28th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 2.15 p.m., and read prayers.
– I inform the Senate of certain ministerial changes. The new Ministers were sworn by His Excellency the Governor-General earlier today. Senator the Honourable J. L. Cavanagh has been appointed Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. The Honourable Gordon Bryant has been appointed Minister for the Capital Territory. The Honourable Les Johnson has been appointed Minister for Works. The Honourable Kep Enderby has been appointed Minister for Secondary Industry and Minister for Supply. I inform the Senate also of the following additional ministerial changes not yet in effect but intended to be given effect in the near future: The Honourable Rex Patterson, who is at present representing the Australian Government at the International Sugar Agreement Conference and who will return to Australia during next week, will after his return be sworn as Minister for the Northern Territory. Also, after the visit of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to Japan, where he is to represent the Government as Minister for Foreign Affairs as well as Prime Minister, and his visit to China, Senator Willesee, who is himself now abroad representing Australia at the United Nations General Assembly and other international meetings, will be sworn as Minister for Foreign Affairs.
The new arrangements will produce a more even and better balanced distribution of the work load within Cabinet. In particular, some portfolios having common interests will be brought together under one Minister and the ultimate amalgamation of the departments concerned thus facilitated. Already in one such instance- the Department of Supply- a proposal for its amalgamation with another department has been foreshadowed. The rearrangement will also reduce the heavy burdens previously falling to some senior Ministers. As honourable senators will be aware, the Minister for Repatriation, Senator Bishop, is ill. He is in hospital and I inform honourable senators that the latest report I have is that his condition is satisfactory.
-I interpolate at this stage that on behalf of honourable senators I have sent Senator Bishop a message saying that we are concerned at the situation in which he finds himself.
-Thank you, Mr President. During Senator Bishop’s absence the Minister for the Capital Territory, Mr Bryant, is Acting Minister for Repatriation. In this chamber the changes in representation arrangements will be as follows: The Minister for the Capital Territory will continue to be represented by Senator Willesee, though 1 shall continue to perform this function during Senator Willesee ‘s present absence; the Minister for Works will be represented by Senator Cavanagh; and the Minister for Secondary Industry and Minister for Supply will be represented by Senator Wriedt. During Senator Bishop ‘s absence I shall look after those matters with which he usually deals, with the exception that the Minister for Labour will be represented by Senator Cavanagh. This means that only 3 Ministers will be present in the Senate this week and that there will be a very heavy representational load upon us. I have asked Senator Cavanagh to look after the arrangement of the program of the Senate, as I will be representing approximately 20 portfolios.
– Order! There are 2 matters arising from the statement by the Leader of the Government in the Senate to which I think it is proper that I should direct the Senate ‘s attention. Firstly, Senator Murphy, you say to me that Senator Cavanagh will be responsible for the arrangements of the Senate.
-I have suggested that if it is convenient the normal discussions relating to the arrangements of the Senate, at least during this period, should be had with Senator Cavanagh rather than myself because during this time I will be under some difficulty.
– The President is involved in this problem because he has to look down to the table in order to decide what is going to be done. Perhaps it would not be inappropriate in these circumstances for Senator Cavanagh to sit at the table with you, Senator Murphy.
-Senator Cavanagh is welcome to sit with me at any time he wishes. I thank you for the suggestion, Mr President.
- Senator Cavanagh may take a chair there now.
-I think that without any difficulty we could manage to seat at the table the whole of the available Ministry.
– Yes, but the second matter which puts the Chair in some difficulty concerns questions. How do you propose that this period of question time should be handled?
-Mr President, there is an obvious difficulty because of the absence of 2 Ministers on account of serious illnesses and one Minister overseas. Common sense dictates that a lot of the questions should be placed on the notice paper, and I ask that the Senate be considerate of the other Ministers. Frankly, I could not even attempt to master the portfolios in a reasonable way, such as would enable me to give answers to questions. I will do the best I can, but I suggest that honourable senators should understand the situation which has been caused because of illness and absence overseas and assist in getting through this difficult period. We will do our best and I think that in conformity with the usual good sense of honourable senators they will co-operate in view of the illness of our colleagues.
- Mr President, I give notice that 10 sitting days after today I shall move:
That section 12 of the Landlord and Tenant Ordinance (No. 2) 1973, as contained in Australian Capital Territory Ordinance 1973 No. 33, and made under the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1 9 10-1 972, be disallowed.
Mr President, I ask for leave to make a brief statement concerning the notice of motion I have given.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The Regulations and Ordinances Committee is inquiring into a provision in the Australian Capital Territory Landlord and Tenant Ordinance which prohibits the sale of goodwill of business premises except with the permission of the Rent Controller. As today is the last day for giving a notice of motion in relation to the relevant amendment of the Ordinance, I have given such a notice to allow the Committee time to complete its inquiry.
– Before I call questions without notice, I think it proper that I should make the following statement to honourable Senators: Recently Senator Webster spoke to me about the Hansard practice of omitting from the report a question without notice that the Minister to whom it is addressed asks the questioner to place on the notice paper and makes no comment and gives no information. I asked the Principal Parliamentary Reporter to prepare for me a note on the historical background of this matter and he has done so. It is as follows:
Many questions in the Senate are asked without notice and from time to time the Ministers to whom they are addressed ask that they be placed on the notice paper. No record of such questions is made in Hansard.
If, however, a Minister gives some information or makes a significant comment and then asks that the question be placed on notice, both the question and the answer are published.
This practice has been observed in the Senate under all Presidents. It had its origin in certain of the State legislatures and no doubt in the desire for economy. At the time of Federation there was keen anxiety to keep the cost of the seventh legislature -
That is, this Parliament- as low as possible and the elimination of unnecessary printingas for example the duplication of a question- was seen as one method of achieving this end.
However, the wisdom of omitting from Hansard questions without notice which Ministers ask to be put on notice has become questionable, particularly as such questions may be reported in newspapers and, since the introduction of broadcasting, are included in the original broadcast although they are eliminated from the subsequent broadcast of question time.
Although the matter has been discussed in private conversations and polite surprise expressed at the retention of the practice, no formal challenge to it has been made in the Senate.
I feel that this is a matter for honourable senators to decide. What were considered to be good and sufficient reasons for this long-standing practice may not be so regarded now. Perhaps the Party leaders would obtain an expression of opinion from their members and inform me of their views. I shall then be in a position to make an announcement to the Senate. My opinion is that such questions and answers should be included in Hansard.
– On the assumption that Senator Cavanagh is still the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, I ask him a question which refers to question No. 3 16 on the notice paper which I asked on 29 May last. My question then was:
When will Qantas Airways Limited be reducing air fares in accordance with the effective revaluations of the Australian dollar against the United States dollar that took place last December, and earlier this year; if not, will the Minister please advise why.
Since May there has been another revaluation of the Australian dollar, making an answer to this question more urgent. I ask: Will the Minister say when an answer to this 4-month old question might be expected?
– I say to the Leader of the Opposition that I still represent the Minister for Civil Aviation, but although I represent him, I am not the Minister. My attention has not been drawn to question No. 3 16. 1 shall take it up with the Minister and try to expedite a reply to it. Until I get that reply I do not think that I can answer the second part of the question as to the most recent revaluation. I will make representations to the Minister to try to get an early reply to the question.
-Is the AttorneyGeneral aware of the growing apprehension among persons affected by the Government’s projected trade practices legislation as its provisions become widely known? Is he also aware that many persons and companies are anxious to have full opportunity to study the implications of the Bill and to make representations to him, as he has recently invited them to do so? Will he indicate that the Government will not proceed with the Bill this session? If not, will he say how much time he proposes to allow to elapse before debate on the Bill may be expected?
-No, I do not know of apprehension. I understand that the Bill has been well received. The feedback, as it is called, has been distinctly favourable. If there were any apprehension it would be felt by persons in the community who are engaging in practices which have been condemned, I think even by the previous Government, over the past 10 years. I thought that there was common understanding that these practices ought to be prohibited. As to the circulation and the widespread understanding of the Bill, I am given to understand that it is practically a best seller and that thousands of copies of it are being churned out and printed, and this is very pleasing. I think that the Bill ought to be dealt with by the Senate as soon as this can be done conveniently. Obviously, there should be time for it to be looked at. Probably, we could engage in a second reading debate on it. One would know in general whether a Bill such as this was desired. No doubt, at the Committee stage, we could engage in an intense examination of the various clauses of the Bill. But I would hope that the Bill would pass during this session. Why should it not? If we are serious about dealing with inflation we should be serious about tackling one of the admitted causes of inflation. I refer to the restrictive practices which are rife in the community and which were condemned, I think, by Sir Garfield Barwick back in the early 1960s and by most of his successors since, although they do not seem to have done very much about them.
– I address a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Is it a fact that this Government has offered to release 2 Taiwanese fishing boat captains gaoled in Perth for failure to pay $8,000 in fines if they withdraw an appeal against their conviction? Did the Minister announce that the fines would be waived and their fares to Taiwan paid if the appeal is dropped? Does he agree that this is an interference with the course of justice? Does he also agree that the offer is an unacceptable form of pressure that is likely to be widely interpreted as political prejudice against a country no longer recognised by Australia and therefore damaging to our image abroad?
– I regret that the question which started off in a fairly intelligent form finished up as a shambles. I have said on previous occasions that the fact that the 2 fishermen involved were from Taiwan was of no consequence whatsoever. If that is the basis of the honourable senator’s criticism of my decision or the Government’s decision, 1 suggest that he look a little more deeply into it. As I told the Senate some 2 weeks ago, these 2 Taiwanese fishermen came to be apprehended because they were fishing inside the declared fishing zone in Western Australian waters. When I was in Perth only last Friday week I said then, and I repeat, that the Australian Government had been asked time and again by Western Australian interests, including the Western Australian Government, to exercise its authority to ensure infringements did not take place. That is what we were doing. But because we exercised that authority we seem to be subject to some emotional campaign by people, presumably centring on members of the Opposition in Western Australia. An offer was made at the time of the decision. The Deputy Crown Solicitor advised Mr Chew, the solicitor acting on behalf of the defendants, that bail would be granted in the normal way. Mr Chew presumably made the comment that it did not seem to matter as far as he was concerned whether the 2 men were in the migrant hostel at Greylands or whether they were in gaol. He was given an opportunity to obtain bail from the beginning and I restated that offer only a fortnight or 10 days ago. If bail were sought, bail would be granted. It is a great pity that those Opposition senators who allegedly represent Western Australia are just using this as some sort of emotional issue to drum up a little opposition to the Australian Government. It is a poor reflection on them.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. Did the Minister announce that fines would be waived and the fishermen’s fares to Taiwan paid if the appeal is dropped?
-The position the Australian Government has taken has been to endeavour to co-operate in this matter. I made the point in Perth that it was not for the Australian Government to direct the court one way or the other. When this matter was first raised in this place by Senator Sim, he gave the impression that the Australian Government had done some inhuman thing by gaoling the Taiwanese fishermen. As I pointed out then, this was the decision of the Perth District Court and we were not in the position to tell the court what to do. We have simply indicated that we will be prepared to allow these fishermen to return to their native land if the appeal is withdrawn. As far as I know, that is a normal legal procedure.
– I ask as a supplementary question -
– A supplement to a supplementary question?
– I will give consideration to that. You are putting the Chair in a very difficult position.
-The Minister has not answered the question. I have asked the same question twice and he has not answered it.
– All right, but this is not to be taken as the practice of the Senate. As I am a little confused about this, I will allow you to ask a supplement to a supplementary question.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry whether he announced while he was in Perth that the fines would be waived and the fares of the two captains back to Taiwan would be paid if the appeal was dropped.
-Yes, that is correct. So that the honourable senator may have a detailed answer to his question, I suggest that he place it on the notice paper. I think the unfortunate part of this matter is the manner in which this issue has been treated. Senator Drake-Brockman and Senator Sim have made all sorts of overtures and suggestions for the two Taiwanese fishermen to be given some sort of humane treatment. The
Government has endeavoured to meet in the most humane way the situation that has arisen. Although we have treated it in that manner, we are still the victims of criticism.
-Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware that the South Australian Government is negotiating for the establishment at Redcliffs in South Australia of a petro-chemical industry which is estimated to cost some $300m? Is the Leader of the Government also aware that this industry may be established by an overseas company? In view of the extreme opposition to the use of overseas capital, particularly in the oil and mining industries, by the Minister for Minerals and Energy, what assurance will the South Australian Government have that the Federal Government will not create any impediment to the supply of natural gas to this industry by way of the Pipeline Authority or other means if this industry is finally established by an overseas company?
– The answer to the first part of the question is yes. The answer to the second part is that I understand that two overseas companies are concerned.
– The honourable senator suggests that there are three. I accept what he says. The remainder of the question concerns policy and so on. I really cannot give the answers which the honourable senator would want in relation to those matters. It might be more convenient if he placed the question on the notice paper. The honourable senator can be assured that whatever is done in this field will be done by the governments concerned with the best interests of Australia at heart.
-I ask the Minister for Primary Industry whether the Fisheries Division of the Department of Primary Industry has completed its inquiry and reported on the Cheynes Beach Whaling Co. Ltd. If so, is the Minister in a position to table the report in the Senate?
– I am not aware that any report on the operations of the whaling company has been prepared. I know that there are interests in the community which would have the whaling station closed. The position of the Australian Government in respect to the moratorium on whaling was made known at the recent meeting of the International Whaling Commission at which the Government indicated that it was prepared to accept a 10 year moratorium provided that all other nations were prepared to do so. The current position is that a quota of 1 ,400 sperm whales has been set for the Cheynes Beach Whaling Co. Ltd at Albany. Last year the company did not farm that number of whales. I think the number was about 900. The company will continue with this operation. I am not aware that the Australian Government will be conducting an investigation of the nature outlined by the honourable senator. No doubt this matter would be discussed should anybody raise it.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Minerals and Energy. Is the Minister for Minerals and Energy aware of the front page news item in today’s ‘Australian’ by Bryan Frith? Does the Minister know that the report states that Mr Millner, Chairman of Queensland Mines, claims that $40m has already been lost because of the lack of a stated Government policy on uranium and a refusal to renew the uranium companies’ licence to explore? Is the Minister aware of the widespread uncertainty throughout industry caused by the Government’s decision? When will the Government issue a coherent statement on its policy regarding the renewal of mining companies ‘ licences which were due for renewal on 3 1 December last?
-I have not seen the statement to which Senator Kane referred. I did see a Press report over the weekend from which I understood that the Minister responsible did in fact give that assurance. I thought that he spelt it out in some detail. However, in view of the nature of the question I will have to refer it to the Minister concerned and get him to give the honourable senator a reply.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Is the Minister aware that the Australian Medical Association has enlisted the services of a former Miss Australia to assist in the promotion of antiGovernment propaganda in relation to the proposed new national health scheme? Does the Government regard this action as a serious attempt by the AMA to put its views fairly and honestly to the Australian public? What action, if any, does the Government propose to take to counter this move and so ensure that the public of Australia is not duped by this obvious stunt, and that all the facts are fairly presented without emotionalism, distortion or sex?
– I have noticed what has appeared in the newspapers emanating from the organisation and its campaign against the Australian Government. I do not know how one can deal with this kind of endeavour by an organisation to use female beauty except perhaps by countering with the winner of a more recent Miss Australia quest. But short of that, I think the Government will continue to put its case forward in a rational and logical manner and that the people of Australia, as they start to examine the case, will see the soundness of the proposals that are being put to them.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry whether the Government intends to proceed with the ill-conceived idea of imposing a tax on beef exports as a means of lowering prices of meat on the home market.
-The answer to the honourable senator’s question is, no.
– I wonder whether the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation can reassure the Senate in the face of mounting discontent by the International Federation of Airline Pilots Associations at the inability of nations to formulate a uniform code against hijacking. What role is Australia playing to overcome this problem?
- Senator Cavanagh, in your representational role are you aware of the policy problem involved?
-Yes. There could well be a question of policy involved but as honourable senators know the Australian Government has met all requirements of international consideration in this matter. It has amended all relevant Acts of this Parliament and high penalties have been imposed for the hijacking of aeroplanes. This matter is under constant consideration both in Australia and internationally. I assure the honourable senator that the Australian Government has this matter well in hand and has gone as far as it can in relation to solutions and the prevention of this evil.
-Perhaps I could add a little to that answer, if the honourable senator wants the information. In the autumn session Parliament enacted the Crimes (Protection of
Aircraft) Act 1973 to enable Australia to implement the Montreal Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Civil Aviation. The Convention was ratified by Australia on 12 July 1973. As the result of a decision in January a special session of the international body- the International Civil Aviation Organisation- which is concerned with aircraft crimes was held in September. Australia was represented. The discussions were intense and various points of view were put forward. My understanding is that that conference was unfortunately not successful.
– My question follows along the lines of a question previously asked of the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the reports that the Prime Minister, at his Press conference today, confirmed that yesterday Cabinet rejected the meat export levy proposed by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Prices, will the Minister say whether such reports are correct? If so, what were the reasons for such a decision?
-As I indicated earlier, the Cabinet has made a decision on this matter. It was announced by the Prime Minister at his Press conference earlier today. The thinking of the Government is that interfering with the normal flow of meat to the market would be to the advantage neither of the industry nor of the Australian consumer. Taking all factors into account it would be better for the market to be allowed to operate in its normal way. Indications at this stage are that the prices of meat have steadied; in fact, in some cases they have reduced. I would think that the position over the next few months should be satisfactory. The Government is not intending to take the action which members of the Opposition have for so long predicted it would take.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry and it relates to the 2 questions that have just been asked. Has the Minister received a great number of telegrams and letters from irate beef producers throughout Australia directed against the proposed export tax on beef? Have a large number of these protests come from northern Australia where producers depend almost entirely on the export market? In view of the decision of Cabinet to reject the recommendation of the Joint Committee on Prices, will the Minister agree that the factual evidence of the objections of these producers influenced the Cabinet decision?
– The answer is no.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. Is the AttorneyGeneral aware that reports are circulating of attempts being made by English couriers to recruit 300 ex- Vietnam veterans in a mercenary army to fight in Rhodesia for the illegal Smith regime? Would not the involvement of any Australian in the internal affairs of Rhodesia constitute a breach of the United Nations’ decision which forbids the affiliated countries to aid or abet the minority and illegal groups purporting to be the Government of that country? What steps can the Australian Government take to put a stop to the activities of such persons who seek to offer $300 a week to kill and maim those seeking majority rule for their country?
-The Government’s viewpoint on the question of Rhodesia is well known. Indeed, the viewpoint of this Senate on the subject is well known. As I recall it, the Senate itself several years ago noted the decisions of the United Nations and what had been done by the then Government to implement the decisions and requested the Government to do all in its power to implement the decisions. I think that decision was made unanimously by this Senate. I will ask from my Department some advice on the specific question which the honourable senator raises which is, in substance, whether there is some breach of the law here or whether some action should be taken by the Government in furtherance of the United Nations’ resolutions and I will convey the advice I receive to the honourable senator.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. When will he be in a position to say if and when the Senate will adjourn to participate in any campaign for the prices referendum? Or is it thought by the Government that the less said about the referendum the better the popularity of the Government will be?
-It is expected that honourable senators will participate in the campaign. I suppose that in some way they have already participated in the compaign and that they will do so in other v. ways. I am not so sure of the exact details of the legislative timetable as to be able to give an answer to the honourable senator. But I assume there would be some time to campaign, as he says. This is of course a matter not merely for parliamentarians or particularly for the parliamentary Parties, for the referendum concerns the whole of the people and they will participate in it. I suppose that some leadership would be expected from here. I shall see whether I can ascertain what is in mind. I cannot suggest anything now to the honourable senator.
– Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware that the very high productivity of King Island and many other areas of Australia depends upon substantial applications of superphosphate and that the cost of superphosphate is a major factor in the cost of production? Will the Minister indicate whether, in the light of the foregoing and in the interests of decentralisation, he proposes to retain the superphosphate bounty? If not, will he develop a suitable freight cost equalisation scheme for superphosphate distribution to King Island and other high freight cost areas of Australia?
– Commonwealth subsidies for superphosphate in Australia are covered by an Act which expires in December next year. There is no intention on the part of the Government to change that legislation. As for the continuation of the subsidy past that date, as I have said on many occasions this will be the subject of examination by the Government. The same principles will apply to King Island as apply elsewhere in Australia. I think it can be said that the assistance afforded by the subsidy over the years has been of very widespread benefit to the farming community. That assistance has been shared by the people on King Island.
– I draw the attention of honourable senators to the presence in the President’s gallery of a parliamentary delegation from the Federal Republic of Germany. The delegation is led by Frau Liselotte Funcke, VicePresident of the Bundestag. On behalf of honourable senators I extend a very warm welcome to the delegation and I hope that its stay in Australia will be a pleasant one.
Honourable senators- Hear, hear!
– The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs no doubt is aware of the many reported instances of police intimidation of Aborigines throughout Australia. Will the Minister institute immediate inquiries into why a police vehicle, popularly known as a paddywaggon, was parked outside Opal house, Ann Street, Brisbane at 8.45 p.m. on 5 October 1973, why 7 police were in the vicinity of the building where the Miss Opal judging was taking place at that time, and why 2 members of the police force actually entered the building?
– Honourable senators will forgive me if I do not have a great knowledge of Aboriginal affairs as my administration of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs is a newly acquired power. Obviously the presence of the paddy-waggon and the police comes within the control of the Queensland Police Department and I do not know the answers to the questions. I shall take up the matter with the Queensland authorities and try to get some information for the honourable senator.
– Does the AttorneyGeneral recall that during his statement on alleged Croatian terrorism some months ago he mentioned the name of one Josip Devic charged with unlawful possession of explosives at Warrandyte with 2 other men? Is it not a fact that two of these men are now living openly in Tito’s Belgrade? Is it not a fact that Devic has disappeared? Is it not a fact that Mr Davis, the Commonwealth Police Commissioner, stated on oath last month that the Commonwealth Police and the Victorian Police knew of Devic ‘s whereabouts? As Devic’s family has contacted me and advised me that the Victorian Police have no knowledge of Devic’s whereabouts, will the Attorney-General ask the Commonwealth Police, as an exercise in humanitarianism, to pass a message to Devic asking him to contact his parents as they are afraid that he may have been kidnapped by the Yugoslav secret police?
-I will look into the matter for the honourable senator.
-The suggestion which has been made by the honourable senator is of course an admirable one, if it were convenient to the members of the visiting delegation and if some way could be found of getting the benefit of their knowledge and experience of the schemes which operate in West Germany. 1 understand that West Germany’s schemes have received very much acclaim. The socialist government of West Germany is noted throughout the world for its attention not only to overcoming disabilities but to assisting throughout the whole range of social security. I thank the honourable senator for her suggestion, and I will pursue it. As to the other matters, I am pleased at the honourable senator’s recognition of the fact that the social security schemes which were operated by the Government of which she was a supporter over the past 20 years are so bad that they are in urgent need of improvement and assistance from any quarter from which it can be obtained. The present Government, which is engaged in a wholesale reconstruction of the existing schemes in order to overcome the neglect of 20 years, will be pleased to obtain the assistance that the honourable senator suggests.
– I should not have allowed the question and I should not have allowed the answer.
-Will the AttorneyGeneral outline to the Senate the measures he proposes to take to give women equal status, in a Bill of Rights later to be drawn up, after the 23 years of neglect of such an important and widely accepted principle by the previous Government?
– Order ! The honourable senator is giving information.
– It is proposed to introduce legislation, in effect, to implement the international covenant on civil and political rights and to take whatever other legislative measures are open to us to ensure that women are given equal status in this community. More important perhaps is the taking of whatever administrative and judicial proceedings might be open to us to ensure that women have equal status. Although in theory equal status is conferred upon women, honourable senators will recall that there has been no woman judge since Federation, no woman permanent head of any Commonwealth department and, I think, only one woman in about 800 officers in the Second Division of the Public Service. This shows sheer prejudice and discrimination. In answer to the honourable senator because it comes within my sphere, if necessary I will institute whatever proceedings are available against the administrative authorities in this community to see that the discrimination ceases.
-I ask the. Leader of the Government in the Senate: When does the Government propose to take action to restore normal air services in Australia? Does the Government propose to pursue a policy of masterly inactivity indefinitely, to the great detriment of the travelling public?
– It is clear to everyone that there is a system of conciliation and arbitration in this community. The matter is being handled according to the laws which were laid down by the previous Government, of which the honourable senator was a supporter. Under those laws the dealing with the dispute is between the Public Service Board and the union concerned. The Public Service Arbitrator is carrying out the functions of arbitration. I am informed the latest development is that the Public Service Arbitrator has convened another statutory conference between the union- the Professional Radio Employees Institute- the Public Service Board and the Department of Civil Aviation for 2.30 p.m. tomorrow, Wednesday. It may appear to honourable senators that more speed might have been shown by the Public Service Board, but this is a matter for that statutory instrumentality which is handling the matter.
I hope, as I think everyone hopes, that the matter can be satisfactorily adjusted and that whatever injustices there are will be cleared up as quickly as possible. It is very critical for Australia. A great deal of money is being lost, there is a great deal of dislocation of industry and a great deal of interruption to the ordinary lives of people. The Government’s viewpoint is that the procedures in arbitration are not as satisfactory as they ought to be. There is before the Senate legislation which is designed to make an improvement in procedures, and I think everyone hopes that the system of conciliation and arbitration could act a lot more expeditiously, a lot more efficiently and a lot more successfully than it has.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is the report correct that no official representative from Australia attended the recent conference on business opportunities in the Pacific which was held in Singapore? Is it a fact that official representatives attended from all other countries in the region? If the report is correct, why was Australia not officially represented?
– I regret that I am not able to answer the honourable senator’s question, but I will obtain an answer. Perhaps if he placed the question on the notice paper it would ensure that an answer would be given for the benefit of all honourable senators.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Housing. Is it a fact that prior to coming into office Labor promised that interest rates would not be increased on money borrowed for housing purposes? Is it now a fact that the Labor Government has increased interest rates by as much as 12.5 per cent from those which originally applied? Why has the Labor Party done this? Who gains the profit from the increased interest rates? Is that profit best held in the hands of those who now receive it or those who would be prospective home owners?
-The honourable senator asked whether it is a fact that the Labor Party has increased by 12.5 per cent interest rates on home loans. The answer is no. As the answer is no, I do not have to answer the question as to why the Labor Party has done something which it has not done.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. I refer to the commencement of the big game fishing season for marlin. I ask: Does the Government support the insensate killing of living creatures as a blood sport? How does the Government reconcile such killings with a policy of conservation of marine ecology? If the Government does not support blood sports, will it give consideration to banning the practice of the destruction of marine species not for use for human consumption?
– The Department of Primary Industry has no control over this activity, which may be regarded as a sport, which is the term the honourable senator used in his question. I suggest that the matter is really one which concerns the Minister for the Environment and Conservation. I suggest that the honourable senator put his question on notice, and I will refer it to the Minister.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Minerals and Energy. Is it a fact that the Commonwealth Government has formulated plans for a refinery at Dampier in Western Australia to produce petrol from natural gas liquids, as was announced yesterday by Western Australian Premier Tonkin? If this is so, when will the refinery be constructed, who will own and operate it and who will provide the finance for it? Is this another step in the Government’s plans to nationalise Australia’s off-shore petroleum resources?
– Again this is a matter which should be referred to the Minister for Minerals and Energy. The only comment I would make is that the Government’s intention is to ensure that Australia’s natural resources are for the benefit of Australians and not of overseas interests.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, by saying that this morning I had representations about a South Australian who is presently in Israel and who is unable to return when she anticipated being able to return. I understand that this case is not an isolated one and that many other Australians are stranded in Israel. What is the Government doing to ensure a speedy repatriation of these people?
– There are regular procedures for looking after citizens in circumstances such as this. I am not able to give any details to the honourable senator, but I am sure that the Australian authorities in Israel would be extending every assistance that they can to any Australians who may be in difficulties there.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs aware of reports that in the hours immediately before the outbreak of war in the Middle East the Israeli
Government, with United States diplomatic help, sought to avert hostilities? Is he aware that the Israeli Government offered assurances to the Egyptian and Soviet governments of its peaceful intention, in the hope of preventing an outbreak of hostilities? Does the Minister agree that despite the Israeli efforts, as the United Nations observers have reported, it was Egyptian and Syrian forces which commenced the hostilities by attacking Israeli positions across the cease fire zone along the Suez Canal and the Golan Heights? Does the Minister agree that attacks by Egypt and Syria on Israeli positions are a grave threat to world stability? Will the Government instruct its representatives at the United Nations to condemn those attacks as endangering world peace? Finally, will Australia use its influence at the Security Council to bring world pressure on Egypt and Syria to withdraw their forces and to agree to realistic negotiations for a Middle East settlement?
– Order! Senator Murphy will answer this question, but he should not be asked to express an opinion on these matters.
-I think that everyone is aware that a state of war exists and has existed for some time between Egypt and Israel and that certain Egyptian territory is occupied by Israel. I think it would be more satisfactory if a definitive answer were given on the other matters, so I ask the honourable senator to place the question on notice.
– I indicate to honourable senators that the members of the delegation from the Bundestag of the Federal Republic of Germany are about to retire. I take this opportunity to acknowledge their retirement.
– Before leaving the subject of questions, let me say that I promised Senator Drake-Brockman, who is not here at the moment, that I would address myself to the Senate on the subject of supplementary questions. I asked the Clerk of the Senate to advise me as to the practice which exists in relation to supplementary questions in the House of Commons. I have the dreadful feeling that I am in some sort of parliamentary labyrinth in this regard and I may require someone to give me a thread to find my way through it. The practice adopted in the House of Commons is that no limit is placed on the number of supplementary questions that may be asked by a member, but whether the questions are relative to the matter under discussion is a matter for the discretion of the Chair. Therefore I will follow that practice and see what happens. I will allow additional supplementary questions to be asked, provided the discretion is left in my hands.
– Pursuant to section 18 of the Tariff Board Act 1921-1972, I present the annual report of the Tariff Board for the year ended 30 June 1973. The report is accompanied by an annexure which summarises the recommendations made by the Board and shows the action taken in respect of each of them.
Reports on Items
Senator MURPHY (New South WalesLeader of the Government in the Senate)- I present the reports by the Tariff Board on the following subjects:
Acetone Derivatives: Ethyl Methyl Ketone; Metal Plates, etc. for Printing Purposes; and Machine Tools for Working Stone, etc., and Wood, etc.; Pneumatic Hand Tools, etc.; NZAFTAMachine Tools for Working Wood, etc.; Chain Saws (Dumping and Subsidies Act).
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report of Sir John Crawford entitled ‘A Commission to Advise on Assistance to Industries’. Copies of the report have already been distributed to honourable senators.
– Pursuant to section 1 1 of the Commonwealth Police Act 1 95 7- 1 966,I present the annual report of the Commissioner of Police on the operation of the Commonwealth Police Force and summary of its activities for the year ended 30 June 1973.
– I present the following paper:
Taxation- Fifty-second Report of the Commissioner of Taxation dated 1 October 1973.
-I present the sixth report of the publications Committee.
Report- by leave- adopted.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Social Services Bill (No. 4) 1973.
Repatriation Bill (No. 3) 1973.
Compensation (Australian Government Employees) Bill 1973.
Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Bill (No. 2) 1973.
Post and Telegraph Rates Bill 1973.
Post and Telegraph Regulations Bill 1973.
Post and Telegraph Bill 1973.
– I have received from His Excellency the Governor-General a message notifying that under section 58 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia, he has reserved the Royal Style and Titles Bill 1973 for Her Majesty’s pleasure.
– by leave- I wish to announce to the Senate that the Government has decided to publish in bound volumes in consolidated form the Acts passed by the Australian Parliament as in force at the end of this year. The reprinting of these Acts will be a massive task. When the last consolidation of Australian Acts took place in 1950, the publication ran to 5 volumes of Acts and an additional volume of tables, indexes and material of that kind. The amount of legislation since that time has been such that it is estimated that by the end of this year the Acts of Parliament will run to some 1 1,000 pages, more than twice the size of the previous consolidation. It is proposed that the Acts will be contained in 1 1 volumes, each of about 1,000 pages.
The printing of the Acts will be undertaken by the Government Printer with the new Photon equipment which has recently been installed and is now, as honourable senators are aware, used in the printing of the Senate Hansard. The timetable proposed is that the first volume will be published in June next year and each subsequent volume will be published at monthly intervals. The result, I am assured, will be that publication should be completed by June 1975. We are hopeful that this timetable will be adhered to.
This program compares very favourably with the last consolidation which took 5 years to complete even though that publication was only half the size of the one now proposed. The task of compiling the reprint is being carried out by the Legislative Drafting Division which was, on my instructions, created in the Attorney-General’s Department earlier this year. To ensure that the timetable I have indicated will be met, the Public Service Board has approved the creation of new positions within that Division. The work commenced on 6 August 1 973 and is under the direction and control of a senior legal officer of that Division. He and his assistants will carry out the legal work associated with the consolidation in Sydney, but the printing will be done, as I have mentioned earlier, by the Government Printer in Canberra.
As part of the program to publish the consolidation, the Government proposes to introduce later this session a statute law revision Bill. This Bill, which will follow the lines of a similar enactment passed by the Parliament in 1 950, will have as its main object the clearing from the statute book of all Acts which have ceased to have any further operation. It will also amend some Acts to remove individual provisions which have ceased to have any operative effect, to correct errors and to include some formal improvements. The Statute Law Revision Bill will not make any amendments of substance. Honourable senators will recall that considerable criticism has been made over a number of years of the failure to publish an up-to-date consolidation of the Acts passed by this Parliament. It gives me great pleasure to make this announcement and I am sure it will be welcomed by all honourable senators.
– I invite the Leader of the Government in the Senate to move that the Senate take note of the Statement. I shall take the adjournment of that motion because I think the matter ought to be debated.
Debate (on motion by Senator Withers) adjourned.
– by leave- I move:
This leaves the numbers in the Senate somewhat depleted. Unfortunately other honourable senators are ill and some straining of resources may be imposed on the Senate during this busy time. Certainly the number of Government honourable senators is quite seriously reduced. In fact I may indicate clearly that the numbers are little more than sufficient to maintain a quorum if this were left to Government senators alone. I trust that in the common sense with which this Senate always operates no endeavour will be made to produce a situation which would reflect upon us all.
– There are only 2 day to day occasions when the President of the Senate is involved in numbers. One is when he announces to the Senate the result of a division and the other when he inquires as to the number of honourable senators who are present when the Senate meets each day. Apart from those occasions the matter is one for the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers), and if he cares to address himself to the problem he may do so.
- Senator Murphy was good enough to inform us of the health of Senator Bishop. I wonder whether he will tell the Senate about the health of Senator Douglas McClelland?
-Yes. I am happy to inform the Senate that Senator Douglas McClelland is considerably improved. He is convalescing.
– May I be informed as to the parliamentary business which has caused the absence of Senator Negus overseas?
– The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) made the announcement. I am not privy to his secrets.
-I understand that Senator Negus is at the United Nations.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 3.36 to 10 p.m.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendment made by the Senate to this Bill.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made by the Senate to this Bill.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made by the Senate to this Bill.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cavanagh) read a first time.
– I move:
By agreement with the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers) I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
Mr President, this Bill, which seeks to provide Senate representation for the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, is identical to the Bill of the same title which was passed by the House of Representatives on 30 May 1973. The Bill was introduced in the Senate on 3 1 May 1973 and, as honourable senators know, the motion for the second reading of the Bill was defeated in the Senate on 7 June 1973. Mr President, it is interesting to note, however, that when the second reading of the Bill was agreed to by the House of Representatives on 29 May 1973, it was carried by 78 votes to 43. Seventeen members of the Country Party crossed the floor and voted with the Government, the other 3 members of the Country Party being absent when the vote was taken. Very little criticism was offered in another place by the members of the Country Party and, in fact, the Country Party member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) said during his speech:
In speaking to this Bill, I point out that in 1966 Senate representation for the Northern Territory was on my platform and it has been ever since … I support Senate representation for the Northern Territory . . .
At another stage he went on:
This Bill seeks to grant Senate representation to the Northern Territory. I say again that I welcome it . . . I am glad that it has been introduced because it provides a chance for the Northern Territory to get further representation in the Parliament . . .
Yet, when the vote on the second reading of the Bill was taken in the Senate, all 5 Country Party senators voted against it. Senator DrakeBrockman, at the conclusion of his speech, stated quite definitely:
Therefore, we in the Country Party oppose the legislation.
This is a remarkable display of political gymnastics. The only Party out of step in the House of Representatives was the Liberal Party. Even the Australian Capital Territory federal electorate conference of the Liberal Party is reported in the Canberra Times’ of 17 May 1973 under the heading ‘Libs Want Two ACT Senators’, as supporting the legislation, and I quote:
The Australian Capital Territory Federal Electorate Conference of the Liberal Party may ask the Party’s Senate wing to initiate moves to bring in legislation giving the ACT 2 representatives in the Senate.
The Federal Electorate Conference will also ask the Parliamentary Liberal Party to support any legislation providing for the 2 Senators. At its meeting last night, the Conference carried a motion supporting the establishment of 2 Senate seats for the ACT, both to be elected at the same time. The Chairman of the Conference, Dr Peter Hughes, said today the legislation should be brought down as soon as possible. The 2 Senators are vital to Canberra because the ACT is under-represented in that it does not have ‘self-government’, he said.
In these circumstances the attitude of the Opposition parties on this legislation is indeed difficult to follow. The second reading speech when introducing the Bill is reported in Hansard at pages 22 12 to 22 14. That speech fully explained the details and the purpose of the proposed legislation. However, I will again briefly outline the proposals contained in the Bill.
The Bill provides for the election of 2 senators each for the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory and that such senators have the same powers, immunities and privileges as senators representing the States; that the first election of Territory senators be held at the same time as the next Senate election in the several States or at the same time as the next general election for members of the House of Representatives, if such is held before or in conjunction with the next Senate election; that the term of the first Territory senators be from the date of their election until the eve of polling day for the ensuing general election for members of the House of Representatives; that after the first election for Territory senators, elections be held at the same time as the general elections for members of the House of Representatives; that after the first election of Territory senators, the terms of Territory senators be the period between each House of Representatives election; and for the Territory senators to be elected under the same system of proportional representation as that currently applicable to the election of senators representing the States, except in the case of a single casual vacancy when such vacancy shall be filled by the holding of a by-election adopting the procedures used for filling a single casual vacancy for a State senator, as far as may be applicable. Under another Bill, Territory senators will be excluded for the purpose of determining the number of members of the House of Representatives to be chosen in the several States in pursuance of section 1 0 of the Representation Act.
The purpose of this Bill- and this is its only purpose- is to provide a measure of representation for the Australian Capital Territory and for the Northern Territory in the Senate and thus give some meaningful expression to section 122 of the Constitution in respect of the Senate as an integral part of this Parliament. Such representation is clearly permissible. Section 122 of the Constitution provides, and I quote:
The Parliament may make laws for the government of any territory surrendered by any State to and accepted by the Commonwealth, or of any territory placed by the Queen under the authority of and accepted by the Commonwealth, or otherwise acquired by the Commonwealth, and may allow the representation of such territory in either House of the Parliament to the extent and on the terms which it thinks fit.
There has been a significant increase in the development and population growth of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. These 2 Territories, and the people who reside in them, are as much part of Australia as any other part. Had these areas not been formed into Territories they would have been within the States of New South Wales and South Australia respectively and their people would have participated in electing representatives to the Senate. We believe that while the national Parliament is comprised of 2 legislative chambers, all people and all parts of Australia should be represented in both chambers. We tried to bring this about in Opposition and we seek to bring it about in Government. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), when Leader of the Opposition, introduced the Territory Senators Bill in 1968 and again in 1970. He explained the justification for the provision of senatorial representation for the Australian Capital Territory and for the Northern Territory on those occasions. This justification has continued to exist and to grow with the growth and development of the 2 Territories.
I turn now for a moment to a matter which has been the subject of legal advice in relation to section 24 of the Constitution which provides, in part:
The House of Representatives shall be composed of members directly chosen by the people of the Commonwealth and the number of such members shall be, as nearly as practicable, twice the number of Senators.
On the basis of the advice by the Commonwealth legal advisors the provision of Territory senators under section 122 of the Constitution, does not cause an alteration in the number of members of the House of Representatives by virtue of section 24. Consequently, the proposed Territory senators will be excluded in determining the number of members to be chosen in the several States in pursuance of section 10 of the Representation Act. This will be made clear by proposed amendments of the Representation Act contained in the Representation Bill which I shall introduce.
Mr President, the Bill before the Senate provides for senatorial representation for the Australian Capital Territory and for the Northern Territory differing in extent to representation in the Senate afforded the States. The Government proposes 2 senators for each Territory. We believe that it would be proper to have an even number elected each time for each Territory, thus allowing representation of the parties to be more evenly balanced than would be the case if only one senator for each Territory was provided.
Fifteen years ago the Constitutional Review Committee, upon which all parties were represented, recommended that there should be an election for half the senators every time there was a general election for the House of Representatives. Bringing elections for Territory senators into line with House of Representatives elections accords with the recommendation of that Committee. It is proposed that the first election of the Territory senators will take place at the next Senate election or at the next general election of members of the House of Representatives if such takes place sooner that the next Senate election. The legislation gives effect to the Government’s policy to provide increased Senate representation to the people of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. This Parliament has an obligation to give adequate representation to the people of these Territories. The Government is endeavouring to carry out its mandate and the Opposition should not deny the people of these Territories the representation in the Australian Parliament to which they are entitled. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Withers) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cavanagh) read a first time.
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
This Bill, which is in identical form to the Representation Bill 1973 passed by the House of Representatives on 30 May 1973 but rejected in the Senate on 7 June 1973, seeks to amend the formula in the Representation Act for determining the number of members of the House of Representatives in the several States. The legislation was carried without a division in the House of Representatives on 30 May 1973, again with Country Party support. It was, however, rejected and voted against by the 5 Country Party senators in the Senate on 1 June 1973.
Before dealing with the amendments of the Representation Act proposed by the Bill, I will refer briefly to section 24 of the Constitution which is relevant. Section 24 provides, in part:
The House of Representatives shall be composed of members directly chosen by the people of the Commonwealth, and the number of such members shall be, as nearly as practicable, twice the number of Senators.
Section 24 further provides that the number of members chosen in the several States shall be in proportion to the respective numbers of their people and the section goes on to specify the manner in which that number is to be determined until the Parliament otherwise provides. As honourable senators will know, Parliament has otherwise provided in the Representation Act. A short time ago I re-introduced the Senate (Representation of Territories) Bill 1973 which provides for senatorial representation for the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. The Government’s legal advice is that Section 24 of the Constitution does not have application in relation to senators who may be provided for a Territory under the provisions of section 122 of the Constitution. In other words, the requirement contained in section 24 for the number of members of the House of Representatives to be as nearly as practicable twice the number of senators does not relate to Territory members or senators provided under section 122 of the Constitution. Furthermore, the people of the Commonwealth in the context of section 24 are the people of the States. The formula in section 10 of the Representation Act for determining the number of members of the House of Representatives to be chosen in the several States, sets out that a quota shall be ascertained by dividing the number of people of the Commonwealth by twice the number of senators. The number of members to be chosen in each State is determined by dividing the number of people of the State by the quota; and if on such division there is a remainder, one more member shall be chosen in the State.
Clause 3 of the Bill before the Senate makes it clear that in applying the formula provided in section 10 ‘the people of the Commonwealth’ are the people of the 6 States and do not include the people of any Territory. Clause 5 of the Bill which substitutes the words ‘the Senators for the States’ for the word ‘Senators’, makes it clear that Territory senators are excluded from the formula for determining the number of members of the House of Representatives to be chosen in the several States. Thus, consistent with section 24 of the Constitution, the introduction of Territory senators will not effect the representation of the States in the House of Representatives. Opportunity is being taken in Clauses 4 and 6 of the Bill to make some amendments of a formal nature to sections 7 and 13 of the Representation Act. The present provisions of these sections do not take into account the fact that one House of the Parliament may be sitting although the other is not. At the same time it is desirable to bring the period within which regulations are to be tabled under sub-section (2) of section 13 into line with the period of 1 5 sitting days provided by the Acts Interpretation Act in relation to regulations generally. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Withers) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cavanagh) read a first time.
Senator CAVANAGH (South Australia-
Minister for Aboriginal Affairs) ( 10.6)- I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
The Bill provides legislative basis for the provision, as an emergency measure under the child migrant education program, of supplementary class-room accommodation in state and independent schools where this is necessary to allow adequate special instruction of migrant children to take place. The Bill, Mr President, seeks an amendment of the Immigration (Education) Act 1971 which, in defining in section 3 capital equipment of an educational nature’ which could be financed under the child program, specifically excluded any building. The program of special assistance to state and independent schools in which there are migrant children handicapped by a lack of knowledge of the English language was introduced by the previous Government in April 1970. The decision was then taken that funds should be provided for the salaries of special teachers to provide special instruction to migrant children; for the purchase of approved capital equipment of the language laboratory type for use in the special classes to be established; for the provision of suitable teaching and learning materials; and for the cost of training courses for special teachers.
However funds were not to be provided for accommodation for the special classes, and schools were obliged to arrange these in whatever circumstances were possible. Despite these difficulties, there has been a substantial development in the child program. Expenditure has increased from $1.8m in the financial year 1970-71 to an expected $8.4m in the present financial year. The number of special teachers employed to give instruction in special classes has risen from 546 in 1970-71 to approximately 1,500 in the current financial year. We expect that close on 60,000 children will be receiving instruction in special classes this financial year. Nevertheless children and teachers are working in some schools, particularly of high migrant density, under completely unacceptable conditions. A survey of child migrant education in schools of high migrant density in Melbourne which the Government initiated late in 1972, and undertaken by the Victorian Education Department, the Catholic Education Office in Victoria, the Department of Immigration and the Department of Education, revealed serious inadequacies with respect both to accommodation and supply of teachers, which are related problems, and some shortages of equipment and materials.
The report showed that only one-third of children in the 63 schools surveyed who were having difficulty with English were actually receiving assistance and of this one-third 40 per cent were not receiving sufficient special tuition. In effect, only 20 per cent of the children in the schools surveyed who need English were receiving enough of it. The basic reason for this situation was the shortage of suitable accommodation for special classes. The report also showed that only 29 per cent of the rooms actually used for migrant classes were appropriate class-rooms. This meant that children and teachers were working in substandard accommodation comprising staff rooms, cloak rooms, store rooms, offices, sick bays and even shower rooms and laundries. Although the survey described in the report was confined to Melbourne, it was expected that much the same situation would apply in sections of the Sydney metropolitan area and possibly to a lesser degree in some other centres.
The findings of the Melbourne survey were amply confirmed by the task force which the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) established early this year to identify and report on special problems confronting migrants. Because he sees migrant education as one of the most vital matters affecting migrants, he asked that this area should be given first priority by the Task Forces. This was done, and their initial reports have stressed the disadvantages migrant children are suffering through inadequate instruction in English. The report of the New South Wales task force, released by Mr Riordan, M.P., in the absence of the Chairman, Dr Klugman, M.P., called attention to the urgent need to extend to the fullest possible extent the present system of teaching migrant children English as quickly as possible after enrolment. In presenting the report of the Victoria task force, its Chairman, Mr Garrick, M.P., and Vice-Chairman, Mr Innes, M.P., reported that migrant children are being blatantly denied a good education because they are not taught enough English.
Mr Manfred Cross, M.P., Chairman of the Queensland task force, in presenting his committee’s report, referred to a number of schools in Queensland in which special classes were being conducted in substandard accommodation. Cabinet on 14 May 1973 approved a joint submission by the Minister for Immigration and the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) to extend the child migrant education program to include provision for supplementary class-room accommodation by way of demountable or portable class-rooms, where this was necessary as an emergency measure to ensure that adequate instruction could be given. The intention is that funds will be provided over a 2-year period when the situation will be reviewed in the light of other measures for Australian Government financial support for school buildings.
Following the Government’s decision, state and independent school authorities were asked to establish priorities on the basis of the greatest need- in terms of high migrant children density and the location of schools in areas of social deprivation, which tend together to compound the problems of both migrant children and special teachers, the availability of special teachers, and ground space at the schools where demountable class-rooms could be erected.
Some 420 schools have been listed by the education authorities where additional class-rooms are required for this purpose. At some schools, two or more class-rooms would be needed. An initial estimate is that 550 class-rooms will be required in all. At an estimated average cost of $9,500 for provision, erection and furnishing, an amount of $5.25m would be required over the 2-year period. A sum of $2m has been provided in 1973-74 for the emergency class-room accommodation program. Further expenditure can be expected in the course of the 2 years for which the program is designed.
The Bill, Mr President, is a relatively short one. Clause 1 makes the point that the principal Act when amended will be known as the Immigration (Education) Act 1971-1973. Clause 2 provides that the Act shall come into operation on the day on which it receives the royal assent. Passage of the legislation will be necessary before expenditure may be incurred in the provision of emergency class-room accommodation. The purpose of clause 3 is to extend the definition of capital equipment of an educational nature in section 3 of the original Act to provide also for portable class-rooms but not to include any other building.
The emergency class-room accommodation program does not contemplate expenditure on accommodation of a permanent kind. The program is essentially an emergency measure to meet an immediate need. It is to run for a 2-year period at which time the situation will be reviewed in the light of other measures for Australian Government financial support for school buildings. Demountable class-rooms have the advantage of mobility, as needs change between schools, they are suitable for use as an emergency measure in old schools which may be scheduled for demolition and are adaptable either to further subdivision or to an open plan approach to teaching. The expression portable class-rooms has been used in this clause as it can be applied also to class-rooms described in some States as demountable class-rooms.
Clause 4 provides for the expectation that the Australian Government in addition to paying for the portable class-rooms that have been obtained direct by education authorities, may in some circumstances itself wish to handle the ordering and supply in the case of a particular education authority. It appears that the majority of State Departments of Education and Catholic education offices will have the necessary administrative resources and machinery to arrange supply, but some may not. In view of the emergency nature of the program and to ensure proper use of funds, it is desirable that the Australian Government have the authority to arrange supply where this is necessary. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
-The Opposition does not oppose the passage of this Bill. In fact, it wholly supports the Bill. We propose, this Bill being of an urgent nature, that it should be given a speedy passage through the Senate. For that reason we wish to see it dealt with this evening. I wish to address a few short remarks in relation to it. The migrant program is and has been an important part of the Opposition’s overall policy for the development of our country in material, cultural and social terms. We believe that it is of great importance that those who are part of the migrant program should be given every possible opportunity to play their part fully when they come to Australia.
One of the problems which was identified as a result of a number of inquiries set up by the Opposition while in government was the need for a greater degree of English teaching of migrant children to enable them to participate fully in the education otherwise available to them. Surveys were conducted, in New South Wales in particular, in relation to the education of migrant children. Following those surveys, steps were taken in 1970 by the former Liberal-Country Party Government to introduce a program which provided for the expenditure of money in relation to migrant child education. It developed to the stage that last year the former Government decided that a further survey was necessary in relation to the high migrant density areas of Melbourne, as a good example, to ascertain exactly what was happening and what were the needs. They were ascertained as a result of the inquiry which was undertaken by the Victorian Department of Education, the Catholic Education Office in Victorian, the Department of Education and the Department of Immigration. The survey revealed very serious inadequacies in relation to the accommodation available for the special teaching of the English language to migrant children. Therefore it followed, as part of the program of the former Government, that this need should be catered for and that money should be provided.
I am delighted that the new Government has accepted that aspect of the former Government ‘s program and has carried it forward. This Bill represents the action taken as a result of the initiative of the former Government and its acceptance and follow-on by the present Government. So, far from opposing this Bill in any way, the Opposition proudly accepts it as part of the program for which it has always stood and continues to stand- that is, the importance to Australia and the world of a migrant program and the importance to the people who play their part in that program of being able to obtain a fair go in Australia. Part of the fair go given is that the children should be given special coaching where necessary in the English language to enable them to be able to participate fully in and obtain the rewards from the education system available in Australia.
We make only one small point: That is that this program provided for by this Bill is in relation to the provision of demountable classrooms to be placed temporarily at schools where there is a need to replace the sort of facilities which have been available. It is rather shocking to think of these. They are mentioned in the second reading speech and include facilities such as cloakrooms, storerooms, offices, sickbays and even shower rooms and laundries which have been used in various classes for the teaching of migrant children. These are hardly the conditions which are conducive to learning and hardly the conditions which are likely to help the migrant children to be able to take their place in Australian society. It is with great pleasure that we support the provision of demountable classrooms for schools where the need is identified. We hope that demountable classrooms will not become a feature of Australian education. As second worst to shower rooms and laundries, demountable classrooms must feature high on the list. But the program that is going ahead in relation to education in Australia, a program which we are delighted to see includes the provision of funds for the building of extra school facilities, should overcome the temporary need. We hope that it will not be a permanent need. We hope that adequate school facilities will be available and that it will no longer be necessary to provide demountable classrooms. But we agree entirely with this, in view of the urgent need, as a temporary measure and entirely support the Bill. With those few remarks I indicate that we would like to see a speedy passage given to the Bill.
– I intervene briefly in the debate to state that the Immigration Advisory Council- I know that Senator Davidson would concur with this - was equally concerned about the position. I direct only 2 questions to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh). I notice that the Minister cites 420 schools where additional classroom facilities are required. One of the dangers that we have when Commonwealth money is granted to the States is that the priorities that we regard as essential may not coincide with the desires and the wants of the State education authorities. I know of a case in the central western suburbs of Sydney. The state schools at Concord and Homebush have fairly high Greek and Turkish enrolments respectively. This is a problem with which we have to grapple. In the adjacent suburb of Fivedock, the All Hallows Catholic Convent School, has, I think, 80 per cent Italian pupils and a lesser proportion of Polish pupils. I would be much more happy if I had a list of the 420 schools involved.
The second matter I raise- I think that this was in the back of the mind of Senator Rae- is that if we overcome this emergency in the next 4 or 5 years, I would like to feel that the encroachment on playgrounds by emergency classrooms would at some stage be reversed and that these schools would then have back their full acreage of playground space.
– in reply- I thank the Opposition for supporting the Bill and for assisting its speedy passage through the Senate. I agree completely with everything that Senator Rae said. It is disgraceful that this position has been permitted to continue for so long because there has been a need for special classrooms for learning possibly back to the early 1 950s- since the late Arthur Calwell introduced the immigration program in Australia. I also agree that this was part of the program of the former Government but it never had time to implement it. The need has been there for 23 years. Like so many other things which were part of the commendable program of the former Government, it necessitated a change of government to a Labor government before actually this was put into practice. While this was part of the program of the former Government, it is this Government that is putting it into operation.
– The Minister will get much more lengthy debate if he takes this attitude.
-Senator Mulvihill raises 2 important questions.
– This will be the last time the Minister will get a Bill through so speedily.
-Senator Webster indicates that he will oppose the passage of the Bill if we do not agree with everything that Senator Rae has said.
– The Minister said that he agreed with everything that Senator Rae has said and then he went on to -
– I am agreeing with all that the honourable senator has said. But if what I have said was not completely in praise of the previous government, apparently, to Senator Webster’s mind, this is a reason why the Bill should be opposed, despite the necessity for it. I think that the answer to Senator Mulvihill ‘s first question is contained in the second reading speech in which it is stated:
Following the Government’s decision, State and independent school authorities were asked to establish priorities on the basis of the greatest need -
Of course, it is as the result of the priorities the States have submitted that it was decided that provision would be made for the provision of 420 demountable classrooms. The initial estimate is that in all 550 classrooms will be required. A sum of $2m has been provided in 1973-74 for the emergency classroom accommodation program. Further expenditure can be expected in the course of the 2 years for which the program is designed. It is expected that over the 2-year period we shall meet all of the requirements of the various State education authorities.
Dealing with Senator Mulvihill ‘s other question, I suppose that the temporary classrooms must encroach upon some areas which are now used for playing fields and other purposes. But because of the demountable nature of the classrooms, when the need for them no longer remains they will be removed. Subject to the wishes of the State authorities, there being no further need for additional classrooms, the areas which they occupy will revert to playing fields or to whatever purpose for which the areas were previously used. Again, I thank the Senate for its support and the speedy passage of this Bill. I hope that it will pass through the Senate this evening.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I regard as reprehensible the action of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) in his reply to the second reading debate on the Bill. On behalf of the Opposition, I take great exception to the remarks which were made by him. They were not accurate. They were a gross exaggeration and a distortion.
– The honourable senator invited them.
– They were a distortion of the facts. I stated those matters with which the Minister agreed, namely, that this action resulted from a program developed by the Opposition when in Government. I went no further than that. I did not criticise the Government’s attitude in relation to immigration. I did not develop a disputed debate in relation to the absurd inflationary policies engaged in by this Government. I did not enter into the things which might otherwise have been entered into by way of debate if the Minister wished to have a full-scale debate. I saw it as more important simply to state the facts with which he agreed and leave it at that in the interests of obtaining a speedy passage for this legislation which is urgent. If the Government wishes to do what it has done on so many occasions in the past, that is, try to hold to ransom sections of the community so it can say that the Senate is holding up its legislation, then it should let us know and we will have a fight.
– I did not speak in the second reading debate on this Bill. I considered that an arrangement had been made between the Government and the Opposition in which the Government had been treated to leniency and had been permitted to have its second reading speech incorporated in Hansard without its having to be read. This is the first Bill to be presented by Senator Cavanagh in his new capacity as Minister responsible for handling the business of the chamber. I thought that he would have sufficient discretion not to speak in the way that he did tonight. I now advise him that I do not wish to see him incorporate second reading speeches in Hansard in the future. That will be my attitude in the future, if the Minister’s response to an offer of assistance from the Opposition is immediately to get up and try to take some cheap political point.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Temporary Chairman. I ask: To which clause is Senator Webster addressing himself in the Committee stage?
– In reply to Senator Poyser ‘s point of order, the Committee decided to take the Bill as a whole. A little latitude is always allowed when discussing a Bill in Committee in those circumstances, but I do not propose to allow a second reading debate to ensue.
-The interruption by Senator Poyser -
– Order! Senator Webster, you will refer to the Bill before the Committee.
-Yes, I wish to refer to the Bill and to the fact that the Opposition allowed the Minister to incorporate his second reading speech in Hansard. I take objection to the attitude adopted by the Minister. I give notice to the Government and to Senator Cavanagh in his new capacity that if he adopts that attitude in future in order to gain some political point he will not be given the opportunity to do so, and I think that that will be to the disadvantage of the Government. I ask the Minister to take those remarks on board.
– I have been exceptionally co-operative tonight in trying to agree with everything. I went to the trouble of saying that I agreed with everything Senator Rae said. I think that we all are in a generous mood tonight. I think the latitude that you allowed both Senator Rae and Senator Webster, Mr Temporary Chairman, was more in the trend of generosity than perhaps in conformity with the Standing Orders, because what they said had no relevance to the debate. We reached an agreement in relation to the passage of this legislation. It was agreed that Senator Rae would make a few remarks and the Bill would pass through all its stages tonight. During the course of his remarks Senator Rae said, in effect, that the previous Government should get the credit for this legislation. Without being assured that what he said was correct, I agreed with him that it was pan of the previous Government’s program, but the putting into effect of programs commenced by the previous Government depends upon the activities of this Government. That is all I said.
Surely we are entitled to the credit for this legislation. What I have stated is factual. That is what happened. We take due credit for having put into effect the program commenced by the previous Government.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cavanagh) read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representa- fives’.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cavanagh) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to incorporate the second reading speech in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
The objective of the Bill is to eliminate the annual notification of address, occupation and marital status by aliens required to register under the Aliens Act. Although the register of aliens has been satisfactory insofar as initial registrations are concerned, a large proportion of aliens fail to provide the information necessary to keep their addresses current. Non-compliance with the provision of the 1947 Act which required notification of change of address, occupation or marital status within 7 days of any change developed to a high level.
In 1965 the Act was amended to provide for only annual notification of address, occupation and marital status, but the non-compliance rate persisted. In the first year (1965) after the introduction of this amendment. 84 per cent of registered aliens complied. In 1972, however, only 46 per cent responded despite improved methods of handling notifications, including the dispatch of computer prepared notification requests to last known addresses and the provision of business reply paid envelopes for the return of the notification forms.
Although provisions exist in the Act for prosecution for non-compliance with the notification requirement, these are defective from a legal and practical standpoint and prosecutions have not been instituted for some years. If prosecutions were to be instituted it would mean prosecuting something like 150,000 people a year and I do not believe it is in the interests of migrants, or the nation, that this draconian action should be taken to secure information which is on file basically anyway. Because of these factors the requirement of annual notification is not serving the purpose for which it was introduced and should be abolished.
The Bill contains 9 clauses, of which the first 2 deal with the title and date of commencement. Clauses 3 and 4 simply provide for amendments to delete references to 21 years of age in sections 7 and 7a of the principal Act and to substitute instead the new age of majority- 18 years. Clause 5 deletes from section 8 of the principal Act references to section 9, which is to be repealed. Clause 6 repeals section 9 of the principal Act which is the section under which aliens have been required to notify annually, their address, occupation and marital status. It is the removal of this requirement which is the objective of the Bill. Clause 7 (a), like clauses 3 and 4, provides for amendment to delete references to 2 1 years of age and substitute references to 1 8 years of age in section 1 7 of the principal Act.
Clause 7(b) provides for the omission of subsection 3 of section 17. This particular subsection provided penalties for the parents or guardians (of aliens under the age of 21 years) who had failed to comply with the annual notification requirements. With the repeal of section 9 of the principal Act, sub-section 3 of section 17 no longer has relevance. Clause 8 simply deletes reference to section 9, which is being repealed, from section 18 of the principal Act. The opportunity has also been taken to make some formal amendments of the principal Act to accord with current drafting practices. These are covered in a schedule of formal amendments under clause 9. Requirements with respect to initial registration of aliens will remain unaltered and the updating of records from information received through departmental sources will ensure the maintenance of an adequate register of aliens. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Greenwood) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Cavanagh) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I seek the indulgence of the Senate at this late hour to make a statement which, on reflection, I should have made some time ago. If I had done so, an injustice which has been done to Mr Gordon Bryant may not have been done. I refer to his transfer from the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs, which appears to be to his discredit and which indicates that in some way he may have failed. I seek to correct this impression. Let me make it clear that it has not been Mr Gordon Bryant who had failed; it had been the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and its permanent head, and the advisers to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.
– My memory goes back quite some time when Senator Dame Nancy Buttfield interjected in a speech that I was making and contributed by way of a follow-up statement to what I had to say. I do not want to go back to that period of time and remind her of what happened. Allow me to proceed. I repeat: It has not been Mr Gordon Bryant who has failed; it has been the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and its permanent head, and the advisers to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs who have failed. The former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs is the victim- and he is not the first victimof the mishandling of this area of responsibility. The previous Minister, Mr Howson, who was given a conglomerate of responsibilities, including the area of Aboriginal affairs, was the previous victim. Unless drastic reorganisation is carried out the new Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Senator Cavanagh, undoubtedly will be the next victim. The whole field of Aboriginal affairs has developed into a disaster area littered with failures and the expenditure of large sums of money, which have been spent with questionable results. This pattern was set during the period of office of the previous Government.
At the invitation of the previous Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, over the past 3 months I undertook certain work which, together with my representation on the Labor Caucus SubCommittee on Aboriginal Affairs, made me aware of certain information in relation to the Office of Aboriginal Affairs, and now the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, which convinces me that the permanent head of the Department, Mr Barrie Dexter, deliberately frustrated the decisions of his Minister and in fact worked for and succeeded his removal. I regret to say that the Chairman of the Council for Aboriginal Affairs, Dr H. C. Coombs, cannot escape some of the responsibility. Let me explain how I arrived at this position. I was appointed by the then Minister. Mr Gordon Bryant, as chairman of the Aboriginal Co-operative Advisory Committee. This is an area in which I have some expertise. While organising the Torres Strait Co-operative Society I became aware of the work of Applied Ecology Pty Ltd, a company set up by the Department together with the associated companies, Aboriginal and Islander Products Pty Ltd and Aboriginal and Islander Marketing Pty Ltd, to assist various Aboriginal and island communities.
Senator Laucke, by asking a question recently, in effect has prompted me to speak tonight in order that I may protect my own position. I think that in fairness to me honourable senators ought to listen to what I have to say. It is only right that Senator Laucke should have answers to the questions he has asked. I may be able to answer some of the questions. I doubt whether the Department would have been prepared to give clear answers to his questions because it was not prepared to give me clear answers to the questions; it certainly was not prepared to give the previous Minister clear answers to the questions; and it certainly was not prepared to give Mr Howson clear answers to the questions which have been asked.
I speak in particular of turtle farming in the Torres Strait for which the companies I have mentioned were set up. Rumours were prevalent of the failure of the project, resignations of field officers were reported, general managers were dismissed and other alarming reports filtered through to the Minister, who asked me whether I was prepared to accept the position of director of the companies concerned. It is in the record that I accepted the position while at the same time expressing grave reservations about the viability of the whole scheme. On close investigation, the Minister contacted the Attorney-General and expressed his reservations. I am not holding the previous Government responsible for what has occurred. All I am saying is that a Minister of the previous Government was not properly informed, that the previous Labor Minister for Aboriginal Affairs was not properly informed and that I am determined that the present Minister shall be properly informed -
– He can look after himself.
-Well, he will receive some assistance from me. It seems to me that he is not likely to receive any from the honourable senator. In brief, what has occurred is that the Department, without proper supervision, advanced to Dr Bustard through the Australian National University in 1970-71 -
-What was his name?
-Dr Bustard. The Department advanced through the ANU and subsequently directly to Dr Bustard up to approximately April this year an amount of $457,000 and intended in this year to expend almost $1.5m.
-$1.5m. This was to be given to a project that apparently was failing in the field. The Minister, Mr Gordon Bryant, endeavoured to bring this operation, commenced under the Liberal Government, under some control. Firstly, he referred the structure of the companies to the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) and questioned the setting up of the companies which were all funded with public moneys, one to support the other, and whose expenditure was not under the scrutiny of the Auditor-General or the Parliament. Next, he expressed doubts about the ecological aspects of the scheme and referred the matter to the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass) and to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation. He appointed as new directors of the company myself as chairman, Mr Ray Thorburn, M.H.R., and Mr J. Neill, a leading Canberra accountant. He referred- in fairness to the man I ask honourable senators to listen to what I have to say- allegations of misuse of moneys to the Attorney-General. That action subsequently was supported by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation which referred the matter to the AuditorGeneral who is at present carrying out an investigation. In all these actions Mr Gordon Bryant acted to protect not only the expenditure of large sums of public moneys but the interests of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders.
Let me explain my position. When I became a director of this company, naturally I took steps to find out exactly what was going on. I went to the Torres Strait. I went to 4 islands on which turtle farming was being carried out. I was appalled at the result of this massive expenditure of moneys. As I have said, $457,000 has been spent. I saw Torres Strait islanders being imposed upon in such a way that they would attract the sympathy of any reasonable person. For $30 a week they were expected to raise a certain number of turtles. They were expected to maintain and feed these turtles twice daily and to change the water in the pens. As the turtles grew bigger the water had to be changed more frequently and they required more food. Also there was cannibalism among the turtles in the pens. I remind Senator Wright, who is laughing, that this scheme was set up and funded without proper supervision under his Government.
– How did they get the $450,000?
-They got it out of the previous Government.
– How long ago was that?
– In 1970-71. There are quite a number of people who cannot escape responsibility for the expenditure of moneys without proper supervision. The ANU, which allowed itself to be an agent for the distribution of these moneys after 1970 and 1971, cannot escape responsibility for the expenditure of these large sums of moneys, some of which were used in a direction in which they should not have been used.
Because the Minister took the necessary steps to refer these matters to the various people to whom they should have been referred- to the Attorney-General and subsequently to the Minister for the Environment and Conservation and to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation- a campaign was started against him which I regret was responsible in a great part for his transfer. Aside from my actual visit to the islands, how is it that I know exactly what went on over a period of time? It is because I sought to ask questions. A company called Applied Ecology Pty Ltd was set up and funded by the Government for $457,000. Subsequently, Aboriginal and Islander Products Pty Ltd was set up to purchase turtles from the first company for $ 10 each. These turtles were to go to an taxidermist to be stuffed for a further $8. To make certain that there was a market for these turtles, without any reference whatsoeverand one is appalled at the concept- to the availability of a market, without any references to whether these turtles could be exported and without any reference to whether these turtles would be subject to sales tax, they were then to be sold or purchased by Aboriginal and Islander Marketing Pty Ltd which the Government, or shall I say the Department, funded with a further $100,000 to be used to purchase the turtles on the raising of which we had already expended $457,000. This is shades of Alexander Barton.
Those honourable senators who seek to find out further information may do so. I do not doubt that Senator Laucke will be asking for further information. I seek merely to indicate that the previous Minister for Aboriginal Affairs did everything possible, acted with promptness and propriety, and I think acted with too great a tolerance in not taking steps to correct and to discipline those who were responsible within the Department for this appalling misuse of public moneys. It is not only in this area that there has been an appalling misuse of moneys to the disadvantage of the Aboriginal people. If we look at the way in which the trust fund has been operating we will see evidence after evidence of failure. This is to the disadvantage of the Aboriginal people, not to their advantage. All we are doing in the methods we are using in this operation is proving that the Aborigines are commercial failures. They have been given money in large quantities and unwisely without the proper support of the Department. The heads of the Department and the advisors have to answer for this. I see no reason why Minister after Minister should suffer because of the actions of people who so unwisely have made money available and who did not properly supervise this money.
With the transfer of the Department to a new Minister I now find myself as chairman of a company called Applied Ecology Pty Ltd. The question can be asked: ‘How can a member of Parliament be a chairman of a company? Is this not an office of profit under the Crown?’ I did not come down in the last shower. Immediately I took up this position I wrote to the Attorney-General and asked him to do 3 things. I asked him to investigate these companies and their setting up, away from the scrutiny of Parliament, funded by public moneys. I also asked him to investigate my position on those companies and whether it in any way conflicted with my situation as a member of Parliament even though no money is paid to and received by me and there is provision in the articles of this company for a director to be there without a shareholding.
– Did the honourable senator make this report to the Prime Minister before he dismissed the previous Minister?
– Let me tell the honourable senator what steps the Minister took. He took steps to appoint us to these companies in order to bring them under more direct control because it was fairly evident that we had a rapidly expanding project which was spending tremendous amounts of money without proper supervision or care. We found that these companies which were set up were assisting merely 100 turtle farmers in the field. Yet in Canberra an office was set up in the Woden Tower in a palatial suite of offices, costing $155,000 a year, plus a sophisticated staff which not only equalled but actually surpassed the staff available to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Yet this office was set up and developed. I would say that the whole of this project was referred for scrutiny to the Minister for the Environment and to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on the Environment and Conservation. This scrutiny by the House of Representatives Committee resulted in evidence being given by the Department. The evidence proved to be misleading. Not only was the evidence misleading; I would say it was grossly misleading. Even the figures given were not accurate. When the fact that the figures did not agree was brought to the notice of the Department the amount was changed from $257,000 to over $450,000. Not only that, but the Department said that it had 29,000 turtles. My first step on taking my position was to ask how many turtles existed and the number of farmers. According to the recent official stocktaking the number of turtles that existed was not 29,000, as the Department said, but 19,000.
– Did witnesses give that evidence on oath?
– The witness gave that evidence on oath.
– Did the Minister dismiss these people because of this evidence?
– All I am saying here is that I took the necessary steps to see whether the matter could be raised before there was a reshuffle. But that is a matter I shall take up elsewhere. I took the action I thought necessary by giving evidence before the House of Representatives Standing Committee. The Torres Strait Islanders have come to depend upon this project for their livelihood. One hundred turtle farmers and their families are engaged in collecting fish and chaining water to keep these turtles alive. In order to protect them it was necessary to disclose what was going on. But I had to attempt in some way to protect the project, to correct the failures and to convert it from what was obviously not a viable commercial project to a conservation project. For this reason it was necessary to give this evidence in private. Subsequently the Committee called another witness who was an ex-manager of the turtle project. He gave evidence which supported the evidence which I had given before that Committee. Subsequently in seeking from the Minister further information on what was happening with this money and with this project it was necessary for me to ask certain colleagues on the caucus Sub-committee for Aboriginal Affairs to look at the files on the turtle farm. Those files are departmental files and I can refer to them only generally. There was a deliberate attempt in those files to discredit me. There was a reference which stated that I was a liar. There was a reference which said that I conspired to destroy the project. There was a reference which said that I was responsible for the resignation of a field officer- in fact, that I sent him around the bend. I feel that for an honourable senator to realise exactly what has been done with public moneys in this area he would have to carry out the scrutiny of this particular project which I have carried out.
Honourable senators would be astounded at the manner in which there has been a cover up of the errors which have been committed by the Department, which were compounded by the Australian National University and which were subsequently confused by officials of the Department. Let me make this clear: As far as I am concerned that project will not be funded to $1.5m. It will not be wasteful to the extent that it has been wasteful. I have referred only to turtles. Let me refer to crocodiles. The same companies and the same scientists were involved in setting up at Edward River a crocodile farming project. In the initial stages the crocodiles died because insufficient care was given to water conditions and to the salinity of the water. But when the pressure of investigation came to bear upon the whole project, what occurred? In spite of the international stand which we have recently taken in relation to endangered species 2 crocodile hunters were employed. We supplied them with 2 Landrovers. They went up and down Cape York Peninsular and collected 1,500 crocodiles to replace the ones which had not survived. The question arises: How could this go on from 1970 to 1971 and right into 1973 and 1974, without the Department being aware of the mismanagement that was going on, the mistreatment of fauna and the mistreatment of the people who were required to look after these animals?
-What about the AuditorGeneral?
-The Auditor-General did not come into it because the companies were set up in. such a way and the funding made in such a way that the transition was completely outside the scrutiny of the Parliament. Previous Ministers took it that the funding was being made to the Australian National University whereas the funding was made to the Australian National University only until 1971. Subsequently the University said: ‘It is no longer a research program, Dr Bustard is not employed by us, we cannot receive moneys on his behalf. In other words there was no scientific responsibility for the money from that particular time. The money was being funded virtually direct to Dr Bustard and he had unsupervised control of those moneys, and those moneys were unwisely spent. Let me just point out this to the Senate: At present the arrangement is that one person within this operation has a $5,000 imprest petty cash account from which he can expend money and merely by supplying the dockets, that amount of $5,000 is refunded each month.
– How long have you let this goon?
– It has not been let go on.
– How long have you known about it?
– I have known about this, I would say, for a month.
– And when did you take action?
– I took action immediately. The papers that reveal this and the last lot of dockets that I received I gave immediately to the representative from the Auditor-General’s Department. When I first became aware of this unsupervised expenditure of money I immediately referred the matter to the Attorney-General. Honourable senators will find on his file a request to investigate this. Not only did I do this but the Minister did it also. Let us be fair. The previous Minister was not aware that the money was not going to the ANU and that the ANU was not supervising the money as such but the money was going directly to Dr Bustard. In that situation who then is to blame but the Department and the head of the Department? Yet since this became known the head of the Department deliberately frustrated the decisions of the Minister to bring this matter under control. I would say that, because of the strange arrangement that exists within the Department of Aboriginal Affairs where the head of the Department is responsible to the Council for Aboriginal Affairs, which is chaired by Dr Coombs, and also to the Minister, the head of the Department is able to bypass the Minister and go to the Chairman of the Council for Aboriginal Affairs and direct to the Prime Minister. In all this there is another charge I make and that is that the Prime Minister was misinformed. The Prime Minister was not aware, just as Mr Howson was not aware, just as the previous Prime Minister was not aware and just as Mr Gordon Bryant was not aware -
– But the previous Prime Minister did not sack his Minister, did he?
– If you, Senator, recall what happened to Mr Howson you will realise that he may as well have been either transferred or dismissed. There was a situation here that should never have been permitted- and the purpose of this whole exercise is to see that it does not continue.
– Who do you say misinformed the present Prime Minister- the Chairman of the Council?
– I would say that the present Prime Minister was not fully aware of the steps taken by Mr Gordon Bryant to bring this matter under control. The Prime Minister was subjected to a series of telegrams from the Torres Strait Islands which were supposed to be sent on behalf of the Torres Strait Islanders, but if you were to read some of those telegrams you would realise that they were prompted by other people. I would merely ask those honourable senators who want to go further into this at least to seek the papers out and to look at them. This just was not peanuts; it was $457,000 plus a further $100,000 sitting in the Aboriginal and Islander Marketing Pty Ltd which was set up to purchase turtles from the previous company without proper investigation as to what markets existed. I have not gone into the story of what was intended or how they were going to raise the turtles to 120 lb in congested pens with the water being changed by hand. I could take honourable senators to Murray Island and as we approached the island we would see figures forming a chain on the beach to carry 5-gallon buckets of water in order to change the water in the pens. The bigger the monsters become, the more they excrete, the more they foul the water and the higher the mortality rate becomes. And this was supposed to be a project to assist these people and it was supposed to be a conservation project.
– When were you appointed a director?
– I cannot at this moment give the exact date but I would say some 3 months ago would be the earliest date. It would be in the month of August that I was appointed. I might tell the Senate that my appointment was resisted by the head of the Department. At every stage he endeavoured to frustrate my appointment . Not only did he endeavour to frustrate my appointment but he subsequently tried to frustrate the appointments of Mr Ray Thorburn and also of Mr Jim Neill who, as I stated before, is a local accountant. He not only endeavoured to frustrate it but he spoke against it; and not only did he speak against it but he went further and endeavoured to denigrate and to discredit. If Mr Gordon Bryant has to suffer any disrepute because of this, let others suffer also. Let the head of the Department also accept some responsibility and let Dr Coombs also accept some responsibility. Let him accept the responsibility for knowing the true position and for doing nothing to protect Mr Gordon Bryant from transfer.
– Did you inform the Prime Minister?
– I stated clearly and I say it again that in this the Prime Minister was misinformed.
– By whom?
– I will allow you to arrive at your own conclusions in this regard. Someone mentioned the arts area. Arrive at your own conclusions there. I am merely telling you what is happening in one particular area. I am saying that this year we will be spending $170m through the Department on Aboriginal welfare. We will be spending for every man, woman and child of the Aboriginal population $1,000. If we are not careful, if we do not reorganise, and if the Department is not disciplined- by ‘disciplined I mean reorganised- that money will surely be wasted. I asked a question here and I have not got an answer to it. I asked: ‘How were the heads of the Department appointed? Were the jobs advertised?’ All jobs except the top four were advertised. The top four were appointed. Admittedly, the head of the Department was appointed by the Minister; but the head of the Department subsequently appointed the others. The purpose of my question was this: Why should these people have the easy road to appointment while everyone else in the Department has to go through the ‘Gazette’ and have the jobs advertised? No operation of this sort can be organised or directed so far away from the field as Canberra. No such organisation can suffer resignation after resignation of field officer after field officer or of staff member after staff member. The Torres Strait islanders in the field cannot suffer this continual indignity. Honourable senators may ask why they bother doing twice a day, 7 days a week, what I have described. They do it because there is no other payment for them- not a solitary payment. If they do not do what they are required to do they do not get their $30 a week.
This matter is something that needs to be looked at by all of us. My advice to Mr Gordon Bryant- I was in a position to give him some advice- was that he ought to accept his transfer as a favour because the Department, as this area of its responsibility is run at the present time, will wreck many a man unless the Parliament takes a hold and accepts the responsibility of seeing that the moneys funded to the Department are properly spent. Incidentally, the trust fund- how this got through this Parliament I do not know- gets only a single line in the Estimates and is not under the scrutiny of the Auditor-General. How did this come about? How was it set up? That trust fund is responsible for the expenditure of many millions of dollars, and this ought not be permitted. Today I saw the scrutiny that was given to the estimates of the Attorney-General ‘s Department. The expenditure of that Department was scrutinised, detail after detail. Yet, in the area I raise tonight, by the end of this year $2. 5m will have been expended without proper scrutiny by an Estimates Committee because an Estimates Committee would not be aware of what was behind that particular single line entry in the Estimates. Senator Greenwood talked tonight about telexes. We have a telex in the Woden tower in order to keep a hundred turtle farmers, a few crocodile farmers and a couple of field officers in the field in Western Australia. We will not have it for much longer. Most sophisticated equipment was set up, and this whole organisation was promoted in a wasteful way. Tonight I say: Let the responsibility rest where it should rest and have a thought for Mr Gordon Bryant.
- Senator Georges has raised matters of the utmost gravity. They simply cannot be allowed to rest here, for us to make up our own minds on them. The ramifications are so wide and deep that without a shadow of a doubt they call for a full and open inquiry. Indeed, the Government should appoint a royal commission to investigate the whole subject. What is involved is a vitally important aspect of accountability to Parliament for public expenditure. Tonight it has been suggested that in this instance there has been no accountability.
With every good endeavour we have set up systems and organisations to assist the betterment of the Aboriginal community. Tonight we heard Senator Georges make allegations about the whole project. We would be doing a great disservice to the Aboriginal community if we allowed these allegations to go unanswered. Obviously this is not the way to assist the Aboriginal community; rather it would give Aborigines complete inferiority complexes. This would happen not through their fault but through the fault of somebody else in the background, and it should never occur. Without saying any more tonight- in the morning I will closely read Senator Georges’ statements- I call immediately for this matter to be completely aired by means of a royal commission. Anything less than that will not satisfy the situation because departmental officers have been charged with a dereliction of their duties. There have been allegations in many directions and, above all, entrusted to this Parliament by the people of Australia is the duty to expend wisely and with complete accountability, moneys which are raised through revenue.
Mr President, I should say no more than that for the time being, but I do thank Senator Georges for having raised this matter. I asked a question on this recently, having heard as a background that there was something not too good in this matter. If that question led to the statements tonight, I am grateful in restrospect that I did ask the question.
-Now that this question has been opened up I think there are a few other facts that ought to be known. I am interested in Senator Laucke ‘s request for a royal commission. He might be gratified to know that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has already initiated a full scale inquiry which has either commenced or is about to commence.
– By whom?
-Do not get excited. Wait until I start to tell you a few facts and then you can start interjecting.
– By whom is the inquiry to be made.
– Tell us who is holding the inquiry.
-Just for the benefit of those people who are unloading their leader tomorrow and who are trying to throw up all sorts of smoke screens at the moment to take interest away from that particular internal brawl, might I say that the Prime Minister has asked the special Minister of State (Senator Willesee) to initiate an inquiry and it is in the hands of that Minister. The inquiry has either commenced or is about to commence. Those honourable senators who are so vocal on the Opposition benches ought to remember that although the Opposition shadow Minister has called for a royal commission, all of this crime was committed under one of their own Ministers. It was the former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs under this Government, who is now being criticised by some sections of the Press, together with Senator Georges and other colleagues who exposed it. So I suggest that there should be less noise from the Opposition benches.
I am not suggesting that there is crime in every corner, but there is one person who is particularly guilty. One could call him the Alexander Barton of Torres Strait. One should recall that it would have been much cheaper to set up the turtle farms on Lake Burley Griffin because all the machinery was here. This matter came under the portfolio of ex-Minister Howson. Most of this project was handled by him. It is regrettable, I know, that when the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) was removed from office and Mr Howson was installed, the first time he saw 2 Aboriginals together was when they came to a dinner party. That is all he knew about it. That is all he knew about his Department and that is all the overseeing that this Opposition did when it was in government. So members of the Opposition ought to remember when they are in their own Party caucus room that they did not take a closer look at what Mr Howson was doing, what he was encouraging or what he was not doing. If one went to Darnley Island one would see that there is a home there which was paid for by Commonwealth funds. It is occupied by Dr Bustard and his island wife.
In looking at the tragedy of the housing situation on all of the Torres Strait Islands- and there are no exceptions- one would have thought that a white man, even though he had an island wife, would have had other means of constructing his own home. But instead he has one of the best homes and it was provided with Commonwealth money under the previous Government. On Dauan Island, boats and motors were provided with Commonwealth funds under the previous Government, but there are no turtle farms. Yet the money was to be spent on turtle farming. On that island one can find at least one of the strongest outboard motors one can attach to a boat, but it is not used for turtle farming. I went to the islands earlier this year with the Minister. Dr Bustard was one of our advisers. It was significant that when he was first on an island we had some problems with islanders. It was equally significant that when other members of the party were the first to land on an island we were treated in a most friendly fashion. On Saibai the
Minister was allowed to have a short conversation with the chairman of the council, but I and other advisers were not allowed even to converse with him. Again it was significant that Dr Bustard was the first to land on that island.
As my colleague Senator Georges mentioned, there have been coming out of the islands telegrams which are tremendous in their grammatical content. They contain words I have never heard any islander, even the most educated islander, use, because that is not the way they talk. Some of those messages have refused permission to a House of Representatives committee to visit the area. It is a parliamentary committee. Other messages have refused permission to even the chairman of the board to carry senators opposite his job. It was also suggested verbally to a committee with which I am associated that it should not visit there for the time being. I am not accusing anybody in any particular way of instigating those messages, but when one takes all the facts together they are particularly significant. I am not criticising this particular gentleman ‘s scientific training. I think he is probably one of the world experts -
– What rot!
-He is probably one of the world experts as far as raising turtles is concerned, even if the turtles do indulge in cannibalism. They have not yet eaten the good doctor, but the way things are going that could happen. But the good doctor has a boat worth $25,000 which was purchased not under this Government but under the previous Government when Mr Howson was the Minister, lt was used to transport our party. I have since been told by people who are acquainted with the naval regulations that the number of people on that boat was unsafe in the areas we visited and that there was insufficient life-saving equipment on the boat for the number of people it was carrying.
If honourable senators opposite could afford to do this sort of thing when they were in government, we cannot afford to do it while we are in government. As far as I am concerned, it has to stop right now. I believe that the confidence man who has organised all this and who has directed the money in certain directions has completely hoodwinked the permanent head of the Department and the last Liberal Minister. I am not sure how far Mr Wentworth was involved, but it probably occurred in the latter part of his occupancy of this office. Certainly all this went on during the period that Mr Howson was Minister. If anybody has to answer to Australia, he has. He was the Minister who should have been called into line. The person who was not hoodwinked by it all was the previous Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Bryant. A call for a royal commisison has been made by Senator Laucke, but the Prime Minister has taken appropriate steps to try to clear the matter up. The Chairman of Applied Ecology Pty Ltd, Senator Georges, and his 2 colleagues on the board of directors have played a very important role in publicly exposing the matter.
This is where the matter rests. I feel it is good for Australia that this matter should have been exposed under these circumstances. No one in this community should try to blame Mr Bryant. Senator Cavanagh now has a very heavy job in carrying on the role of Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and he has the support of the Australian Labor Party. But do not let anybody try to throw shadows on the previous occupant of this portfolio. He was a hard worker. He did everything that he thought was right and he had a strong committee operating with him. It is all very well for Opposition senators to try to create the impression that there is a division in the Government Party. There is not. The scandals that have been exposed by this Government were initiated by their Government.
– The matter raised by Senator Georges is a most important one and I imagine that the Senate will be appreciative of the fact that he has raised this matter of great public and political interest, as well as of enormous financial interest. The Senate must play a role in deciding the limits of any inquiry into this matter. As Sentor Georges said, this is the day on which the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) chose to downgrade the former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and to appoint the former Minister for Works, Senator Cavanagh, in his stead. I thank Senator Georges for the honest way in which he has described the events to us and, having been appointed a director of this body some 3 months ago, we can place ourselves in his shoes and understand the traumatic experience it must have been for him to make his disclosures this evening. However, I am quite confident that Senator Cavanagh who is taking over this ministerial portfolio and, knowing the background of his intense interest in Aboriginal affairs from the disclosures that he made when in Opposition relating to Yuendumu, will bring the problems associated with this matter to a successful conclusion.
The point which has been raised is that this matter must have been known to Mr Bryant and to the Prime Minister when he downgraded Mr
Bryant. It is a matter of great political concern that this disclosure should have been made on the very evening of the day on which the Minister was transferred from charge of his portfolio. In some respects I have great confidence in Mr Bryant and I should have thought that if the Prime Minister had any respect for the Minister he would have kept him in that office to ensure that this matter was concluded successfully and that if blame were to be placed somewhere it should be placed on the proper shoulders. I disagree with Senator Georges in his comments regarding members of the Public Service who do not have the ability to protect themselves or give proper answers in the Senate this evening. I say that the matter should not be left in this way.
I plead with the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh), who is at the table, to table at his earliest opportunity all documents relating to this matter, placing the blame directly on the shoulders of the various Ministers concerned and showing whether in fact the funds which are directed to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs are being properly controlled by the present administration. I believe that over the past years honourable senators probably have taken a lax attitude towards the portfolio of Aboriginal Affairs. I have taken such an attitude myself. I have seen and noted, but perhaps have made no comment upon, the millions of dollars appropriated for various works. We relied on the Minister to ensure that the funds allocated would be properly controlled. There has been a concern in my mind and in the minds of other honourable senators as to whether these enormous funds have been properly allocated and controlled. I think Senator Georges is to be congratulated for bringing the matter forward at this time.
The matter of the employment of many Aboriginals who perhaps are yet to gain competence in their particular fields is one which appears to me to have been escalated in the past year, or the past years, and I think that we as senators are to blame in this matter because we have not in the interests of the public kept a strict control over this area. I raised a matter some time ago and on 12 September I finally obtained a reply from the Minister at the table, Senator Cavanagh, who replied to my question on behalf of the then Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I asked the Minister:
To what extent have Commonwealth funds been allocated directly to Aboriginals or to Aboriginal societies or associations; if so, to which persons or associations since the Australian Labor Party came to office in 1972?
I refer the Senate to page 510 of Hansard for the appropriate answer. The Minister, in his answer, made the following points:
Commonwealth funds are allocated directly to Aboriginals or to societies or associations concerned with Aboriginal Affairs from the Capital Fund for Aboriginal Enterprises and from the Aboriginal Advancement Trust Account.
The Capital Fund for Aboriginal Enterprises is established to provide finance to Aboriginals wishing to set up their own businesses. Between 2 December 1972 and 2 April 1973, 16 persons or associations received loans totalling $284,490. In addition, in the period, shares were taken up in two companies: Aboriginal and Islander Marketing Pty Ltd (S 100,000) and R. H. & W. E. Smith General Contracting ($50,000)
I imagine that when the previous speakers were suggesting that some other Minister may have taken a part in Aboriginal and Islander Marketing Pty Ltd they were apparently referring to this period between 2 December 1972 and 2 April 1973 when this Government took up shares in that company to the extent of $100,000. The Minister’s answer continues:
In order that a proper banker-client relationship may be maintained with loan applicants it is not appropriate to disclose the names of any persons or associations applying for such loans.
The following are the grants in aid made to Aboriginal societies or groups between 2 December 1972 and 16 May 1973:
I shall quote certain figures which are contained in the answer tonight to alert the Senate that amounts as large as the ones which I shall quote have been paid out during the period from December to April. I shall quote only the highest grants in aid. The Pre-incorporation Committee of the Willowra Aboriginal Community received $325,000. The Kildurk Aboriginal Community received $829,000. I shall not quote the next 2 small amounts. I come now to housing programs such as the Mitakoodi Housing Association, which received $106,000. The Aboriginal Housing Society in Redfern received $530,000. 1 make these points and quote these figures because every honourable senator must be alerted to the fact that there has been no control over these enormous expenditures which took place in the early months of office of this Government. The Minister’s answer contains a column and a half of large amounts. The Foundation for Aboriginal Affairs received $270,000. 1 have quoted the largest figures, but they are of great significance when one compares them with the figures which Senator Georges has quoted. He has indicated to the Senate that he is quite certain that there has been a lack of control over the expenditure of moneys in that area. I ask the Minister to supply to the Senate information as to how these other amounts are to be controlled and verified.
Finally, I again plead with the Minister to answer this question: Has the Prime Minister downgraded a Minister who was apparently just informed of and about to disclose the misappropriations of funds such as those which were cited by Senator Georges? I believe that it should be made quite clear whether there was anything behind that matter, certainly not in relation to Mr Bryant but in relation to the fact that he may have been about to disclose some misappropriations or to take some hand in greater control of these financial matters. I again ask the Minister to table in the Senate all the paper work, the documents and the Hansard copy of those inquiries which have been referred to by Senator Georges. I support the proposition of Senator Laucke that there needs to bc some intensive inquiry into this matter.
– I rise very briefly to indicate my complete disagreement with any suggestions such as those mooted by Senator Keeffe that a matter such as this can be dealt with by the Prime Minister Mr Whitlam) asking the Special Minister of State (Senator Willesee) to hold an inquiry. These al- . legations are most serious. They arc allegations against administrative heads, a member of the Austral^. . National University and Dr Coombs and we are informed that Mr Bryant, a Minister of the Crown, was removed from his position by the Prime Minister because the Prime Minister acted either from lack of knowledge or because he had been misinformed. Therefore the allegations to a degree concern the Prime Minister mself What Parliament could accept a situation where the Prime Minister, having been involved in matters such as this, should name his own judicial tribunal?
I believe that these allegations are so .cr mis that the Parliament and the Australian community will be satisfied with nothing less than the royal commission which has been advocated by Senator Laucke. The matter has been very trenchantly dealt with. Individuals have been named and declared guilty here tonight before the inquiry has been held. Because of all the circumstances I indicate that the Democratic Labor Party will support the request which has been made for a royal commission, and nothing less.
– in reply- This is a surprising matter to be raised in an adjournment debate. We have seen unusual things happen which are generally looked on with scorn in this chamber, namely, under the privilege of Parliament, a vicious attack being made on heads of departments who have no opportunity to defend themselves. It is against their professional ethics to defend themselves. They have to bear the publicity that will be given to the attack made on them, without, I suggest, any proper inquiry being made. A number of honourable senators joined in the attack on the heads of departments. The only person left to defend them is a Minister who has been less than 10 hours in his portfolio. Under the privilege of Parliament accusations have been made against a member of the Australian National University, Dr Bustard, because of the provision of a house for himself and his island wife.
Should we simply accept these statements made obviously for publicity purposes without having some investigation into them? We have been told that the allegations demand a royal commission. But they are allegations. No proof has been brought forward. Of course, knowing that this matter was a hot potato, Mr Dexter conferred with me today about it. It was only one of the questions reported that we discussed. His attitude to the whole affair is entirely different from what we have been told.
– Who is Mr Dexter?
-He is the Secretary of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, one of those who came under criticism this evening. The position is that after the finalisation of oyster fishing in the Torres Strait Islands area, there were 5,000 unemployed Aborigines there. A scheme was developed by Dr Bustard whereby they could breed turtles which have a ready world market. They are not just turtles to be stuffed by taxidermists. They are green turtles, the edible meat of which is in high demand in Great Britain.
– After 3 years they weigh 1 4 lbs. What is the Minister saying?
– The turtle leather has value. In fact, the importation of turtle leather figured in the Hoffmann affair that we debated in the Senate. The oil from the turtle has a value, as has its shell. The report of the Department is that a turtle of 3 years maturity raises its weight to 120 lb. The hawk ‘s-bill turtle is nearly extinct in Australia. There is an agreement for the production of this species of turtle. It is a turtle that is stuffed and mounted and for which there is a great demand throughout Asia. Under an agreement with the Queensland Government onetenth tenth of such turtles taken have to be returned to the sea. Although reference was made to 29,000 of these turtles, 10 per cent have to be returned to the sea to keep up the numbers of the species, otherwise it would become extinct.
Other questions arise besides those that have been mentioned. The industry is keeping in employment some 120 turtle farmers, none of whom on the report of the Department works in excess of 40 hours a week on the farming. They receive a living allowance of $32 a week for the purpose of developing their farms. The food that is being provided is necessary for the introduction of the turtle farming industry. That is the Departmental report on this matter.
Dr Bustard is the expert who developed the scheme. In regard to the alleged cannibalism by turtles, the report is that there is very little destruction through an attack by one turtle against another. The scars on the body of the green turtle do not affect the market value. So there is very little destruction in that way. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has now asked Senator Willesee, on behalf of the Prime Minister’s Department, to institute an inquiry. An inquiry is being headed by Dr R. Carr, an American university professor from Florida, who is regarded as the world’s leading turtle expert.
– When was he appointed?
– It has been going on for some weeks. I believe that within the next 2 weeks we can expect a report from Dr Carr who will say whether it is a viable project. The Department is still of the belief that it is a viable project and that the production of some 50 turtles brings in a good income for farmers. There is only a living allowance until they develop the fruits of their labours. If the departmental heads have for any reason destroyed Ministers for Aboriginal Affairs- I do not think I am stronger than previous Ministers and I will have to suffer the fate of previous Ministers- let me say that to my mind, to the minds of all who are engaged in this dispute and to the minds of the big section of Aboriginals who support Mr Gordon Bryant, he has not been destroyed and his prestige and talents are more widely recognised today than they have ever been before.
Mr Gordon Bryant was shifted from one portfolio to another portfolio of no less importance in a reshuffle of Cabinet because it was necessary with the merging of certain departments to make some changes. He was agreeable. He resigned from one portfolio for the purpose of allocation to another portfolio. He gave a broadcast tonight. I think that the attitude he took was wonderful and it would discount any suggestion that he was aggrieved by his transfer. He said that he had tried to introduce some progressive innovations in Aboriginal affairs to the benefit of the Aboriginal community. He believed he had succeeded in those and he believed that the new Minister would carry on with these projects where he left off. I think that he has succeeded. He has left his mark as the greatest administrator of Aboriginal affairs Australia has had. I do not think there is any need to be sorry for Gordon
Bryant or to think that any disservice has been done to him. He played his part willingly in the reorganisation of Cabinet; he was prepared to change his portfolio.
There is to be a thorough inquiry by possibly one of the world’s leading experts. He will tell us whether this operation is a viable proposition. The Opposition should not go into this demand for a royal commission without some full report just because it thinks this is popular and that it can discredit some Minister or Government. The discredit, if it occurred, would be on the previous Government more than on the present Government. Senator Webster asked that documents be tabled. By some means or other I am prepared to make available, after perusal, all relevant documents that may be of assistance. It is peculiar that when I called for the full file this evening I found that it was in the hands of the AuditorGeneral. The Auditor-General has no control over this matter. Why he has the file I have not yet ascertained. But there is some reason for inquiry because of that suggestion.
– It is funny that he should have it.
– Listen to the interjection of Senator Webster who said tonight in all sincerity: ‘In my mind for a long time funds have been improperly spent or improperly controlled ‘. He is a member of this Senate who has a responsibility in relation to the handling of the country’s finances and protecting the taxpayers, but he has held this opinion for a long time. It was necessary for Senator Georges to bring up this matter before Senator Webster could gain sufficient courage to say that for a long time he has had a statesmanlike responsibility to bring this matter before the Senate. Now he seeks kudos by suggesting that we set up a royal commission, not into the fact that he has fallen down on his duty but into an attack that has been made on public servants. In relation to this whole question of housing, it is true that the previous Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has made funds available for Aboriginal housing through Aboriginal housing co-operative ventures, and those funds are still being made available today in an effort to bring Aboriginals at Redfern out of the ghettos and the hovels in which the previous Government left them. With their co-operation we have to draw them out of these areas.
I can assure honourable senators that I did not know this matter was to be the subject of a debate but when I was talking to the head of my Department this afternoon it was mentioned casually and I received the information which I have related to the Senate tonight on this question. I can promise honourable senators that a full report will be given on every matter raised by Senator Georges and Senator Keeffe. Obviously they are the only ones who know anything about it. I can assure the Senate that as soon as possible there will be a complete and full reply to the allegations that have been made this evening. If as a result of the reply it is felt that there is justification for the setting up of a royal commission or any other inquiry, and in the light of Dr Carr’s report, let us then ask that such a royal commission or inquiry be established. I think the Senate will be satisfied but, please, at the present time do not simply repeat allegations which have never been contested in order to blame, because it is politically popular, the previous Minister, the Prime Minister or someone else. This matter has been raised. I think it is the responsibility of the Minister to look into it. It will be looked into and a report will be given.
– The debate has been closed by the responsible Minister. The question is: ‘That the Senate do now adjourn’.
– I wish to raise another matter.
– Are you debating the motion for the adjournment?
– The debate is closed. The question is: ‘That the Senate do now adjourn’.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.43 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The Government is aware of the views expressed by the Soviet nuclear scientist Andrei Sakharov. As the AttorneyGeneral said in answer to Senator Kane’s question without notice on 12 September 1973, the Government has on a number of occasions made its views known both on the question of civil liberties and on fundamental human rights, its own adherence to them and its wish that those rights embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights be extended to peoples elsewhere. The Soviet Government is aware of the Australian Government’s position in this matter.
Australian Council for the Arts: Grants (Question No. 439)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Mr Laurence Collinson
Mr William Leonard Marshall
Mr Desmond 0 ‘Grady
Mr Alan Seymour
Mr Harold Stewart
Mr Randolph Stow
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
What is the nature and value of all forms of aid which the Australian Government proposes to provide during . 1973-74 to:
Senator Willesee:The answer to the Honourable Senator’s question is as follows:
Medical training/equipment, $45,000- provision for experts and equipment primarily for the Vi Dan Hospital.
Can Tho Water Supply, $40,000-to complete the water supply scheme.
Da Nang Water Supply, $l,000,000-to commence the construction phase.
Vung Tau Water Supply, $962,000-to commence the construction phase.
Directorate of Water Supply, $800,000-to provide pipes, fittings, water meters and ancillary equipment to increase the supplies of potable water in rural and urban areas.
Saigon Water Supply, $300,000- to provide pipes, fittings, water meters and ancillary equipment.
Equipment for PTT- to supply telephone cable and equipment to the Directorate of Posts, Telephones and Telegraphs.
Electrification of VPC, $350,000-to provide materials and equipment to assist the Vietnam Power Company.
Saigon Fluoridation- to provide equipment for the fluoridation of the Saigon water supply.
Beach Mining, $50,000- to provide equipment and to fund a short visit by an Australian expert to assist in the Beach Sands Mining Industry.
Administrative and support services, $ 10,000
Total Project Aid-$3,908,000
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice.
– The PostmasterGeneral has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The Notice was issued following the Government’s decision, announced on 28 August by the Minister for Overseas Trade and Secondary Industry, that tariff quotas on knitted outwear, knitted shirts and woven shirts would be retained until February, 1974. When announcing this decision the Minister made it clear that importers able to demonstrate that they cannot obtain adequate supplies locally will be able to apply for by-law admission where inability to obtain local supplies could be demonstrated. The Notice merely set out operative arrangements to give effect, in this area, to the Government’s policy.
Australian Council for the Arts: Attitude to Western Australian Legislation (Question No. 385)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Australian Council for the Arts: Expenditures (Question No. 431)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education, upon notice:
Can the Minister give any information regarding areas of research being developed under the Child Care Centre Research Programme, particularly relating to assistance to the States for training courses for staff who will be subsidised under the programme resulting from the Government’s $200,000 research allocation.
– The Minister for Education has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I have approved recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Child Care Research concerning projects to be commenced in 1973. The recommendations involved the provision of approximately $184,000 for 17 research projects. The main areas of research covered by these grants comprise: surveys of needs in several areas; development of new methods in day child care; comparisons of alternative methods; development of comprehensive day care models; and cost benefit analysis of industrial employment of mothers of young children.
In this first set of recommendations which the Committee made within two months of its establishment, the emphasis has been on taking stock of the situation as it is in Australia and supporting project proposals which may lead to improvement in the quality and variety of child care.
The Committee is now in the process of examining applications for research grants commencing in 1974. It is expected that the total budget allocation of $200,000 for 1973-1974 will be used for payment of grants.
The Australian Pre-Schools Committee, which is expected to submit its report in the near future, will also recommend on future development of child care research.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 9 October 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1973/19731009_senate_28_s57/>.