28th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 2.15 p.m., and read prayers.
– As honourable senators are aware, the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) is at present in hospital. During his absence I shall endeavour to answer questions on his behalf. However, I ask honourable senators to cooperate by placing questions on notice where possible.
(Call of the Senate)
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That 2 1 days after the passing of this resolution there be a call of the Senate for the purpose of considering the third reading of the Constitution Alteration (Prices and Incomes) Bill 1973.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Following the Government’s thrashing in the Parramatta by-election and the public’s obvious disenchantment with its claimed mandate to do as it pleases, will the Government reconsider its policy towards the mining industry in particular and industry in general? Is the Government concerned at today’s announcement that the nickel producer Inco is closing down its Australian exploration and development branches, throwing many workers out of a job and jeopardising the development of the sulphide nickel deposits at Lake Lefroy in Western Australia because of the Australian Government’s minerals policy? Is the Government also concerned at the Thyssen group’s statement that the establishment of a steel plant in Australia and consequent employment opportunities for hundreds of Australians has been jeopardised by the Government’s attitude?
-It is obvious that the Government lost the by-election in Parramatta. I do not think anyone really expected the Government to win a by-election. The Government is in the process of implementing the greatest policy of social and economic reform ever embarked upon in this country and it will do that. It will naturally, as always, take notice of views that are being expressed and will take them into consideration. This will happen on this occasion. As to the questions about particular areas and the effect on employment, the Leader of the Opposition is aware that there is at present a period of extremely full employment. The number of vacancies far exceeds the number registered as unemployed. It is clear now, as in the past, that we cannot always match these numbers, but the present period is one when the problem can be expressed as a shortage of labour rather than the reverse. The Minister for Minerals and Energy is responsible for the other areas referred to by the Leader of the Opposition. I will ask him whether he would like to give a considered answer to the particular matters raised in the question.
– Will the Leader of the Government in the Senate speak on behalf of the Government and state clearly and unequivocally where authority rests in this Government? Does it rest with the Prime Minister, does it rest with Cabinet, does it rest with the Caucus of the Australian Labor Party or does it rest with the gentleman who holds the positions of President of the Australian Labor Party and President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, who castigates his Party’s decisions as political insanity, politically crazy or political imbecility? Will the Government accept the decision in the Parramatta by-election as an indication that the people of Australia, right throughout the nation, expect the Government to govern in the interests of all and not in the interests of a few?
-The Government of the country, as the honourable senator would know, is constitutionally the Ministry which operates together with the Governor-General through the Executive Council. As for the remarks about divisions and the consultative process, of course the Australian Labor Party has a platform and a policy which are worked out in an open debate which is broadcast and televised all over the country, commented on, printed and made available to the people. When we go into elections we state precisely which of those would be treated as matters of priority. This is the way in which we think government should be conducted in a democratic process. Of course we have Cabinet decisions which are discussed with the Party. We take the view that the elected members of both Houses are entitled to meet, discuss and decide upon matters. If their view differed from that of Cabinet, their view would prevail. But let us look at the other side of the coin. What have we on the opposite side of the House? We have an Opposition divided, a Country Party and a Liberal Party which do not know whether they are together and a Democratic Labor Party which does not know whether it is joining up with the Country Party. We have reports about Liberal senators not caring about what is said by their Leader in the other House, saying that they come to their own decisions and that it does not matter what the Party says. If ever we had a disorganised Opposition, a hopelessly confused party in Opposition, we have one now. Precisely why those parties are in Opposition is because the decisions they arrived at were often dictated by persons entirely outside the Party. This has led to confusion and tensions inside the Party. Who can forget when one of the controllers of the media a year or so ago went on television and told the then Prime Minister what to do and the Prime Minister promptly turned around and did it? That does not happen now. Whatever happens on the Government side happens in the glare of publicity and according to a reasonable democratic process which, I think, is admired by the Australian people and which has been part of our history for the whole of this century.
-We had better come back to question time, Mr President. Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware that the West Australian Minister for Agriculture recently told the West Australian Parliament that the administering authority for the rural reconstruction scheme in that State had urged farmers to accelerate repayment of loans? Under the terms of the scheme, do administering authorities have the power to request repayments before the due date? If so, do they have the sole power? Have authorities in other States made similar requests?
– My attention has not been drawn to the statement which apparently was made by Mr Evans. Under the rural reconstruction arrangements the Commonwealth makes money available to the States on terms of interest which are agreed between the Commonwealth and the States at the Australian Agricultural Council. Therefore, the States themselves would have the authority to exercise any constraints or restrictions on the repayment arrangements; that would be entirely their own prerogative, providing that the Commonwealth in turn receives the repayments plus the interest which was originally agreed upon. I am not aware that this has been done and it certainly has not been drawn to my attention that it has been requested by any other State Minister. If in fact this is true, I would like to know just why it has been requested. But again I emphasise that this would be a matter for the Western Australian Government and not for the Australian Government
– Does the Minister representing the Minister for Health know that there has been an apparently serious outbreak of cholera on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines, 3 miles from the city of Davao? Does he know that more than 1,000 cases have already been reported and that thousands of people on foot and in vehicles are jamming the roads to the hospital in Davao city in an effort to receive injections against the disease or be treated for the disease? Because many international aircraft and ships come to Australia via Manila, will the Minister make immediate and urgent inquiries to see whether the Philippine health authorities have sufficient vaccine, staff and facilities to carry out the necessary innoculations and treatment? Will he also inquire to see whether Australia could give some assistance, if necessary, by providing medical teams and serum? Will he take immediate action to ensure that all ports of entry into Australia are alerted in order to protect us from the possibility of a similar outbreak in Australia?
-I thank the honourable senator for the question. I know that in cases such as this the World Health Organisation has procedures under which speedy help may be given to any nation which needs it. The honourable senator’s proposals seem to be practical proposals, and I shall certainly convey them to the Minister for Health. I cannot help the honourable senator with information as to what already has been done. It may well be that action has already been instituted by our Government. But certainly our Government should be taking steps to ensure that the utmost precautions are taken at the points of entry into Australia, and also I am certain that our Government would be willing to assist the Philippines Government in every way possible in order to ensure that the outbreak is contained as far as possible in the interests of everyone.
-Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware of the urgent call which was made within the past 24 hours by, I think, the former Chairman of the World Bank, Mr McNamara, that massive starvation will occur in the underdeveloped areas of the world within a year unless those countries able to do so substantially increase their aid votes to meet this threat? In view of the obvious urgency for action, will the Minister take steps to ensure that the Australian Government makes an appropriate response to this appeal so as to be fully identified with those world interests promoting a reduction of human misery and suffering in its many forms wherever it may be occurring?
– Order! This question is directed to an area of policy. Who will answer it? It is out of order, to begin with.
– If I could, Mr President, I would say that this matter is another very important and humanitarian issue. I will have it taken up by the appropriate Ministers in order that a reply may be be given to the appeal made, as the honourable senator has indicated.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Minerals and Energy aware of the concern expressed by the Electricity Trust of South Australia about the future supply of natural gas from Gidgealpa for use at the Torrens Island power station in that State? Is it a fact that the South Australian Government has been unable to obtain a decision from the Minister for Minerals and Energy on this matter? Does the Minister realise that at present the Electricity Trust of South Australia is assured of a supply for existing plant at Torrens Island but that until the Minister for Minerals and Energy approves further supplies that organisation is unable to plan for the installation of additional generating plant to provide for the power demand in South Australia after 1975? As this is a matter of urgency, will the Minister confer with his colleague in the other place with the object of providing an early reply to the South Australian Government?
– My attention was drawn to this problem, and I am advised that the Minister for Minerals and Energy has assured the Premier of South Australia that, irrespective of any shortfall in the possible supply of natural gas from Gidgealpa, the Australian Government will provide the necessary backup by the planned extension of the natural gas pipeline from Gid.geapla to Palm Valley. I understand that the South Australian Premier is satisfied with these arrangements which follow a full scale discussion between himself, the Minister for Minerals and Energy and their appropriate technical advisers.
– To me, that did not sound like a question without notice.
– Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware that sections of the wine grape growing and wine manufacturing industries have indicated that the 1973-74 Budget will have some adverse effects on these industries? Can the Minister say whether he has received any submissions on this matter? If he has, when might the industries involved receive some response to their submissions?
– Yes, I have seen reports alleging that certain provisions in the Budget will have the detrimental effects referred to by the honourable senator. I have received a submission, from the Wine and Brandy Producers Council- I think that is its correct title- outlining its problems or the problems as it sees them. I have agreed to meet representatives of that body in Canberra on 9 October. I hope that the matters which are occupying their minds at present can then be resolved.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. What action do the PostmasterGeneral and the Government intend to take to overcome the delays in mail deliveries of up to a week caused by an overtime ban by mail officers in New South Wales? Is it a fact that the Government intends to return to homing pigeons as a method of delivering messages?
-The answer to the first part of the question is that I am not aware of what is being done, and I will endeavour to find out for the honourable senator. The answer to the second part of the question is no.
– I direct a question to the Attorney-General. By way of preface I refer to the concern in some Opposition quarters about trade union democracy. Is the Minister aware that when the Hospital Contributions Fund of Australia holds its annual meeting in Sydney this week its 450,000 contributors will be excluded from such proceedings? Will the Minister confer with the appropriate State Ministers and his Federal colleagues, to inject democracy into funds of this nature?
-Mr President -
- Senator Murphy, I have not called you yet. I am considering the question. There are all sorts of curiosities contained in it. On balance, I will allow it. I call Senator Murphy, but only on net balance.
-So far as the balance falls on the side of the Australian Parliament and the Australian Government, may I say that it has been assumed for some time in various areas, one of which the honourable senator mentionedthat is, the trade unions- that where there are rights under Australian law in such bodies, conditions should be laid down governing matters such as finances, the election of officers and control over the affairs of the organisations by those who are members of them. It would seem reasonable that the contributors to these organisations should have far more say in the election of officers, the formation of rules, the conduct of the affairs and the enforcement of the rules in the interests of the members than they have now. I would think that this would be a logical development of the law. I think that it is bound to come about if those kinds of organisations continue.
– I direct a question without notice to the Minister representing the Minister for surrender- I beg your pardon- the Minister for Defence. Can the Minister inform the Senate whether it is a fact that the civil defence forces -
- Mr President, I rise to order. I heard the honourable senator- I hope you did also- say ‘the Minister for surrender- I beg your pardon- Minister for Defence’. I ask for the unqualified withdrawal of the word ‘surrender’.
– It was a lapsus linguae. Senator Bonner, you refer to a Minister by his proper title.
– I rephrase the beginning of my question. I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Can he inform the Senate whether it is a fact that the civil defence forces can travel only 32 miles from their bases when drivers are under instructions? As this limits the distance the civil defence forces can travel and would confine them to the city limits, will he have this matter investigated urgently?
– The answer is yes.
-Has the Special Minister of State seen reports that the military junta in Chile has said that the poet Pablo Neruda died of natural causes several days ago? As Mr Neruda was not only one of the greatest poets of the century and the holder of the Nobel Prize for literature but also a diplomat in the service of the Chilean Government and a supporter of the previous democratically elected Government of that country, will the Minister ask the Department of Foreign Affairs to make inquiries as to whether the allegation by the Chilean junta that he died of natural causes is in fact correct?
– Yes, I will. Our ambassador is back in Australia but we still have officers in Santiago. We are awaiting reports on the latest developments over the weekend which have been quite disturbing. I saw the report of the death of this poet who, I understand, was a very radical poet. I will find out whatever I possibly can and let Senator Wheeldon know the results of my inquiries.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Are reports correct that he is opposed to any increased export tax on beef? If so, can the Minister’s sensible comments be taken as fact or has the city orientated Caucus still to make up its mind?
– I have indicated my attitude on this matter. The report from the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Prices was tabled last week. It is a matter for the Government to make a decision after considering that report. I am not aware of whether it will be the subject of discussion at the Parliamentary Labor Party’s meeting tomorrow but if it is I expect that a decision will be made.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Labour aware that irresponsible strikes throughout Australia are seriously disrupting transport, communications and public services, thereby seriously inconveniencing the general public? Is it a fact that the Government will not take action against these strikes because it has condoned trade union demands for increased wages prior to the proposed referendum on prices?
– The answer to the last part of the question is no. Some of the strikes taking place are a direct result of the Opposition’s move, when we discussed the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill -
Opposition Senators- Oh no!
– Let me answer the question. Let us look at the dispute which resulted in the loss of thousands of hours on the Sydney waterfront. That was a conflict between the Federal and State branches of the Transport Workers Union of Australia. The Australian Labor Party had proposed an amendment to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act which would have made it possible for the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to take some action. Let me refer to my own area of interest as the Minister assisting the Minister for Defence, particularly his portfolio as Minister for the Navy. Since this particular demarcation dispute arose between those 2 branches of the union we have had quite a lot of stoppages for exactly the reason I gave earlier. As to the question about the airways dispute, I think the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation would be able to give the Senate more up to date information if he seeks to answer that part of the question.
-Can the Minister for Primary Industry confirm whether $ 10 per ton up to 1 50 tons was promised to growers of fruit for the canning industry when the first revaluation of the Australian dollar occurred early in 1973? If such a promise was made, when can the growers expect some payments? What is the position of a grower producing more than 150 tons? Does he get compensation, like other growers, up to 150 tons or is he excluded?
-Under the Government’s decision in December to revalue, it was decided that only those industries which had been adversely affected and would suffer hardship as a result of the revaluation decision would receive adjustment assistance from the Government. It was decided that both the canned and fresh fruit industries would receive that assistance. A limit of $1,500 was placed on payments to any grower. A grower whose production exceeded that tonnage would not receive any in excess of $1,500. In essence there was a limit of $1,500 and that is the principle which has been applied.
– Has anybody received payment yet?
-Most of them.
– Does the honourable senator wish to ask a supplementary question?
– No, that was part of the previous question.
– Has the Minister for Primary Industry made any decisions about the issue of an export licence to cover exports of apples and pears from Tasmania? Is it true that the Minister recently stated that he is not in favour of a single export licence? When will the Minister make an announcement on this matter which is of such vital concern to Tasmania?
– I issued a statement last night in relation to this matter, but I am not sure whether it has been reported in this morning’s Tasmanian Press. I have had to act, of course, on the recommendations of the Australian Apple and Pear Board. It has recommended that the licence be awarded to the Tasmanian Fruit Pty Ltd. and that the fruit be shipped under one label. My own view on this matter- the honourable senator has asked me for my view- is that at least for the remainder of the season the fruit be shipped undera 6-label concept, because certain marketing advantages, I am now convinced, would flow from using a multiple system. However, I am not empowered to reject the recommendation of the Australian Apple and Pear Board. My power is limited to asking the Board to reconsider its decision, which I did. But the Board has submitted the same recommendation as it did earlier. So the position is that Tasmanian Fruit Pty Ltd. has been awarded the licence and fruit will be shipped under a single label.
– Is the Minister representing the Acting Treasurer aware that the Minister for Agriculture in Tasmania has stated that the Government’s plan to cease free milk distribution to schools will cost the Tasmanian economy $550,000 per year by way of milk sales, transport, administration and school equipment? Is any consideration being given to any form of compensation to the large number of milk freighters who, over the years, have come to regard the activity as part or whole of their economy, or to the State for this loss of Commonwealth activity? Also, is the Minister aware that Tasmania will suffer more proportionately than any other State by reason of the loss of the dairy subsidy?
– No, I was not aware that the Tasmanian Minister for Agriculture had said all those things, but if the honourable senator puts the question on the notice paper I will find out what I can for him.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. I refer to the recent sentencing to 6 months gaol of the Arab guerrilla leader, Abdul Azzam, a member of the Palestinian Liberation Front Al Fatah. I refer to the suggestion that the Commonwealth Government is proposing to deport this man at an early date to avoid the possibility of retaliatory action by Arab terrorists. I ask: Would not his deportation, presumably to his homeland, have the effect of setting him free and remitting his gaol sentence? Is this not a dangerous precedent? Is it not an invitation to other such people that they can break our laws with impunity? Is it not a sign of weakness to respond in such a way to a threat? In short, does not the success of terrorism depend upon the successful response to its blackmail? Is it not essential that all nations should act in such a way as to make terrorism profitless?
-The considerations that the honourable senator puts forward about the way in which a person under sentence ought to be treated are powerful ones. Minds differ on these matters, and much consideration has been given to this very question. I am sure that the honourable senator will agree that it is a very difficult problem. It is obvious that the considerations which he mentions and other countervailing considerations would be borne in mind. The Government’s decision has been taken after a good deal of deep consideration of all of these matters. The decision arrived at, whether or not it is the best one, is the one which in the Government’s judgment it thought was the best. I should say while I am on my feet, if I may, that some suggestions were made that the person had really come to Australia pursuant to some objectives of a political nature. The Government does not take that view. The assessment was made that he was a member of Al Fatah, enrolled in the military arm of it, not the political arm. The documents which he brought with him were indicative of terrorist rather than diplomatic activities and the articles he bore with him also were indicative of terrorist rather than diplomatic intentions. They included the false bottomed suitcase, the false panel of which bore the outline of a machine pistol, a magazine and 2 hand grenades. He had also an audiosurveillance device and associated receiving tape recording equipment, a code that could be used for the purposes of terrorist operations and a document containing surveillance instructions. There was other information which bore out the view that this was no mere diplomatic mission. The questions of remission of sentence, I have indicated, caused deep consideration for the Government, but we have taken the course which we thought was in the best interests of Australia.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Repatriation. I refer to the Bills before this chamber relating to increases in repatriation and social service pensions. I ask the Minister: What is the effect of the Government’s delay in bringing these Bills on for debate? Will this mean a delay in the commencement date for the pensions increases thereby increasing the sufferings of the pensioners resulting from Government-inspired inflation? Bearing in mind that the Opposition has offered speedy passage to these Bills, will the Minister take up with his leader the re-arrangement of the notice paper to have these Bills dealt with this afternoon?
– In dealing with Government business, the Government has taken the view that the matter of the prices referendum ought to be dealt with and some conclusion reached on it and that the filibuster ought not be allowed to continue unduly. We ought to be able to deal with the Bills relating to social security and repatriation pension increases after the other matter is concluded this week. If there is any hold-up to these Bills, the Government’s intention would be to introduce a clause which would, in effect, back-date the -
– Order! I will not hear any more about this. Questions shall not anticipate discussion on orders of the day or matters appearing on the notice paper.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Repatriation, who represents the Minister for Labour in this chamber, by saying that prior to the last election members of the Australian Labor Party were saying that under a Whitlam Government there would be less industrial unrest because Labor knew more about the way unions worked. What, if anything, is the Government doing about the series of postal strikes which are seriously disrupting business and communications within Australia? Secondly, what, if anything, is the Government doing to assist in bringing to an end the strike at Sydney
Airport which is seriously disrupting the nation’s air traffic?
-The first part of the honourable senator’s question concerns the Minister for Labour. The 2 disputes he mentioned concern primarily the Postmaster-General and the Minister for Civil Aviation. On the general question of the disputes, as I mentioned earlier, some of the disputes have been caused because this Senate has not passed certain legislation.
– Which one?
– I am talking about the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, and that is part of the story, Senator. The second part of the story -
– Tell us which one.
– I will answer it my way, if you do not mind, Senator.
– I bet you will.
– Of course I will because I want to put the position as I know it to be. As the honourable senator well knows, we have a different general situation now from what we had during the currency of the other Government. We have a situation today where unemployment has been almost eliminated. We have a larger number of vacancies than we have people to put in them. The Minister for Labour has implemented a retraining program which will ease that position and which will have some general effect in relation to disputes. The Government is doing all it can in this sphere to settle disputes. Perhaps I should not give the honourable senator a specific answer in respect of the 2 disputes which he mentioned in his question. However, I know that the Postmaster-General is contacting daily the interests concerned to see whether he can solve the dispute in his Department. Perhaps the Minister for Works, who represents the Minister for Civil Aviation in this chamber, can give the honourable senator more information than I can on the dispute in that industry.
- Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question.
– Do you wish to ask a supplementary question on the ground that the question has not been answered?
– Yes. I would like to ask the Minister for Repatriation whether he would explain to the Senate what sections of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act that have been rejected would have had any bearing on the strikes to which I have referred?
– I have already mentioned the provisions which would have enabled us to deal with issues arising from the Moore v Doyle cases- that is, cases arising from demarcation and inter-union disputes where one has to deal with State and Federal bodies- and generally the purposes of the arbitration facilities, the ability -
– Which one?
– I am not answering this question in the way in which the honourable senator wants me to answer it; I am answering it in the general context. An arbitration Bill will be before the Senate this week. In fact, it will be presented today. If it is not passed there will be greater reason for expecting that industrial unrest will increase. I say to the honourable senator that a lot of the unrest has been caused -
– Order! The Minister cannot anticipate the debate.
-I know, Mr President. May I say that what I said formerly still stands, that much of the discontent is due to the factors that I have mentioned. One we could have corrected, the other will take its course in the general economic arrangements.
-Does the AttorneyGeneral recall a question I asked last week concerning the removal from the Commonwealth law of any references to the illegitimacy of children? On that occasion the Minister indicated that he would obtain any further information available concerning this matter. Has the Minister any information as to when legislation along the lines referred to above will be implemented?
– Order! I am making the assumption- I may be grieviously wrong- that the Minister may reply under another section of the business paper by saying that he has an answer to a question previously asked. I hope there is nothing privy between the honourable senator and the Attorney-General.
– Nothing whatsoever.
-I will let the honourable senator know. At the moment I am not able to specify the precise provisions. There are very few under Commonwealth law. I have ascertained that much. I will let the honourable senator know the specific provisions that still exist.
-I ask the AttorneyGeneral, in his capacity as Minister representing the Prime Minister in this place, whether he is aware of the widespread dismay and the furore of criticism which have followed the announcement of the Government’s purchase of a Jackson Pollock painting ‘Blue Poles’ for the incredibly inflated price of $1,340,000? Was this purchase made at auction or by private treaty? Was it approved by the Prime Minister? Is it the Government’s intention to apply the balance of this year’s National Gallery budget for art purchases to what I can only describe as irresponsible purchases or will it give real consideration to applying the money to obtaining world class Australian paintings which are now available from collections or to accepted world masters the value of which is beyond question?
– I have just found something in the briefing notes from the Prime Minister which touches on this precise matter. I say to the honourable senator that it has been thought for a long time by people in the art world that it was strange that Australia had not done anything about acquiring the paintings of Jackson Pollock. I remember one of my friends suggesting a number of years ago that the Government would be very wise to get in and buy some paintings while they were relatively cheap as that would be not only good artistically but also a fine investment. Undoubtedly Jackson Pollock is an outstanding artist. He has played a very important part in the history of art. The information has been given to me in this way: It has been confirmed by Mr Mollison, the Director of the Australian National Gallery, that agreement was reached on 21 September between Mr Ben Heller, art collector of New York and owner of Blue Poles’, and Australian Government officials led by Mr Mollison for this painting to be acquired for the national collection at a figure of slightly less than $ A 1.3m. Only the formalities of settlement remain to be completed. There was a good deal of comment in the news media over the weekend, based, it seems, on a report in the New York Times’ that Mr Heller had announced that the sale had been concluded.
The question on procedures and deliberations leading to the acquisition I answer this way: The National Gallery acquisition vote for 1973-74 is $4m. Its estimates and programs for the year were put forward and considered in the normal budgetary process. These estimates foreshadowed the purchase of works by important artists overseas, including Pollock. Within its budget and the terms of its charter the Gallery’s acquisitions committee has freedom to acquire works of any value for the national collection. Successive governments accorded the same freedom to the committee’s predecessor, the Commonwealth Art Advisory Board. The decision to seek to acquire this painting was taken only after careful assessment of its place in the national collection and consultation with contemporary art authorities overseas and experts on the work of Pollock. In view of the cost of the painting the Prime Minister’s approval to the purchase was sought and obtained on 23 July. Approval for such purchases would normally rest with the Gallery council. In the notes there is reference to the members of the acquisitions committee and other information about the cost and a statement that experts had not considered the price unreasonable. The Australian Government officials sent to New York were advised that for insurance purposes it could be expected that the work would appreciate in value to about $A 1.95m. This is an increase of approximately US$1 m. It is also known that a number of other galleries were interested in the work and that at least one offer equivalent to $ A 1.2m had been rejected only in the last few months.
As to the importance of the work, the notes provided state that the painting will be probably the major point of focus for the National Gallery’s contemporary art collection. Pollock was the leading figure in the New York school of abstract expressionism and is now universally acknowledged as one of the towering artists of the twentieth century. ‘Blue Poles’ has been described by experts as Pollock’s magnum opus and a twentieth century masterpiece comparable with Picasso’s ‘Guernica’. Mr Mollison said on his return that the feeling in New York is that Australia has obtained a monumental work of art and there is much regret that it is being allowed to leave the United States.
– My question is directed to the Special Minister of State and refers to the previous questions I have asked concerning the Government’s restriction on the use of official passports for travel to Taiwan. I ask: Will the Government withdraw my official passport if I use it for travel to Taiwan?
– It seems that Senator Sim is trying to make this as difficult as possible. The fact is that this Government reversed the policy of the previous Government in regard to China. The previous Government believed that Taiwan with 15 million people was the governing body of the nearly 700 million Chinese on the mainland. We did not accept that. We took the Embassy which the previous Government had set up iri Taiwan and set it up in Peking. Flowing from that several decisions had to be made. Among them was the decision that there would not be official contacts with Taiwan but that there would be no let or hindrance to private people going to and from Taiwan. Members of Parliament have the privilege of being issued with a special passport called an official passport. It is not a diplomatic passport and it is not an ordinary passport. Honourable senators are asked not to use official passports for travel to Taiwan. Now Senator Sim asks what will happen if he misuses the official passport. What sort of a question is that? If he does this, he asks, what will be the decision? What we ask is that people who have either diplomatic or official passports do not use them for travel to Taiwan, just as the previous Government asked holders of such passports not to use them to travel to, firstly 16, later 12 and finally 4 countries, not parts of countries. Therefore, when honourable senators are given the privilege of having an official passport they should, in common decency, do what the Government asks them to do in connection with those passports.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister who is in charge of the Council of the Arts and bears in some degree on what Senator Laucke has already said. Is the Minister aware that despite the price of the painting, competent art critics have described this painting as a string of dark blue poles interspersed with dribs and drabs? Is the Minister aware that the purchase has been trenchantly criticised by such notable art figures as Sir William Dargie, Sir Daryl Lindsay and Mr Andrew Sibley? In retrospect, does the Minister not agree that the Government would have been wiser to spend this vast sum on another new hospital in Parramatta rather than on the purchase of this painting?
-I am indebted for the information given by the honourable senator. I know that minds differ on what are objects of art. I did not read the transcript or hear what was said but I understand that Sir William Dargie considered that Black Mountain would look better with the tower on it than without it. That is an opinion not shared by a lot of people. It just shows, whether it is a completely fair representation of his views or not, that in matters of art there has always been great disputation. I am sure that a great number of equally distinguished artists take the view that it is a very great work of art. It may well be that the money could have been spent in some other directions- purchasing works of Australian artists. Again that is something on which minds may differ very strongly. But I think that whatever else honourable senators opposite say, it seems to be acceptable that in terms of money outlay anyway, the purchase of this painting is probably a good financial investment. The Australian National Gallery has got its money’s worth; whether it has got its value in art will probably be forever disputed. But I think that these matters are left to the judgment not of the members of the Government but of others who are selected for their judgment and discretion in these matters. Surely Senator Hannan would not want to impose some kind of censorship or controls upon what these people consider to be a great work of art.
-Referring to the ‘Blue Poles’ of Jackson Pollock, will the AttorneyGeneral inform the Senate at what price this picture was bought in about 1 956? Is it not a fact that the price was about $25,000, and that under the inflation of the Whitlam Government the Australian National Gallery is paying US$2m of taxpayers’ money -
Government supporters- Ooh!
-You see, Mr President, honourable senators opposite have never earned any money. That is why they growl on their chains.
– Order! Continue with your question, Senator Wright.
-Will the AttorneyGeneral arrange for the tabling in this chamber of the file of documents showing the names of the experts whose opinions justified the purchase so that we all can examine the need for improved procedures to ensure that taxpayers’ money is not wasted in this extravagant manner?
– Since the honourable senator approaches these questions of art in terms of money and makes reflections about money, surely the figures that he himself has given show, if one applies the test of money, that the market has placed this enormous and increasing value on the works of Jackson Pollock. What was worth $20,000 back in the middle 1950s is now worth US$2 m. Those who know, appreciate and are prepared to pay, consider that the works of Jackson Pollock are becoming invaluable and almost priceless. We have seen the same thing happen over the years. It is legendary how the poor struggling artists in their garrets sold their paintings for practically nothing and later the paintings were traded for hundreds of thousands of dollars. This is just another illustration of the enormous increase in value of works of a great painter.
- Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question. I ask the Attorney-General: Will he arrange for the tabling in the Senate of the papers constituting this transaction?
– I assume that if there is no restriction, that could be done. One does not know; there may be some confidential aspects. Sometimes a family arrangement or something else debars such documents being tabled. But otherwise I can see no reason why the documents should not be tabled.
-My question, which is directed to the Attorney-General, refers to the statement on Croatian terrorism which he made in this chamber some months ago. I ask: Does the Attorney-General recall, in reply to my several questions to him, indicating to me that all those individuals whom he named in that document were in actual fact terrorists and had convictions recorded against them? Does he also recall that he indicated to me in a letter recently that one Srecko Rover, a resident of my State of Victoria, was a convicted criminal? Is the Minister aware of the convictions which are recorded against that gentleman? Is he also aware that in public evidence this morning the Commissionor of the Commonwealth Police Force, Mr Davis -
– I rise on a point of order.
– Order! Senator Webster, are you referring to matters which happened at a meeting of a committee of the Senate? You are not to refer to such matters.
-Without being interrupted, may I proceed, Mr President?
– By whom?
- Mr President -
-Mr President, are you prompting me on any particular point?
– No, I am not. Were you referring to me when you said ‘without being interrupted ‘?
-No. I was referring to other honourable senators.
– I am glad that you were not referring to me.
-Mr President, the question I asked was: Is the Attorney-General aware that the Commissioner of the Commonwealth Police Force, Mr Davis, in public evidence before a Senate committee this morning -
– I take a point of order. Mr President, earlier you ruled that a number of questions could not be asked in the Senate because the matter was on the notice paper. I draw your attention to page 1477 of the notice paper and indicate that there is a select committee investigating this matter. It is the Senate Select Committee on the Civil Rights of Migrant Australians. It is already investigating this matter. Therefore, I believe that the question is sub judice.
– Order ! It is not sub judice. The point is that I think it is highly improper to raise in the plenary session of the Senate matters which are the subject of discussion by a committee of the Senate.
– I take a further point of order on the matter under discussion. I seek your guidance, Mr President. I have already indicated to the Committee that the gentleman concerned may be called, following certain evidence which was given by the Commissioner of the Commonwealth Police Force. So the matter is certainly subject to further discussion.
– Order! I do not want to know what is happening in the Committee. Senator Webster, conclude your question.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral: When he made the comment to me that one Srecko Rover had convictions recorded against him was the Minister aware that the convictions recorded against Rover were for running a second hand shop without a licence and for lighting a fire on a day on which a fire ban was in operation?
– The honourable senator asked me a number of questions. He asked me whether in the statement which I made here I said that all the persons who were named by me had been convicted of offences. I have not said that. Obviously a lot of the people named in that statement, I assume, have not been convicted of anything. The honourable senator asked me about persons who were named in the statement. I was named in the statement. From recollection, I have not been convicted of anything. Sir Garfield Barwick, Senator Greenwood, Mr Snedden and a lot of other people were named in the statement. The honourable senator asked whether persons had been charged with or convicted of any offence in Australia. As far as I am aware, the honourable senator was given a correct answer to his questions.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral indicate to the Senate whether a book bounty was paid to the author of ‘The Little Red Schoolbook’ by the previous Government? Will he confirm that Senator Wright was a Minister in that Government?
– I think that, as Minister for Customs and Excise, the administration of the Book Bounty Act comes within the sphere of my ministerial responsibility. I understand that bounty was paid in respect of ‘The Little Red Schoolbook’. The matter has been raised previously. I think that Senator Wright suggested earlier this year, following what he had said I think last year, that it ought not to be paid because the book was not one of a literary character. The opinion was then furnished that the book was of a literary character and did not have to be one of literary merit. Whether or not it was the case is beside the point. I should think that bounties on the production of books or on any other thing which is concerned with the expression of thought ought not to be administered in such a way that they could constitute a form of censorship. If we were to introduce subsidies on the media or on the production of books or other literature so that those people who were involved in such fields became dependent upon the subsidies, and if the government of the day were in a position to grant subsidies in relation to those books or other matters which it considered to be acceptable, that would be the worst form of censorship and the most tyrannous approach to this subject matter that could be developed.
-No, I have not. I informed the Senate a little while ago that on the information given to me- I will look at it again- a number of other galleries were interested in the work. At least one offer equivalent to $ A 1.2 m was rejected in only the last few months. I am unable to assist the honourable senator more than that.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate a question in relation to the US$2 m that has been paid for the painting Blue Poles’. Has the attention of the Government not been drawn to the fact that it is only a few years since this painting was bought for a few thousand dollars? Does he not consider that this is a terrific rate of appreciation on such a work of art? Is it not a fact that for the people in Australia the Government, in its aim to control prices in such things as land, is prepared to allow an appreciation rate of only 7 per cent a year? If it is prepared to control people living in Australia by setting such low appreciation rates, why does it have a different code allowing such generous treatment of people overseas?
– One cannot put fetters on the way in which people value works of art. All I can say is that the enormous appreciation in the money value of the painting shows how much the work of art is appreciated by those who know and understand art and who are prepared to pay for it.
– I direct a question to the Attorney-General. Can he assure the Senate that when he assumed the Attorney-Generalship he discovered that the reason Mr Rover’s passport was taken away by the previous AttorneyGeneral was not for lighting fires?
-I rise to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable senator claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, I do. Senator Mulvihill knows full well that passports under the previous Government, as I understand is the case under this Government, were not the responsibility of the Attorney-General.
– You were there -
– I took no action to take away anybody’s passport. That always was the responsibility of the Minister for Immigration, as I believe it is under this Government.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the results of a survey conducted in Sydney and Melbourne in April and May 1973 by the Audience Research Department of the Australian Broadcasting Commission entitled ‘Public Opinion of the ABC ‘.
– Pursuant to section 22 of the Public Service Act 1922-1973, 1 present the annual report of the Public Service Board for the year ended 30 June 1973.
– Pursuant to section 36 of the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation Act 1970-1973, 1 present the third annual report of the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation for the year ended 30 June 1973, together with financial statements and the AuditorGeneral’s report on those statements.
– by leave- I lay upon the table a statement by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant) relating to Aboriginal customs. I seek leave to make a statement on a recent incident relating to Miss Nola Brown.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-My colleague, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, has had inquiries made about the movement of the child Nola from her foster parents’ home in Darwin to her parents’ home at Maningrida. The inquiries are not complete but Mr Bryant believes that Parliament is entitled to know the information so far available.
On 23 August Mr Bryant received a telegram from Mr Athol Brown, Nola ‘s foster father, advising of the dispatch of a letter and on 27 August Mr. Bryant received a letter from Mr Brown seeking his support to retain the custody of Nola. Mr Bryant immediately sought advice from his Department and advised Mr Brown accordingly. On 8 September Nola was taken by a departmental social worker, with the foster parents’ consent, to meet members of her family at the Bagot Reserve. While she was at Bagot representatives of the Aboriginal Legal Service arranged for her to be flown with her father to Maningrida. Inquiries are proceeding to determine the extent of the involvement of departmental officers in these events and should those inquiries show any departure from their duty appropriate action will be taken.
Nola is one of many Aboriginal children who. because there were no essential medical, educational or other facilities available at their parents’ normal place of residence, have been taken from their natural parents and reared in missions, orphanages, hospitals, institutions or private foster homes. The grief that this policy has caused the Aboriginal parents is only equalled by the grief of the foster parents who have been called upon later to surrender a child they have reared as their own. The effect of this policy on the child can only be guessed but there are outstanding examples of young Aboriginal men and women in our society who have overcome this trauma without loss of their cultural identity. But we should not impose this burden on one more child, or parent or foster parent. New procedures must be developed to care for children found in this situation.
It would be easy to claim that the custody of Nola is a civil matter but as the Australian Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Mr Bryant accepted the responsibility of putting right the wrongs of history and ensuring by a vigorous policy of developing educational, medical and similar services in remote Aboriginal communities that the practice of separating mothers from their children ceases. There are perhaps hundreds of children in orphanages and such institutions throughout Australia as well as those with foster parents who should be reconciled with their parents. The Minister has asked his Department to initiate a program of reconciliation.
– Will the Minister move that the Senate take note of the statement?
Motion ( by Senator Cavanagh ) proposed:
That the Senate take note of the statement.
Debate (on motion by Senator Laucke) adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present the interim annual report of the Australian Dairy Produce Board for the year ended 30 June 1973. When the final report is available, I shall table it in accordance with statutory requirements.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present an interim statement on the activities of the Australian Egg Board for the year ended 30 June 1973. When the final report is available it will be presented in accordance with statutory requirements.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Defence (Re-establishment) Bill 1973.
Cellulose Acetate Flake Bounty Bill 1 973.
– I lay on the table the annual reports and the financial statements of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, the Commonwealth Trading Bank of Australia, the Commonwealth Savings Bank of Australia, and the Commonwealth Development Bank of Australia, together with the Auditor-General’s report thereon of the year 1 972-73.
– Notwithstanding what I suggested earlier about the social services and repatriation legislation- I hope I have not misled honourable senators- and having conferred with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers), I move:
– We thank the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) for allowing these matters to be dealt with first. They involve legislation which will be of benefit to certain people in the community and to which the Opposition is not opposed. We will give these Bills as speedy a passage as possible. I know that the Leader of the Government wants to return to dealing with other business of the Senate, but we do not intend to delay these benefits being passed on to the people of Australia. We welcome the opportunity that the Government has provided to give this legislation a speedy passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Murphy) read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the States Grants (Petroleum Products) Act 1965-1969. The Act provides the legal basis for the petroleum products subsidy scheme whereby a Commonwealth subsidy is paid in relation to the distribution and sale of certain petroleum products in country areas. The objective of the scheme is to reduce rural costs by effecting a significant degree of equalisation between city and country wholesale prices of such petroleum products. The means of doing this is by subsidising, except for a determined margin, the distribution costs involved in moving products from bulk city installations to country points of sale. The scheme is, however, expensive and less efficient in achieving its objective than is desirable. In practice the largest pay-outs under it are made in major inland cities.
The margin has hitherto been 3.3c a gallon. In the course of his Budget Speech the Treasurer (Mr Crean) indicated that the margin will be lifted to 5c a gallon with a consequential saving in Government expenditure. Amendment of the Act is necessary to permit the new margin to be put into effect. At the same time it is proposed to revise the rates of subsidy payable in the various country areas, to take account of changes in transport and other distribution costs which have occurred since 1969, when the scheme was last reviewed. These changes necessitate amendment of the present schedule of subsidies. The Bill deletes section 6 of the Act which ties subsidy rates to circumstances as at 1 December 1969 and in general very strictly limits the circumstances in which the schedule of subsidies may be amended. As a result of this amendment of the Act it will be possible in the future to adapt the schedule of subsidies more readily to changes in petroleum marketing methods and economics. A revised schedule of subsidies is being prepared setting out subsidy rates that take into account the new subsidy margin and the updated transport and distribution costs. The new schedule will come into effect within one month of the date of operation of this Bill. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Laucke) adjourned.
– I seek leave to move a motion for the suspension of Standing Orders to enable the 3 Bills to be dealt with together.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) proposed:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions with regard to the several stages for the passage through the Senate of all the Bills being put in one motion at each stage and the consideration of such Bills together in the Committee of the Whole and as would prevent the reading of the short titles only on every order for the reading of the Bills.
– Is one of these Bills that we are being asked should be taken together and voted on together a money Bill?
– There is not among them a money Bill in terms of the definition.
– I mean a money Bill that the Senate cannot amend.
– If they are not money Bills, they are open to amendment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders Suspended.
Bills (on motion by Senator Murphy) read a first time.
– I move:
Three Bills are being introduced into the Senate, the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill, the Post and Telegraph Bill and the Post and Telegraph Regulations Bill. The Government has agreed in the House of Representatives to modify the provisions in these 3 Bills to lessen the impact of tariff increases for registered newspapers and periodicals eligible for concessions in Category A and Category B. In making this decision, the Government has had regard to the recent representations received from both within and without Parliament. Honourable senators will be aware that an amendment to the Post and Telegraph Bill and the Post and Telegraph Regulations Bill has been made in the House of Representatives. Unfortunately, the agreed intention of these amendments has not been expressed unambiguously in the words chosen and it is therefore necessary for the Government to introduce further amendments to correct this situation. These amendments will allow country publications to remain in Category A except for those printed and published in State capital metropolitan areas or Canberra, and which are not largely dependent on the mail for their distribution to subscribers.
The modifications agreed with the Opposition for the satisfactory progress of these three Bills through Parliament concern three matters. Firstly, the Government has undertaken to withdraw its stated intention to eliminate the concessional Categories A and B on 1 October 1976. Secondly, changes to rates previously proposed for Categories A and B as shown in the statement included in the Hansard report on proceedings in the House of Representatives on 19 September 1973, have been accepted by the Government and the Opposition as a reasonable compromise and I will be introducing an amendment to the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill to give effect to these agreed changes. Copies of the statement are now available to honourable senators. I have already touched on the third matter which concerns the retention of most of the country publications in Category A. The new amendments which I will be introducing for the Post and Telegraph Bill and the Post and Telegraph Regulations Bill will provide that all Category A registered country newspapers and periodicals which are printed and published in country areas or which have a substantial proportion of the printed copies posted by the proprietors, printers or publishers to bona fide subscribers in country areas are to remain in Category A.
I wish to make it clear to senators that the Government ‘s initial proposals were to phase out the costly postage concessions for Category A and B publications over what it considered to be a reasonable period of 3 years. All registered publications would then have still enjoyed a reduction on ordinary rates but one where the rates recognised the cost benefits accruing to the Post Office from pre-sorting and other posting conditions. In reaching an acceptable solution we are still mindful of«the fact that registered publications will continue to be a major loss area in the Postal Service. This means that the cost of these concessions- estimated to be $10m this year- will have to be borne by other users of the post. Several references have been made to the Post Office Commission of Inquiry in its consideration of concessions of this nature. The
Government now awaits the Commission’s findings as a guide for future policy in this regard. In accepting the modifications to its proposals in these 3 Bills, the Government is mindful of the fact that the changes it is now sponsoring will help decentralised industries.
I ask for leave to have incorporated in Hansard the annexure headed ‘Revision to Proposed Postage Rates for Registered Newspapers and Periodicals,’ copies of which have been circulated to honourable senators.
-Is leave granted?
– Is it the statement referred to in the Minister’s second reading speech?
– Yes. There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
REVISION TO PROPOSED POSTAGE RATES FOR REGISTERED NEWSPAPERS AND PERIODICALS . The Government withdraws its proposal to abolish Categories A and B on I October 1 976. The following proposed rates for registered newspapers and periodicals, set out in item 2 of Part I of the First Schedule contained in Clause S of the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill, would be revised as follows:
– I want to draw attention to the other matter lest it should escape the attention of honourable senators. This matter does not concern money. It concerns clause 13 of the Post and Telegraph Bill and relates to the search of suspected persons. This provision in the legislation, which is directed towards providing protection for postal officers who engage in searches and also the protection of the mails, may contain aspects of civil liberties. I think that this clause would warrant some consideration by honourable senators at the Committee stage rather than at the second reading stage when we are dealing with all aspects of the Bill. I simply draw this aspect of the legislation to the attention of honourable senators and propose that perhaps there may be some need for the consideration of that clause in Committee. I put before the Senate, assuming that this legislation reaches the Committee of the Whole, the matters which seem to me to arise and I ask for the assistance of honourable senators in arriving at some clause which would be satisfactory from the point of view not only of the public in regard to the protection of the mails and investigation officers who are dealing with them, but also from the civil liberties aspect.
– I recall reading the original second reading speech delivered in the House of Representatives. The matter referred to by Senator Murphy was dealt with at some length in that House. However, it is not dealt with at all in the second reading speech just made by the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy). He now proposes that we should have regard to this matter in the Committee stage of the Bill. I am slightly confused as to whether he proposes to bring an amendment forward or whether he wants us to do this because he is not satisfied with clause 13. I do not really quite know what it is that he wishes to have done. But as I said, the second reading speech made in the House of Representatives referred to this matter. When the debate comes up Senator Murphy can be quite sure we shall be looking at clause 1 3. In the meantime he might be helped if he read the relevant part of the original second reading speech. Perhaps he could let us have that section and add it to the remarks that he has just made.
– Frankly, I think there should be some modification of it. That is why I raised this matter.
-I think that I have made my point. I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Murphy) read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill will give effect to the Budget proposal to increase the rate of pay-roll tax in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. The present rate of 2.5 per cent will be increased to 3.5 percent from 1 September 1973 and to 4.5 per cent from 1 July 1974. Since the transfer of the tax to the States in September 1971, pay-roll tax has been payable in respect of salaries and wages related to the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory under legislation applying only in the Territories. The rate of 2.5 per cent at which the tax was levied before 1 September 1971 has continued to apply in the Territories although each of the States imposed tax at the rate of 3.5 per cent from that date.
Following the Premiers Conference last June the premiers foreshadowed an increase to 4.5 per cent in the rate of pay-roll tax in the states. Legislation to bring the rate up to that level as from 1
September 1973 has already been introduced in some State parliaments. There is no good reason why Territory employers should not be called upon to meet taxes and charges comparable with those borne by employers in the 6 States. Accordingly this Bill will, in 2 steps, bring the Territory rate into line with the rate applying in the States. The immediate increase to 3.5 per cent will apply to wages payable on and after 1 September 1 973 and included in pay-roll tax returns due for lodgment on 7 October 1973. 1 commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wriedt) read a first time.
– I move:
As this Bill is identical to one introduced in the House of Representatives, I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
– Order! Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
-The purpose of this Bill is to impose a charge on meat exported from Australia so that the Government may recoup the cost of export meat inspection and its expenditure on the national brucellosis and tuberculosis eradication campaign. The charge will be payable by exporters. Exports of meat and meat products which have been inspected and declared fit for human consumption will be subject to the charge. The charge will be 1.6c per pound on exports of meat and edible offals derived from cattle- including buffaloes- and calves. This charge includes 0.6c per pound to recoup expenditure on the eradication campaign which is solely related to the cattle industry. The charge on exports of meat and edible offals derived from sheep, lambs, goats and pigs will be lc per pound. The charge is to be imposed on the meats and offals mentioned above whether exported in fresh, chilled, frozen, canned, dried or otherwise prepared form or on mixtures of meat with other food products. For products containing mixtures of meat and other foods the charge will be payable on the nett weight of the mixed product. For mixed products containing beef or veal the charge will be 1.6c per pound and for mixed products containing other meats the charge will be lc per pound. The charge of lc per pound to recover meat inspection costs has been calculated by dividing the estimated expenditure on export meat inspection over the period 1 July 1973 to 30 June 1976, by the estimated quantity of meat that will be exported over the 33-month period 1 October 1973 to 30 June 1976. The charge of 0.6c per pound for the eradication campaign was obtained by dividing the estimated cost of the campaign over the 3 years by estimated beef and veal exports in the 33-month period.
The legislation provides for regulations to be made permitting total or partial exemption from the charge. The major part of the cost of export meat inspection has been met from Consolidated Revenue since 1927 and it has become a large item of expenditure in the Budget. The measure was originally introduced to offset low export prices and has been maintained ever since. This is in contrast to the present situation in which world demand for meat is particularly strong and prices are at high levels. The cost of export meat inspection has grown rapidly in recent years, rising from an estimated $5. 3m in 1968-69 to an estimated $ 11.4m in 1972-73. A significant part of this increase can be attributed to the need to expand the inspection staff to meet requirements of overseas countries. In this regard it is to be noted that over the period December 1969 to June 1973 the number of veterinarians and meat inspectors in export establishments has increased from 1,128 to 1,726.
It should also be noted that, in effect, overseas consumers have been subsidised from Consolidated Revenue. Furthermore, local consumers bear the inspection cost of meat for local consumption as State authorities impose inspection fees on wholesalers in respect of meat destined for the local market. Clearly there is every justification for charging for the export inspection service instead of perpetuating a position in which the overseas consumer is subsidised from Consolidated Revenue. Furthermore, overseas countries have imposed increasingly stringent requirements in respect of beef derived from carcasses affected with tuberculosis or from cattle which have reacted to a tuberculin test. Because of these requirements Australia has had to accelerate the eradication campaign in order to ensure that our export markets are not only maintained but also expanded in the future. It is emphasised that the export charge is not intended to be a means of diverting supplies of meat from the export to the domestic market. Currently there is a very strong export demand for Australian meat and in these circumstances it is not expected that the charge will be passed back to the livestock producer. I commend the Bill to the honourable senators.
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:
The purpose of this Bill, which is complementary to the Meat Export Charge Bill 1 973, is to provide the machinery necessary for the collection of the export charge imposed by the Meat Export Charge Bill 1973. The Bill provides for the Act to come into operation on the same day as the Meat Export Charge Act. It defines the types of meat and meat products subject to the charge which will be payable within 28 days after the end of the month in which the meat is exported. Provision has been made for remissions or refunds of the charge should the meat be condemned or rejected for human consumption. The remaining provisions of the Bill are related to the administrative procedures necessary to collect the charge. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Laucke) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator Wriedt) proposed:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill from being passed through all its stages without delay.
– I rise to speak to the motion that the Standing Orders be suspended in the terms that Senator Wriedt has indicated. I rise not to indicate that the Opposition will oppose this motion but to use it as a vehicle to assert certain rights which the Senate has and which the Government appears to ignore. The Seas and Submerged Lands Bill 1973 (No. 2) was introduced into the House of Representatives on 1 1 September this year. It is a Bill which is in identical form with a Bill which is already on the notice paper of the Senate for 25 September as order of the day No. 25. What the Government is doing and what the House of Representatives is asking the Senate to concur in is to accept that the Bill which is on the Senate notice paper is a Bill which the Senate has failed to pass. I indicate this quite clearly by referring for the purposes of this submission to what the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) said in the House of Representatives when he introduced this Bill. He stated:
It is quite apparent that the Government, with the House of Representatives concurring, is taking the view that the action by the Senate amounts to a failure to pass the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill which came into this chamber on 22 May. Right at the outset I say 2 things. Firstly, this Senate, irrespective of the circumstances in which the matter arises for attention, has certain rights attaching to it as a second chamber with constitutional obligations which it should always be prepared to affirm and acknowledge. Secondly, the Opposition both in the House of Representatives and in this chamber will welcome at any time when the Government chooses to take an initiative which is open to it the submission of the Government’s record of its 9 months of office to the people of this country so that they can vote upon it. We have indicated by reaction to measures which have already come into this chamber a second time after there had been clearly a refusal of the Bills by the Senate on the first occasion that we would maintain our attitude on the second occasion.
In short we have provided for the Government the opportunity on which, if it chooses to avail itself of the provisions of section 57 of the Constitution, it may go to the Governor-General and ask for a double dissolution and thereby put its record to the judgment of the Australian people.
The Government has so far failed to take advantage of that situation. But it is quite clear from the language which the Minister for Minerals and Energy has used in introducing the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill 1 973 (No. 2 ) to the House of Representatives that he is again seeking to create- for what purposes one may only speculatea second situation in which the double dissolution provision may be utilised. This clearly is the Government’s intention and clearly it is based upon the supposed failure of the Senate to pass this Bill on the first occasion that it came to the Senate. I reiterate that the Opposition will not oppose this motion. It will adopt with regard to the Bill which has been now introduced precisely the attitude it would have adopted and indicated it would adopt when the first Bill was brought before the chamber for debate. We shall do that because we are prepared at any time to accept that the Government can go to the people of this country and, as we would urge it, should go to the people as soon as possible. We will not take any action which would suggest that we are avoiding that which clearly we wish to happen. Having said that and having sought to make abundantly clear the Opposition’s general attitude, I return to the matter which should be of vital concern to this Senate, viewing its position as a chamber which is representative of the States and also as a chamber which functions as a House of review.
If we are to accept the reference of a Bill by this Senate to any one of the many committees which the Senate has established for the elucidation of legislation which comes before it as a failure to pass legislation, the Senate is in fact acknowledging the ineffectiveness of its committee system. If we are to accept that when a Bill is brought into this Senate and deferred for any reason or referred to a committee for any reason such should properly be regarded as a failure to pass, then the Senate is in fact acknowledging the view of the other chamber that this is not an appropriate arm which this chamber of the legislature may use with which better to grapple with legislation which comes before it. We do not accept this proposition. Ultimately, of course, it is not for the House of Representatives or for the Senate to determine what constitutes a failure to pass legislation. That is a decision which, as I understand it, has to be made ultimately by the Governor-General in whom is vested the right to decide whether or not he will grant to the Government a double dissolution. It is an area in which I understand certain discretion is vested by the Constitution in the Governor-General. He is not bound in this area to accept the advice of his
Ministers, although I appreciate that legal opinions on this may vary. His obligations under section 57 are obligations cast upon him as the holder of the office and those obligations, of course, include the determination of whether or not there has been a failure to pass. This was the view which was adopted by Sir Robert Menzies when in 1951 he took an issue to the then GovernorGeneral and received from the then GovernorGeneral the double dissolution which he sought. However, as his subsequent writings indicate, there was an argued case indicating that it was a matter for the Governor-General of the day to determine.
Accordingly, it is not so much the view which the Senate takes or the view which the House of Representatives takes, let alone the view which the Government takes, which determines whether in particular circumstances there is a failure to pass. Notwithstanding that the ultimate decision rests elsewhere, the Senate as one of the chambers of the legislature is concerned, whenever there may be a prospective arising of the section 57 situation, to have regard to what actions on its part may or may not constitute a failure to pass. We on the Opposition regard the decisions of the Senate on 22 May this year as decisions which ought not be regarded on any objective basis as a failure to pass. It was certainly not an intention of the Senate that there should be a failure to pass this particular Bill. What happened on 22 May? When the message was received from the House of Representatives and the motion was moved that the Bill be read a second time, the Senate agreed that the debate should be adjourned and resumed on the first day of sitting after 1 August 1973. The Senate expressed in the motion which it carried the reason that action. It stated: as the Senate, while accepting that the question of sovereignty should be determined, (a) deplores the method adopted by the Government of proceeding without consultation with the States especially in relation to the code which is contained in Pan III of the Bill, and (b) is of the opinion that consultation with the States for a co-operative regime for controlling the exploitation of the resources and generous royalty distribution to the States should commence forthwith.
In short, the Senate, in pursuance of its constitutional obligations and conscious of its role as a chamber which is concerned with the rights of the States, considered it proper that there should be consultation between the Australian Government and the States. It considered that opportunities should be given for that consultation to occur and in fact directed that the Government have that consultation. Of course, it is for the Government to decide whether or not it will avail itself of that opportunity. But the purpose was to permit that consultation to take place. The debate was adjourned to be resumed on the first sitting day after 1 August. When the Senate resumed on the first sitting day after 1 August, that is, 21 August, the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill was placed on the notice paper of the Senate. As I recall, it was placed relatively high on the list of matters having priority for debate. But it was not debated. It has not since been debated.
The Government has control of the business on the Government side of the business paper and that is a right which the Opposition has conceded at all times this year to the Government. Whatever differences have arisen and may have been carried to division as to whether general business or business of the Senate should be discussed in preference to Government business, the Opposition has not sought to determine by vote of the Senate the order in which the Government places its business on the notice paper. Of course, the Government has not chosen to bring forward for debate in this chamber the Seas and Submerged Lands Bills which were introduced on 22 May and which were adjourned for debate until the first sitting day after 1 August. We have now seen the lapse of a month without that debate taking place. The Government, in exercise of its rights, has chosen not to have the first Bills debated in this chamber and, following that course, has chosen instead to introduce into the House of Representatives other Bills of an identical character. What it has done has been by deliberate act in this chamber to create a situation where in the other chamber it may argue that there has been a failure by the Senate to pass these Bills. The fact is that the Senate has not been given an opportunity to debate these Bills. The Government has chosen to deny to the Senate that opportunity. If that be the type of situation in which a failure to pass can be contrived, it should be the concern of the Senate. 1 said earlier that the Senate should be concerned, primarily because of the way that the Senate functions as a House of review and as a second chamber of which there are committees which are an aid to the legislative process. If we find that the reference of Bills to a committee for further consideration- just as on this occasion a Bill was deferred to enable consultation with the States to take place in an area which is of vital concern to the Commonwealth and the Statesthereby risks the House of Representatives taking the view that the Senate has failed to pass the legislation, we may be placed in the position that we have to acknowledge our rights under the Constitution or abandon the committee system as an aid to legislation. This is a matter which transcends whatever political party may be in Government this year or whatever political party may be in Opposition this year. It is something which ought to concern honourable senators over a longer period.
I have mentioned these things simply because it should not be supposed that the Opposition in the Senate- indeed, the Opposition throughout the Parliament- is not mindful of what has been happening. We do not accept the constitutional conclusions which the Government has drawn, but we recognise that ultimately in all of these matters the final determinant, and the very welcome determinant, is the voice of the people. If, by this means which the Government has adopted, we can get to the people more quickly than would otherwise be the case, then the Opposition will combine and co-operate to achieve that objective. It will not seek to frustrate the Government in that objective. But reiterating that view, as I do, I also take this opportunity to put on the record the fact that in the judgment of the Opposition in this place the Senate has not failed to pass the Bills which were introduced on 22 May last and therefore that any constitutional advantage which may be sought by the introduction of these Bills may not avail the Government. That is stated not so much for the short term purposes to which I have adverted, which may be part of the design in the introduction of these matters, but to place on the record what has occurred.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill (on the motion by Senator Wriedt) read a first time.
– Order! I wish to make an announcement to honourable senators. For very proper reasons- not for any reasons other than those of propriety- the Chairman of Committees will not be present in the Senate this week. In order to deal with the situation I wish to announce to honourable senators that Senator Wood, who is the senior Temporary Chairman of Committees, will be Acting Chairman of Committees this week.
– I move:
In introducing this Bill I remind all honourable senators that it is completely identical in all respects with the measure which was introduced by the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) in another place on 10 May 1973 and which was carried in the House of Representatives, by vote on decision without amendment, on 17 May 1973. It was introduced into the Senate on 22 May 1973 and its consideration was then adjourned, by vote on division of the Senate, until after the first day of sitting of the Senate after 1 August 1973. As an interval of over 3 months has now elapsed, during which the Senate has failed to pass this measure under the terms of section 57 of the Constitution, the Bill has been again passed by the House of Representatives without amendment, and returned to the Senate for its further consideration.
The objective of the Bill, as announced by His Excellency the Governor-General in his Speech at the opening of the Twenty-eighth Parliament, is to remove any doubt about the exclusive right of the Commonwealth to sovereign control over the resources of the sea bed, off the coast of Australia and its Territories, from low water mark to the outer limits of the continental shelf. The Bill, in addition, provides the legislative framework to govern the exploration and exploitation of the mineral resources, other than petroleum, of these submerged lands. By the reintroduction of the Bill, the Government demonstrates its determination to adhere to its policies, as announced before the last election, and to which the Australian people gave their stamp of approval on 2 December last. I do not propose to explain further the provisions of the Bill, as these have been fully covered in the second reading speech delivered in the Senate on 22 May last. The current stalemate over this Bill has resulted in a truly Gilbertian situation, in which members of the former Government have frustrated and delayed the passage of legislation which virtually in all respects repeats their own proposals of 1 970.
The announced support of the Liberal Party Conference for Parts I and II of the Bill is not acceptable to the Government. It is merely a repetition of the tactics used in 1 970 when the Bill as introduced, without a mining code, would have been merely declaratory without imposing obligations or providing for their enforcement. The States and other bodies interested in the preservation of the present stalemate would merely stifle a metaphorical yawn and state how interesting the academic situation was, and continue unimpeded their present conduct. Honourable senators of all parties will recall that the
Government, when in Opposition, gave full support to the Territorial Seas and Continental Shelf Bill, introduced by the former Government in 1970. Despite that support the former Government, after debating the measure, deliberately moved and secured an adjournment of the debate. It lacked the courage and foresight to pass this vital legislation. The Government’s views on the matter can hardly be better expressed than by the speech by the former Minister for National Development who, when introducing the Territorial Seas and Continental Shelf Bill in April 1970, on behalf of the Acting Minister for External Affairs, said:
The Government’s view is that it would serve Australia’s national and international interests to have the legal position resolved as soon as practicable.
If the Opposition had the courage of its convictions, it would support this legislation instead of conniving with certain of the States to frustrate the Government’s wishes in this most important matter. Passage of the Bill will open the way Ibr any doubts or issues to be challenged. This is precisely the Government’s intention, as stated by me in the second reading speech on 22 May last, when I said:
If there are parties- individuals or Governments- who would dispute our right to take the course I now propose, let them challenge this legislation in the Australian courts.
With the advances of marine exploration technology, there have been amazingly rapid developments in the capacity to search and exploit off-shore resources to depths which were considered impossible, in the terms of the United Nations Convention on the Continental Shelf. Already there is a drilling vessel off our coast capable of operating in water to a depth of over 1500 feet. Major exploration interests are already preparing to drill in depths of 4000 to 6000 feet. The Australian Government negotiates and ratifies treaties with adjoining national states. It is responsible for the bathymetric survey of the continental shelf. It has the undoubted responsibility for the defence of the superjacent waters, the control of navigation and the apprehension of smugglers and wrong-doers in these waters.
The conspiracy, based on petty parochialism to frustrate consideration by the highest tribunal of our land of these matters is the measure of the backwardness and the foolishness of our little Australians. The present situation is an intolerable one, where certain sovereign States claim the right to prevent Australia’s own High Court from adjudicating in Australia on an issue of sovereignty which is the sole concern of the Australian people and their nation. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Greenwood) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Senator Wriedt) proposed:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
-I express with regard to this Bill the same considerations which I expressed with regard to the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill, the debate on which has just been adjourned. I do not reiterate at length what I then said because this Bill is a companion Bill, but I state that the same considerations which motivated the Opposition in the course which it took in relation to the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill apply with equal force to this Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wriedt) read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill, which is consequential upon the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill, is identical with that introduced into the Senate on 22 May 1973. Its consideration was also adjourned, by vote on division of the Senate, until after the first day of sitting of the Senate after 1 August 1973. 1 now introduce the Bill again and commend it to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Greenwood) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Senator Bishop) proposed:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
– The Opposition proposes to oppose this motion. It is an unusual course for the Opposition to oppose a motion of this character, but one should recognise that the generally accepted passage which is given to a motion to suspend Standing Orders so that all stages of the Bill may be passed without delay is an indulgence which is granted by the Senate to facilitate the movement of the Bill without the formalities required by the Standing Orders. The Conciliation and Arbitration Bill 1973 (No. 2) was passed through the House of Representatives last Thursday in circumstances of which the Opposition in this place is not unaware. Last Thursday in the House of Representatives there was a ruthless use of the numbers in that House to prevent an appropriate debate on a Bill which is said by the Government to be one of the most important Bills which it has introduced. We know that the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, which was of immense significance, was passed through the House of Represenatives in somewhat rushed circumstances earlier this year. That Bill did not commend itself to the Senate. The motion for the second reading of the Bill was rejected by the Senate. The present Bill is a different one from the one which was before this chamber earlier this year. As the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) said, this Bill is a significant one and one upon which he places much reliance for the achievement of his objectives. He sought the cooperation of the Opposition in respect of it, and the Opposition was prepared to co-operate and is prepared to co-operate to ensure that the provisions of the legislation work in the interests of the Australian people and the persons with whom the provisions of the legislation are most directly concerned.
The Bill has 80 clauses and is 27 pages in length. After a second reading debate in which 5 or 6 members of the Opposition in the House of Representatives were allowed to express their views, without any Government speaker apart from the Minister generally supporting the Bill, one and three quarter hours was allowed for consideration of the clauses of the Bill as a result of the application of the guillotine. This was a provocative and ruthless act having regard to the fact that the Opposition had given notice that it proposed to move many amendments.
– How many clauses are there in the Bill?
-There are 80 clauses in the Bill. The time which was allowed, as a result of the guillotine, for the discussion of each of those clauses was 1.75 minutes. That rendered ineffective any discussion on each of the clauses, let alone the amendments of which the Opposition had given notification. What sort of a system of government is it when the Minister asks the Opposition to co-operate and looks for co-operation, the Opposition provides to the Minister a list of amendments which are to be moved, there are discussions as to the merits of the amendments, and then, when it became a matter of passing the Bill through the Committee stage another Minister, acting on behalf of the Government, decided that the Bill should be treated as urgent and fixed a time limit of 1.75 hours for the debate on the Committee stage of the Bill? It is a denigration of Parliament, it is a denial of the rights of members of Parliament, it is a frustration of the role of Parliament in discussing legislation and it is a denial of the right of the Opposition to have amendments considered and to have its viewpoint on clauses discussed.
Resentment was expressed, and opposition was fairly forcefully expressed in the House of Representatives. But with that ruthless use of numbers, which is characteristic of the Australian Labor Party but which was never characteristic of the previous Government, the Bill was forced through in the space of time which I have indicated. We, as an Opposition, object to the misuse of Parliament in this way, and we believe that the effective way in which we can voice our objection is twofold. One is to ensure that in this chamber all the clauses are debated, all the amendments are considered and the Bill is given an appropriate examination in the true legislative fashion. I can assure the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Bishop), who is in charge of the legislation in this chamber, that he may expect an intensive consideration of this Bill, with the ultimate objective of ensuring that the purposes of the Bill accord with the Parliament’s intention and of ensuring that the Bill will work to the benefit of the people with whom it is directly concerned.
The second way in which we can voice our protest as to the way in which the Opposition in the other place has been treated is to require the Government in this chamber to take the Bill through all its stages in accordance with the Standing Orders. The burden is not such an onerous one but it is one which requires the interval of days for each stage of the Bill. We suggest to the Government that if it desires the indulgence which the Senate, as a matter of custom, has granted to the Government to enable Standing Orders to be suspended so that all stages of the
Bill may be passed without delay it should recognise it has an arm in another place which can recognise the rights of the Parliament and the rights of the Opposition. It is for those reasons that we express our opposition to the suspension of Standing Orders in this case, and we invite the Senate to express its agreement of the course which I have proposed.
– in reply- I cannot understand the form of protest which has been taken on this occasion because of the debating mechanisms of the other place. Senator Greenwood has said that the Opposition should support him in this objective simply because the debate in the other place was gagged. I put it to the Senate that the Government has gone out of its way to amend the previous Bill so that many of the things to which the Opposition objected have been eliminated. This Bill contains hardly any provisions regarded by the Opposition as contentious when presented in the previous Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. The Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron), who was in charge of this Bill in another place, stated that there was a need to deal with it urgently and it was put through the House hurriedly. Perhaps Senator Greenwood is entitled to complain about that, but I cannot see how, whatever complaints he has in that respect, they can be used to interfere with the rapid progress of the legislation through the Senate.
The honourable senator says that because of something that happened in the other place the Opposition will make sure that the process of discussion will be slowed up in the Senate. I hope that that does not happen. There is no reason to expect that all honourable senators will not be allowed to participate in the debate on the Bill and to make sure that they are satisfied about the new intentions in the legislation. I was told that Opposition members in the other place were given every facility by the Minister and the Government to check on the legislation before it was presented to the Parliament. Officers of the Department of Labour were in attendance to the Opposition spokesman on the Bill in the other place. They knew exactly what the details of the legislation would be. So I trust that what is implied in Senator Greenwood’s speech is not that simply because of the tensions in the other place, the Opposition senators will impede the passage of what has been declared to be an urgent Bill containing a number of important provisions which ought to be passed as quickly as possible.
That the motion (Senator Bishop’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill (on motion by Senator Bishop) read a first time.
SOCIAL SERVICES BILL (No. 4) 1973 Second Reading
Debate resumed from 18 September (vide page 691), on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Opposition does not oppose this Bill. In fact, as was made quite clear last week and again this afternoon in the question that I asked of the Government, the Opposition has been anxious to ensure that this legislation is not held up and that the benefits to be paid under it will become available to those entitled to them as soon as possible. It was with great surprise that I, and I am sure my colleagues on this side of the Senate, received the answer from Senator Murphy in reply to a question asked by me of Senator Bishop and answered by the former. In effect, he said that he was prepared to use the rights of pensioners as a bludgeon to curtail debate upon the important matter of the constitutional referendum to give the power to the Commonwealth to control prices.
– He did not put it that way.
– He said in answer to the question that he and the Government were prepared to use that bludgeon to force us to curtail our right of debate on that important matter. He said that if we wished to see pensioners obtain the entitlement which, since the Bill was introduced, we have been anxious to see them obtain at the first possible opportunity we would have to forgo our right to debate the other matter. Fortunately, there must have been some discussion amongst the members on the Government side and the obnoxious nature and the political absurdity of that proposal became apparent to them. The Government has now agreed to these matters being dealt with immediately this afternoon and prior to the resumption of the debate on the Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill. I am gratified, as I am sure other members of the Opposition are gratified, to see that the Government has had the sense to accept our proposal and deal with the Social Services Bill (No. 4) forthwith.
– The Government cannot say that we are frustrating it now.
– We had to make the suggestions to the Government to ensure that pensioners obtain their entitlement. The Government is prepared to use pensioners as a bludgeon to prevent debate in the same sort of way as it was prepared to use its numbers in the lower House to prevent debate on the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill (No. 2) that was referred to in this chamber earlier today.
We support the proposals in Social Service Bill (No. 4). Many of the measures contained in it are the proposals of the former Government, the Liberal-Country Party Government. They were in the pipeline. The details of the proposals in that regard were referred to in the speech of the former Minister for Social Services, Mr Wentworth, during the debate on this Bill in the other House and therefore I do not want to reiterate them other than to draw attention to the fact that many of them are proposals of the former Government.
Mr Wentworth also referred to the fact that in our belief some of the proposals do not go far enough. Perhaps the most important matter to mention in this debate is the unfortunate nature of the size of the increases proposed, bearing in mind the extent to which the value of them has been diminished as a result of the economic mismanagement of this country by the present
Government. The Chairman of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, in his report which was tabled today in this chamber, said:
An upswing in the Australian economy was well under way towards the end of 1 972-73 -
That was during the latter part of the last Government’s period of office- and has continued even more strongly into the new financial year. The overall economic outlook is for a continuing vigorous rate of growth with the major problem being the high and apparently rising rate of inflation. The December 1972 revaluation of the Australian dollar had some dampening effect, but it is evident that control of inflation must become the dominant economic policy preoccupation during 1973-74, just as the reduction of unemployment was the main target during the previous financial year.
The next point is relevant to this Bill because the Chairman of the Corporation went on to state:
Private consumption spending, stimulated by rising wages and incomes, including social service benefits, will again be the main element in domestic expansion.
The Australian Government is budgeting for a slightly smaller deficit than last year, but is placing increased emphasis on social welfare measures, which should further stimulate personal spending.
On the next page of his report he referred to the inadequacy of the inflation control measures taken by the Government. He referred to the fact that direct controls would be ineffective, that they would create distortions and that they were inappropriate. I mentioned those things only because they are relevant when considering the real nature of the benefit being given to recipients by means of this Bill.
– Who were you quoting?
– I was quoting Sir Roland Wilson, Chairman of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation Board, whose report was tabled in this chamber today. I thought it appropriate to refer to those remarks while we are considering the real value of the proposed benefits. The fact is that the benefits are smaller than those given by the previous Government in its Budget last year. They are very much smaller when we take into account the fact that rising inflation is gnawing away at the value of the dollar, and the increase in the base rate of pension in the circumstances can be regarded as miserable. When one bears in mind that food is one of the principal items in the average pensioner’s budget, and that the inflation in relation to food is even higher than it is in many other sectors, one can readily see that the real value of the pension is diminishing rather than increasing and that little progress has been made towards achieving the Government’s stated objective which is that pensions should be 25 per cent of the national average wage. In fact we are going backwards because of economic mismanagement, the very matter about which we warned when the Bill for the first pension increases came before this chamber early this year. We said then that we welcomed the increases and that we supported the legislation. However, we also said then that the value of the increases would be diminished by this Government’s economic mismanagement unless it changed its policies. It has not changed its policies and it has exaggerated the very matters which reduce the value of increases given to pensioners.
The proposal in regard to the means test is almost laughable but as it also was dealt with in the debate in the House of Representatives I do not wish to do other than refer honourable senators to the points made in that debate. However I want to make one further point: It is extraordinary, and perhaps indicative of the jumbled thinking of the present Government, that in its current Budget it is proposing a rather bizarre sort of reduction of the means test for age pensioners. It is proposing to remove the means test altogether in relation to tertiary level students and impose a means test in relation to school children. I cannot think of a more outstanding example of a jumbled approach. However, as I indicated, it is not the wish of the Opposition to impede the passage of this legislation. We have indicated repeatedly that we are prepared to give it speedy passage. Therefore I refrain from making further remarks. When I get the opportunity to speak in the Budget debate I propose to make some general remarks about social services.
– I rise to inform the Senate that the Australian Democratic Labor Party will vote for this Bill. I understand that an arrangement has been made to facilitate its passage so I do not intend to speak at any length. I want to make one point. The Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, promised in his policy speech to raise pensions at least to the level of 25 per cent of the average weekly earnings. The $ 1 .50 rise provided in this Bill is hardly sufficient to meet the rise in consumer prices. The Government’s action in limiting the increase to $ 1 .50 per half year must limit the money value of the increase in the pension to 1 1.4 per cent in this financial year. If pensions rise at only 1 1.4 per cent, their value as a proportion of the average weekly wage will continue to fall. This makes a hollow mockery of the Government’s promise to raise pensions to a level of 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. I repeat what I said at the beginning: My Party nevertheless will vote for this Bill and facilitate its passage.
-As my colleague Senator Rae said, we on the Opposition side of the Senate are not opposing this Bill. I am very glad to have this opportunity of saying a few brief words about it. This Bill was introduced by Senator Douglas McClelland, the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security. I want to refer to the word ‘security’. Surely we are all entitled to some form of security, whether it be in our old age or whether it be when we are temporarily unemployed. Also, unfortunately, there are many women who have been deserted by their husbands and who have to support children. There are unmarried mothers and other members of the community who certainly are entitled to some security. But by the same token I suggest that we look very carefully at the motives underlying the need for social security before we try to bring about a Utopia or a work free state in Australia.
The moneys used to make the social service payments must come inevitably, as we know, from the taxpayer. Therefore this money is collected as a result of the work and sweat of the average Australian, regardless of his profession or the walk of life in which he chooses to engage. These benefit payments are contributed by these average Australian people. I think it is very important to remember that this money is held in trust by governments which have the responsibility of ensuring that it is distributed to citizens who have particular problems and who, for good and definite reasons, are temporarily incapable of contributing towards this common cause. This may be so because they are ill, because they are in retirement or because for some good reason they are not capable of making the kind of contributions which they were able to make earlier in their lives.
I believe that the main reason for making these payments is a very simple one: They are designed to tide people over a difficult period, recognising that they are capable of again becoming productive members of society. Alternatively, they are a recognition by the community generally that people should be given security in their old age. I think it is logical that the nation should support and assist individuals and groups of people who are disadvantaged. I am equally certain that social security benefits, other than those paid to people in retirement, should nonetheless be directed primarily to encouraging people to resume as soon as possible their full productive role within the community. I do not believe that social security benefits should represent a need in themselves. As I have stressed previously, rather they should provide a means by which people can maintain their normal family life during periods of personal difficulty or, alternatively, provide a means by which people have an opportunity to learn some skill that will assist them in making their way and contributing to the community generally.
It is my belief that most of my fellow Australians basically will agree with the proposition that, although all of us are capable of appreciating the problems that can arise and the prejudices that sometimes do occur, it is within the responsibility and the duty of every Australian, and of the Government in particular, to assist in every way possible. Again I believe that this assistance should be given on a basis of allowing the individual to return to a position in society so that- I place great importance on this point- he is again able to make his contribution.
At this point I would like to speak specifically of the Aboriginal Australians. I am sure it will be apparent from many of my public statements that I regard Aborigines as being especially disadvantaged. I know full well that we Aborigines are not short on intelligence, energy, imagination and a whole host of other abilities. I am equally sure that 99.9 per cent of Aborigines wish to make use of their skills and abilities, not only for their own benefit but also for the benefit of the community generally. As I have said on previous occasions, in past years many of my fellow Aborigines have been excluded through prejudice from taking up positions which would enable them to contribute to society to the degree that they should and, I am sure, to the degree that they would wish. Consequently it is my view that any money spent on improving housing, health services, education facilities and training programs as a necessary prerequisite to a full contribution by Australian Aborigines to Australian life. I believe that we Aborigines have unique talents and are in a position to influence for the good our Australian way of life. We should be given every opportunity to do so. I am very pleased to note that Aborigines in all areas of Australia, particularly those in Aboriginal communities, are now in receipt of social security benefits.
– Does every Aborigine receive a pension?
– Every Aborigine who is eligible to receive a pension should receive one. This matter causes me great concern because I believe there are some Aborigines who, because of a lack of knowledge and understanding of their entitlements, perhaps are not able to take advantage of the opportunities that are available to them.
– But surely the Government does not leave it at that. If a person in the community does not know of his entitlements, surely the Government draws his attention to them.
– I hope that this is so. The honourable senator probably knows that on previous occasions I have advocated that competent Aborigines should move among their own people in order to ensure that they are made aware of the many benefits available to them. I would agree with what my colleague Senator Rae mentioned about these proposed increases in social security benefits. I am very happy to see that the present Government proposes to make these increases, but unfortunately those people who will be in receipt of them will not benefit to the extent that they should because of the high cost of living and the increased rate of inflation which have occurred in this country, particularly since this Government took office on 2 December. It appears that the Government is not capable of bringing this inflation under control. At least when we were in government we were able to contain it. Even though the payments will be increased very little benefit will flow on to the recipients.
As I said earlier, I am not opposing these measures, but I am concerned about one aspect, namely, the way in which people who are temporarily unemployed benefit from these increased payments. It seems to me that because of the actions of the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) people who have become temporarily unemployed seem to become permanently unemployed because of the unemployment benefit being paid. This brings to mind an incident that occurred just recently in Cairns. A couple of chaps who allegedly were unemployed registered for unemployment benefit, but when registering they gave their occupation as lion tamers. For many months employment could not be found for them.
– As lion tamers?
– As lion tamers, yes. Unfortunately a circus happened to come to town and there was a very quick exit by two potential lion tamers. As I said earlier, I believe that all people are entitled to some security but I stress again that it should be only to help them over an unhappy period so that they can once again become contributing members of the community. I do not think I should take up any more of the Senate’s time.
– I am prompted to make a brief contribution to this debate. I am indeed pleased to know that the Opposition is not opposing this measure, despite the fact that during the Budget debate Opposition senators said that they regarded the Budget as inflationary. However, they did not respond to requests from honourable senators on this side of the chamber to indicate what revenue they would suggest that the Government should cut down on. Despite the contributions to that debate, by honourable senators opposite, they are not now game to oppose the humanitarian measures introduced in this Bill. They have come out into the open and said that they will support the Bill. I would like to congratulate the Minister for Social Security, Mr Bill Hayden, and the Government for honouring the election promises and also for giving top priority to this social service legislation. It will be recalled that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said in his policy speech that the Labor Party would pledge itself to increase age, invalid and other pensions at various periods until those pensions represented 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. I need not enlighten the Senate by saying that already, since the Government came into office in December 1972, 2 increases, each amounting to $1.50, have been made. Whilst they do not fulfil at this moment the Government’s promise to pay pensions at the rate of 25 per cent of average weekly earnings, I feel confident that the Government will continue to give increases until this goal is reached; and I hope that the increase envisaged to be announced during the autumn session will be higher than $1.50, that it will be $2 or more, so that we will be fast attaining our goal of paying pensions which represent 25 per cent of average weekly earnings.
The Government’s goal of eliminating the means test in the lifetime of this Parliament also should not go unnoticed. This measure provides that people aged 75 years and over will be exempt from the means test for pension benefits. These are 2 promises that the Government made during its election campaign and it has already placed very high on its order of priorities means of fulfilling them.
Before I conclude I would like to mention briefly that I bent every effort over a period of 2 years in this chamber trying to persuade the previous Government to grant further concessions to pensioners who require hearing aids. The old policy was that pensioners who were entitled to receive a hearing aid had to pay $10 rental for the aid and then purchase service batteries for that aid at their own expense. This was not a large amount, perhaps 60c or 70c every 2 months, but despite my persuasion and representations made in this chamber I was unable to persuade the previous Government to grant that small concession to pensioners, namely that it should abolish the rental charge and make the batteries available free of charge. As I said, I received no fruitful result from the previous Government, but I am very pleased to see that this Government and the Treasurer (Mr Crean), as is shown in the Budget papers, have now decided that the $10 rental fee will be abolished and that the service batteries for pensioners who require them will be free. This is in line with the humanitarian approach of this Government and I am sure that the provisions contained in this Bill, which now appears certain to receive a speedy passage through this House, are only the forerunners of many important legislative changes that will be to the benefit of our aged pensioners when they come into force in the near future.
– It was the Opposition which pressed the Government in this chamber to see that this particular measure was hurriedly pushed through. Indeed, it was I who raised the point on Thursday last. I had been told that computers were standing ready to process and to give the benefit to pensioners. But at that stage the Government turned its back on the computers and on the old age pensioners by attempting to debate some other matter which the Government considered to be of far greater importance. I was particularly pleased today when a member of the Liberal Party- Senator Rae, I think- proposed that this social security measure should be pushed through this chamber. It is regrettable that the Government is perhaps not acting or performing in this matter to the standard that we would wish. I believe the grant of $1.50 rise to certain pensioners at present is a matter for congratulations, though not necessarily to the Government for the people of Australia are providing this benefit. If the Government allocates resources, as we have heard, by deciding to pay some millions of dollars for some work of art when the less fortunate in the community should be gaining some benefit, then some of us take objection to such allocation. But, in general, this is one matter which we in the Opposition are eager to see put through this chamber today.
I would make one point on the second reading speech of the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland). Members of the Senate must have noted that the second reading speech in most of its wording was a complete castigation of the former Government. On nearly every page the Minister, in his great wisdom- and that is perhaps the wisdom which the Federal President of the Labor Party has referred to as lunacy; and who is to argue with the Federal President of the Labor Party?- made criticisms which I find abhorrent. I think it is probably the first instance that I have noted of a second reading speechwhich may be thought to set out the proposals of a government, laid out clearly so that members of the Parliament can follow what are the projections of the Government- where on nearly every page one can find words which are critical and, I take it, deliberately politically so. This new publication ‘New Legislation of the Australian Parliament’, whoever produces it- and it must be produced at great expense- takes up this type of operation and publicises it broadly. It contains criticism of the previous Government. The Minister said in his second reading speech:
Unlike previous Governments, we will not allow pensioners to suffer adversely from economic movements . . .
Later he said:
In 23 years of conservative administration previous LiberalCountry Party Governments were never interested in such an objective. They resolutely eschewed proposals by successive Labor Oppositions, pensioner representative groups . . .
The whole of the second reading speech is meant to be a political statement attacking the previous Government. I think the previous Government could well stand up to criticism if criticism is made. The table on page 6, Comparison of Rates of Increased Pension Rates, shows that rate of pension which is being paid compared with average weekly earnings. It shows that from 1958 right through even to today what the percentage of average weekly earnings was in the 20s; that is the standard pension rate paid to age and invalid pensioners was approximately one-fifth of average weekly earnings. Today we find the Government apologising, as it should, for the fact that it is unable to fulfil quickly the promise it made. Apparently it did not promise that it was going to do something in a few months but it made a promise to which we all look forward. We all earnestly hoped that the community could earn sufficient to pay enough in taxation to allow the basic pension rate to rise to 25 per cent of average weekly earnings.
I do not know whether members of the Government have taken some research advice on this matter but the rate of inflation which has been generated by this Labor Government’s activity and economic stupidity, will, in present circumstances, never produce a situation in which it will be paying a basic pension rate as 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. Facts that I have received from our Library research service, indicate that when the consumer price index increases at over 6 per cent per annum, a much greater pension increase than $3 per annum will be required if the basic pension rate is to be brought into line with average weekly earnings. In fact I say to the Government that at present when we have an inflation rate of 13 per cent it is diminishing the benefits that were granted by former governments. The benefit of a gradual increase in the rate of pensions during the time of a stable economy has been whittled away. The position of pensioners will be disastrous unless the Government introduces another benefit of at least $1.50 before Christmas. I know that such a move could present great difficulties but this increased pension would be of great benefit. The age pensioner will be in a disastrous situation because of the inflationary rate which has been introduced and accelerated by the basic decisions of the present socialist Government.
I deplore the fact that the second reading speech politically criticises the former Administration while the present policies of the Labor socialist Government harm so greatly those who should be getting the benefit from increased pension rates at the present time. It is true that some benefits are flowing. But I believe that the unemployment benefit being offered by this Government is not in the interests of the community at the present time. Indeed 12 months ago the greatest criticism was being levelled at the former Administration because at that time there was in excess of 100,000 unemployed people in the community. I read a comment made by the present Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) who said that the Government had achieved an unemployment level of 67,000 individuals. I held the view that Labor hoped for a situation in which no one would be unemployed. The Government has increased the size of the Commonwealth Public Service by about 20,000 individuals in the past 9 months. We find that all the Government has done- other than creating excitement among people to invest their money before it depreciates greatly under this socialist Administration- has been to take part of the number of unemployed into the Commonwealth Public Service. Here we have a degrading situation in which the Government that has been elected by the people has got rid of its unemployment problem by putting those people on its own payroll for the rest of the community to keep.
– That was not written by the speech writers.
– They would want to do a better job than Senator Webster. If they did not they would get the sack.
-At least I do not read my speeches, as you do, Senator Primmer.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marriott)- Order!
– I say that that occurs so regularly -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT -Order! Senator Webster, will you please address the Chair? When I call you to order I do not want you to proceed with your speech.
-Mr Acting Deputy President, you could tell that I was provoked in the matter. I apologise if I did keep on speaking when you called me to order. The fact is that the Opposition is most anxious that this Bill be passed and for the benefit to be handed to members of the community. Let it be noted by all who happen to read Hansard that the Labor Government, in granting increases in pensions, is the first Government ever to impose taxation on pensions. May this be ever to its disgrace. I would have thought that this sort of action would have been abhorrent to the Labor Party. I despise the . bor Party for that action. The year of 1 973 will go on record as the year in which the socialists decided to tax pensions. I believe that the pensioners will realise what has been done.
I know that men and women with whom lam associated have been looking forward to the implementation of the promise of the Labor Party that the means test on pensions would be abolished. These people took the view that on retirement they would receive some benefit from any investment that they may have made. They also thought that they would have been able to receive the benefit of the small amount of work which they would be able to undertake in their later years. But they have found that the benefit of the promise that was made to them by the Labor Party has been eroded completely by the fact that the Government now intends to tax the pension they receive. I think that the Labor Party has a lot to answer for. The Government has indicated that it will give pensioners an increase of $ 1.50 every now and then so that pensions will reach 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. But in this year of 1 973 they will be getting less benefit under this Government than they, ever got under the previous Government.
– I want to be brief because I believe that other honourable senators also want to speak on this matter. However, I want to criticise the amount of increase proposed in this legislation and also the way in which the means test has been altered. Let us look at what Mr Whitlam ‘s Government has done for the pensioners, many of whom in my opinion are very near or right on the breadline. Those pensioners whom I come in contact with in the course of my day to day work as I journey around Tasmania are dreadfully worried and scared at this time by the huge increases in the cost of living that have been so rampant in this country since this Government came into power. What is this Government doing so magnificently for them? The Treasurer (Mr Crean) in his Budget speech said:
All social service pensions will be increased by $1.50 per week as soon as legislation can be enacted, thus bringing to $23 per week the rate for single aged, invalid and widow pensioners and to $40.50 per week the combined rate for a married couple.
I say that the Government should be ashamed of itself for lifting pensions by only this meagre amount. Surely Mr Whitlam has realised just how much need there is. Totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners got a lift of $4.50 on top of their pension of $5 1 a week. I am not for a moment decrying the fact that repatriation pensioners have received such a lift. But I am decrying the fact that this Government has not seen fit to look after our elderly people betterthe people who helped build and make this country as great as it is today, or as great as it has been.
This Government has not seen fit to look after these people, many of whom I class as very dear friends, to the extent that it should. In my opinion these pensioners should have received a rise of at least the same amount as that of the repatriation people. Unless the Government looks after our pensioners better than it has been doing I believe these pensioners could become known as our ‘thin cats’ and we might see the thin ones increase in number as rapidly as the fat ones are doing in the Public Service. The Government promised to abolish the means test on pensions payable to people over 65 years of age within 3 years. The Treasurer said in his Budget Speech:
As the first step, the means test on age pensions for persons 75 years of age and over will be abolished from the Spring of 1973.
But what have we found out since? It is true that the Government partially abolished the means test. But it has kept prying into the lives of our elderly people to find out how much they are earning in addition to their pensions, because if they earn too much the means test will not really be removed. It will not be totally lifted and they will not receive the benefit of such things as medical and hospital allowances and pharmaceutical benefits free as do pensioners who do not have quite as much money or means.
I say that this Government is 2-faced. I hesitate to say that it is downright dishonest- I. will not say that. But surely something is missing when it says that it will remove the means test and then says: ‘Yes, but we are not going to remove it in quite the way you thought we meant when we talked about it. No, we have decided that we are not going to give our aged people what we made them think we were going to give them. We are going to clobber them a little bit more. We are going to keep prying into their private lives to find out whether they have earned a few bob by working a few hours, even if they are only doing it for something to do. If they happen to have too much money in the bank or too many means they will not get the support that they have been paying taxes towards all their lives’. I would like to see the total abolition of the means test and not the halfway measure which we recently have seen. With regard to the taxing of pensions, 1 feel it is justified that a pension should be added to income if the means test is fully removed. But in certain cases I feel there should be no tax, for instance in the case of blind pensioners who receive a special pension and work. Today I received a letter from a gentleman who is the President of the blind pensioners group in Tasmania. It may well be that these people and some others should be exempt from any tax on their pension. I support this Bill and I will say more about this matter during the debate on the Budget.
– I, in common with those who have spoken before me, do not propose to speak at length. But there are a number of points which I feel ought to be cleared up, commencing with some of those made by Senator Bonner. The honourable senator, in speaking to the social services legislation earlier this afternoon stated that there were Aboriginals who were not told that they were entitled to social service benefits. He went on to criticise those people in the community who, because of the availability of social service benefits, continued to receive the benefits and not to become employed. I point out for the record that if Aborigines in Queensland are not applying for social service benefits then the fault must surely lie with the State authorities who administer all reserves in that State. The good senator will recall that in years gone by in this chamber I have objected continually to the fact that at that time Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders were not entitled to social service benefits except in certain circumstances. I now refer particularly to the unemployment benefit. Of course under the new Government they are now eligible for social service benefits.
I challenge the honourable senator to say that the unemployment benefit will keep people perpetually on the unemployment list. I think that most honourable senators here would look at their salary and prefer to live under those conditions as would most other people in the communitywhatever their salary may be- rather than receive the $20-odd which one can obtain as an unemployment benefit. But perhaps there is this distinction: Queensland has a long history of under-paying Aboriginals and islanders and in many instances the unemployment benefits are higher than the current wage rate. The point which Senator Webster made, which I feel was unwarranted and quite unjustified, was that this Government ought to go down in history as the first government to tax pensions. The good senator knows that is not true and that it is a distortion of all the facts as was pointed out by Senator Townley who followed Senator Webster. Senator Townley agreed that where the means test had been abolished pensions should be added to whatever income a person may receive.
A friend of mine who will retire in the next couple of years is an extremely wealthy man. When he applies for the age pension, as he says he intends to do, he probably will lose more than the value of the pension in the amount of tax he will have to pay. He is quite happy to do that because he says that this is a principle which he has advocated all his life. To comply with the principle he will actually apply for the age pension. The real basis of the discussion which Senator Webster ought to have mentioned is that the average pensioner without a large amount of property in tow will not be taxed at all as in the past. So let us have the truth of these things and not distortion for the sake of confusing the minds of pensioners and of electors. I respectfully remind Senator Webster that the Parramatta by-election is over. He does not have to keep on distorting facts in order to get additional votes.
I was rather shocked when Senator Townley started criticising the Whitlam Labor Government for its neglect of the pensioners. After all, this is the first time in history that the interim increase in pensions has been made retrospective to the first pension pay day after 2 December 1972. It is true that inflation is eroding all fixed incomes. But I say to Senator Townley that so far as our Government is concerned it is the first Government which has faced up to the reality of trying to combat inflation. Some of the measures are unpopular with honourable senators on the other side of this chamber because we are taking away some of their ill gotten profits from other fields. Let us be factual about the matter. That is why we get all these screams from honourable senators opposite.
– I raise a point of order. If Senator Keeffe is referring to me as being one of those who is victimised by having ill gotten profits taken away from me by the Budget, I ask that those words be withdrawn.
-Probably it would ease the ruffled feelings of my Opposition counterpart if I say that I was not referring to him in particular. I do not know why he gets so touchy about these things. I was making a general statement.
– The honourable senator was looking at me.
-You would be just as offended if I said that every Friday you went to the St Vincent de Paul Society to get some second hand clothes so that you could come to the Senate on the following week, would you not? Well, I am not saying that about you either.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marriott)- Order! Senator Keeffe, please address the Chair.
– I am not quite sure why my Opposition friend is so upset about this matter. But let us be quite factual. I was addressing my remarks to some of the comments which Senator Townley had made. I shall continue doing that. I can remember when Senator Townley came into this chamber a few days after the election of this Government. He gazed skyward and crossed his heart with a ‘hopeIdropdead’ sort of attitude and said: ‘This Government has been elected on a popular mandate and I shall stick with it’. Now we always have to get a magnifying glass to find where Senator Townley goes. Since, apparently, he has been offered some inducement by the Liberal Party in Tasmania, like being No. 1 on the Senate team ticket at the next Senate election, we always find him over with the Liberal Party. So now I can understand why he has adopted this attitude. He must do as his bosses tell him. There was a time when he was an Independent with an independent turn of mind.
For Senator Townley ‘s benefit I point out that . if he had wandered around 12 months before the change of government he would have found pensioners much more critical of the treatment they were receiving in those days. In fact the pensioner organisations in Australia today realise the tremendous battle this Government has. They say: ‘At least you are doing something for us which the previous Government did not do ‘. I will not go any further because I passed some remarks in relation to this area when I was speaking during the Budget debate earlier in the session. But I do make this plea: If honourable senators opposite want to make points, please do not distort the truth, please speak factually and do not try to confuse people outside this chamber. Obviously that is their only intention in some of their approaches to the Bills which are before this chamber and which have come before this chamber since the change of government. Again this will be the first time in history and at this time of the year that pensioners have received their increase as soon as the Bill becomes law. Up until now the previous Government had always delayed the increase and held it up until Christmas Eve so that it could say: Look, my good grandfathers and grandmas, we have now given you a Christmas present’.
– That is not true.
– Well, it was so close to Christmas in every previous year that it did not matter. We wanted to introduce this legislation early in the spring session of the Parliament and honourable senators opposite are still critical of it. Let us tell the truth and not distort the facts.
Senator TOWNLEY ( Tasmania )-I wish to make a personal explanation.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marriott)-Does the honourable senator claim to have been misrepresented?
– I am not sure whether I have been misrepresented or whether the Liberal Party has been. I have not asked the Liberal Party for No. 1, 2, 3 or 4 position. To my knowledge it has not offered me a position.
– I feel that I should speak on the social services legislation in reference to a particular part to which I have drawn attention during question time. At the request of the President I have got down to the question. I am referring to the unemployment benefit. Many honourable senators in this chamber will have heard, as I have, and if they have checked as I have checked they will have found, that many people in Australia are taking a mean advantage of the unemployment benefit. They are not truly unemployed. They are polers and shirkers, and we are encouraging them. Simple support is lent to this by Sir Charles Court, Leader of the Opposition in
Western Australia. When I spoke to him about this matter he advised me that there were known to be 400 serfies in Western Australia who were living on unemployment benefits and who had no intention of working. He said that nothing could be done about it. This is because the Government will not clamp down. The present Government has eased the problem for those who are unemployed at present by saying that they have to take only the job they nominate. In my opinion anyone who is unemployed should be prepared to take any reasonable job that is offering- otherwise he is not truly unemployed. I object very much to people accepting money from the Government under false pretences as some are doing today. I sincerely trust that the Government will look at this situation and tighten it up.
I have checked this matter very carefully and have discovered that the officers in the unemployment section of the Department do not check on those who say they are unemployed. They do not check when they send a person to a job to see whether he turned up for the job, whether he would accept the job or whether he was reasonably dressed for the job. Sometimes applicants make darned sure that they do not get the job they were sent for. This is completely wrong.
– Surfies may think that some senators are getting money under false pretences.
– That may be so, and perhaps some are. Perhaps the honourable senator is in that category. For the information of the Senate, there is not a central register in which the unemployed throughout the States of Australia are entered so that the Commonwealth Government, before it pays unemployment benefits, can check to see how long a person has been unemployed. I feel sure that if this were done, if we had a central register and a system of issuing to each person who applied for an employment benefit an identity card with his photograph and showing his correct address the problem could be reduced. I have been told, and I believe it, that some people are collecting more than one unemployment benefit, sometimes 3, by using fictitious names and addresses. We are allowing people to do this, but we should clamp down on this practice.
Only the other day on my way back from a New South Wales country town I called into a rural property and was advised that shearers, who are well known to be men who work only for a season but who earn enough money in that season to keep them for the whole 12 months, are usually posted an unemployment benefit application to fill in as soon as the shearing season finishes. They fill it in, claim the unemployment benefit and get it. I do not say that this does happen, but if it does happen I object to it. This kind of thing is going on everywhere. The figures at present show that only 65,000 are unemployed and that some 76,000 jobs are vacant. This proves to me that the people who are unemployed are not truly unemployed. I have heard men with families say that it is ridiculous to work because they can get $60 a week unemployment benefits and only $55 a week if they work. I believe them. They are in front by not working. The Government is allowing this to go on. I sincerely trust that the Government will look into this situation and tighten the system. I feel that anyone who is unemployed should take any reasonable job offered to him until such time as his type of work turns up. If he is not prepared to do that he is not unemployed. I feel that I have said enough. I will support the Bill with those reservations.
– I will be brief in responding. I thank honourable senators who have taken part in the debate for their general approval of the measures. I want to make only one or two comments about the situation as I see it. I will deal in a general way with what has been said by some honourable senators without identifying them because generally they have approved the legislation which, as everybody knows, is a costly piece of legislation. The expense to the Government and the taxpayer will be an additional $200m above that provided for in 1972-73. An increase in cash benefits and the partial abolition of the means test will add another $141m to expenditure to be incurred in 1973-74. The Government is always in the position where if it carries out any expansion of its social welfare aims it is often said to be extravagant and to be creating a counterforce to pension rises. One has to look at that argument in the context of what the position has been. For example, the latest figures I have seen for the period from June 1972 till June 1973 show an increase in the consumer price index of 8.2 per cent, an increase in average weekly earnings of 1 1.4 per cent and an increase in pension rates provided by the Government for married pensioners of 1 7.2 per cent or, in the case of the standard rate, 1 7.8 per cent. The Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) has undertaken to ensure that the basis of 25 per cent of average weekly earnings is maintained in any circumstances.
The second reading speech was criticised by Senator Webster who said that the Australian Government is determined to achieve its goal of a standard rate pension equivalent to 25 per cent of average weekly earnings and that if necessary the pension increase in the autumn session will be greater than $1.50. Mention was made during the debate of taxation and the means test. I refer now to what the Treasurer (Mr Crean) said so that we will all know what he did say and what it means. In presenting the Budget he said:
Abolition of the means test does, however, give rise to problems of equity. Unless age pensions are taxable, aged persons on higher incomes would be put in a privileged position by comparison not only with pensioners on lower incomes, but also with people below pensionable age on equivalent or smaller incomes and paying tax on the whole of that income. It is necessary, however, in introducing taxation of age pensions, to ensure that pensioners in the lower ranges are not disadvantaged. The Government proposes therefore that age pensions should become taxable but that special steps be taken to protect those wholly or largely dependent on pensions from detriment.
In relation to unemployment benefit payments, which we have extensively improved, one always gets complaints. I have heard people complain about some people getting social service pensions. It is not uncommon to hear complaints of people getting repatriation pensions and allegations that they are not entitled to them, or people getting compensation payments to which they are not entitled. I think it is unfair to say that there is a large body of people living on unemployment benefits to which they are not entitled. The Government has increased unemployment benefits and the days have gone when to be unemployed was a great burden on people who could not find a job. Now we have an alternative proposition, but I think that the attention which has been directed to it has been overdone. Senator Bonner had 2 shots at it. He complained first that his own Aboriginal race was being discriminated against, and then he referred to that tired old argument about people getting benefits they should not be getting.
There is much which can be argued about in this legislation, but it is very clear that the Labour Government has quickly implemented its social welfare reforms. As Senator Keeffe said, as soon as we got into office our first piece of legislation dealt with social welfare pensions and repatriation payments which were made retrospective to the date of the election. If one compares the figures, the difference is clearly indicated. If the consumer price index is used as the guide and the increase in the consumer price index is compared with the last pension increases it will be found that in every respect those pension increases have been beneficial. With those comments I thank honourable senators for the speedy passage given to the Bill. Some honourable senators expressed concern about this Bill being urgent. The fact is that we have until Thursday to pass this and associated Bills. Provided that the Bills were passed on Thursday -
– We have Estimates Committees on Thursday.
– As far as I understand, the Senate will sit for part of Thursday morning and the Estimates Committees will sit on Thursday afternoon. Provided that the Bills were passed by the time the Senate rose to enable the Estimates Committees to meet, the position would be all right. Nevertheless, I thank the Opposition for its support.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– In view of the claims which have been made by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Bishop) and by Senator Keeffe, I wish to take the time of the Committee for a moment to point out that in setting out the table showing the pension rates which will apply as a result of the present Labor Government’s actions, the Government has included the very substantial increase which was provided by the previous Liberal-Country Party Government in its Budget which was presented in August last year. The figures relating to the increases which are set out in the table on page 616 of the Senate Hansard of 18 September 1973, which was incorporated in Hansard by the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland), and also the Minister’s speech, give a misleading impression. I simply point that out. It is obvious to anybody who thinks about this matter that the figures relating to the increases shown in that table did not come about as a result of the $3.00 a week granted by this Government; they came about as a result of the $1.75 a week increase provided in last year’s Budget.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Bishop) read a third time.
REPATRIATION BILL (No. 3) 1973 Second Reading
Debate resumed from 18 September (vide page 624), on motion by Senator Bishop:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marriott)- It is so ordered.
– In relation to the Repatriation Bill (No. 3) 1973, the Compensation (Australian Government Employees) Bill 1973 and the Seamens’ War Pensions and Allowances Bill (No. 2) 1973, the Opposition indicates that it welcomes the assistance and the changes which are being provided in these Bills and it supports their passage through this chamber. As I indicated previously in regard to the increased social service benefits, we were concerned lest there should be any delay in the implementation of these benefits. We are anxious to indicate to the Government that we are prepared to give speedy passage to these Bills. I am glad that the Government has seen fit to bring the Bills on for debate in order to take advantage of our stand.
As I indicated during the debate on the Social Services Bill, we are concerned that the high rate of inflation diminishes the value of the benefits provided. 1 do not pause to make that point any further than I did when speaking on the Social Services Bill, other than to say that I commend to the Government’s study some references, which I quoted earlier which were made by the Chairman of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation Board. It would be a tragedy if the Australian people, who are to benefit by this legislation, are to lose the benefit of a result of further economic mismanagement.
I wish to make a few particular comments. We welcome the proposal that determining authorities appointed under the Repatriation Act should give reasons for decisions. In the past I have always felt that there was a defect in this matter and I think that the proposal will constitute an improvement. But I ask the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Bishop), not for the purposes of holding up this legislation but so that he can give some thought to this matter: Why is the procedure to continue whereby a member of Parliament, who happens to be a qualified legal practitioner, is not entitled to assist a constituent, while a person who is not a qualified legal practitioner is entitled to assist a person in the hearings that take place? It seems to me to be an anomaly and I ask the Minister to reconsider the matter. If a little more formality is to take place in the giving of decisions, then it seems to me that the Minister also might consider providing that people may go to a particular member of Parliament who perhaps has helped them in the preparation of their cases over the years and who they believe would be able to assist them to get their cases through. I have received a number of such requests. It is a constant source of embarrassment to me that I am prevented by legislation from being able to take the matter right through for these people. I say that of course, as a qualified legal practitioner.
I also want to refer the Minister to certain undertakings which he gave when we were discussing the defence forces retirement benefits legislation. The Minister referred to that legislation in his second reading speech on the Repatriation Bill. I simply take the opportunity to remind him that when we were debating that legislation I said it was believed that a number of people would suffer a loss as a result of the proposed amendments but that we did not wish to hold up that legislation. The Minister undertook to have this matter investigated. I ask him to give an early report on what has happened in that matter. I have continued to receive copies of representations which have been made to the Minister and to the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard). I hope that the Minister for Repatriation will take the opportunity to inform us as to what has happened.
In an earlier debate on repatriation I asked the Minister certain questions relating to the portability overseas of repatriation pensions, and I received a letter dated 24 May 1973 in which he answered those questions. Because I think his answer contains information which may be useful to other people, I seek leave to incorporate that letter in Hansard.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA
Minister For Repatriation Parliament House, Canberra, A.C.T. 2600
Dear Senator Rae,
You may recall that during the Second Reading Debate of Repatriation Bill (No. 2) 1973 relating to the portability overseas of Repatriation service and other means test pensions, I indicated that there was a total of.4,000 war pensions presently being paid overseas.
This figure was an estimate provided to me at short notice, and on further examination I find that the number of such pensions is 3, 112.
You will be interested in the dispersion of these pensions and for this reason I have attached a chart showing the details. You will note that the majority of the pensions, 2,157 are paid from the United Kingdom. This figure includes some 200 which are processed in the U.K. for payment in North America. There are 68 1 pensions paid in New Zealand and the remaining 280 are distributed among 24 other countries.
I confirm that no problems have been experienced in making these payments, which are mostly by cheque or bank draft. The Deputy Commissioner of Pensions, London, naturally handles the greatest number. In New Zealand, the Secretary for War Pensions acts on behalf of the Repatriation Department and in other countries, payments are arranged through the resources of our various Missions and the Commonwealth Sub-Treasury in Geneva. Where there are no Australian Missions, the facilities of the British Missions are used.
I trust that this further information is of value to you. You may be assured that as the information becomes available in relation to service and other means test pensions this will be included in the Annual Report of the Repatriation Commission.
Yours sincerely, R. BISHOP
Senator P. E. Rae, The Senate, Parliament House, Canberra. A.C.T. 2600.
– I thank the Senate. The only particular feature of the Compensation (Australian Government Employees) Bill is that it provides for a change of name from Commonwealth employees to Australian Government employees. I do not pause to debate the wisdom of that change; I simply point out that the change is taking place. Otherwise, it includes the followthrough increases which, in relation to the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Bill and the other 2 Bills which I have mentioned, the Opposition supports as being desirable. I only regret that the rise in the rate of inflation appears to be eroding the benefits faster than they are being provided.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
Senator Dame NANCY BUTTFIELD (South Australia) (8.0)- I am very pleased to have something to say about this Bill because like all Australians- I think I am right in saying ‘all Australians’I feel very patriotic towards, and very much under an obligation to look after, the men who fought for this country, and I feel the same way about their dependants. I am annoyed when the patriotism of the Australian people is used for political purposes. I believe that no community anywhere feels more under a responsibility to carry out its obligation to look after its fighting men than Australia feels. I’ congratulate the Government on the many improvements that it is introducing in these Bills, and I am wholeheartedly behind it in those improvements. I also congratulate those who have been responsible for delaying the publication of the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Health and Welfare. The draft report was finished in May, but the report still has not left the Government Printer. I do not know whether everybody will agree with me, but I feel that there is a very good reason for delaying the publication of that report, and that is so the Australian Labor Party can claim credit for improvements in the repatriation scheme which were brought to light through the publicity of the media at public hearings of that Committee. We heard many witnesses. The Press repeatedly brought out those things which could be and needed to be improved. So many of them are contained in the Bills.
I also congratulate Dr John Whiting for the book which he published ‘Be in it, mate’. Certainly the cases which he cited in that book are exaggerated for the very purpose of bringing them to the notice of the public, but I believe that in putting his head on the block, as he did in that book, he brought these cases to the notice of the people and that is why we are asked tonight to approve these many improvements. I think that if Dr Whiting had not shown up many of the anomalies, peculiarities, discrepancies and discriminations in repatriation we would not be seeing tonight the improvements that are being brought about. Certainly the thesis of this book is basically correct. Many things are wrong. Many ex-servicemen should be receiving compensation but are not. I think that the claims of many others who are receiving compensation should be reviewed.
I am pleased to see that the tribunals will have to give reasons because I believe that some tribunals are far more lenient than others. It is very easy for the Repatriation Department, if it wants to favour certain people, to channel claims into the hands of lenient tribunals. So if all tribunals have to give reasons for their decisions I think this sort of leniency could be checked by the general public, to the benefit of all. I think that it is within the power of the Department to influence some tribunals. They meet in departmental offices. I think that many of their notices are approved or possibly sent out by the Department. I may be wrong on that point. I do not stress it. But the Department can have an influence on where claims are to go. I think it is quite right for the tribunals to reject some claims. But I repeat that far too many of the justified claims are not given due consideration.
Also, I stress that those pensioners in receipt of major pensions, that is, those receiving above 75 per cent of the general rate pension including the intermediate, total and permanent incapacity and the total and temporary incapacity pensions, should have their pensions reviewed because I believe that some of them could well be downgraded. There are some who are receiving pensions who should not and, I repeat, some who are not receiving pensions who should. I would like to go through some of the benefits that are to flow from this measure. I agree that it is wise to increase many of the pensions and some of the allowances, but I say some of the allowances. I think that inflation is eroding the value of the pensions. We should see that our ex-servicemen and those who have been disadvantaged by war have a reasonable standard of living. I agree also that the means test for the Service pension, particularly for those recipients who are over 75 years, should be abolished. I approve of that. I am in favour of free medical treatment being extended to returned soldiers of the Boer War and the 1914-18 War, including those who have had no previous entitlement. They will receive now free treatment for any ailment.
I have reservations about giving free treatment for malignant cancer to ex-servicemen and women who have served in a theatre of war. The reason I have those reservations is that the Senate Standing Committee on Health and Welfare which investigated all aspects of repatriation received much public evidence on the subject. This evidence has been quoted in the Press and I am not divulging anything that may appear in the report when I say that doctors told the Committee that it is impossible to trace cancer to any war caused injury at this stage. That is why I have reservations on that point. I have a fear that there may be some political purpose in extending this sort of benefit to those people. I thoroughly approve that people in the community, not necessarily ex-servicemen, are receiving artificial limbs from repatriation hospitals and from artificial limb and appliance centres. I am very gratified that the Department, the Government and other people have taken so much notice of the publicity that was given to the inquiry of the Senate Standing Committee when we were saying that spare accommodation was available in these fields, particularly in regard to artificial limbs, renal units and intensive care units of the repatriation hospitals, and should be utilised. The members of the Committee kept saying that that accommodation ought to be available to the general public. I congratulate the Minister and the Government on now going further. I might say that the Department was taking steps in this direction. We were gratified to find that on many occasions civilians were being allowed to use these spare facilities which the Commonwealth Government was providing through the repatriation hospitals. Also, I am glad that legislation has been introduced to allow the Government to go even further.
I am appalled at the situation we now face in which regular defence Service personnel are to receive repatriation benefits. I think that to find the reason for this we only have to look at an article which appeared in the Adelaide ‘Advertiser’ of Tuesday, 18 September. It commences by stating:
I doubt very much if there is, anywhere, a more proficient, more professional group of soldiers than those in the regular component of the Australian Army today.
That was written by General Sir Thomas Daly in August last year. He continues:
Thirteen months later the soldiers are still proficient and professional but morale has deteriorated gravely. Officers and men alike are bewildered, frustrated and disenchanted.
They have been given little concept of their likely role. They see little future in the Service.
In increasing numbers, and at levels of rank and competence the Army can ill afford to lose, they are resigning to take up jobs in civil life.
– What are you reading from?
– I have already named the newspaper. If the honourable senator was listening he would have heard me.
– Order! Senator Keeffe, Senator Dame Nancy Buttfield has already cited the newspaper from which she is reading.
– He said that morale is not ‘rock bottom yet but it won’t be long before it is’. This article states:
Officers believe that the Army could, at a stretch, put a force of 2 battalions into the field in an emergency. It would not be able to support the two battalions logistically and with all the essential auxiliary arms. It would be incapable of rotating the battalions if the emergency proved to be protracted. And, since one battalion would have to be kept in reserve, the force would, in effect, be a one battalion task force. To put it bluntly the Army is no longer a credible force . . .
Between June 1 and November 30, last year, 26 officers resigned their commissions. In the 6 months from November 20 to May 3 1 resignations numbered 6 1 . Another 1 7 officers resigned in June, 1 8 in July and 23 in August.
I think that article speaks for itself. I believe that to bribe men and women now to join the forces by saying that the Government will provide repatriation benefits if they stay in the forces for 3 years-
– Is that the former Chief of the General Staff, Sir Thomas Daly?
– Yes. It is dreadful to think that the Government has to bribe people to join the Army by this cheap offer of repatriation benefits. Surely to goodness if the Government believes that the forces of this country can be stocked with well meaning, upstanding men, as the Australian Labor Party has claimed, it ought not make such a cheap offer.
I believe that the admission of civil patients to repatriation hospitals is a good move, as I have said before. That is one of the provisions of this Bill. I also believe that it is wise and proper that statutory authorities should give the reasons for their decisions. I was interested to hear Senator Rae say that members of Parliament who are lawyers are debarred by law, from acting as advocates at a tribunal in order to look after their constituents. It is interesting to know that a lawyer can be on an assessment appeal tribunal only and then as the chairman. I was also interested to find that all these tribunals are stacked, almost to a man, with people from the returned service organisations. I agree that there should be at least one member from such organisations to watch the interests of returned servicemen but I believe also that there should be at least one member from a taxpayers’ organisation to watch the interests of the taxpayers. There are some people who use the system for their own benefit. I think all honourable senators would agree, on the evidence, that there are people like this- more is the pity. But I believe that there should be a representative of the taxpayer on these tribunals. I also believe that reasons should be available for any person whose claim has been rejected. It has been proved in other countries, particularly in the United States of America, that if reasons are given there is a cutback in the great number of appeals. Certainly there is a great number of appeals in Australia. If people know why their claims are rejected they can consider deeply whether they will go on and on appealing.
I approve of the rise in pension for those who are totally and permanently incapacitated but I again stress that there should be a review of all pensions at this level. At present once a person receives a TPI pension a review of the case is not carried out. I think that they should be reviewed for 2 reasons: Firstly, to see that the person concerned is being looked after adequately; secondly, to see whether the claim is proper and justified.
– That is a permanent disability; is it not?
– Yes. The pension for permanent disability is beyond review at present. I am saying that it ought to be reviewed. I agree with increasing the pension but I think that the Government should look carefully to see whether all such pensioners justifiably receive that rise. I believe also that the rate of pension or the pensionability rate, whichever way one likes to put it, should be redrawn so that it runs from 1 per cent to 100 per cent. The rate of pension should cover all types of pensioners according to their disability. At present we have the almost incredible system in which the rate of pension goes from 1 per cent to 100 per cent. The 100 per cent rate is called the general rate, and within that general rate fall those who are eligible to receive the 75 per cent to 100 per cent rate. Then we get to the special rate of benefit which I believe under this legislation will be taken out of the scheme. I agree with that. I think the present situation in regard to that rate is ridiculous. Surely the degree of disability should come within the general rate and then those who have very severe disabilities should receive a rate of benefit up to the total and permanent disability rate so that within that whole range of 100 per cent anybody who has a disability can be judged to receive the 100 per cent rate, or the 50 per cent rate and so on. Very few of the allowances, particularly those applying to the totally and permanently incapacitated, are justified. I believe that most of the allowances should be contained within that general rate of 100 per cent.
I repeat that I approve of the proposal that Boer War and 1914-18 War ex-servicemen be included in the scheme for free medical care. I think that at this time it is right that they should receive that assistance. I do not believe that any pensions in this category should be made retrospective. If it is proved that a person’s pension should be raised, it should be raised from the date on which the Bill is passed. It seems to me to be gross discrimination to give retrospectivity to some people and not to others.
I am at a loss to know why the Government says that all of those people who have voluntarily enlisted in the forces and who have completed 3 years service should be entitled to repatriation benefits. I do not believe that this should be the case. They ought to see war service before becoming eligible because if they do not see war service they are covered by the Compensation (Government Employees) Act. Therefore any disability which they sustain through their service in the forces will be compensated for under that Act. I cannot understand why national servicemen, who are not volunteers, should also be entitled in some cases to this benefit. It seems strange that the people who are in receipt of the compensation benefit payable to government employees should also be entitled to the repatriation benefit. However, the Government has explained that a person will not be entitled to receive both, that he can take whichever is the better of the two for him. It seems to me to be a strange and cumbersome way of going about compensating people for their disabilities.
Those are the main points I wish to raise on the Bill. Again I say that I think it is a great pity that the efforts of the Senate Standing Committee on Health and Welfare should be picked about by the Government. Over many months the Committee made a most comprehensive inquiry and the members of the Committee gave of their time and energy. The Government has decided to adopt those recommendations which are favourable but it has decided to disregard for the time being those which weigh up some of the benefits with a more logical approach to the problem. It would have been far better if, when the draft report was ready in May, the public could have seen the whole range of evidence that was covered by the inquiry. Then we could have seen whether the public approved of what the Government is doing. However, having explained my feelings, I support the Bill.
– I desire to indicate that the Australian Democratic Labor Party supports the Bill. The Government is to be congratulated on the improvements which the Bill contains. The increased allowances will be welcomed in a community in which many pensioners no doubt will suffer as a result of the increased cost of living. Having said that we will support the Bill I do not propose to speak at length. I think we should get this legislation through quickly so that the benefits will be available. But I want to mention at the request of a very deserving ex-serviceman who has written to me the question of the special compensation allowance. Even at this late stage when it is obvious that all parties will support the Bill, he and I would hope the Government might look at this. He makes the point in his letter to me that there was no mandate, as far as he can see, for this, that it was not mentioned during the election campaign and that while there might be an argument for action in certain limited cases there are other cases under the special compensation allowance for which he believes it could have been continued. He says that no repatriation pensioner applies for it, that it is granted only if a very strict medical panel so decides, and that in view of the comparatively small amount that would be involved he would like the Government to allow them to retain their $6 a week. I realise that there are many cases which the Government had to take into consideration, but I suppose that incapacitated ex-servicemen perhaps feel these things more strongly than would other people. So I refer the matter to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Bishop). I know that the Minister has a great deal of compassion and I am sure he will look at it. Nevertheless I would like him just to let us know what exactly was the reason for the action taken.
– It would appear as a very serious omission in the record if following the comments which have been made from the Opposition side of the chamber a private member on the Government side did not rise in his place and address some comments to the measure. I am delighted to do so because I think it is a historic Bill incorporating as it does a number of improvements which have been urged for a number of years by the Labor Party when in Opposition, and I am delighted to see that on the assumption of responsibility in office one of the first moves made by this Government was to implement a number of those improvements to the repatriation system which we had been urging for a long while. I think it is a very sensible that we have come to deal with this Bill today, because as I understand it a system is now operating in the land whereby pay and allowances to people on the Government payroll are programmed into a computer and that if there is any delay or impediment to the passage of a measure which is anticipated a great administration problem arises therefrom. So it is a very sensible proposition to deal with this matter today. I commend those on the Opposition side of the chamber who have supported the proposals in this Bill and I am delighted that it would appear that we will pass the measure tonight.
The principal things which attract me to this Bill are these set out in the explanatory memorandum. Firstly, free medical and hospital treatment will be provided for all ex-servicemen of the Boer War and the 1914-18 War. This need will be recalled, I think, by honourable senators who have been here in the past, and it would be a measure of great satisfaction to those who have been with us in the past years and who are not in this chamber now to see that the Parliament is about to pass into legislative form a provision to give treatment in hospitals to the Boer War and First World War veterans. The cost will not amount to very much after all. I was talking to one of my colleagues in the electorate a few days ago and he told me that of 700 members of the 2/40th Battalion, a very famous Tasmanian battalion of the Second World War, only 170 or 180 are alive today. They went through the terrible experience of a prisoner of war camp. So when one talks about giving some benefit to the Boer War and 1914-18 people, one could almost pay it out of one’s own pocket. Still it is a tribute to the Government of the day that it has seen this through and that it is now in legislative form and that it goes into the records of this Parliament that we have acknowledged what was done by the Boer War veterans, if in fact any are alive today, and by those who served in the First World War.
Also ex-servicemen and women who served in a theatre of war and who suffer from malignant cancer will be provided with free medical and hospital treatment for that condition. I recall this being a very lively issue in debates on repatriation issues over past years. I can recall an occasion when it was indicated in the course of debate that there were known to be at that time 27 manifestations of cancer. The Government has decided that, because of the relative obscurity of the origin of this disease in so many instances, it is to be accepted that the experiences of war may well have given rise to the onset of this dreaded disease. So we recognise it. I think it would be a very poor country that did not make some acknowledgement or some concession to the fact that a man or woman who suffers from this disease had served in a war in the defence of this country.
Another matter which pleases me greatly is the fact that artificial limbs are to be provided free from repatriation artificial limb and appliance centres to all amputees in the community who need them. I have advocated this policy because civilian members of the community who are amputees are in very serious financial difficulty. It is bad enough to have the impediment of the loss of a limb and to try to carry on a normal existence in this way without having to incur the very heavy expense of the provision of artificial limbs- arms, legs, artificial foot supports and so on.
– Do you agree that a sales tax exemption for people with a loss of legs should be looked at to make it work more efficiently?
– Quite frankly, I would think that that would be a very sensible thing. As a matter of fact, I can recall -
– There are some up in your area -
-I know. I think that the honourable senator’s point is well taken. I can recall that about 5 years ago I wrote to Mr Wentworth, who was the Minister for Social Services at the time, as well as to the then Ministers for Repatriation and Health and suggested that there could well be a conference of the 3 ministries to determine some means of making available the facilities of the artificial limb sections of the Department of Repatriation to civilian people in the community who are very seriously handicapped. They have the handicap in the first place. If we can, within the system of government and within the institutions that we have set up, provide some ways of ameliorating the problems of these people I think this would be a sensible thing to do. To look at the problem in this way seems to me to be the hallmark of an enlightened society. I am sure that if honourable senators look at this matter, as I am sure they have done, they will see that under this new system there will be no diminution of benefit to the ex-serviceman whatsoever. Rather, there will be an extension of the range of these services to the civilians who need them.
Within the last 6 months 2 civilians have come to me and pointed out the very serious monetary disadvantages they have had because they have undertaken from their own resources- and they have been limited resources- the provision of these special aids to enable them to take their part in a reasonable way in society around them. So I am delighted to see this extension of repatriation services.
– Do you agree that a sales tax exemption should be given for the purchase of motor vehicles?
– This provision is’ given now. Of course I would not take that away from them.
– It needs extending, though, I would suggest.
– That may well be too. The repatriation benefits will be extended to members of the regular defence force. This is a sensible move, too. I suppose that every honourable senator in this chamber who is related in any way to the community knows of many young people who were in the national service and who were injured in some way or suffered some disability in some way but who were not covered by repatriation benefits and were very seriously disadvantaged. It is a travesty to think that a government could take those people out of the community, select them by ballot as previous governments did and put them into situations where they suffered injury and then left them to the mercy of the waves, as it were. Some of these people are still suffering very serious disabilities. At the moment they get very little in the way of compensation, if they are to carry on their normal functions in the community. The only time they get any compensation whatever is when they are out of the work force and are hospitalised or are treated for their injuries. There is no acknowledgement of the fact that they suffered a physical or mental diminution of capacity. There is no compensation as is provided to ex-servicemen and women under the repatriation system.
The admission of civilian patients to repatriation hospitals will be authorised, but only to the extent that facilities are available. I think that this again is a reasonable provision. Statutory authorities giving determinations under the repatriation system will be required to give the reasons for their decisions. This is a matter which has caused me very great concern over a great number of years. I do not know what the system is in other States but in Tasmania those of us who are not members of the legal profession are frequently called upon to appear as advocates before an entitlement tribunal or the tribunal which determines the degree of incapacity. As 1 say I have gone before those tribunals times out of number and I have been distressed by the fact that decisions have been given against the person whom I have represented and no reason whatsoever has been forthcoming to justify the rejection of the appeal by the tribunal.
- Senator Rae suggests that that may be overcome if a few lawyers could look after their claims instead of unskilled people.
– Quite frankly I am not against that at all. I think that if it is fair enough for a person to be represented in a civil court by a member who is trained in the profession of advocacy I cannot see any reason why a personespecially one elected by the people of the countrywho has those qualifications should not go before the tribunal. I can recall being checked on one occasion because I said something about justice not only being done but being seen to be done and immediately the chairman pulled me up and asked: ‘You are not a lawyer, are you’? That meant that the person concerned might very well have been denied the higher level of advocacy which could have been available to him from a trained member of the legal profession. My approach to this matter is that nothing is too good for an ex-serviceman going before a repatriation tribunal of one or the other kind. Nothing is too good for him because he did not make any reservations when he signed on the dotted line. Despite what Senator Dame Nancy Buttfield said- I know the sense in which she offered the comments about Dr Whiting- I think there are some pretty grave shortcomings not only on the part of the ex-service applicants but also those people who are cheating the system, who are feeding on the disabilities from which these people are suffering. I do not think that I need go into that any further because I have raised it on another occasion.
Let us not forget that there are ex-members of the Services who feel that they are suffering some disability. Recently it was pointed out to me when we were talking about a health scheme that many people who use the scheme ought not to be using it. A very wise person in that field said to me: ‘But do you not think, Senator, that anybody who is continually running to a doctor needs some sort of medical attention anyway?’ I think that is a good point. One can judge whether a person is fair dinkum when he comes to you and says: ‘I have this disability and I want to go before the repatriation tribunal. ‘ Let me give an instance at the expense of perhaps delaying this debate a little because I think it is worth putting on record.
Recently a man came to me who had served in the Middle East and in Greece. Those of us who have any consciousness of what happened in those dark days of the war will know that the situation was very tangled. This man found himself detached from his unit in the Desert and put with an odds and sods unit which went to Greece. There was no record of what happened to him. He was hospitalised during the course of that campaign. We know that it was suggested to those people who were ambulatory in the campaign in Greece that if possible they make their way to the coast. This gentleman of an infantry battalion was attached to a British Army unit. No records were kept of anything that happened to him in the course of his service in Greece. He eventually got back but only after he had been hospitalised. I have no doubt in my mind that that man had been hospitalised.
The repatriation system provides that if there is an absence of evidence- there certainly was here- to support any claim that a person was in hospital and if he can obtain evidence from some of his colleagues in writing to the effect that he was hospitalised, then that evidence would be taken into account. In the course of reading this person’s medical precis I was amazed to find the observation that there was no evidence to support the fact that he had had a medical condition. It was a bronchial condition. I put to the tribunal the evidence in writing of two of his former colleagues. They knew that he had been in hospital but they did not know the reason why. There was an absence of any sort of record as to the condition which put him in hospital. I said to the tribunal: ‘Look, gentlemen, the system provides that where there is an absence of medical evidence the only thing which can work in a person’s favour is evidence from some of his colleagues that he was there. ‘ Now there was the evidence- clear, distinct and irrefutable. The evidence was all destroyed or taken. I do not know what happened to it because, as I say, he was detached and put with a British Army unit. So there was the evidence, clear, distinct and irrefutable. I said to the chairman and members of the tribunal: ‘Gentlemen, if you reject this evidence you have to call this man’s colleagues liars. That is the clear implication in any rejection of this application. ‘ In due course word came back that the application for acceptance of this disability as a war caused disability had been rejected. If one could get to the basis of the rejection I would imagine that it would be almost at variance with the repatriation system and certainly contrary to the onus of proof provisions of the Repatriation Act.
I could recite many cases of a similar type involving people who have been prisoners of war and have suffered disabilities, people whose records have been destroyed or have not been kept. This makes it extremely difficult. It is almost a travesty that where there is an absence of evidence because of the exigencies of war people should miss out on a legitimate claim for repatriation assistance. Now we have written into the Repatriation Act the right to require that the reasons for rejection of the claim shall be forthcoming to the applicant. In his second reading speech the Minister sets out the terms of these provisions. I note that there will be a gradually increasing availability of them to appellants. But I hope, and I make this suggestion to the Minister, that where an advocate or the ex-member believes that he should be told of the reason for the rejection of his application, and if the application is a simple one, the reasons should be made available to him. Until the system gets into full gear this should be done. I do not want to go any deeper into the Bill. It is obvious that it will be passed. I am delighted to have had the opportunity to stand and address my comments to the Senate. The whole question of repatriation has worried me since 1946. Maybe we have a long way to go yet.
– Is it not a half baked proposal that the Bill proposes?
– It is a hell of a lot better than the proposals the previous Government put up. It beats them hollow. Apparently Senator Greenwood -
– He is provoking you.
– If Senator Greenwood wants to provoke me he can cop it back. Obviously Senator Greenwood has not read the terms of the second reading speech because it points out clearly that this is the beginning of a system which will give to ex-servicemen that to which they are entitled but never got under the previous Government.
– in reply- I thank honourable senators who have taken part in the debate for the constructive contributions they have made. Senator Rae who led for the Opposition in the debate made 2 points which I cannot answer at the present. He referred to the member of Parliament who happens to be a legal practitioner. As he and I well know, under the present Repatriation Act it is impossible for that member to represent an appellant. I suggest that the 2 committees which have been referred to, should consider this point. I do not know what the Senate Standing Committee on Health and Welfare recommended although Senator Dame Nancy Buttfield presumes that I do. We all know that Mr Justice Toose is working on his report, but it will not be available until April or March next year. I presume that that matter at least will be one of the matters on which he will express some view.
– Can you ensure that he will?
– I do not know. I can say only that the Government is resting on the advice of its committees and that when the committees make the reports the Government will consider whatever recommendations are made. Senator Dame Nancy Buttfield ‘s contributions were directed only to the general issues relative to her interests and to the Committee’s recommendations. She pointed out that she had been interested in particular aspects of the system. In that respect I think her arguments were rather general and do not require any particular reference by me, except to say that I do not believe that the Government is making a political bribe when it includes in the legislation provision for repatriation benefits for serving members of the Services. As Senator Dame Nancy Buttfield explained, they have an option. They can get the best of either the Compensation Act or the Repatriation Act. They cannot get both. To me it is quite consistent with what we are doing in the repatriation field. It must be consistent with what any government does. Those who are serving ought to be entitled to repatriation benefits because we have a highly specialised and efficient hospital organisation, and why should not those serving be entitled to accommodation in that hospital system? As the honourable senator knows, at the present time we allow serving members to be accommodated in those hospitals. So I do not agree with what Senator Dame Nancy Buttfield suggests, but I appreciate the sort of thinking that she has given to the question. I think that her references would be more appropriate in the debate which might arise when the reports of the 2 committees that I have mentioned are presented.
asked me a question about the defence forces retirement benefits scheme which does not come into this question at all. I undertake to provide him with an answer in writing, as I undertook to do when that matter was discussed. I refer to what Senator McManus said about the special compensation allowance. We have taken the view that our approach to the question of this allowance ought to be the one put to us by the Returned Services League and some other organisations, that is, that merely to provide increases for those in special categories who received the 75 per cent to 100 per cent rate is not to meet the obligation to increase the basic pensions. We made that point in 1 968 when the previous Government introduced this special compensation allowance. We made the point that in our opinion- and it was an opinion shared by the ex-service organisations and, frankly, I must say that we ought to be guided by what they say, we are so guided at the present time, and I cannot see any reason why people should object to the advice given by ex-service organisations because to me they are the trade union in this area -
– But is that a good enough reason for not objecting?
-No, it is not, and I see that Senator Greenwood is not listening. He just wants to butt in, as he usually does, before the argument has been finished. That is one of the reasons; that is a related reason. What I am putting to the Senate is that in 1968 the previous Government introduced the special compensation allowance because it was not prepared to grant increases to the vast majority of pensionersthose 190,000 pensioners who were entitled to an increase- and for more than 5 years the previous Government continued its policy of not increasing the pensions of that category of pensioners. It decided to increase the pensions of those who received the 75 per cent to 100 per cent rate. As a result of that action the previous Government received protests not only from the Australian Labor Party but also from the RSL. We asked then, as we do now: How do you make a distinction between those who are 70 per cent incapacitated and those who are 75 per cent incapacitated?
What we said then- and we announced it before the last elections- was that when we applied our repatriation policy we would ensure that those special categories of pensions were related to the minimum wage and that all pensions were increased. That is what we are doing at the present time. Our bill for about 12 months for what we are currently doing is $22m. We are providing benefits for everyone. The benefits are extensive. They have been outlined by other honourable senators who have spoken in this debate. I thank those honourable senators for their contributions, and leave my comments at that.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
-I wish to draw attention to one short point. I note that in this legislation, as in the social services legislation, it is proposed that the increases should apply from the date on which the legislation receives royal assent. I also note that for a considerable number of years the present Government, whilst in Opposition, asserted that proposed increases in social service and repatriation benefits should be backdated to the date of the presentation of the Budget. I raise with the Minister the question why, when in the position to do so, the Government does not do what it castigated us for not doing.
– I have listened to the debate on this Bill. I did not intervene because I knew that a speedy passage was required. Having regard to the nature of one or two of the speeches, I wish to be heard to say briefly that, firstly, Mr Justice Toose, as the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Bishop) has said, is conducting an inquiry into the principles of repatriation. Secondly, this Bill is assimilating repatriation to civil compensation both in the giving of benefits to the peacetime soldier and the giving of an option between repatriation benefits and the civilian workers compensation. Thirdly, Mr Justice Woodhouse is conducting an inquiry as to general compensation for injury. I make a plea that all these matters be brought onto a basis of equity as between various sections of beneficiaries. Then I believe that the country will have something to be proud of. To have repatriation on the basis of social services- on the basic wage- irrespective of loss and economic loss is a long standing disgrace. I do not mean to distemper what I have to say, which is a plea that the inquiries of Mr Justice Toose and
Mr Justice Woodhouse and the idea incorporated in this Bill of an equality between war service and civilian service ought to be brought onto a basis on which the relevant sections of beneficiaries get equality on a comparable basis of principle. That is my submission.
– I wish to reply briefly to both Senator Rae and Senator Wright. I thank both honourable senators for their comments. I think that the answer to Senator Rae’s point is that we have promised 2 increases. We promised one increase- the one in the present Bill- and we promised to adjust the rate in the early part of next year. So, I do not see how we could backdate this increase.
– When in Opposition you said that the increases should be backdated. That is not your contention now.
– The honourable senator should consider the purport of his interjection. We have carried out a massive reform in the social service field, particularly in relation to repatriation.
– Words cannot make a Bill what it is not.
– I do not know. I think that we are the only Government since I have been a member of the Senate which has received from the Returned Services League of Australia a commendation for the speedy application of what it has put forward. We adopted its submissions almost in toto. I have a letter from the National Secretary of the RSL which says exactly that. It congratulates the Government.
– Why not read it?
-It is there. I will read it, if the honourable senator wishes, so that it will be in the record. I should at this stage read it so that no one will think that I was fabricating it. It is from the Returned Services League of Australia, dated 4 September 1973, to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). It reads:
Dear Prime Minister,
Following the announcement of major improvements in repatriation provisions announced in your Government’s 1973 Budget, the National President issued a press release expressing the League’s appreciation. The Press release was as follows:
Repatriation provisions contained in the Budget, coupled with improvements introduced earlier in the year, have provided historic advances in the repatriation system. ‘
The National President of the RSL, Sir Arthur Lee, said this in commenting on the Budget in Canberra today. Sir Arthur said that repatriation medical and hospital treatment for ex-servicemen from the First World War and the Boer War, and the automatic acceptance of cancer, had for many years been major RSL objectives. The League was delighted to see that the Government had provided for these in the Budget.
An increase in the special rate (TPI) pension to the minimum wage level within 12 months was also welcome and increases in the lower levels of the general rate pension were a necessary step in rationalising the general rate scale. ‘The only major RSL request still outstanding in repatriation is the introduction of a system for the automatic adjustment of compensation levels in Une with any change in the minimum wage ‘, said Sir Arthur.
He said the RSL congratulated the Government on the introduction of long overdue measures which were in line with promises the Prime Minister had made during the election campaign.
I have pleasure in conveying the contents of this statement to you and on behalf of the RSL saying how much your Government’s efforts for the service and ex-service communities are appreciated.
With kind regards.
It is signed by Mr A. G. W. Keys.
I am fully conscious of the logic of the propositions raised by Senator Wright. I know that at some stage there has to be some sort of general equity in relation to all the fields which he mentioned. The inquiries which are being held will, I think, lay the basis for consideration by the Government. Like other honourable senators, I have long been an outspoken speaker on repatriation matters and have been very consious of its compensation characteristics, if I could use that phrase. I think that the situation will be more open to the sort of trends about which Senator Wright spoke as a result of the inquiries now obtaining.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Bishop) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 18 September (vide page 625), on motion by Senator Bishop:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-This Bill was debated cognately with the Repatriation Bill (No. 3). All that remains are the formalities so far as we are concerned.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 18 September (vide page 626), on motion by Senator Bishop:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-This Bill was also debated cognately with the Repatriation Bill (No. 3), and the relevant remarks of the Opposition were made during the cognate debate. We have nothing further to add.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 20 September (vide page 778), on motion by Senator Murphy:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Senate is continuing the debate on the Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill 1973, the effect of which is to insert into the Constitution a paragraph which the Government seeks to give it power over prices. I put it to the Senate that the Australian people will reject this proposition for 8 main reasons. The first reason for which they will reject it is because it has been proven beyond doubt over past decades that such a power is totally unnecessary. Therefore, it ought not to be given. Over almost the whole of 2 decades the previous Liberal-Country Party Government maintained stability of prices with an average rate of inflation of 2.5 per cent, the lowest rate in the world, without the necessity for any centralisation of power over prices. So on point No. 1 the Australian people will reject this Bill.
The second point on which they will reject is because the Government is putting to the Parliament an open-ended, undefined and highly dangerous proposition. It has refused to define what it means by the word ‘prices’. It has refused to give any de-limiting meaning to that word. No one call tell us whether control over prices means control over prices, wages, dividends and rents, and the Government is unwilling to provide the answer. So the proposition will be resisted because it is an open-ended bid for centralised power. A socialist government- the Whitlam Government- seeking more centralised power is, in effect, like an alcoholic asking for another drink. The answer is no; both are besotted already. No one willingly would centralise more power.
A third reason is that the Australian people will be entitled to conclude on all evidence on all sides that the granting of this power and its use is not in itself the answer to the problem of inflation. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) himself has said that this would not, in fact, be a solution to inflation. I draw to the attention of the Senate the remarks of Sir Roland Wilson which were widely reported today. He was formerly Deputy Secretary of the Treasury and would be expressing the authoritative views of people in Australia who have economic forethought. He said:
While direct control of prices and incomes may be effective for limited periods, there are dangers in too great or too prolonged an interference with normal market mechanisms.
In other words, Sir Roland Wilson is putting a warning to the people of Australia against giving centralised powers permanently. The fourth reason that the Bill should be rejected is because it was not foreshadowed and no mandate was given. All that the Labor Party said during the election was that it needed no more powers.
Fifthly, I say it should be rejected Because the Bill has been presented, quite corruptly, as being a means of bringing about price stabilisation before Christmas. In point of fact, it will create, by threat of a freeze, around Christmas, a great upsurge in prices across the board. Even if a yes vote were cast in a referendum, the Government could not act on it until January or February. So it is a corrupt view point which is presented when it is said that it could function by Christmas. The sixth reason for saying that the Bill should be rejected as a means of control is because the whole of history indicates that powers sought by referendum will be rejected. The people of Australia almost invariably say no. Therefore, to put to the people at this moment a proposition that the solution to their major problem- inflationlies in centralisation of powers, is improper. The seventh reason is that the Prime Minister has made it clear that he did not want these powers and that he did not think they would be useful. He is now placed in a situation in which he is forced by his Caucus to do something that he does not want to do.
But above everything- this is the eighth and main point I make- is the fact that inflation will get out of control entirely in the months immediately ahead unless the Government acts now. If the Government does not act now, if it waits for the result of a referendum, whether it be success or failure,’ by December inflation will be running at an average rate of approximately 20 per cent because this Government, by its own initiative, has poured petrol on the flames of inflation. It has now set off 2 streams of inflationary fire. The first stream is that of higher interest rates. Day by day the merchant banks and the lending houses are putting up their rates of interest, by 1 per cent, 1.5 percent and 2 per cent The latter people are now being forced to pay dearer and dearer interest rates. So as we approach Christmas the action of this Government is forcing up the price of all commodities for the little people. But a Government which says to the people ‘In a few months time we will freeze prices’, is a government which invites people to put up prices ahead of the freeze. So we have 2 streams of inflation, the recent interest rate levels throughout the community and a warning to people that they had better get in before the freeze because by the Christmas period we will have an inflationary rise of 20 per cent and higher. If this Government does not act now, if it does not cast aside the pretence of a referendum, then it has abdicated its responsibility. It should, here and now, set about calling a conference of Federal and State governments, industry and trade unions. The Prime Minister promised that he would do this, but he is now running away from it.
This Government should be seeking now a restraint across the board of prices and incomes. Undoubtedly, it would get this. It should be seeking it, and if it fails to get it, it should be asking the States for a temporary restraint or freeze, the very kind of thing which Sir Roland Wilson undoubtedly is foreshadowing and which, in fact, is the kind of policy that our own leader, Mr Snedden, has advocated. Why is the Government not calling a conference with the representatives of the banks, the merchant banks and the hire purchase companies? Why is the Government not seeking to obtain, by ordinary consent agreement, an order of priorities for the development of works in Australia in a time of scarcity of human resources? Why is the Government not seeking by ordinary co-operation to do these things? Why have not we had an announcement of an increase in the intake of migrants? Why, with the steel works and all the basic industries short of labour, is the Government continuing to create scarcity and therefore, by its own actions, inflation?
I stress to the Parliament that for the Government to say to the people of Australia that it wants them to carry a referendum because it will be a major solution to inflation is to create an illusion. Firstly, it will be an illusion in time. Even if the Government gets the power- and this request has been rejected in the past by the people of Australia- it could not act for 3 months, until after Christmas. Even if the Government got the power, all worthwhile economists say that that power of itself would not solve the problem. So the Government is creating an illusion which it knows is an illusion.
What must be done is that action must be taken now. Voluntary effort, voluntary restraint, should be the first bid. If that cannot be obtained, there should be mirror legislation, by co-operative federalism on the part of the Federal and State governments, to bring about temporary restraint. A banking conference should be held and there should be an increase in immigration. There must be a re-scheduling of priorities so that our work forces operate in the productive area. Those are the elementary things. A failure to do this is a failure of government. I can only warn that, as throughout history, the people of Australia very rightly will vote against the centralisation of powers. They certainly will do so now as a result of this open-ended request for powers. I warn that if we, as a Parliament, rest on the assumption that the seeking and obtaining of these powers will solve our problems, Australia will be brought in the new year to a chronic state of inflation which, with the shrinking of growth for a variety of reasons by the middle of next year in my view will reach a state of chronic stagflation. We will start getting unemployment and bitterness and rigidity into the system. The Labor Government, as self inflicted wounds, will produce in Australia the evils that we have seen in Great Britain and the United States.
I conclude by saying that this inflation was deliberately brought about by the Labor Government. Inflation was on the downturn when the Liberal-Country Party coalition left the Government benches. It was then running at 4.7 per cent but it now is running at 1 3 per cent or 1 4 per cent. This Bill, on the Prime Minister’s own say so, is no solution. This, on the Prime Minister’s own say so, is not something that will solve the problem. I appeal to Government members to return to their Cabinet and then present to the people of Australia a constructive blueprint of fiscal and economic ideas which will tackle prices tomorrow, not in one month’s time or 2 months’ time. Above everything else, I ask the Government to take back its suggestion that it can do something to control Christmas prices. Nothing could have more inflamed the upsurge of prices of goods for Christmas than the admission that the Government proposed to impose a freeze before Christmas. That it cannot do. I say that on all grounds such a proposition to centralise all power would be and should be rejected by the people of Australia. We are debating the wrong mechanisms. I call upon the Government to get back to the drawing board, to get back to the economic and fiscal measures and not to wait even for days to tackle what is now a growing emergency- inflation throughout the whole of Australia.
-This debate on the Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill is one of the most amazing debates that I have witnessed in the Senate. The Government has put this measure forward as being one of the greatest national importance. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) declared that it was a matter of urgency, yet for most of last Thursday and again tonight not one Government member has been prepared to defend this Bill. Not one member of the Government has been prepared to explain and answer the many queries which Opposition members have put forward. One can only imagine that Government supporters are so demoralised and in such a state of depair because of their own internal conflicts that they feel it is safer to remain seated and deny to themselves the right to speak. I say it is extraordinary that the Government is not prepared to debate a matter of such importance. Last week Senator Carrick raised some fairly vital questions. There is some query as to the definition of the word ‘prices’. What does that word mean? At page 772 of Hansard Senator Carrick is reported as having asked these questions:
Does the word ‘prices’ include dividends? Does it include rents? Does it include charges? Does it include the price of services? Does it include the price of work? These are matters about which it is imperative that the Government tell this Parliament if it expects any consideration of this measure.
He then invited some member of the Government to tell us about these things. All we have had from the Government is silence. Quite obviously the Government is not prepared to tell us, and through us the people of Australia, or it does not know what that word means.
– I can give you a copy of Hansard -
– The honourable senator interjects. He has the chance to get up and tell us instead of sitting there like a dumb cluck. Stand up and tell us instead of just sitting there. It is no use just interjecting. We have had many speeches by way of interjections but no Government supporter has been prepared to get up and make a speech. Let us have the Government’s views in a speech, not by way of stupid interjections. Senator O’Byrne talks about gabbling but let him stand up and do a bit of gabbling himself. I admit that there are arguments about whether any long term power over prices and incomes should reside with a national parliament. There are differing views on this question. Let me make it quite clear that I certainly would not agree to giving any further powers to a Government such as this which has shown itself to be incompetent in managing the economy and to a Prime Minister who has shown quite clearly his inability to understand economics or even to lead his Party. This mad gallop by the Government towards centralising all powers has to be stopped. I believe that if this Bill passes the Senate the people of Australia will indicate clearly that they are not prepared to give any further powers to a government such as we have today. Leadership of the Government is surrounded by confusion. Its leadership is indecisive. There is a lack of precision, fumbling and irresponsibility.
What I have said is illustrated in many ways and I invite the Senate to consider briefly one example. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) announced that there would be an increase in interest rates. Leaving aside for the moment the decision of Caucus to override the Prime Minister, for days and, indeed, for weeks the whole of the financial and business world of Australia was in confusion. It did not know whether in fact interest rates would rise or, if they did, by how much. The whole of the finance and business world of Australia was left in confusion by the indecisiveness and lack of leadership of this Government. Indeed, the confusion caused by the Government’s indecisiveness has been so great that the Prime Minister has lost credibility not only within his own Party but also within the Australian community.
We are the first to admit that inflation and its effects upon the people of Australia are of the utmost and the gravest importance. We recognise that inflation is a world wide trend. It has been evident for many years. Yet despite that trend the much maligned previous governments of Australia maintained a rate of inflation below that of any other developed country, and in spite of all the external pressures. The present Government took office in a period in which Treasury has stated there was a downward trend in prices. That was in November-December of last year. But because of the Government’s reckless management of the economy inflation today is out of hand. It is rising at a rate of 1 2 per cent to 13 per cent per annum. There are many reasons for this rise. One, of course, is the tremendous increase of some 18.9 per cent in public spending, together with a vicious attack on the productive, mining, business and rural sectors of the economy. Indeed, the whole of industry generally has been attacked.
Senator Carrick, in his speech in the Budget debate, outlined 6 points which have had a major effect on the present rate of inflation. He referred to the great increase in indirect taxation, the alarming increase in the growth of the Public Service which is the non-productive area of the economy, and reduced migration which has encouraged unrestrained demands for wage increases. Despite the boasting of the Labor Party prior to the election that it could handle the trade unions, industrial unrest is at an all time high. It has never been higher. One can only be amused at Senator Bishop’s wriggling when he was challenged on this point today. He referred to the failure of the Opposition in the Senate to pass the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. He was challenged on his statement that all of the strikes which are taking place today are the result of that Bill not being passed. Of course, he wriggled and dodged and would not answer the challenge. The only strike he referred to specifically involved a demarcation dispute on the wharves some time ago. The fact is that the industrial disputes which are disrupting New South Wales as well as the air transport of Australia have nothing whatever to do with the passing of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. Industrial lawlessness has been encouraged by this Government. Finally comes the whole question of interest rates.
Until the Government starts to preach that one of the major factors to combat inflation is increased productivity and until it starts to attack this problem instead of encouraging lower productivity we can never hope to overcome this problem. Essential production is being discouraged. The mining industry in Australia, which is one of the great export income earning industries, is being threatened by the extraordinary and stupid policies of the so-called Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor). There is in the community today a lack of confidence, and this situation has not been helped by the vicious attack made in South Australia during the weekend by the Prime Minister on the finance and business community. There is general confusion within the community in relation to the Government’s policies. Indeed, according to the Leader of the Government in the Senate this legislation will provide the whole solution to the problem, because he tried to declare it urgent so that it would be passed quickly.
Recently the Prime Minister himself cast doubts on the effectiveness of price control. With that we agree. The Leader of the Opposition, Mr Snedden, advocated a temporary freeze- I think a 90-day freeze- on prices and incomes. He proposed that the Prime Minister- he offered to lend his goodwill to this proposal- should meet with the State Premiers to seek their co-operation in having their powers in relation to prices referred to the Commonwealth for a limited period. The Premiers of New South Wales and Victoria responded and said that providing certain conditions were met and certain undertakings were given they were prepared to discuss this matter with the Prime Minister. Of course, there was no response from the Prime Minister because he was not interested in this proposal. He was interested only in centralised power.
We recognise that the problem today is so great that immediate action is required, and the immediate action required is the calling of a conference with the State Premiers to seek a referral of their powers on prices. If they agree to this proposal and if the Prime Minister is less arrogant and less dominating, providing certain conditions are met and certain undertakings are given, I have no doubt that these powers will be referred to the Commonwealth for a limited period so that the Commonwealth can act immediately. Under this legislation the Commonwealth cannot act immediately. If the legislation is passed a referendum cannot be held until December at the earliest. One would imagine that the legislation would not be effective until perhaps January or even February. So some four or five months would elapse before the Government could take action and in that time the situation could worsen considerably and could well get out of hand. The Prime Minister should be honest in relation to this matter. Surely he will agree that immediate action is needed. Such immediate action can be obtained by the Premiers agreeing to refer their powers to the Commonwealth. It is rather interesting that the Leader of the Opposition has proposed a 90-day freeze. This proposition is supported, as Senator Carrick mentioned, by no less an authority than Sir Roland Wilson who is a former Secretary of the Treasury. He has pointed out the dangers of too long an interference with the price mechanism. He is reported today in the Press of Australia as saying that direct controls might be effective for limited periods. This is what the Leader of the Opposition proposed. He proposed that there should be controls for a limited period to enable more substantial measures to be taken. Sir Roland Wilson is reported to have said further that there were dangers in too great or too prolonged an interference with normal market mechanisms. He continued, and I think he is being optimistic:
This appears to be recognised by all political parties.
Distortions and inefficiencies in the allocation of resources could easily result from continued efforts to control prices and incomes. This could give rise to a situation in which innovation, enterprise and effort could be stultified.
In other words, Sir Roland believes there is merit only in limited control for a limited period. This is exactly the policy which the Opposition through its Leader has put forward. Let us look at the extraordinary situation in which the Government has been placed. The sequence of events is this: Firstly, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) dismissed the effectiveness of price control. Then Mr Hawke came up to see him and the very next day the Prime Minister announced that he would be moving legislation for a referendum to control prices, and he gave the Australian Parliament and the people of Australia an assurance from Mr Hawke that if these controls were successful the unions would exercise wage restraint. But Mr Hawke soon dismissed this, because Mr Hawke said he had given no such assurance, and, in a moment of sarcasm, he said he could no more control the trade unions than the Prime Minister could control his Caucus. So one or the other was telling an untruth. The Prime Minister at his Press conference refused to comment any further on it- and I will come to that in moment. Mr Whitlam was asked in the House of Representatives by the Leader of the Opposition a question concerning Mr Hawke ‘s assurance and his reply was very interesting, because having given Mr Hawke ‘s assurance, he now started to double-track. He said:
There was no discussion on this. It was only a passing reference.
It seems extraordinary that a Prime Minister would give an assurance based on a passing reference. So the mystery remains. But he was then asked by the Leader of the Opposition whether he would accept the offer if the States were prepared to refer powers for a limited period so that the Commonwealth could legislate on prices and incomes, and Mr Whitlam replied- and this is obviously on off-the-cuff comment, which is even more extraordinary for a Prime Minister- as reported at page 1 128 of the House of Representatives Hansard:
I will certainly accept on behalf of the Government any reference of powers by the States. To be precise, I would accept a reference of powers over prices and incomes or prices alone.
He accepted this on behalf of the Government. Then, as we know, he went to the Caucus- and the rest is history; by 45 votes to 42 Caucus overthrew him. So he had to come back and eat humble pie. Now we have legislation for prices alone despite the fact that the Prime Minister did not believe in it, did not believe it would be effective. Not only does the Prime Minister not believe it to be effective but the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) also does not believe it to be effective. Unfortunately he is out of the country, otherwise he might teach Mr Whitlam and the Labor Caucus some economic common sense. In a speech on 22 February Dr Cairns said this:
Wage control without price control is contrary to common sense, a distortion of justice -
That is interesting, a distortion of justice - and an inevitable cause of conflict and a deep sense of grievance.
That is the view of the No. 3 in the Ministry, Dr Cairns. He went on to say- and I will not quote him in full- that in his view there was no doubt that the Commonwealth Government had power to do this, and he criticised the former Government for avoiding doing it because it said it lacked the constitutional power to do it. So we have Dr Cairns making his position quite clearand I invite the Minister at the table (Senator Cavanagh) to dispute what Dr Cairns said.
– Of course I will not dispute what Dr Cairns said.
- Senator Cavanagh has a chance to do it, to dispute what Dr Cairns said.
– No, I have not. I have already spoken in the debate.
– Well, if Senator Cavanagh says that Dr Cairns was correct, then he is wrong now, because Dr Cairns not only said that it was contrary to common sense but also- and this should strike a chord in Senator Cavanagh ‘s heart- that it was a distortion of justice and an inevitable cause of conflict and a deep sense of grievance. So the Government has to answer that one. Obviously a number of members of the Government Caucus agree with Dr Cairns but they are in a minority. The ‘Australian’, which one cannot argue has been a friend of the Opposition partiesindeed, it has been one of the greatest supporters of the present Government both prior to 2 December and since- is obviously becoming very disillusioned with this Government and particularly with the antics of the Prime Minister be* cause a leader in the ‘Australian’ of 19 September was headlined: ‘PM Cant Wriggle Off Hook’. The editorial began thus:
It was embarrassing to see the nation’s Prime Minister squirming as Mr Whitlam had to at yesterday’s Press conference . .
Mr Whitlam was squirming for 2 reasons: the invidious position in which his own Party has put him and what can now be seen as the unsure way he has handled this position.
First there is the business of Mr R. J. Hawke. Late last week, stuck with a price control referendum bill he didn’t want . . .
And now we are told it is an urgent measure- . . Mr Whitlam gave an assurance both as Prime Minister and spiritual head -
That is interesting- of the union movement that, if price control proved effective, the unions would act voluntarily to restrain or moderate wage demands.
At the weekend it emerged that this assurance was based on a Wednesday night conversation with Mr Hawke . . .
And Mr Hawke, feeling some hot breath down his neck, on the Monday- denied that he had promised anything in that conversation. Mr Hawke observed, with typical but telling sarcasm -
That is good stuff- that he could not deliver the ACTU any more than Mr Whitlam could deliver the Parliamentary Caucus.
Mr Hawke ‘s renunciation came after Mr Whitlam had told Parliament that Mr Hawke ‘s assurance of wage-restraint cooperation had come that Wednesday night in ‘a passing reference’.
A passing reference!
The Press was naturally agog yesterday with Mr Whitlam ‘s relationship with Mr Hawke, who is, after all, president of the Labor Party as well as the ACTU. But Mr Whitlam wouldand, indeed, could-only say: ‘I have nothing to add to what I said yesterday.’
So here we have the situation in which a socalled Prime Minister gave an assurance to the Parliament that the trade unions would cooperatean assurance given at the same time by the President of the ACTU, who is also the President of the Labor Party- and the next day having to eat humble pie and crawl. This has led, of course, to other comments. The leading article in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ of Thursday, 20 September 1 973, was headed: ‘ Whitlam ‘s failure in leadership’. The article pointed out that the great Labor leaders of the past, such as Mr Curtin and Mr Chifley, were able to control their Caucus. I am looking around the chamber at the few odd members of the Labor Caucus who are interested in this debate on a measure of such great urgency. We are very critical of the present Prime Minister’s complete inability to control Caucus. The article stated:
The plain fact is that Mr Whitlam is failing lamentably to carry his Party with him- the essential criterion of the leadership shown by Mr Curtin and Mr Chifley- and, so failing, must seriously damage public confidence in his ability to formulate and implement coherent and consistent policies. If he cannot manage his own party, how can he expect to sustain confidence that he can manage the economy?
The article then went on to criticise Mr Whitlam ‘s claim that he is simply the victim of his Party’s democratic instincts. The article stated:
The attitudes he himself has struck this month over prices powers, incomes powers and a prices and incomes policy have been variously devious, wavering or obscure.
What more damning indictment could editorials appearing in the ‘Australian ‘ and ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ newspapers give of a Prime Minister than that?
The Prime Minister reminds me of the famous Duke of Plaza Toro- who led his army from the rear. The Prime Minister never made any attempt, according to the leaks in the Caucus, to put his view last week. No longer does he lead from the front; he now leads from the rear. No doubt he is frightened to be out in front because there may well be a rusty knife put in his back. The plain facts are that if the Government is really concerned about prices, the quickest and the most effective means of dealing with this problem is to call a conference of State Premiers and to put the facts before them plainly and simply. We already have had an assurance that the Premiers will listen. But they will not listen to arrogance. They will not listen to a Prime Minister, who, frustrated by his own inability to carry his Party, wishes to override them. What the Prime Minister should try to achieve is cooperation. If he has this he will achieve these powers not in 4 or 5 months time but very much sooner. As Senator Carrick mentioned the Prime Minister should call a conference of the business, financial and industrial communities of Australia to discuss this matter. The Prime Minister has made no attempt to do this and to seek their cooperation. All he has done is to attack them in a most vicious manner. What we want is not arrogance but co-operation- if you like, a cooperative federalism.
The plain fact is that the Premiers do not trust the Prime Minister. I speak here not only of the Liberal or Country Party Premiers but of the Labor Premiers. If we take note of the increasing criticism of the Federal Government being made by the Labor Premiers, particularly by the Premier of Western Australia, we can take it that they no longer trust the Prime Minister of Australia. Why should they trust him when he has failed so miserably to control his own Ministers who shoot off on all sorts of tangents. Presumably the Ministers reach some decision in Cabinet. They go into Caucus and one of the Ministers who has taken part in the Cabinet discussions and decisions moves a motion of disagreement with the Cabinet decision. The Ministers are careering in all directions. Perhaps, as someone has suggested, the Prime Minister should stay at home and try to exercise some discipline over his Ministers and his Party. There is no acceptance of ministerial responsibility or ministerial solidarity. Such a Government has forfeited the right and the confidence of both the Parliament and the people. This would be shown if the legislation before us were passed because I believe that the people of Australia would show at a referendum that they would not trust this Government to exercise this responsibility.
One of the greatest frauds that this Government has tried to put over the people is the claim that if this legislation is passed the Government will control the prices at Christmas.
– Hear, hear!
– By way of interjection Senator Cavanagh said: ‘Hear, hear.’ A referendum on this matter could be held at the earliest on 1 December. By that time more than half of the Christmas shopping will already have been finished. If one liked to be very kind to the Government one would have to say that the earliest that legislation could be introduced would be by the middle of December. But this is unlikely; it is more likely to be in January when Christmas shopping will be finished and when Parliament would have to be recalled to pass the legislation.
– Next Christmas.
– Perhaps the Government means next Christmas. As Senator DrakeBrockman has said, the Government would not know whether it is this Christmas, next Christmas or the Christmas after that. What the Government has done is to invite every section of industry to raise prices before Christmas under the threat that price control will be exercised regardless of the economic circumstances of industry. The Government has invited them to charge the housewife more for her Christmas presents. The Government knows that this is what is happening. It knows that what it is putting forward is a fraud because it has no hope whatever of controlling prices before Christmas. If there are increases in prices before Christmas they will be the result of the Government’s own irresponsibility.
Opposition senators oppose the legislation because we believe that it will be completely ineffective. We oppose it because we believe that the people of Australia do not want the Senate to give powers to this power drunk Government that wants to centralise all powers in Canberra, powers that it has shown quite clearly that it is incapable of exercising. Therefore the Opposition will vote against this legislation. It will vote against whatever form the Government wishes to adopt to amend the legislation. As I said, we believe that this legislation is ineffective and we are not prepared to give power to a power drunk and incompetent Government led by an incompetent Prime Minister who cannot even control his own Party. That being so, how can he control a country.
-We are discussing the Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill which provides for the holding of a referendum to give the Commonwealth power to control the prices of any goods which are sold. This comes at a time when a tremendous number of people are worried about inflation. This Government has been warned about inflation almost since it came to office. Before the Ministers had time to develop a shine on their trousers from their new seats people in the community were warning that some Government actions would lead to uncontrollable galloping inflation. But seemingly no heed was paid to the advice that came from experts. We saw Government spending go mad. The Government appeared to be spending money like a drunken sailor. It has employed about 20,000 extra people in the Commonwealth Public Service and it shows no sign of letting up its encouragement of the growth of bureaucracy. In my opinion a lot of the inflation in prices has a direct relation to all this Government spending. So really, the Government has had the power to control inflation all the time or at least to reduce it to a level below that of most other countries.
Of course we know that inflation knocks around the pensioners, the superannuitants and those on fixed incomes. These are the people who each week notice the increase in food prices, such as on biscuits and rice bubbles, when they try to balance their budget. Pensioners, particularly in Tasmania, are finding the food price increases worrying. I meet a great many pensioners and I know how difficult it is for them to exist let alone have the many outings which the younger people feel are the right of all Australians. As I said earlier today, some of the people who helped build this country are being reduced to the poverty line. But tonight I want to be brief. I believe that a great percentage of Tasmanians will be very wary of handing any more powers to this centralist, socialist Government of
Mr Whitlam. I would have liked to carry out a survey to find out just how more of them felt.
There seems to have been a great deal of haste in bringing this legislation even though we have not seen a great deal of haste in a lot of inflationary measures which are more easily available. I have not had the time to analyse Tasmanian views on this matter but I will support the holding of the referendum. I will support the Government but I point out that I am doing this so that the Tasmanian people can make up their own minds about whether they want price control. I would really have preferred to have seen a wages and prices policy and not a one-sided or divided measure. But at this stage I am prepared to support the Government’s proposal. Personally I feel that we should not give any more State powers to this centralist Government. But some people want to vote on the matter. I have not had a chance to carry out a survey to see the way they are thinking and therefore I will support the Government and allow those people to have that vote. -Senator BYRNE (Queensland) (9.48)-I intervene on behalf of the Australian Democratic Labor Party at this point to indicate the attitude of the Party to the Constitutional Alteration (Prices) Bill. That attitude has not been stated prior to this time in the course of the debate. As honourable senators know the Bill before the chamber is a Bill for a referendum to vest in the Commonwealth Government power to control prices. The Democratic Labor Party has been very gravely concerned that the proper method to handle inflation is dual control over prices and incomes. As honourable senators know, last week I gave notice of the introduction of the Constitution Alteration (Prices and Incomes) Bill. I took it to the second reading stage. It is a Bill for a referendum to control prices and incomes. Therefore those two propositions are before the Senate. I indicate that the Democratic Labor Party is prepared to support this Bill on the understanding, which we know has been given and which will be honoured-I would like the Special Minister of State (Senator Willesee) to indicate that that is the position because I think that is due to everybody- that the Government will introduce a Bill for a referendum to control incomes. If that Bill duly passes both Houses the referendum will go forward to find put the attitude of the people in relation to the control of prices and at the same time, the attitude of the electorate to the control of incomes. lt Is common knowledge now that the Australian Labor Party initially had a proposition before it for control over incomes but, according to the Press last week, the Party did not see fit to adopt that proposal. However, the Party has reconsidered the matter and is prepared to introduce a Bill to control incomes as well as prices. This proposal will be put in a referendum at the same time. The two heads will be put separately so that people may vote for or against power over prices and for or against power over incomes.
– Is this an arrangement today?
– No, we do not speak of arrangements. We indicate our position and we make no bones about that. We hoped for a common proposal on prices and incomes as a package deal. But we consider that an adequate and proper control of inflation- so far as these powers are concerned- demands the use of both instruments, that is prices and incomes. If the Government is vested with the power it then rests within the discretion of the Government of the day whether it elects to use either power, both powers or neither power.
– Does the honourable senator say that the Government has supported his proposal?
– The Government has come towards our proposal. Our proposal related to power over prices and incomes. The Government has not seen fit to support that proposal but on an understanding that it will present both heads, though separately, to the people at a referendum we are prepared to support the first part of the Government’s proposal.
– The Government has come 90 per cent your way?
– I do not wish to go into the mathematics of it. That may be a reasonable mathematical calculation. I do not dispute the mathematics of the honourable senator. The point is that the 2 proposals which we wantedprices and incomes- are now being embodied in referenda proposals though in a slightly different form as separate heads. We wanted them as joint heads but what the Government now proposes is substantially in accord with the major concept of our proposal which is that both of these powers should be vested in the Government because the exercise of both is the only appropriate way in which, if these powers are to be exercised to control inflation, they can be properly exercised.
- Senator, could you help me?
– I would love to help the honourable senator but it may be beyond my poor human capacity.
– I ask for your help-
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marriott)- Order! Interjections will cease. Senator Byrne has the call.
– Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. I take it that the Special Minister of State will, on behalf of the Government, indicate that a Bill will be presented in the House of Representatives, I understand tomorrow -
– Yes, it will.
– It will provide for a referendum on incomes only and it will be taken in conjuction with this Bill. Therefore there will be 2 referenda proposals which will be presented simultaneously and on which votes will be taken. On that basis we indicate that we will support this Bill as it goes through the various stages. We did have in mind -
– Do you have in mind -
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator MarriottOrder!
– Throw him out.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! The Chair will preside, not Senator Cant.
-We did have in mind that we would withhold this declaration until before the third reading stage and then ask for the assurance to be given. However, on behalf of the Democratic Labor Party I accept the assurance now given by the Special Minister of State that the Government will introduce a Bill tomorrow to bring in this other head of referendum and that both Bills will go to a vote in the course of tomorrow’s proceedings. On that basis I indicate that the Democratic Labor Party supports this Bill.
-This matter has been well canvassed over a period of time and I therefore move:
That the question be now put.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question put.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 (Short title).
– Clause 1 of the Bill reads as follows:
This Act may be cited as the Constitution Alteration (Prices) 1973.
I leave aside the fact that the haste with which this decision was made and imposed upon the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) by the Australian Labor Party Caucus has led to an error in the drafting, because the word ‘Act’ is omitted from the clause. That is a fact which is self-evident to anybody who examines the clause. But leaving aside the evidence of haste which characterises not only the way in which this measure has been introduced but the legislation -
- Senator, are you aware that that has been the practice with every referendum Bill and that you are in complete error?
-Possibly if what the Attorney-General says is correct- and one has to be a little cautious before one accepts anything that the Attorney-General says- then it is obviously a matter which would have been referred to in the course of the second reading debate, if only some other member of the Government in this chamber, apart from the Attorney-General, had been prepared to support this Bill. But we have not been given that benefit if benefit it should be- because in the second reading debate we have seen a procession of the genuinely interested people in this chamber on this issue putting up arguments which have been almost exclusively against this proposal, while those who are supposed to support it have been singularly silent. The reasons for that are quite obvious. The Labor Party has had a divided Caucus, and the union movement is uncertain as to whether there should be a proposal such as this. Is it any wonder that silence should characterise the attitude of the Government?
But these are relatively insignificant things alongside the really important questions of substance which can be advanced in regard to this clause. It is supposed to be a prices Act, but that is not altogether an accurate description, and I raise for the Committee’s attention the question whether it is fair to the Australian people to suggest that the word ‘prices’ should be the word which covers so many things which may be comprehended by the use of the word. I suggest that the word ‘price’ can comprehend not only the price of goods but also the price of services, of labour and of money, and before we know where we are we are in the area where the lawyers will determine precisely what this word prices’ means.
I have heard in this chamber- I think it was from Senator Bishop- and I have heard outside this chamber from that illustrious man who wields such control and power over the Labor Party, Mr R. J. Hawke, how the labourer is entitled to demand a fair price for his labour. I am sure that there is not a person in this chamber who has not heard that expression used by those who speak on behalf of the Labor movement when they raise arguments either to justify price control or the excuse actions which the union movement has taken when it has sought to increase the wages of the workers. It was once said that the labourer is worthy of his hire- as he undoubtedly is- and when one considers what is the charge or the description which one gives to the price which the labourer receives for his labour, then obviously the word ‘price’- and I put this forward only argumentatively- is one which could comprehend vastly more than what is conjured up in the debate which has taken place in this chamber. Ultimately, if this referendum should be carried, it will be for the High Court to determine what is covered by the word price’.
– We will brief you, Ivor.
– It may be that I would be interested in that brief if it should be offered at some future stage, but I am not banking on it because I think that the deception and the fallacy, in addition to the pressure of the union movement which can be exposed when this matter goes before the people, are such that this referendum proposal has little prospect of being acceptable. After all, many referendum proposals which were preceded by well researched consideration, the result of long and studious attention by the lawyers who assist the Attorney-General and the Ministers of the Crown and which was presented with all the cogency and force of argument which could be mustered, have been rejected. How then can it be supposed that the Australian people will agree to a referendum proposal which until approximately 9 days ago was something which the Labor Party said it would not have a bar of. It was not until the Labor Party Caucus said, by a small majority, ‘We feel that we should have it’, that the Prime Minister overnight, as a result of something that he thought of in bed, according to one newspaper commentator today, decided that the Bill would be introduced immediately. There was no research, no background material; there were no lawyers’ opinions, no considered arguments, nothing whatever in this Parliament to explain why this Bill has been introduced. No reason at all was given as to why this clause has the description ‘Constitution Alteration (Prices)’.
What is the argument which has been raised in support of the measure? Is it an argument that the Commonwealth Government lacks the power to deal effectively with prices? If that were the argument, it has not been advanced for 2 very good reasons. Firstly, it makes a mockery of the prices justification legislation which was introduced earlier this year, because if the Commonwealth Government did not have the power to pass that legislation, what does it mean by imposing a fraud upon the Australian people by suggesting that legislation of that character could be efficacious? But there is a far better way of doing it. There is the sort of argument which Senator Murphy raised in one of his speeches on the Budget- I think it was in 1971. He suggested that there should be an approach by the then Commonwealth Government to the States for a prices-incomes policy. Of course, the State governments have indicated as clearly and as unequivocally as words can convey that they stand prepared to support by complementary legislation or, if need be, by reference of powers, any plain, considered and comprehensive policy to cope with the inflationary problems which the Commonwealth Government puts up. The Commonwealth Government has not chosen to present such a policy. It has not chosen to convey to the people of Australia what it has in mind in this area. That is basic to what I say is the flaw in the Government ‘s approach to this issue.
Earlier I suggested that ‘prices’ could well cover the price of labour. Fortunately history and the law reports are replete with instances of how the prices-control legislation of the wartime years and those miserable years immediately after the war until the Labor Party Government was displaced, exercised the power to control prices which it had taken under the aegis of the defence powers of the Commonwealth. It was quite clear in those days that it was in effect a profit control. That is really what price control ultimately comes down to. It is a control which limits the amount which a person, by virtue of his own efforts- whether he be a seller of goods, a person who provides the service or a person who sells his labour- can regard as his own -
– I rise on a point of order. This Bill has 2 clauses. Senator Greenwood is opposing the first clause.
– No, he is not.
– As I understand it, he is opposing clause 1.
– You misunderstood him.
– Correct me if 1 am wrong and I will sit down. But the Temporary Chairman will do so, not Senator Webster, because we have not had much good advice from Senator Webster in the past. When the Temporary Chairman asked whether it was the wish of the Committee that the Bill be taken as a whole there was an objection. The Temporary Chairman called on clause 1. Senator Greenwood rose to oppose clause 1 which states the short title of the Bill. He then went on to debate the meaning of the word used in clause 2. If he is correct, the word in clause 2 may not be the correct word to use. The Bill seeks a referendum on the word used in clause 2- ‘prices’. Obviously the right title for the Bill is Constitution Alteration (Prices). ‘Prices’ is the one word in Clause 2. 1 suggest that all that Senator Greenwood has said relates to clause 2. He has to show that clause 1 has no relationship to the subject matter of clause 2. 1 am trying to prevent a repetition of the same speech on 2 clauses. Unless we curtail him so that he sticks to clause 1 we will have to put up with him and listen to him on clause 2.
– Order! I rule that the discussion relating to prices can come within clause 1. 1 suggest that Senator Greenwood confine his remarks to clause 1. 1 think that the discussion in relation to prices is quite in order under that clause.
– I respect and appreciate your ruling, Mr Temporary Chairman, and I also appreciate what Senator Cavanagh said. Clause 1 is really a question of whether the title which is given to the Bill- the description by which it will be known to people and the way in which it will be referred to, basically formally but informally also- is the Constitution Alteration (Prices) Legislation. The point I am making is whether the word ‘prices’ is a fair and accurate way to describe the legislation.
– What is in clause 2?
-Clause 2 is the question which is to be submitted to the people. In due course I hope to have something to say about that clause. I hope that a lot of other people will have something to say, too, because that is really the core of the legislation. Clause 1 deals with the way in which it is described. As a matter of nomenclature, is the word ‘prices’ a fair way to describe this Bill? I think it is misleading because it does not clarify what is comprehended by the word ‘prices’. If there were other succeeding clauses which spelt out in greater detail what the word ‘prices’ comprehended, the simple expression ‘prices’ would be sufficient because anyone who raised the question could look at the succeeding clauses and get his answers fairly readily. But that is not the position with the Bill.
One should look at the legislation of other countries which have passed legislation dealing with prices and incomes policies. The United Kingdom legislation is called the Counter Inflation (Temporary Provisions) Act of 1972. It refers to a number of prices or charges. For example, it refers to prices or charges for transactions, remuneration for work for any period, the words ‘ordinary dividend ‘ referring to a dividend declared by a company, and the word rent’. It is apparent that the prices policy, which is generally the language used to describe the type of policy which the United Kingdom legislature passed, is a policy which applies to goods, charges and services. Many people in this country may well believe that the alteration which is being proposed is an alteration which is across the board and that it applies not only to prices of goods, ‘ which I readily would concede is the ready interpretation which people would give to it, but they may or may not know that it applieswho knows whether their apprehension is correctto the charges made by persons who repair television sets, plumbing and broken window panes, to the charges made by doctors when attending patients when the occasion arises or to any of the other prices which professional people are charging and which are comprehended by the type of power which is given here. The United States legislation was called the Economic Stabilisation Act of 1 970.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– The first clause with which we are dealing is properly stated by Senator Greenwood as reading:
This Act may be cited as the Constitution Alteration (Prices) 1973.
I do not know that anything else he said was correct, but that much was correct. He said that the Bill exhibited all the marks of haste because that clause contained a serious error in that we had left out the word ‘Act’ in the short title and that the clause should have read ‘Constitution Alteration (Prices ) Act 1 973 ‘.
– He must not have done any very deep study of earlier Constitution alterations. It is not an Act.
-I understand that. My understanding is that in Constitution alteration proposals one never includes in the title a reference to the word ‘Act’ because if the Bill is passed it goes to the people. So there is a different mechanism. But more importantly, if the referendum is carried by the people and the alteration becomes operative, we are not left with a separate Act. There is an amendment of the Constitution. For that reason all alterations have been described or referred to simply as alterations. For example, in 1907 the short title was ‘Constitution Alteration (Senate Elections) 1906’. In 1910 it was ‘Constitution Alteration (State Debts) 1909’. In 1929 it was ‘Constitution Alteration (State Debts) 1928’. In 1946, the proposal relating to social services was ‘Constitution Alteration (Social Services) 1946’. All these examples are set out in volume I of the Commonwealth Acts which is available in about 75 different places in Parliament House.
– Has that been consolidated yet?
– It will be consolidated. Certain Bills are not contained because apparently they were not accepted by the people. There were the 1913 Bills which included the Constitution Alteration (Trade and Commerce) 1913, the Constitutional Alteration (Industrial Matters) 1913, the Constitutional Alteration (Railway Disputes) 1913 and the Constitutional Alteration (Nationalisation of Monopolies) 1913. Without having obtained any more documentary confirmation than that, my recollection has been always that that is how the titles of the Bills were stated. I do not think anyone would find such a bill which has been described in the short title in any other way than is now proposed. So I do not think that it is quite fair to say that the Government was hasty and that it made an error in the description of the clause. For the sake of the Senate, I suggest that this argument has been exhausted, that it would be reasonable for us not to repeat all the arguments on this Bill, that we might hope to obtain a report of the Committee of the Whole tonight and that the motion for the third reading of this Bill might be moved tomorrow. If the Senate agreed to the suspension of Standing Orders, it would permit that to be done. Also, if the House of Representatives sends us a
Bill dealing with a constitutional alteration in regard to incomes, the Senate could deal with that also.
– I certainly agree with what fell from the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Murphy) when he said that he did not want a repetition of the second reading debate that took place on this Bill. But I wish to raise very serious problems at the Committee stage of the debate that fall specificially within the responsibility of the Attorney-General. I want elucidation from him, if he will be so good, of the Government’s understanding of the meaning of the word ‘prices’ which appears in clause 2.
– We have not even come to that yet.
– That is for the High Court.
-God help you.
– I must say that I can understand the attitude of the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) who wants this measure passed as quickly as possible. I appreciate what he had to say in regard to the explanation for leaving -
– Prices are going up all the time you are talking.
– I understood from the Labor Party’s election propaganda that that was the Government’s responsibility.
– You are wasting time.
– It is what we want to cure if you will only help us.
– Order! The honourable senator is quite entitled to rise and speak again in the Committee of the Whole.
– I thank the Attorney-General for his explanation as to why the word ‘Act’ is left out. I quite appreciate it is not a matter of haste. In the light of his explanation, I withdraw the accusation that it was. It is quite apparent that it is the practice which has been adopted and of which I was unaware. I was raising the point whether the description of a price alteration which is contained in clause 1 is a fair description. I think that Senator Wright, in the query that he so shortly made, was indicating his concern as to what might be comprehended by this word. Of course, he proposes to seek that elucidation as best he can when we discuss clause 2. But I suggest to the Committee that what is contained in clause 2 is very relevant to the description which is contained in clause 1 . To that extent, it must be that there is an overlapping of the discussion of the 2 clauses. 1 suggest that if one examines one of the High Court cases which dealt with price control legislation of the Labor Government in the 1940s, one finds that it is a very vicious type of profit control. I refer to the case known as the Daveney case, more correctly entitled The King against Bromhead and another, ex-parte Miss Daveney Pty Ltd, 73 Commonwealth Law Reports, page 237. I will read what Mr Justice Rich had to say because of its pertinence. He said, referring to the appellant company:
The appellant by its own efforts and economies had substantially increased its turnover so that its overhead expenses bore a much lower ratio to gross earning-
– Order! It being 10.30 p.m. in accordance with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate I put the question:
That the Temporary Chairman do now leave the Chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative. (The Chairman having reported accordingly)
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Senator MURPHY (New South WalesAttorneyGeneral) I ask for leave to give contingent notice for tomorrow as follows: That contingent on the receipt of a further constitutional alteration bill I shall move that standing order 242 be suspended to enable the third reading to be passed without a call of the Senate. I ask for leave to give notice of that.
-Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
– There being objection, leave is not granted.
– I will not delay the Senate long. I asked a question of the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) representing the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) on 28 August last. The Minister undertook to obtain an answer for me.
– Who was that?
– That was Senator Douglas McClelland. I wish to have the answer incorporated in Hansard and I wish to make certain remarks which will be relayed to the Minister for Education. I asked:
My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Education. By way of preface I refer to the fact that in his statement dated 6 August 1973 the Minister for Education stated that originally 140 non-systematic non-Government schools would be placed in Category A. He also stated that the number had been reduced to 105 which was a reduction of 35 schools. I ask the Minister whether he is able to elaborate upon the information which he gave to the Senate last Wednesday and which set out 2 1 of the 35 schools? Is he able to say what happened to the other 14 schools which were originally listed in Category A? Why were they taken from Category A and into what category or group were they placed?
The Minister for Education has written a letter to the Minister for the Media dated 12 September 1973 which I received this evening. Apparently it took a fortnight for the Minister for Education to answer that relatively straightforward question and it took almost another fortnight for the answer to be transferred on from the Minister for the Media to me. I realise that the Minister for the Media is not present in the Parliament. I simply wish to read into Hansard -the answer I received and to draw attention to the fact that there has been considerable tardiness in supplying the information. The letter of the Minister for Education to the Minister for the Media states:
You undertook to find out all of the circumstances involved and to give the honourable senator a suitable reply. I suggest you reply in the following terms:
When I announced details of the allocation of various nonsystematic non-Government schools to categories on 6 August 1973, 1 indicated that the number of those schools in Category A was 105, compared with my earlier estimate of about 140. 1 said the reduction had occurred because the Interim Committee had reconsidered the position of a number of small schools and had obtained additional information from some schools for which the information originally provided by those schools was found to be deficient. The list of schools transferred from Category A or B to another category due to size, including 21 schools formerly in Category A. Other schools had their categories changed as a result of the additional information provided. ‘
The answer does not make sense. The explanation is some sort of cover-up and does not answer the question at all. It obviously is trying to cover up what has happened in relation to this secretive matter, this rather disgraceful episode in the conduct of government. We have had misleading statement after misleading statement and we have had avoidance of answering questions. T have a large number of questions on notice which have not been answered. It has become patently clear that the Minister for Education is not prepared to come clean in relation to matters concerned with the categorisation of schools. I take this opportunity to raise my complete dissatisfaction with the cover-up which is going on. I ask why questions take so long to be answered and I seek proper answers, answers which make sense and which supply the information sought. I see no reason why the Minister for Education in this instance could not supply the details sought, which were the names of the schools, why they were transferred and what were the circumstances of the transfer. I also ask that questions on notice be answered a good deal more promptly than is the case now.
-Mr President, am I in order at this stage of the evening in correcting a Press misstatement?
– You could say that you have been misrepresented.
– Yes, I have been misrepresented. Last Thursday night in the course of my remarks about Russian dissidents I made certain statements about the treatment of these people which were reported the following day in the ‘Age ‘ newspaper. That report was substantially correct and I have no quibble with most of it. However the report did state:
To make men of stature into vegetables is a new method which only the Russian mind seems to have seized upon.
In truth and in fact I did not say ‘only the Russian mind’. What I said is borne out by Hansard which states:
But to turn men of stature into vegetables, to make them things of pity, is a new method which only the communist mind seems to have seized upon . . .
I merely want this correction recorded in Hansard. Whilst I have nothing but detestation for the communist system, I have a very high regard for the Russian people.
- Senator Rae’s remarks related to questions directed to Senator Douglas McClelland, the Minister representing the Minister for Education. As the Senate knows, Senator Douglas McClelland is still in hospital. I will endeavour to have inquiries made to see whether the answers can be given to the honourable senator’s questions. I take this opportunity of informing the Senate that Senator Douglas McClelland is still unwell and it may be some little time before he is able to rejoin us.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.39 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
Treasury Payments to Private Companies
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
What is the anticipated cost to Qantas Airways Limited, as the result of the December 1972 revaluation and the subsequent currency changes arising from the latest United States devaluation: (a) directly, with regard to purchases of aircraft, equipment, etc and (b) indirectly, as to likely changes in the flow of tourist traffic to and from Australia?
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Will the Prime Minister provide to the Senate, before it rises for the Winter recess, a statement setting out details of salaries, fees and allowances paid to all: (a) full or part-time advisers appointed by the Government; and (b) the Chairman and members of all non-Parliamentary committees set up since the Government came into office on 2 December 1 972.
However, where such fees are regarded by the Government as being inappropriate in terms of the task to be performed by the committee or for other reasons, other rates of remuneration have been approved.
I am advised that these variations are as follows:
Australian Post Office Commission of Inquiry-
Chairman- Salary of $25,000 per annum.
Members- Salary of $ 1 9,000 per annum.
Australian Pre-Schools Committee-
Chairman- Fee of $7, 1 90 per annum.
Advisory Committee on Commonwealth Employment Service Statistics-
Members- Daily sitting fee of $50.
Child Care Standards Committee-
Chairman-Fee of $5, 1 50.
Chairman-Salary of $29,250 per annum plus an allowance of $1,750
Commissioners (other than Public Servants)- Fee of $2,600 per annum.
Committee on Open University-
Chairman- Already receiving remuneration as Chairman of the Australian Universities Commission- no additional salary, fees or allowances.
Members- Do not receive a salary but receive standard sitting fees and travelling allowances.
Executive Member-Salary of $9,860 per annum. Cost of accommodation in Canberra and an allowance for incidentals of$l per day worked in Canberra.
Computerisation of Criminal Data Committee-
Chairman-Fee of $2,500.
Members (other than Public Servants)-Fee of $2,000.
Computerisation of Legal Data Committee-
Chairman-Fee of $2,750.
Members (other than Public Servants)- One receives a fee of $ 1,350 and another a fee of $2,200, based upon time spent on the enquiry.
Constituent Boards of the Australian Council for the ArtsChairman of the following Boards receive an annual fee of$2,600.
Aboriginal Arts Board
Film and Television Board
Visual Arts Board.
Interim Australian Health Insurance Commission-
General Manager- Salary of $ 1 8,995 per annum.
Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission-
Chairman- Already receiving remuneration as Chairman of the Australian Universities Commission- no additional salary, fees or allowances.
Deputy Chairman- Salary of $ 1 4,899 per annum.
Lake Pedder Committee of Enquiry-
Chairman-Fee of $2,500.
Members- Two receive fees of $2,250 and one a fee of $2,750 based upon time spent on the enquiry.
National Commission on Social Welfare-
Chairman- Salary of $25,000 per annum plus an allowance of $ 1 , 200 per annum.
National Hospitals and Health Service Commission Interim Committee-
Chairman- Salary of $25,000 per annum plus allowance of $ 1 , 200 per annum.
Deputy Chairman- Salary of $ 1 8,995 per annum.
Full-time Members- Salary of $ 1 7,489 per annum.
National Pipeline Authority-
Part-time Chairman- Fee of $6,450 per annum.
Part-time Members (other than Public Servants)- Fee of $2,600 per annum.
Executive Member- Salary of $26,700 per annum plus an allowance of $ 1 , 200 per annum.
National Rehabilitation and Compensation Enquiry-
Chairman- Continues to receive his salary as a Judge of the New Zealand Supreme Court. He receives allowances of $340 per week when his wife is in Australia and $290 per week when she is not.
Members- One member continues to receive his salary as a Judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales. The other member will receive fees totalling $5,000.
National Superannuation Committee of Enquiry-
Chairman- $5,000 per annum is paid to the Flinders
University of South Australia as reimbursement.
Member- Fee of $5,000 per annum (Member seconded from the Reserve Bank receives no fee ).
Petroleum and Minerals Authority-
Executive Member- Salary of $29,250 plus allowance of $ 1 , 750 per annum.
Prices Justification Tribunal-
Chairman- Salary of $3 1 , 450 per annum plus an allowance of$l,750.
Deputy Chairman- Salary of $20,502 per annum.
Full-time Members- Salary of $ 1 9, 1 48 per annum.
Part-time Members- Fee of $2,600 per annum plus sit ting fees of $35 per day for each day on which they attend a meeting.
Members of full-time boards, commissions, committees, etc., generally receive travelling allowance at a rate appropriate to their remuneration on the following basis:
For members of part-time boards, commissions, committees etc., the current rate is generally $28.00 per day.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following information in reply to the honourable senator’s question:
The honourable senator will recall that he asked a somewhat similar question on 9 September 1969 and repeated it on 19 March 1 970. He was provided with a substantive reply on 25 August 1970 (Senate Hansard, pages 169-184).
The honourable senator may also recall that as Leader of the Opposition I asked a related question on 8 September 1971 and on 24 February 1972 was told that the information was not readily available because there appeared to be little useful purpose in maintaining it in the form sought. (House of Representatives Hansard, page 299.)
The position at present is that consultants are employed by departments on an ad hoc basis and no central comprehensive record of the details of their employment is available. I have asked that the practicability and usefulness of compiling and maintaining a central record be re-examined.
HMAS Penguin: Introduction of Swamp Wallabies (Question No. 370)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
Will the Minister indicate how far the project, undertaken by HMAS ‘Penguin’ to introduce swamp wallabies into its Mosman land post area, in an endeavour to reduce extensive vegetation which is likely to cause bushfires, has progressed?
– The Minister for Defence has provided trie following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Master Plan for Ecological Management of the bushland in the vicinity of HMAS ‘Penguin’ prepared by the National Parks and Wildlife Branch of the New South Wales Department of Lands, recommended the introduction of the swamp wallaby to limit the rate of vegetative accumulation. It is not now proposed to proceed with this plan for the following reasons:
The wallabies are highly selective feeders of herbaceous species and are not likely to affect the accumulation of vegetative material unless introduced in considerable numbers.
Protection of the wallabies would require the erection of approximately 1370 yards of dog proof fencing which, besides being uneconomic at a basic cost of $8,300, would also alter the aesthetic appearance of the area.
The Council of the Municipality of Mosman is in agreement with this action.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Minerals and Energy, upon notice:
– The Minister for Minerals and Energy has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
On all counts Bechtel’s qualifications were unquestionable. In addition, the company had had considerable experience in the field of Australian pipeline studies, its proposal indicated a full understanding of the scope of the study desired, and its tender was significantly lower than any other. Bechtel also indicated that it was prepared to carry out the study in conjunction with Australians and the work will be performed in the offices of the Western Australian Fuel and Power Commission where technical experts from the Pipeline Authority, the Western Australian Fuel and Power Commission and the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation will work with the Bechtel Team. In view of these arrangements and the fact that about 90 per cent of Bechtel ‘s employees are Australians, I would expect the study to result in a significant development of Australian expertise.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
– The Minister for Immigration has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Because of the variations in time which can occur between the date of approval of applications and the date of actual conferral of citizenship month by month do not necessarily reflect an upward or downward trend. A more accurate guide is the number of applications received. The following table shows the number of applications received month by month since November 1971.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Will the Government, in view of widespread and mounting concern and criticisms of the Australian Council for the Arts of alleged extravagance in administrative expenditures and for the arbitrary allocation of funds, give consideration to setting up a task force comprised of business efficiency consultants to inquire into and report to Parliament upon these matters.
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Australian Council for the Arts is being restructured to provide improved assistance for the arts in Australia. This is being undertaken by management services experts in consultation with the Public Service Board and other appropriate authorities, and normal Public Service procedures and controls apply.
If the honourable senator knows of any instances of possible extravagances in administrative expenditures or the arbitrary allocation of funds, I should be glad to have details so that they may be investigated.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Restrictions on Travel to Taiwan (Question No. 433)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for Foreign Affairs has furnished the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 25 September 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1973/19730925_senate_28_s57/>.