considerable concern. It appears to me that the drafting has been hurried and that there should be a definition of what the committee which is to look into self government in relation to local affairs will be required to do. The first thing that any member who is appointed to the committee will have to do is attempt to define what ‘local affairs’ means.
The draft terms of reference give rise to a concern that there may be a reduction in the power of the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory. I would like the Minister for Primary Industry to obligate himself in this matter. The obligation should not be very difficult to accept if the Labor Government at present is facing this matter honestly and is seeking from a joint committee a responsible attitude as to what should be handed to the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory. I ask the Minister to state that there will in no way be a reduction of the present power of the Legislative Council. That would be a requirement so far as my Party is concerned.
I suggest to the people of the Northern Territory that when this committee is established, as it undoubtedly will be, they take every advantage of the opportunity to attend public hearings and to give evidence as to what they believe is in their best interests in relation to self government of the Territory. They are a great distance from the greatly centralised government which we have in Canberra at present. I say ‘centralised’ because I am aware that centralism is one of the aims of the present Government. It is an aim with which I do not agree. I think that those people who live in the Northern Territory are more alert to the problems which they face in relation to fragmented administration than people in the States are because the people in the Northern Territory do not have a State government. At present, in some instances, decisions are made by authorities in the Northern Territory. In other instances decisions have to wait while Canberra decides on the matter. The problems are shuffled backwards and forwards in a most inefficient manner.
I know, from my experience on the Public Works Committee and from the many hearings which I have attended, the great enthusiasm and interest which are shown by the people of the Territory. In many instances, their attendance is to their own disadvantage. They attend each day’s sitting and follow through some of the environmental problems which may have been placed before the Committee. Such problems relate to the proper development of the city of Darwin and the control of the construction of buildings for bodies such as the police force, the port authority or whatever authority it may be. The people have shown an enormous interest in and have put their personal views about Darwin and the development of that particularly fine and important area of Australia. I think that there is a great future for Darwin and the Northern Territory. It is an enormous area and will become one of the very important areas of Australia before the turn of the century. I hope that with the establishment of the proposed joint committee, now that it has been prompted by action taken in the Senate a few months ago, it will investigate the constitutional development of the Territory. I think the Minister for the Northern Territory has finally agreed that that is a most important matter and the initial matter which will be placed before the committee. I am sure the people of Darwin will take on their shoulders the responsibility of putting to that committee all those things which they wish in order to have adequate local control of their affairs. I ask for leave to withdraw the amendment standing in my name.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
– It was not my intention to enter into this debate, but I do so because of some of the remarks which were made by Senator Webster. I refute completely his remark that the Minister for the Northern Territory (Ml Enderby) acted with arrogance in reimposing the acquisition order for land in the Northern Territory. It is quite typical of Senator Webster to try to discredit people for things that they do. I will not refer to that acquisition order further except to say that the honourable senators should read the Hansard report of the debate which took place in this chamber when the matter was raised previously. He should read some of the proof which was brought forward to substantiate that acquisition during the debate on the motion for disallowance, which was carried by the Senate. I will not say any more about that.
Senator Webster said that he feels for the people of the Northern Territory because they are so far from Canberra. He criticised in general terms the efforts that this Government is making to bring them, for their well being, closer to the Government of this country. I remind him that his Party and the Liberal Party were the coalition government for 23 years. What did they do for the people of the Northern Territory? They did absolutely nothing. Immediately the Australian Labor Party took office it appointed a Minister for the Northern Territory. One of the first things that the Labor Government did was to try to give people in the Northern Territory representation in the Senate.
– Who is the Minister for the Northern Territory?
– What a stupid question to ask. When we introduced legislation to allow the Northern Territory to elect 2 senators to this chamber, Senator Webster’s Party joined with the other people in the Opposition to deny those people that representation. The reason why we wanted to give them representation was to give them a greater voice in their affairs in Canberra.
– If the legislation had been introduced on the principle of one vote one value-
– You were not arguing that in your speech, and I am not arguing it. Senator Webster said that people in the Northern Territory did not have adequate representation. I am pointing out that in the short life of this Government we have endeavoured, in every way possible, to give people in the Northern Territory a stronger voice in the affairs of this nation. I am quite confident that when the proposed joint committee is set up it will do, in its initial stages, the very thing of which Senator Webster is afraid. It will look at the constitution of the Northern Territory. This is vitally important because an election for the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory will be held in about October next year. Of course, one of the first matters the Committee will consider is the constitution as it stands and it’ will endeavour to bring down a recommendation to this Parliament that it should give the people of the Northern Territory a fully elected Legislative Council at the next election. I hope that the Committee will get on with the work immediately it is set up. Therefore I will not take more time in speaking on this subject because I believe the Committee should be set up as quickly as possible to let the machinery get under way and let us do the very thing which Senator Webster worries about. I hope that before Senator Webster goes out of this place he will stand on his feet in this House and say that the Committee has done its work in the very way the Minister wants it done, that is, to give constitutional reform to the people of the Northern Territory, which was lacking for so many years under the Government which the honourable senator supported.
– I move:
Senator Webster sought 2 undertakings from me on behalf of the Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Enderby). It is very difficult for me, of course, to give those undertakings, but I think it ought to be said that if we read the original amendment which Senator Webster moved and which he has now withdrawn, we will see that he speaks there of constitutional reform. But as we see in the first paragraph of the amendment which I have moved the wording of the amendment is, I think, of such reasonableness as to include the constitutional reform included in the honourable senator’s amendment. The word ‘constitutional’ does not, of course, appear, but I think that is a fair interpretation. I feel confident that it was the Minister’s intention that the requirement sought by Senator Webster would be covered by this amendment. Senator Webster also asked me to obligate the Government in respect of the present powers of the Legislative Council. Again, that is a difficult undertaking to give but in view of the tenor and the spirit of the amendment I think it is extremely unlikely that any powers of the Council will be reduced. Therefore I suppose one could almost give the undertakings that the honourable senator seeks, though I will not commit myself entirely on that point. However, I think it is reasonable to say that the amendment covers the undertaking that he seeks. Senator McLaren dealt quite adequately with one or two other matters which I was going to refer to and therefore there is no need for me to cover that ground again.
– On the point raised-
– I rise on a point of order. I understand that Senator Webster has already spoken in this debate. Perhaps he is speaking to the further amendment.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - I understand he is speaking to the amendment moved by Senator Wriedt.
– Earlier I said there would be no reduction in the powers of the Legislative Council. From the 2 documents which I have tabled - I meant to draw this to the attention of the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) and to those who may read the Hansard report of this debate it will be seen that in his public statement the Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Enderby) included some matters which he proposed would go before the Committee but which are not included in the statement that has now been made in this House. They relate to financial and other matters within the Northern Territory. I did not raise the matter lightiy, and if Senator McLaren, who spoke after me, in somewhat foolish fashion, as usual, can only be prompted to read the statement made by Mr Enderby he will find an inconsistency in what Mr Enderby now puts into this House as being a reference to that Committee, and that very point relates to financial matters. I draw the attention of the Minister to that. I did not say it lightly; I was attempting to let the Minister off. The Minister handled my questions very-
– Generously, yes. I accept the points he made. However, there is inconsistency between what Mr Enderby announced in his Press statement as being the matters he would get the Committee to look at and what he has now put to the Senate.
Amendment to proposed amendment agreed to.
Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
Original question, as amended, agreed to.
Debate resumed from 29 August (vide page 3 1 8), on motion by Senator Willesee:
That the Senate take note of the following papers:
Civil Works Program 1973-74.
Payments to or for the States, 1973-74.
Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure for the year ending 30 June 1974.
Particulars of Proposed Expenditure for the Service of the year ending 30 June 1974.
Particulars of Proposed Provision for Certain
Expenditure in respect of the year ending 30 June 1974.
Government Securities on Issue at 30 June 1973.
Commonwealth Income Tax Statistics for Income Year 1970-71.
National Income and Expenditure, 1972-73.
Australia’s External Aid, 1973-74.
Review of the Continuing Expenditure Policies of the Previous Government.
Report on Possible Ways of Increasing Imports.
– Traditionally the Budget is the major economic and social instrument of the political year. Its primary responsibility is to present a practical blueprint to bring to the community a policy ensuring stability of the economy, stability of prices, industrial peace, level of progressive taxation which ensures equity of burden, a sharing so that the underprivileged can be helped and a program which ensures the external security of the country. This, traditionally, is the blueprint which in the past has been the Budget. This Budget does none of these things. Traditionally the Budget would reflect not only the philosophy of the government of the day but essentially the policies which it brought to the people either at election time or from the public platform afterwards. The Budget is the instrument which honours and implements those policies. This Budget does none of these things. It is no wonder that on Budget night and thereafter the Budget was greeted universally by Labor members, including the Treasurer (Mr Crean), with gloomy dyspepsia. It is no wonder the Treasurer had to confess failure in his conclusion of the Budget - failure to do the very things that this Government was elected to do. It is well to remind the people of Australia that they have been the victims of a confidence trick, and it is well to remind them that this Government, then the Opposition, went to the people of Australia, saying: ‘Here is our program of promises, our undertakings. We give you our assurance that we will undertake them promptly and that we will undertake them without any increase in taxation. We go further and say to you that at an early date we will give considerable reductions in taxation to, in particular, the middle and lower income earners. As an indication of our bona fides in this respect, we announce to you that Dr Coombs, a well known Australian economist, will be our adviser’. By inference the people of Australia were led to believe that he underwrote the program for implementation.
The simple fact of the matter is that if the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) were a company prospectus it would be today before company inspectors as a dishonest document because it is a prospectus which has now been proven to have contained false information. Having foreshadowed that the Budget would be one of great and signal reform, a clarion call for the 1970s - only a few weeks before introducing it he foreshadowed considerable taxation concessions - the Treasurer concluded his Budget Speech with the following pathetic lament:
To raise taxes and remove concessions is not a course on which we eagerly embark; there can have been few Treasurers who have enjoyed that course, and I am not among them.
That is a remarkable confession of failure and guilt by a Treasurer who only weeks beforehand was promising major tax cuts and whose ministerial colleagues were promising major concessions, particularly in the social welfare field.
The Budget should be condemned on seven main grounds. It should be condemned, firstly, because it abdicates totally its responsibility to control and subdue inflation. It goes beyond that in that its very measures will further aggravate inflation, thereby robbing the people of Australia. The Budget should be condemned, secondly, because it is a document of major broken promises. There have been a string of broken promises not only in the field of taxation but also in the fields of social services, housing among others. No budget which has appeared before this Parliament in its history has contained such a string of broken promises and on no previous occasion has there been such a failure to implement election undertakings. It should be condemned, thirdly, because it places virtually the whole burden of its extra costs upon those who are least able to bear the burden. How can the Australian Labor Party call itself the party of the workers, the party of the underdog, when it has loaded the underdog with such extra burdens? I repeat that the Budget should be challenged and rejected because it places the burden of its extra costs on the lower and middle income families and on people on fixed incomes. Indeed, it also robs the pensioners of their real purchasing power by its spending spree.
The Budget should be condemned, fourthly, because it is a vicious attack of spleen upon the whole rural community by a Government which knows that it gets no support from the rural community, and rightly so. It is a vicious attack upon not only the farmers but also the country towns. Indeed, there is in that attack a rejection of the decentralisation programs which the Government has mouthed for years. It should be condemned, fifthly, because it abdicates defence responsibility. The Budget has reduced defence expenditure to a level where the Navy may be capable perhaps of resisting an attack by Ruritanian shrimp boats. The Army will be able to engage in the defence ot Australia only if an intending enemy is sporting enough to restrict its attackers to not more than 5,000 soldiers. If there were any more we would be no match for them. The proud Royal Australian Air Force, with all its traditions, is to have its fighter pilots, with their magnificent records, forced into obsolescent fighter planes. If there is a brush fire incident and the Air Force is required to be sent into action, the Government will send it into action with aircraft which are second best. The RAAF and the people of Australia today are saying: ‘Thank God that in one wing of the RAAF we have the best’. They are of course, referring to the Fill fighter bomber which is not second best and which provides the RAAF with at least some strength. That is the fifth ground on which the Budget should be condemned. The Budget should be condemned, sixthly, because it is a Budget of deceit, dishonesty and wilful misrepresentation. It should be condemned, seventhly, because although it has pretended reforms, it is a document of threads and patches. In fact, it is a miserable document of topping up here and propping up there. Above all, it has deserted the very people who put its architects into office.
Let me amplify those 7 points. The test of a government is whether it is a good manager, whether it can bring stability to a country; whether it can control inflation; whether it can keep industrial peace; whether it can pass on real wealth to the people. I point out that the Government which put down its tools on 2 December had, on the say so of Mr Crean himself, the greatest record in the control of inflation of any country in the world.
– You must be joking.
– Leaving aside the honourable senator’s sense of humour, I say that if he were to look at the reports of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development he would find that it has said that for 17 of the 20 years - Mr Crean has also said this and he was not joking - the average rate of inflation in Australia ran at 2i per cent. I invite the honourable senator to deny that Mr Crean said that. The 2i per cent rate of inflation was, on the say-so of the OEOD the lowest rate of inflation of any industrial country in the Western world; not a bad record of good management. The second test is whether a country can obtain industrial peace; whether the relationship between management and the worker is good; whether the number of working days lost because of strikes is low. I challenge the Government to deny that for 17 of the 20 years prior to the advent of the political strikes of Mr Hawke, this country had the lowest rate of industrial conflict of any country in the Western world. I will have something to say now about this matter because of the wilful misrepresentation of this Government when seeking election.
I remind the Senate also that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) has drawn attention to a very recent authoritative survey on the sharing of wealth in Australia. That survey by the University of New South Wales shows that in the 2 decades in which the Liberal-Country Party Government was the manager of Australia’s affairs, the wealth in Australia was shared more equitably than was the case in any other Western country; not a bad record. The previous Government bad the best record in the world in the control of inflation, the best record in the world in industrial peace and the best record in the world in the sharing of the real wealth and the removing of inequalities.
– And we finished up with the Henderson report on poverty.
– Yes. The previous Government initiated the report on poverty. It put Professor Henderson in charge of the investigation. In the first chapter of his book Professor Henderson commended the administration of the previous Government by saying that there is no real poverty in Australia compared with the situation in other countries in the world. He said also that the only countries in the world that are equal to Australia in the diminution of poverty are the Scandinavian countries. If Senator Primmer wants to learn let him read the opening chapter and let him deny what is said.
When we put down our tools on 2 December the Treasury - and I doubt that Labor will deny this because no one has done so - in a document entitled ‘Report on the Australian Economy 1973’ had this to say about inflation as at December:
Some levelling off and reversal of the rate of price increases was emerging and some mild optimism as to the future course of prices did seem warranted.
At the time we left office and ‘the Labor Party took over, according to the Treasury inflation was under control and on the down turn and the prognosis for this year was for some mild optimism as to the future course of prices. I remind the Senate that the Labor Party and its Leader went to the people and said to them: ‘We will give you a stable economy. We will control inflation’. Mr Whitlam said on television: ‘There will be no industrial conflict because we understand the unions and we will in fact have rapport with them’. He said that there would be a lot less industrial conflict than under the Liberals. An article which appeared in the ‘Age’ of 27 November 1972 conveyed happy thoughts when, under the heading ‘We’d Reduce Strikes - Cameron’ it stated:
There would be fewer strikes under an ALP Government, Labor’s industrial spokesman Mr Cameron said today. ‘There will be fewer strikes because we will remove the cause of industrial unrest.’
The rate of strikes and industrial unrest and the physical violence that takes place as a result of strikes are unprecedented today. Indeed, I go further. A gentleman who is somewhat retiring and unobtrusive today named Mr Bob Hawke is quoted in an article which appeared in the ‘Courier Mail’ of 22 November 1972. The article headed ‘A Better Australia by Hawke’ states:
Industrial relations in Australia under a Federal Labor Government would change for the better for the unions, employers and the general community,’ the Australian Council of Trade Unions President Mr Hawke said yesterday.
These statements were confidence tricks because instead of inflation running at 4 per cent and downwards as the Treasury Bulletin said in December it is running at 13.2 per cent and upwards today and Mr Crean, the Treasurer, said as late as yesterday that he expects that in the September quarter it will be higher still. He is doing absolutely nothing about inflation. Let us be quite clear on this point. The Treasurer has refused the offer of the Opposition and the State Liberal leaders to hold a national conference of Federal and State governments, of employers’ representatives and of trade unions on the greatest single issue confronting the people of Australia today - the issue of inflation. He has refused a conference which would seek restraint. He has refused a conference which might discuss, as representatives of the Liberal States have said, implementing mirror legislation to give some temporary restraints on prices and wages.
I hope that the people of Australia heard the response that Mr Michael Whelan, the Labor candidate for the Parramatta byelection, made to inflation when he appeared on this morning’s program of ‘AM’. He said - and I paraphrase him - that as a Federal issue inflation is a great joke. I hope that the people of Parramatta can see the joke. I do not think that they will. He went on to establish the alibi that of course inflation was not the Federal Government’s responsibility; it was the responsibility of the States. But the Liberal candidate for Parramatta reminded him that the Labor State of South Australia which implements price control has the highest rise in prices of any State in Australia, ls inflation a great joke? Do the pensioners think so? Do the people on fixed incomes think so? Only those who are insensitive and inhuman to these things, only the labor people who by their Budget have deserted the little people, the poor and under privileged of Australia, would think that inflation is a joke.
The Treasurer brought in a Budget which increases taxes yet on 19 April of this year - and he would have known the shape of the Budget at that time - he made a statement which was quoted in an article in the ‘West Australian’ headed: ‘Crean - Taxes will be cut’. The article stated:
The Treasurer today confirmed that there would be tax cuts for middle and lower income groups in the next Budget.
That is a plain statement of promise from the Government of the day that in the Budget it would cut taxes. But he does not even have the decency to apologise. Of course, the Treasurer went into Press on major items in December and said: ‘We will go further than that. We will before the Budget make some reductions and by the Budget we will make almost all the reductions in taxes that we promised’. Headlines have been written one after the other. They state: ‘Government plans tax cut’; ‘People on low incomes may pay $5 less’; ‘4 million to get tax cuts’; ‘$4 to $5 a week for poor families’. Of course, the choicest claim of Labor’s promises occurred last night when Senator Gietzelt, who is now interjecting, said:
We have not broken our promises. We have kept our promises.
This is the man who is now running away from everything he has said, including what he had to say on airports. He is now running away from the statement that he made last night. But he cannot run away from the policy speech of the Labor Leader who gave a clear undertaking that there would be clear and unequivocal tax reductions. In his policy speech Mr Whitlam said:
The most pressing need in the tax field-
Honourable senators opposite are interjecting. I thought that they would want to hear what their Labor Leader had to say. I can fully understand why they do not want to hear it. Mr Whitlam said:
The most pressing need in the tax field is to retard the trend by which inflation has forced lower and middle income earners into the high tax brackets.
He went on to say that the Liberals by retaining the tax schedules were in fact forcing up taxes. He said that in fact Labor would cut taxes. But what has it done?
– Labor will do this.
– Does Senator Gietzelt deny that the clear statement made by the Treasurer on 4 April that he would cut taxes in the next Budget meant this Budget and not the one afterwards? Labor’s slogan was ‘It’s Time’. But Labor is now saying ‘Give us more time’, because it is running out of an alibi. The truth is that it should be doing time. Labor supporters cannot get away from this simple fact.
My colleagues on my left of the Labor Party have talked about inflation and have suggested that taxes have not been cut because of inflation. Let me give Labor’s choicest alibi - the fact that Labor had to raise considerably more money in the Budget. From whom did the Government basically raise this money? In the first place let us take the 3 main indirect taxes. Labor, in Opposition, said: ‘We reject indirect taxes’. That is written into the platform of the Australian Labor Party. Senator Gietzelt acknowledges that. He knows that it is a primary plank in the platform of the Labor Party that regressive taxes - indirect taxes are regressive - hit the little man. The Labor Party knows the old statement that its platform is like the platform on the back of a bus. It is meant to get in on and not to stand on. That is precisely what has happened because what has the Labor Party done? The main tax increase is on petrol - the little man’s car - and it is 5c a gallon. In the past when the petrol tax was raised an almighty yell went up from Labor Party members; they said it was wicked to do this. But this time it is right. The Labor Party has put tax on cigarettes, which is the little man’s pleasure, and on liquor. But it has gone further.
– But not on beer.
– lt has, on beer. The Labor Party is now out to chase the children’s lolly water, the soft drinks, with a tax of 2c or 3c. What an irresponsible situation. The Labor Party is chasing the little children by increasing the price of soft drinks. It is hitting the soft underbelly of people who cannot hit back, such as the poor, the children, the lemon and orange growers - the citrus growers.
– Your Party put a tax on ice cream.
– Let Senator Gietzelt get to his feet and talk to the people of Robertson. Let him explain to the people of Robertson why, without warning, a firm in Robertson today has cut its order for lemons by 800 tons for this season. I say to the honourable senator who yells: ‘Come on, up and tell us why; explain.’ This is a tax on lolly water. I suggest that he go to Leeton and Griffith and tell his technicolour colleague why this area will receive this time an order for lemons which is 400 tons less. Let him tell the people of the Huon Valley what will happen to apple juice all because the Labor Party chases the defenceless - the poor orchardist, the poor kids. Mr Deputy President, let me remind you of the honeyed words of the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) when he was asked why the Government was going to cut out free milk for school children. I give you bis priorities, if I recollect them clearly. He said: Well, it creates too much work.’ That was priority No. 1. What a piece of cheapskate answer. Secondly he said: ‘Well, some of them do not drink it’; and, thirdly: “They are getting it in terms of food values in other things.’ Will Senator Mulvihill and Senator Gietzelt come with me into Leichhardt, Redfern and Annandale? They are grinning now; they know that they do not have the slightest regard for the underprivileged. They crawled into power on the backs of the underprivileged and now they hit them. Let Doctor Turnbull say that in the slums, among the poor migrant people, there are none who would still benefit by getting a ration of half a pint of milk each day in the schools. There is no certainty at all that they will get it at home. Let him say this. That is what the Government is hitting.
– One would have thought that the Government would have put that in its policy speech.
– Yes. One would have thought that the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) would have pressed his Government - if it were going to deal with carbonated citrus drinks - to phase out the subsidy over a year or two instead of forcing a situation which is now calamitous. Where is the humanity? Where in Mildura, in South Australia, at Tom Piper’s in Melbourne and at Jusfruit in Gosford is the justice in this kind of action? Here is a Government which went into office saying: ‘We are the Party for the workers. We will give them industrial peace. We will reduce the taxes of the little people. We will give them more benefits.’
I will show honourable senators one of the greatest hoaxes which has ever been perpetrated. I deal with the young marrieds seeking housing. Let honourable senators opposite continue to grin .because it shows their contempt for those people. All honourable senators opposite know that in the Government’s policy speech and in its foreshadowed policies it was absolutely silent on its intention to abolish the homes savings grant which is the basis for helping people on low incomes to obtain the essential deposit for their home. Under the homes savings grant scheme 290,000 young couples have obtained homes. All of them were low income earners. Let me show honourable senators a breach of promise. I shall read from the ‘Australian’ newspaper of 11 July 1973. On the occasion in question the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) is reporting to his masters and therefore he is speaking the truth of angels. He is reporting to the Australian Labor Party Federal Conference at Surfers Paradise. He spelt out his policy on housing and then stated:
Then, with their savings taken into consideration for a home savings grant, they would have sufficient for a deposit to bring them into the system of housing loans.
Has there ever been a worse piece of deception? Four weeks before the introduction of the Budget the Minister made that statement knowing what was in the Budget - or did he? Is he so uninformed in his policies that he did not know what was in the Budget? He went on to a public platform, talked to the people of Australia, and gave an undertaking that the homes savings grant would be preserved. This is an example of the dishonesty of these people.
This Government which went to the people of Australia and said: ‘AH you young marrieds who are struggling for a home come to us because we will give you low cost housing in abundance’ now says: ‘We will give you a tax deductibility for interest on your mortgage’. It did not tell them that they will have to wait a year or two and then the Government might modify the deduction. It did not say that. The Government said: ‘We will give it to you’. The implication was that the people would get it this year. Some people speaking for the Labor Party said this. They implied that all the promised benefits would be granted. As to the first promise, the Government said: We are deferring it for a year*. That is a broken promise. It added: ‘We are not terribly sure what its shape will be. As to the homes savings grant, it is to be abolished.’ The cheapskate excuse offered was that some people are fiddling with it. When I asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) in the name of decent people to say who had fiddled with it and to give us a case he ran away because he knew that the Minister for Housing was using a disgusting and completely fraudulent alibi to cover up a failure.
Why is the Government removing this homes savings grant? One finds the answer in the demolition report of Dr Coombs. It is one of the methods of demolition. But the Budget goes further. It describes the boom in housing and indicates that it is the intention of the Government to clamp down on domestic home building. So the Government which went to the people and said: ‘We will build you more housing. We will get the costs lower. We will help you’, has in fact done more in a few months to prevent the little people of Australia from obtaining housing than any other government in history. Today there is the greatest rate of inflation in domestic property values ever, to my knowledge. This has been brought about entirely by this Government by its iniquitous policies and its scarcity values. This is the Government which told the people that it would solve these problems.
With my eye on the clock, I shall talk about an artifice which is a complete misrepresentation. All through last week the honourable senators on Government benches said: ‘Look at our education program. We have increased it by 92 per cent or by S404m.’ Mr Deputy President, I say to you that no more dishonest statement could have been made.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
General Business Taking Precedence of Government Business
– I move:
Let me make it clear at the outset that the Opposition condemns all atmospheric nuclear testing wherever it is conducted and by whomever it is conducted. Our attitude was made clear when in government; our attitude has been made clear in opposition. The former Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Honourable Nigel Bowen, led in the United Nations the condemnation of atmospheric nuclear testing. We stand alongside any country in the world in our condemnation of these tests. We are not selective. We charge the Government with double standards in relation to French and Chinese atmospheric nuclear testing. Over a long period the Opposition both in the Senate and in the House of Representatives has asked numerous questions of the Government seeking answers to specific points. We have been met with evasions and waffle. In a moment we will look at some of the questions asked and some of the answers given.
The Government has protested to China. It has not told us - maybe there are diplomatic reasons for this - the form or the terms of the protest. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) appeared confused as to the form of the protest, and I will come to that later. We have sought answers to certain questions and we believe that the answers supplied indicate different policies towards China and France. We accept the fact that the Government - maybe reluctantly; maybe more in sorrow than in anger - has protested to China.
I want to make the distinction between protests and condemnations. Protests are forms of words; condemnations are different things altogether. The Government has not only protested to France, it also has condemned France in the strongest possible terms. It has taken action against France. It has never condemned China in the same form. Indeed, the Prime Minister admits that, as we will see later. The Government has taken no action against China. Fortunately the double standards of the Government are easy to expose because we have a very garrulous Prime Minister. He has the unpleasant habit of lecturing the world at every opportunity. His incredible conceit leads him to believe that he is a man of destiny. This prevents Him realising that every statement he makes clearly exposes him and his Government to the charge of adopting double standards.
It is interesting to note that no member of the Government either in this House or in the other place has ever asked a question which is critical of China in regard to atmospheric nuclear testing. All the questions in regard to China have come from the Opposition. But members of the Government have asked many questions which are critical of the French tests. One wonders whether the Government should not adopt a new slogan. I suggest the new slogan should be this: ‘It’s time to go with President Chou’. It has taken us many months to try to establish - we still have not established it because of the conflicting statements made by the Prime Minister and by Senator Murphy - whether the Government’s attitude to nuclear testing was based on principle or on humanitarian grounds. I have asked Senator Murphy on several occasions whether the Government’s attitude to nuclear testing in the asmosphere was based on principle. In answering most of my previous questions he waffled all around the point, but on 15 March he said, as appears at page 455 of Hansard:
The question of Australia’s opposition to nuclear testing is one of principle.
They are fine words, but then he became ambivalent because he went on to say:
Already I have indicated that there are some differences, on a scientific basis, as to relative adverse effects.
If we as a nation are opposing something on principle, I suggest that it does not matter what relative merits or differences there are on the basis of science. There are differences such as there may be in legal relations. So here again we have a qualification. We accept the fact for the time being that Senator Murphy opposed these tests as a matter of principle. The Prime Minister adopted a somewhat different attitude. On 13 March he was asked a question in relation to French and Chinese nuclear tests and he replied:
The physical features-
I presume by that he means that we are in the region in which the French are conducting tests - which give Australia that option of approaching the International Court of Justice against the French tests are not applicable against the Chinese tests.
Do we take that as an excuse to do nothing about the Chinese tests? That is the Prime Minister’s statement. So here we have an ambivalent attitude expressed again. There is no question of principle. There are some questions of legal problems or some questions relating to the region in which we live. So the Prime Minister again is differing from Senator Murphy, as we would understand it - if we understand the Prime Minister, of course. But what is the point on which they differ? In the interests of humanity, fallout anywhere in the world is something which we condemn. On the best scientific advice we could receive, the fallout in Australia from Chinese tests represents 20 per cent of the fallout over Australia. Of course, the Prime Minister has been asked about this and he has waffled about the proportion being one-eighth and one-sixth. He changed from time to time.
– Or there was no effect at all.
– Or no effect at all. That is true. I think he did make that comment. I think the words he used were that there was no discernible effect. So the Prime Minister was excusing himself for not taking action against China. But the proportion of fallout over Australia from Chinese tests is 20 per cent. Then the Prime Minister was asked about the form of protest made to China. At a Press conference held on 8 May he was asked:
Have you had any response from the Chinese Government on your protest note on nuclear testing?
The Prime Minister replied:
The protest to China was oral, so there would be no written response.
So the protest was oral. Senator Webster asked Senator Murphy a similar question on 15 May. Senator Murphy replied:
The protest took the form of a letter from the Minister for Foreign Affairs to the Chinese Foreign Minister, Mr Chi Peng-Fei. The letter was handed to the Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister. … by he Australian Charge d’Affairs in Peking.
This was a written protest from the Prime Minister. A week before the Prime Minister has said that it was only an oral protest, so there would be no response. But Mr Whitlam, in reply to that challenge, said that both answers were correct. The Charge d’Affaires handed a letter to Mr Chi Peng-Fei and then there was a conversation explaining the points of view of both Governments. Here we had the Foreign Minister, who presumably sent the protest, not knowing he had sent it saying it was an oral protest. That explains the confused state of mind of the Prime Minister in relation to the Australian Government’s attitude to Chinese tests. I think it also indicates that he had very little interest in the protest.
The Australian Government has taken great pride, and has repeatedly expressed its pride, in mobilising world opinion against French atmospheric nuclear testing. Mr Hawke of the Australian Council of Trade Unions also has boasted that the ACTU has mobilised the trade unions throughout the world to protest and to place a ban on French trade and French communications. This ban has been supported by leading members of the Government, including Dr Cairns. It is true that at one stage the Prime Minister appealed to the ACTU to remove the ban, not because he disagreed with it but because he thought lt might affect the Australian case before the International Court of Justice. Of course, the trade unions would not agree with Mr Whitlam and the ban remains. So we have the situation where the trade unions, supported by leading members of the Government - no member of the Government has ever denounced the trade unions for it - have placed a ban against all trade and all communications with France. Senator Murphy was asked by Senator Webster-
– You must have got your heads together.
– No. We do not need to get our heads together; we can read. Senator McAuliffe can neither read nor understand. Senator Webster asked the Leader of the Government this question:
Will the Government advise the Government of the Peoples Republic of China that this Government will support the unions in this country in their threat to halt all communications and trade relations with China unless she immediately stops nuclear testing in the atmosphere? Will the Government advise China, as a Minister of this Government advised France, that it will consider breaking diplomatic relations with China unless it halts nuclear testing?
Senator Murphy commenced in his usual waffling fashion and then said:
I think that was a distortion of what Senator Webster had said -
Senator Murphy was applauding the trade unions for placing a ban in the interests of humanity on trade and communications with France. Senator Murphy was, in effect, saying: ‘This is not selective. It is not a question of whether more harm is done somewhere or whether more harm is done somewhere else. It is in the interests of humanity - of all the people of the world, whether they live in the south west Pacific region or whether they live in Japan, Korea or indeed in the Peoples Republic of China itself. But one of the interesting aspects of this is that greater harm is done to humanity, greater harm is done to the people of the world by the Chinese atmospheric tests than is done by the French tests. At least 7 times more people are affected by the Chinese tests. In addition, the Chinese bomb is a far dirtier bomb than the French bomb. The French testing has been done mainly with a trigger device and not with an actual nuclear weapon. The Chinese bomb is also more dangerous because it is exploded over land in a hot area where the particles are dragged into the atmosphere and they float around the atmosphere for many years; the bombs are not exploded over water. I am not excusing the French, but I am merely pointing out that greater harm is done to humanity, to the people of the world, by Chinese tests than is done by French tests.
– It is monstrous.
– Shortly I will come to this extraordinary word ‘monstrous’ which was used by the Prime Minister. What is the attitude to the Chinese tests of the ACTU, Dr Cairns, Senator Murphy and the Prime Minister in the interests of humanity? It has been one of monumental inaction. Some little time ago Dr Cairns led a trade delegation to China and he said that he protested to Chou En-lai concerning the Chinese tests, but Chou
En-lai become somewhat angry and replied very angrily to Dr Cairns and made it quite clear that China was going to continue nuclear testing whether we liked it or not. What was the reaction of the Australian Government to this? The trade unions, supported by the Government and strongly supported by Dr Cairns, placed a ban on trade with France. But Dr Cairns, when he was in China, invited the Chinese Minister of Trade to come to Australia to conclude a trade agreement. In due course this delegation, led by the Minister of Trade, arrived in Australia. Dr Cairns rushed to Sydney to greet the Chinese Minister of Trade and to kotow before him. Dr Cairns brought him to Canberra. They had discussions, and in due course they signed a trade agreement. Then we saw in the newspapers an interesting photograph of Mr Whitlam grinning like a cat that had just swallowed a pigeon, sitting alongside Dr Cairns with a smug look on his face, welcoming the Chinese Minister of Trade to Australia and congratulating him on signing the trade agreement.
– A most favoured nation.
– As Senator McManus reminds me, it was most favoured nation treatment. They expressed to one another thoughts of eternal friendship. There is an interesting question for the Government to answer, and I challenge the Government to answer it. Had the French Minister for Trade come to Australia with a French trade delegation in order to improve trade between Australia and France, would Dr Cairns have hotfooted it to Sydney to meet the delegation? Would he have brought the delegation to Canberra? Would the Prime Minister have received the delegation?
– He is an all-rounder.
– Senator McAuliffe, who is so vocal, might answer this question. Would the Australian Prime Minister and the Minister for Overseas Trade have received the delegation, or would they have rebuffed it like they rebuffed the Portuguese? I suggest the answer is that they would not have received the delegation because the Australian Government had protested against French atmospheric nuclear testing. If the Government wants to put a contrary view, let it do so. Let it say: ‘We would welcome the French Minister of Trade in Australia’. Let it say here and now that it is prepared to sign a trade agreement with France and let it say that it will demand that the trade unions lift the ban on French trade and communications. It is very interesting to note that despite the ban on French trade there was no protest from Mr Hawke and the trade unions about the visit of the Chinese Trade Minister and the conclusion of a trade agreement with China. There has been no suggestion from trade union leaders, other than from Mr Short and one or two other sensible, rational and logical trade union leaders, that a ban should be placed upon Chinese trade. In other words, we have a selective protest and a selective policy. That in itself is a double standard. It is also interesting to quote from an answer the Prime Minister gave to a question asked by Mi Anthony regarding the ban on trade with France. .He concluded his answer, such as it was by saying:
My previous answer stands. I will amplify it however by quoting the right honourable gentleman.
That is, Mr Anthony.
We will not sell our soul for trade.
What humbug. What hypocrisy. Shortly afterwards he sold his soul to China for trade. Let honourable members opposite answer that one. ‘We will not sell our soul for trade’! It has been sold already. It is noteworthy also that at one stage Dr Cairns, apparently in a more frank moment, said that he would support a ban on trade with China if it exploded a nuclear weapon. Well, China exploded one and Dr Cairns has been silent ever since. The only action he has taken since then has been to kowtow before the Chinese Minister for Trade and to sign a trade agreement. If that is not a double standard, what is?
Let us look at the case before the International Court of Justice. We do not oppose the Government taking the French Government to the International Court of Justice. Indeed, we applaud it. However, when we asked about China we were told that because China does not recognise the International Court of Justice there is no legal basis for taking China before that Court. But does that excuse the Government from taking action against China? Does that excuse the Government for not imposing a trade ban against China? Of course it does not. That is an excuse to do nothing, a legal quibble. That is all it is - nothing more and nothing less. There are plenty of other actions open to the Government to show and move its condemnation of Chinese atmospheric tests, instead of hiding in a cowardly manner behind some legal quibble that China does not recognise the International Court of Justice and that therefore we should sit down, wring our hands and say we can do nothing more about it. It does not prevent the trade union movement from taking action, but it has the same double standard as the Government in relation to this matter.
Let us look at the one man, the Prime Minister, and examine his actions throughout the world. Recently he went on a tour to Mexico, the United States of America and then to Ottawa. Everywhere he went he did damage to Australia internationally by his rudeness and his ill-mannered and undiplomatic remarks. He went to Mexico to seek from the Mexican Government support for the condemnation of French nuclear tests. There was no word from the Prime Minister of the Chinese nuclear tests. He ran into some problems because it appeared that the Prime Minister was not aware of the close relationship between Mexico and France, although Mr David Solomon excuses him for this. Mr Solomon, who is not unbiased towards the Prime Minister - that is not my problem for he is quite entitled to his views - writing in the ‘Canberra Times’ on 30 July this year said after pointing out that Mr Whitlam was well aware of this little matter of Mexican-French relations:
Mr Whitlam therefore went into talks knowing, for example, that the Mexicans would not be prepared specifically to denounce France for its recent nuclear tests, but that it would be prepared to denounce all tests.
That was not the Prime Minister’s proposal. His proposal was to denounce France, and France alone. The article continued:
He was prepared -
That was jolly big of him -
In other words, the Prime Minister had to accept the simple facts of life. His first port of call on this tour was Mexico. He wanted Mexico to join with him in denouncing French tests with no word about Chinese tests, but he ran into a slight problem. But then we had a report of a most amazing interview which was had with the Prime Minister in Ottawa. The Melbourne ‘Herald’ of Friday, 3 August, reported what the Prime Minister said. Let us analyse what he said and the meaning of what he said. The report started off by saying that Mr Whitlam had said that France’s nuclear test program was more monstrous than China’s. I do not know whether we have degrees of monstrosity, but he said it was more monstrous than China’s. On what did he base this? I have said already, and it is scientifically correct, that the Chinese bomb is dirtier than the French bomb. It might be ideologically cleaner to the Prime Minister but it is scientifically dirtier. It affects far more people than the French bomb and harms far more people, including some hundreds of millions of Chinese. Here we have a peculiar position. I tried to get an answer from the Government on whether the Chinese regarded the fallout danger as being insignificant or whether China showed a callous disregard for the welfare and health of its people. It cannot have it both ways. I will come back to the question of monstrosity in a minute. Mr Whitlam said that he could not rule out the possibility that Australia would cut diplomatic relations with Paris. The article continues:
Mr Whitlam said he had never specifically threatened to break relations with France but this was one of the options.
That is pretty powerful talk. The article goes on with what he said in one of his moments of humility:
I do not go around telling people in advance what my intentions are,’ he said.
That is certainly a change. I do not think anybody understands his intentions but he tries to talk about them quite a lot. Has there been any suggestion by the Government that it would recall our Ambassador from China? There has been not a word. However, Mr Whitlam has been considering the breaking off of diplomatic relations with France. What is that other than a double standard? Incidentally, the conference was being held in a converted railway station, which seemed to be a pretty good place to hold this conference. I will continue with this gem. The report continues:
Mr Whitlam is expected to seek joint action by other Commonwealth countries to condemn the French nuclear tests in the Pacific.
There, is no mention again of Chinese tests - just French tests. The Commonwealth Prime
Ministers for various reasons were not prepared to go along with him on that proposal either so he came home without achieving that great ambition. Mr Whitlam went on to say that he agreed that his criticisms of the French program were in sterner language - that is tougher talk - than his response to China’s atmospheric tests. But he said, the French tests were more monstrous. We have dealt already with this degree of monstrosity, if I may use that expression, in relation to this matter. Mr Whitlam wants to have degrees so that one can be more monstrous than the other. However, the more monstrous one scientifically and in every other way is the Chinese test, so that is extremely queer logic. His excuse is that we must not offend Chou En Lai. That would be a dreadful thing to do. Our new found friend, we cannot offend him. It does not matter whether we offend our old time friends such as France. That is another matter. I believe that we should offend both of them equally. Referring to France he continued:
They were not under any military threat.
Again, we have this lecturing. He is deciding whether the French Government regards itself as being under military threat. I would have thought that that would be a matter for the French Government to decide, not the Australian Prime Minister who is 12,000 miles away. He continued:
Where is this matter of great principle that we have heard Senator Murphy talk about? He has said that the Government condemns all nuclear tests as a matter of principle. There is no mention of principle here. The Prime Minister is using another criterion. It is not principle. He had not thought of that one. The article continues:
He said he considered China was under threat.
Maybe China is under threat and perhaps the Chinese consider themselves to be under threat. Does that excuse them from exploding nuclear bombs without considering the health and welfare of millions of people in the world once the fall-out goes obliquely over Japan and Korea? Apparently, the Prime Minister thinks it does. If that is not adopting double standards, I do not know what is. The Government’s definition of double standards is far different from ours. No one would accept his definition. The article further states:
The Chinese themselves got most of the radioactive fall-out, he said.
Australia was among the countries to get the effects of the French fall-out, he said.
We get at least 20 per cent of our fall-out from Chinese nuclear tests. Here again, the Prime Minister is using an odd criterion because the Chinese people are having their health and welfare affected. He just washes his hands of it and says that it does not matter. He did not mention that if the Chinese like to explode bombs that affect only the Chinese that this is their problem. But it can be shown clearly that Japan and Korea are affected immediately. So it is not only the People’s Republic of China that is affected. The Prime Minister was dishonest and misleading in not including Japan and Korea as being affected within days of the Chinese Tests. Obviously, he denies that there is a principle involved. If Senator Murphy accepts that, I agree with him. Perhaps Senator Murphy might like to have a discussion with the Prime Minister on the definition of the word ‘principle’. We are not quite sure what he means by it, but if he means what we mean, we would agree with him.
I come now to the final point: Australia’s Ambassador to Paris, Mr Renouf, returned to Australia. He made a reported statement in which he said that he was remaining in Australia for some weeks to display to the French Australia’s strong protest against the French atmospheric nuclear tests. At the same time our Ambassador to the Peoples Republic of China sat comfortably in Peking. What logic or rationality can there be for one Ambassador to remain in Australia in protest and the other to remain in China? We can assume only that the Government has no intention of going beyond making some mild protest to China. If it were dinkum, sincere and honest in its condemnation of nuclear tests then it would take the same action against any country that exploded nuclear weapons in the atmosphere. The Government’s policy, to use the words of the Prime Minister, is monstrous, hypocritical and cowardly. Neither the Prime Minister nor the Government have any credibility left.
Debate (on motion by Senator Poyser) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 23 August (vide page 189), on motion by Senator Primmer:
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency, the Governor-General be agreed to:
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
Upon which Senator Withers had moved by way nf amendment:
That the following words be added to the AddressinReply, viz: ‘but the Senate is of the opinion and regrets that - The Government in its conduct of the nation’s affairs has subordinated the security and welfare of the Australian people on whose behalf it should govern to the factional decisions of the Conference and Executive of the Australian Labor Party, in that:
– The debate on the motion for the formal Address-in-Reply to the GovernorGeneral’s Speech of 27 February this year has been long delayed. I would imagine that it is without parallel in the annals of the Senate that, one sitting of the Senate having finished, we are now into the second week of the second sitting of the session and still the debate on the Address-in-Reply has not finished. I think it is proper to say that the debate on the Address-in-Reply is Government business. It is for the Government to determine when that matter shall be placed before the Senate for the purpose of debate. I do not know whether it is ignorance of the proper traditions or plain incompetence in management that has left this debate still uncompleted after approximately 6 months. I think it should be noted that the Opposition, cooperative as it has been with the Government during this session, has given to the Government a. part of the time for the conduct of general business which is normally reserved for the discussion of motions moved by Opposition senators for the second week in succession with a view to having this AddressinReply debate terminated.
The Address-in-Reply debate is the traditional means of responding to the Speech which the Governor-General makes when he opens a Parliamentary session. He sets out the program of the Government. On this occasion, many words were used to illustrate the Government’s promises. One makes that remark because the promises have not been followed by the performance which one would have assumed would follow these words. The opportunity is thereby given for honourable senators to respond on broadly any matter of Government administration or Government responsibility. This is an opportunity of which the Opposition has actively availed itself. I think it is common knowledge to all honourable senators that when this debate was first started on 8 March, Senator Withers, as Leader of the Opposition, moved an amendment to the motion that the Address-in-Reply be agreed to. That in itself is not an unusual exercise because it is the practice of Leader’s of the Opposition to move amendments to general motions of this character. Senator Withers moved his amendment in terms which the passage of 6 months has made remarkably apposite, particularly in the light of the performance in which the Government has engaged during that time. He stated in his amendment that we should add to the formal words of thanks to the Governor-General for his Speech the following words expressing the opinion of the Senate: but the Senate is of the opinion and regrets that - The Government in its conduct of the nation’s affairs has subordinated the security and welfare of the Australian people on whose behalf it should govern to the factional decisions of the Conference and Executive of the Australian Labor Party, in that:
How prophetic it is that in March of this year we could point to these actions or inactions of the Government and find them carried through for a period of 6 months thereafter. It may take a long time for this to sink through to the persons who communicate to the mass of the people at large what happens in this Parliament and what are the implications of Government decisions, but I know that the people of this country are realising the enormous confidence trick which was played upon them in November and December of last year. If there is a major matter of complaint which could be directed to this Government, it is the complaint that the Government has taken over an economy which was in ship-shape condition and is letting it run down in such a way that there is apprehension in every quarter of the community as to what the future holds for it.
When one considers the terms of Senator Withers’ amendment and when one looks at decisions of the Labor Party, one finds that no decision was made before the Surfers Paradise Conference if there was some possibility of conflict within the Labor Party. The Surfers Paradise Conference of the Australian Labor Party was held, and decisions were made. It is now plain sailing for the Government. The point I make is that the people of Australia believe that they elect to this Parliament persons who will govern the country in accordance with the judgment of the legislators arrived at in conclave and in accordance with the decisions in their parliamentary arena. The Labor Party is not prepared to accept that the judgment of its parliamentary members should prevail upon a particular issue. Members of the Australian Labor Party accept, because they are bound to accept, the decisions of the non-elected Conference and the Executive, and the members abide by the decisions which are made there - the decisions of the Mr Hawkes, the Mr Egertons and the Mr Hartleys.
We find the policy espoused, and action taken consistent with it, of Government contracts being awarded to those employers who are prepared to maintain with trade unions relations which are consistent with what the Government believes should be their proper conduct. We found earlier this year an attempt to introduce compulsory unionism by subterfuge by intimating that 4 weeks leave would be granted only tq public servants who were prepared to join trade unions. But the Senate had the power, which it exercised, to repudiate that policy. The Government was held to its election promise to give 4 weeks leave to all public servants, not only to those who were prepared to join unions. We have seen increasingly the breaking of the traditional alliances which Australia has held with the countries whom all Australians regard as our allies - with the United States of America, with Great Britain and, in our own area, with Singapore which is a flourishing, progressive and stable nation. We find that the Government is prepared to break arrangements under which we have entered into commitments with the South East Asia Treaty Organisation. There is an apprehension throughout the community as to where this Government is leading Australia in terms of its international commitments.
We have had a host of economic decisions which have been made without regard to their impact on the community at large. We have in this Budget a 19 per cent increase in Government expenditure which obviously will allocate resources, which are in great demand and in relatively short SupplY. away from the private sector, where their need is greatest, into the Public Service which is generally regarded as the non-productive arena in the community. We have had a 25 per cent tariff cut which, in terms of deliberate action, I think is bare faced in the consequences which it will produce. It is adopting a policy line without reference to the Tariff Board, which is what the law requires. It will mean that some people in industry and some employees in these industries affected will eventually find themselves out of a job because of the competition from the imports which are allowed to flow in as a result of the tariff cut.
As indicated in the amendment which Senator Withers moved in March of this year, we have had decisions taken in the area of revaluation which had an immediate impact, particularly upon the primary producing section of the community. At the time there was an outcry from the primary producers because they could see particular areas in which they would be offended, but the steps which have been taken subsequently, which directly and indirectly penalise the primary industry section of the community, are without parallel in the recent history of this country. Need I refer to run away inflation? I think the greatest problem, which is recognised by everyone, is this constant rise in prices, with no apparent action by Government to curb the increase in prices.
We in the Opposition have maintained that basic to any approach to inflation is the need for government to be seized of the issue and to implement policies such as demand polices and demand-management polices which will break the continuing impact of costs working on prices because as prices go higher costs have their further impact on prices. We have suggested that what is needed is some brake such as a prices income policy, but from the Government we get absolutely nothing. Should I say ‘absolutely nothing’? What we have had is a tariff reduction which, if it will have any impact at all, will have an impact in the employment field and scarcely any impact on the prices area, a Prices Justification Tribunal which lacks teeth and a parliamentary committee on prices which has no power to restrain anybody from doing anything. Apart from that we have a constant recognition by Government of the claims of those who add to cost pressures, and no action whatever to deal with this problem in a comprehensive way.
They are the matters which are generally covered by the amendment. 1 have taken some little time to elaborate them because I think that the point should be made that the amendment is as relevant today as it was when it was moved in March of this year. What have we at present, after 9 months of this Government? We have a government which has dishonoured its promises, which has exposed its factional and its sectional policies and which has revealed its incapacity to control the menace of inflation. This Government came into office on a plea of more openness in government and the avoidance of secrecy. Yet we now have secrecy paraded almost as a virtue. We have a refusal to table documents which are known to exist and which, if they are disclosed, may embarrass the Government. We have the selective availability of confidential material for Government supporters to intimidate and injure the Government’s opponents. We have a regular pattern of evading and ignoring questions in the Parliament, and the picture of a government multiplying in its own favour and for its own benefit all the vices of which it accused its predecessors and which it claimed so dishonourably in the event it would eschew. This is the sort of government which the Australian people are now experiencing.
What are we seeing in a wider field? We are seeing a weakening of our defence capability because if government has a primary obligation it is to maintain the society, the nation, the civilisation, secure from external attack and secure from internal subversion. Surely these are the prime obligations above all other obligations which a government carries. What we are seeing today is internally and externally a weakening not only of the people’s resolve but of the Government’s ability to defend the nation from attack or subversion. May I mention, without going into them in any detail, the types of things which are weakening our external defence capability.
We have recently had a Budget and a defence statement but we find, at a time when there is a tremendous increase in Government expenditure, that the proportion of the gross national product which is applied to the defence of this nation has dropped from the 3.5 per cent which it was in the last financial year to 2.9 per cent in this year. It may not be very important, in one sense, to refer to the fact that last year the Government promised it would maintain its defence expenditure at the same level as that at which the previous Government maintained its defence expenditure, but that promise has now been dishonoured. But I think it is significant that we ought to be prepared to maintain our defence capability in a way that ensures the people of Australia that defence is a concern of government. We find that in the defence statement, when allied to the Budget, we have various cutbacks. We have a reduction in the number of personnel who will be employed in the Army, Navy and the Air Force; a reduction in certain defence expenditure in terms of what is available for our defence industries. With all this we have a cutback in our capital programs which are necessary to enable our various Services to function effectively in accordance with what the experts in these Defence Services regard as desirable as the years go by. We have, essentially, problems for our Defence personnel because those who make a career of the Army, Navy or Air Force must wonder as they look ahead what prospects exist for them. We denude ourselves of the ability to maintain our Defence Services at the level at which they should be maintained.
All this is occuring in the context of the Government’s foreign policy. We find the USA, which has long been our most effective ally, withdrawing from South East Asia on the basis that it will always be prepared to assist those countries which in their own interests will act to look after their defences; and we, from our point of view, are not taking that action which is likely to maintain the continued interest of the United States in this area. We find that the Government is placing its complete reliance upon its supposed detente, its supposed better relations, with the People’s Republic of China. It is almost an absurd proposition that because we recognise the People’s Republic of China relations with China and China’s attitude to Australia will become friendly when previously it was hostile. One can only recall that the United Kingdom, France and the other countries of Europe recognised Nazi Germany before 1939 but that did not mean they were able to avoid the holocaust which occurred in 1939. The truth is that a detente is, without question, a means of improving relations, but it is not an excuse for not taking the action which is necessary for the defence of the country. This is the pattern by which we are weakening our abilities to protect ourselves against any external threat.
However, that is not the major matter on which I want to speak tonight. The major matters to which I wish to address myself are the way we are weakening Australia’s internal security system and our intelligence network and our denigration of the Australian Intelligence Security Organisation. The denigration of the Australian security service is possibly of far greater significance than any of the other things to which I have referred, because while some events have been noteworthy because they have received publicity, the pattern of what is occurring - there is a pattern - is not so easily discernible. May I simply say this: One of the bases upon which the Government has justified its reduction in defence capability is that there is no apparent enemy which is likely to attack Australia.
I recognise the force of that argument, superficial though it is. In the field of diplomacy one never talks of neighbouring countries as being enemies, because that is not the way one conducts international affairs; and one cannot at any particular point of time assess whether a country in 2, 5 or 10 years time will be an enemy because one cannot anticipate the policies of particular countries. But in the area of which Australia is a part we have seen over many years ideological expansion by the communist countries and the threat of a continuing expansion as vacuums are created. The views of the Prime Minister of Singapore are not to be discounted simply because the Prime Minister of Australia (Mr Whitlam) does not like him. The views of the Prime Minister of Singapore are based on his assessment from his vantage point of the problems of the region of which his country is central. I think we are foolish to believe that there can be no enemy confronting Australia. But our assessment of whether there is a prospective threat or a prospective enemy depends fundamentally upon our intelligence services and our ability in this country to know what are the threats which are mounting from overseas and what contacts those which confront us from overseas may have in Australia and what may be used and done in Australia to jeopardise our security. When we challenge, denigrate and effectively destroy our security services, the nation suffers, because the nation’s ability to make these necessary assessments is weakened.
I make the charge, and I make it deliberately, that actions of this Government, and particularly actions of the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy), have damaged to the point of nearly complete ineffectiveness the work of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. And I wonder why it has been done. If one examines the platform of the Australian Labor Party one finds 2 objectives in this blueprint of programs relating to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. One is that the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation shall be brought under ministerial control - a policy which I propose to discuss in a few moments but which 1 feel would be the complete antithesis of what all decent Australians would want. The second objective is that there should be provision for persons who consider themselves to be adversely affected by security recommendations to appeal to some body to which they could put their complaint. I say for myself that that is a highly desirable objective, although I have never believed that the case for it has been demonstrated in terms of particular examples. But because the fear is there
I think there should be provision for some such appeal. Those are the 2 items of the Australian Labor Party policy relating to ASIO. But it should not be forgotten that the Labor Party at its 1971 Launceston conference almost decided to abolish the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.
I have sought the details of what happened at that conference but unfortunately, in circumstances which are not able to be explained, all the relevant files about that conference are missing from the Parliamentary Library and the information is not readily available. But my recollection, which can be corrected by those who have greater knowledge, is that there was a tied vote at the conference in Launceston and because there was a tied vote the motion for the abolition of ASIO was not carried. However, one argument advanced at that conference as to why ASIO should not be abolished- - again I speak from recollection of what I read in the newspapers - was that one consideration which motivated the Labor Party in looking forward to taking Government was that if the Labor Party ever became the government it could use ASIO as the Labor Party wanted it to be used. In the light of what has happened since the Labor Party took office I can only wonder whether that viewpoint has not succeeded and whether ASIO today is not being used as the Government of the day wants to use it. But let us not forget that ASIO has an honourable history in this country and let it not be forgotten that the basis upon which the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation now operates was established by Mr Chifley and Dr Evatt in 1948 and 1949. What has happened to ASIO since that date has been totally consistent with all the principles as to how a security service should be organised which were laid down by Mr Chifley and Dr Evatt and which I believe, contrary to the views of the present Labor Party pretenders, should be continued as the way in which we conducted our intelligence organisation.
Over the period of its existence ASIO has been subjected to a continuing campaign of denigration, vilification and irresponsible questioning both in the media and in the Parliament. This was initiated evidently and demonstrably by the Communist Party in 1949- 50 after ASIO was originally set up. If the persons who now criticise ASIO for the things it is alleged to have done are not so identifiable, it is only because the patterns of criticism and the persons and organisations which criticise have changed over the years. Let us examine what Mr Chifley said about ASIO in 1949. According to the Hansard report of 10 March 1949 Mr Chifley said:
I will not discuss in detail in this House the proposed activities of the new security organisation. It is not the practice in any country to reveal such matters. I do not propose to answer questions about the organisation unless they involve matters of great public interest. I certainly will not answer questions asked about the organisation merely for political party propaganda purposes.
Similarly Prime Minister Chifley set the tone for replies to questions concerning proper controls over ASIO and its activities, and the powers of the Director-General of Security, later the same year. On 9 June 1949 he told the Parliament:
The Director-General of Security will be under the administrative control of the Attorney-General’s Department … he is to have access to me at all times . . . Appointments to the security service will be left entirely to the Director-General of Security . . . The Director-General of Security has been given absolute discretionary power in that regard … the Director-General has been given complete authority on security, matters and I do not propose to interfere with him in the discharge of his functions.
He was supported by Dr Evatt, who said on 20 September of the same year:
In order to protect our internal security, one result of the new arrangement is to give the Director.General of Security a charter as ample as that possessed by the corresponding authority in Great. Britain … To all intents and purposes the DirectorGeneral of Security is free from ministerial direction. That arrangement is essential-
I interpolate to say that this was Dr Evatt speaking and that it was he who said that freedom from ministerial direction is essential in order to maintain maximum internal security which, I have no doubt, all honourable members wish to have preserved.
On 6 October 1949 Dr Evatt said:
The Security Service must be operated with secrecy in order properly to protect the community. … If the results of our security investigations were published, the attempt to defeat subversive activities would always be foiled. . . . We so designed it-
That is the Security Service - as to put it beyond the scope of political party approach. . . . The Government has decided to separate the investigation and police functions from the security functions. The investigation and police functions are to be left with the Commonwealth Investigation Service-
That is now the Commonwealth Police - and the security functions in connection with subversive activities affecting the internal security of Australia are under the control of Mr Justice Reed.
He was, of course, the then Director-General of Security. Dr Evatt went on to say:
The Government has every confidence in the ability and independence of that gentleman. The Government does not concern itself with the precise methods he uses.
Referring to the dossiers being kept on public servants, Dr Evatt said:
If a public servant is suspected by the Security Service of subversive activities it is proper that a record should be about him. We cannot exempt any particular class.
Even in 1956, when he was not the AttorneyGeneral of the day but was the Leader of the Opposition, and at the time when the Menzies Government put the whole of the Security Organisation under statutory protection and gave it statutory functions, putting it in an Act of Parliament and laying down what were the obligations of the persons in the Security Service, Dr Evatt said:
We are of the opinion that we must have a top level organisation of persons skilled in the assessment of information from the point of view of espionage, sabotage and the like. We cannot do without that in the modern world.
May I say that during that debate in 1956 Mr McMahon, who was then the Minister for Primary Industry, said that the Security Service had a charter to deal only with certain specific responsibilities, such as sabotage, subversion or espionage. He said that it had no other functions. In particular he emphasised that it was not a police force. He said it had no enforcement powers such as a police force had. Further, it could not take any police action which might be designed to affect the civilian population for what would be regarded as civil offences. He said that it had no executive powers, nor could it take action in the administrative field. Mr McMahon said that its powers were designed to enable it to collect intelligence and, as the DirectorGeneral of Security thought fit, to advise Ministers, heads of departments and others whom he felt should be informed in the interests of the security of the nation.
Over the years we have had a remarkable organisation in this country which has received world wide renown for its effectiveness. What did it do? An Act was passed in 1960 which permitted, in very strict circumstances laid down by statute, the tapping of telephone under warrant of the AttorneyGeneral where the security of the Commonwealth was threatened. The function of making recommendations was ‘vested in the DirectorGeneral of Security. ASIO was given the role of approving naturalisation applications, the screening of migrants, the issuing of visas and passports and the security vetting of employment in the Commonwealth Public Service. There does not appear to by anything mysterious in those roles. Nevertheless those activities, obviously in the interests of the nation, were challenged by those who felt that ASIO was something which they desired to destroy or render ineffective. If people are interested in the question of what should be the relationship of a security service to the Government of the day they may read the Denning report, which was produced by Lord Denning after the security concern and scandals which occurred in England in 1963. He inidcated, although he was dealing with the prime question of whether the security service should be responsible to the Home Secretary or the Prime Minister, that the security service was not a department of the Home Office. Speaking of England, he said:
It operates independently under its own DirectorGeneral, but he can and does seek direction and guidance from the Home Secretary, subject always to the proviso that its activities must be absolutely free from any political bias or influence.
The function of the Security Service is to defend the Realm as a whole from dangers which threaten it as a whole, such as espionage on behalf of a Foreign power, or internal organisations subersive of the State. For this purpose it must collect information about individuals, and give it to those concerned. But it must not, even at the behest of a Minister or a Government Department, take part in investigating the private lives of individuals except in a matter bearing on the Defence of the Realm as a whole.
We at our peril, having regard to the values we cherish in this nation, would depart from that principle. Implicit in all that the Attorney-General of today has been doing, and in what the Prime Minister is promising, and in what is expressed in the Labor Party’s platform, is that ASIO will be brought under ministerial control. It must mean, because no other meaning can be given to the words, that the Minister of the day will determine what the Director-General of Security will do, where he may go, whom he shall investigate and then he shall report to the Minister. If that is not a security police force of the totalitarian pattern that occurs in Europe, what is? It is about time some people recognised what is involved in ministerial control of the Security Service. I say this because the people who try to mould opinion in this country have not the brains or the intelligence to recognise that they would be the very first people who would be challenged by the type of activity which is engaged in by a security service subject to ministerial control. They ought to be aware of the things which are already happening in this country because sufficient has happened since this Government has taken office which has received a minimum of publicity but which ought to concern everyone who wants to know what our security service is doing under the control of the present Government.
We need a security service because the task of a security service is to protect the nation as a whole, to secure the defence of the nation from external and internal dangers arising from attempts at espionage and sabotage and from actions of persons and organisations whether from outside or inside the country which are judged to be subversive to the whole society. Every country needs and has a body comparable to ASIO. There is obviously a need to obtain information about planned sabotage, espionage and subversion and to detect the persons and organisations engaged in such activities.
– You would not listen when they gave you advice. You disregarded the advice.
– I hear constant interjections which I can only regard from the vehemence with which they are expressed as dissent. All I want to know is whether the people who are dissenting from these propositions are representing the Labor Party point of view. If so, let it be heard and let it be publicised throughout the country. The task of obtaining information is very necessary, difficult and delicate. However, it is totally necessary and it requires highly skilled operatives in what I would call the field and the office. I know that it is fashionable to sneer and jeer, but espionage has occurred in Australia and is going on now. One only has to remember the Petrov defection in 1954-55 which was regarded by Mr Dulles, who was the Director of the CIA, as one of the greatest blows which the Russian security services had ever received. Honourable senators will recall the Skripov case in 1963-64. If they want anything more, they just have to recall the cavalier television performance by the Prime
Minister (Mr Whitlam), when he airily dismissed the half dozen or so Russian spies in this country and the lesser number of Chinese spies. It is a fact that espionage is occurring in Australia.
Sabotage has occurred in Australia. Let me make it quite clear that when I refer to sabotage I refer to politically motivated destruction. The records are available publicly and in greater number to the Commonwealth Police and to Senator Murphy of the extent of politically motivated destruction in this country over the past four or five years. Subversion has also occurred and it is constantly a challenge not only to our intelligence body but also to the police forces of the States, and it is a pity that it is not a greater concern to the people at large. I wish to refer to the sorts of things which have been occurring for the past few months. I raise for the consideration of persons who are interested certain facts which have occurred, and whilst there must be some degree of reticence in regard to security matters I go no further than what is on the public record. These matters, I believe, would concern everybody.
The first matter to which I wish to refer was dealt with in newspaper reports in February of this year. A headline in the ‘Financial Review’ of 28 February stated: ‘Public rebuff to ASIO’. The ‘Canberra Times’ ran the headline: ‘Pole not to get Visa- ASIO’. The Melbourne ‘Age’ had the headline: ‘Government Overrules ASIO’s Ban on Polish Shipping Chief. Information was set out in those newspaper reports which indicated that a longstanding ban of ASIO on a person coming to this country had been lifted. It is fair enough that the opinion of the Minister of one government would differ from that of a Minister of a previous government. That is to be expected when a change occurs. But what I think is very significant is that information that an ASIO ban had been overruled is not the type of information which gets out to the newspapers of this country, unless those who know the facts release them to the newspapers. It is not likely if one examines the probability that this is the type of information that ASIO itself would leak out. Of course, in the papers to which I have referred there was a unanimity of account. I will read the first few lines of the ‘Age’ account, which is datelined from Canberra. It stated:
The Federal Government has overruled an ASIO recommendation to keep a Polish shipping official out of Australia. The former Liberal Government effectively prohibited the entry to Australia of Mr Edward Lysakowski by pigeon-holing his visa application.
It did this on the basis of a recommendation by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. Mr Lysakowski is a senior official of Polfracht Gydnia, a shipping line run by the Polish Government.
I think the significant questions which no one seems to have wanted to ask are these: In the first place, why was ASIO’s advice overruled? Secondly - and I think this is the more important question - how and why was this information revealed to the Press? I have no doubt that it was revealed to the Press in order to suggest that ASIO recommendations were arbitrary and had no basis and had been demonstrated to have no basis by a new Government. This information was released to the Press to suggest that the Government was taking a strong stand against ASIO and indicating that ASIO was something that was against the current Government’s interests. Anyone on a moment’s reflection would recognise that ASIO would not make any recommendations unless it had a reason for them and that if a government acted upon the recommendations and declined to grant an entry visa it would be because it accepted what ASIO had recommended. If the present Government takes pride in what it has done and pride in the fact that it has given this sort of information to the Press I think it is the first indication of a general attitude to ASIO. There were other matters to which I will not refer, but which received some coverage in the newspapers about what the Government was doing in regard to ASIO. The next event, of course, was the ASIO raid on 16 March when the police effected what can be construed only as an unlawful entry into the office of ASIO in St Kilda Road, Melbourne. When the AttorneyGeneral arrived, as of course he would be entitled to do, and sought to use his personal authority over the Director-General, and the staff of ASIO were herded in an auditorium and kept incommunicardo while their papers were held it is no wonder that there would be the exercise of authority and intimidation upon the person who held the statutory authority. But we still do not know and I imagine we will never learn certain facts about that raid. That we are never likely to learn these things makes the whole exercise more suspicious. Why in fact in the first place did the Attorney-General go to the Canberra office of ASIO on the Thursday night, particularly in view of the fact that he subsequently said to the Senate that there had at no time been any withholding by the Director-General of any information which he had sought?
One other matter again in regard to this raid is the vexed telex message which almost every newspaper in this country has published. From what I can gather almost every journalist in this country believes that it exists, but the Prime Minister and the AttorneyGeneral still refuse to table it in the Parliament. I certainly believe that it exists. I read from the account of the ASIO message something which ought to be taken up because it has a significance which has never been fully appreciated. I shall quote from the telex message as I have it in front of me in this newspaper report. It states: The section headed ‘Ministerial Directives’ read: “The Director-General was quoted by the AttorneyGeneral as saying that ASIO was not given proper Ministerial Directives by the previous Government in regard to Croatian terrorism.
It must be said that until March 16, 1973, previous Ministers had maintained the practice of not giving detailed directions to the Director-General.
This conformed with the original Chifley directive to “Maintain the well established convention whereby Ministers do not concern themselves with the detailed information which might be obtained by the security service”.’
It is apparent from that there has been a change in practice as from 16 March. That which had never occurred for some 20-odd years beforehand was occurring. Ministerial directives were being given for the first time. What we are never likely to find out is what those ministerial directives are. Obviously there is a change in the pattern of what is happening. Of course this is part of the general pattern which I feel is emerging as to the way in which ASIO is now being controlled. But what is the third fact? The third fact is the denigration by the Prime Minister of the head and staff of the security organisation when he went on a television vaudeville show approximately a fortnight ago.
– The Prime Minister should have been in my union for that performance.
– I sympathise with Senator Hannan who is a member of a union engaged in television activity. But the Prime Minister is not a member although he performs very well on television. But I only make the point that for the Prime Minister to joke and to make buffoons of the security organisation of this country on a commercial television program as part of a humorous entertainment is not what this country expects of its Prime Minister. Certainly this can only be construed as a public denigration of the head of ASIO and his staff.
The next point - it flows directly from what I have said - is to look at the effect on the officers and staff of ASIO who are dedicated Australians working not for a political Party but for the nation. From the visit on 16 March they knew that they were not trusted by the Attorney-General otherwise he would not have sent in the police, nor would he have required the safes and containers to be sealed. They have been subjected subsequently to harassment by individuals. The numbers of their cars have been taken and the names of the registered owners have been procured. They have been subjected to painting on their gates and on their houses. Their names have been circulated on posters and pamphelts which have been published on city buildings and put into neighbours’ letter boxes. All this has been done without a word of public protest or condemnation from the AttorneyGeneral. I asked him a question about this matter today or yesterday in the Senate and I was assured that these were mainly State matters and it was regrettable that some people should be interfered with at night by telephone calls.
I would have thought that the AttorneyGeneral and Commonwealth Police ought to be far more concerned about what is happening than the Attorney-General has apparently demonstrated. He chided me because I said that there were members of the Australian Labor Party who were engaged in these activities. The particular person I had in mind was a Labor Party candidate at the last State election who went on television to justify and sustain what she was doing. She is actively a member of the Australian Labor Party engaging in this type of activity. One can only wonder what support within the Labor Party is available to her for this sort of activity.
The next point I mention is the disbandment of the Special Branch of the Northern Territory Police Force. As the AttorneyGeneral said, only last week he had disbanded that force on short notice because he felt that itS activities were no longer necessary. But the Special Branch was established to secure information about espionage, about communist activities, about those who would disrupt and engage in sabotage - to do the sort of work which Special Branches of all police forces do in every State of this Commonwealth. This was put aside, disbanded and the records destroyed. Apparently the records were destroyed because there was no denial of it in response to the question which was asked. This indicates that one area of a police force which had amongst its functions the assistance of ASIO was simply disbanded and nothing was put in its place.
The next point is what is happening under the Telephonic Communications (Interception) Act. This is an area which is covered by an Act of this Parliament which was passed in 1960. In certain circumstances it permits the interception of telephone messages. This must be done in accordance with the Act and i know from my experience that it was done in accordance with the Act. But what has happened since the present Attorney-General took office? He answered a question in the Parliament earlier this year. The answer was given to the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) in the House of Representatives on 12 April 1973. The AttorneyGeneral indicated the number of authorisations for telephone tapping which had occurred in each of the preceding 10 years. They are not many and I know that there are not many.
– Those are the authorised ones.
– Naturally. The only telephone tapping in this country which is authorised is authorised under the Act. Whilst the Attorney-General and others claim that there is unauthorised telephone tapping, and have been claiming it for months, they have not to this day come up with one prosecution or one piece of evidence of any unauthorised telephone tapping. It was said that in 1971 there were 105 authorisations, in 1972 there were 115 authorisations and in 1973 there were 107. If anyone reads the Act they will find that the period of a warrant - the period of an authorisation - cannot exceed 6 months. I know the practice and the period for which the warrants are issued. It appears that there were roughly 50 warrants in operation in the last few years in this country according to the figures which were given by Senator Murphy in his answer to that question. But Senator Murphy then went on to say that the number of warrants authorised to 7 March 1973 was 19. There are about 3 people in this country, or in this Parliament more accurately, who know generally what these warrants are used for, why they are used, and how the Director-General of security justifies them in order to protect the security of the nation.
What I want to know and what I am tremendously concerned about is the reason for the reduction in the number of warrants since this present Government took office. I can only feel an apprehension that something relating to the security of this country is not being attended to in the way it should be. I know the logic of the position. Either the Attorney-General has revoked warrants as he has the power to do, or he has refused to authorise warrants which the Director-General has asked him to grant, or the DirectorGeneral has decided that he does not want any longer to have warrants operating in areas where they were previously operating. They are the only alternatives which I think are reasonably open. To me this is a matter of concern because of the knowledge which I had last year as to the position with regard to the ability of the security force to really look after the security of this country in the light of those figures.
Finally, when one adds the great campaign which is currently developing of some honourable senators from the Government side denigrating ASIO to the newspapers, when one examines the spate of newspaper articles which are appearing, when one recognises the further articles which are to appear, when one adds to that the republication of a book about the Petrov affair and when one links this with newspaper articles, one can see swelling up a campaign in certain circles against our Security Intelligence Organisation. To me these are matters of concern. Possibly I view them with a greater concern than others because I have some knowledge derived from the fact that last year as AttorneyGeneral I knew something about the operations of ASIO. But this year, in the light of what I have said and in the light of what can be reasonably calculated, there is a different pattern entirely. Unless these things can be aired in this place, Australians can be deluded into believing that we have as’ effective an intelligence service as we had in other years.
I repeat what I said earlier: The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation over the first 20-23 years of its existence was one of the renowned intelligence organisations in the world. It had achieved things for which Australians ought to be grateful and of which they ought to be proud. It had avoided the problems which had beset the CIA, which had beset MI.S in England and which had beset the French service. We had a good service. Until when? Until 1973. Now I wonder how effective this security service will be in the light of the activities now being engaged in. I think the Australian people are entitled to a frank, full and complete statement of all that has been happening and the reasons for it, because it is only something which is stated and which can be tested which is likely to give confidence to those who feel that Australia’s intelligence network is being dismantled in a way which will be disastrous ultimately to the security of this country. I do not believe that we will get such a statement because unfortunately the present Government is as secretive as it accused its predecessors of being.
– Senator, are you being a little hard on the Government? Did not Mr Whitlam say that the ASIO raid was the Government’s greatest blunder?
– I accept what Senator Webster has said. I note also that when the Prime Minister was asked why it was a mistake he was prepared to joke about it and not give any information. My concluding comment is simply this: We have a problem. It is a matter of grave concern. It is amply enough documented by material on the record and by events which have occurred. In these circumstances I believe it is incumbent upon somebody to expose these matters and to allow them to become that type of public concern which breeds action of the right sort ultimately.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson) - Order! The question is: That the words proposed to be added by Senator Withers’ amendment be added’. Those of that opinion say aye, on the contrary no. I think the noes have it.
– The ayes have it.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Is a division required?
– I take a point of order Mr Acting Deputy President. I understand that the only way in which a division may be called is by an individual senator asking for a division.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - The question was put to the Senate, and it is my opinion that a division was called for by an honourable senator who disagreed with my ruling.
– May I ask you who was the honourable senator who called ‘divide’?
– I called ‘divide’.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Order! I have no obligation to explain who called for a division. I am of the opinion that an hourable senator on my left called for a division disputing my ruling when I said: ‘I think the noes have it’. I asked whether a division was required, which is done as a matter of course, following the call for a division on an honourable senator disputing the ruling from the Chair. It is my view that a division has been called for. The Senate will divide. Ring the bells.
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Withers’ amendment) be added.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question, as amended, agreed to.
Senate adjourned at 9.41 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
Is the Treasurer in a position to advise of the benefits that may accrue to the Government from the implementation of a non-contributory superannuation scheme for the Commonwealth Public Service; if not, will he cause the Treasury to undertake a cost and feasibility study of such a scheme compared with the cost of the proposed Commonwealth superannuation scheme.
Senator WILLESEE- The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The question whether the Superannuation Scheme for employees of the Australian Government should be contributory or non-contributory was considered by the Treasury Committee on Superannuation whose Report I tabled on 8 May 1973. The Committee concluded that the Superannuation Scheme should require contributions from members towards the total cost of benefits and their reasons for having reached this view are given in paragraph 4.07 of the Report. The Government has taken no stand on the Report at this stage.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
Will the Treasurer review the situation under which the proposed Commonwealth superannuation scheme provides for reversionary benefits and yet imposes an exclusion clause to the detriment of those officers who do not have 30 years contributory service but have more than 30 years actual service.
Senator WILLESEE- The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
When I tabled the Report of the Treasury Committee on Superannuation on 8 May 1973 I said that the Government had taken no stand on the Report at that stage and would be interested in receiving! comments from interested persons and organisations. The point raised will be considered by the Government along with other comments now being received.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 30 August 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1973/19730830_senate_28_s57/>.