28th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 2 p.m., and read prayers.
– I think honourable senators would like me to draw to their attention the fact that the Minister for the Media, Senator Douglas McClelland, is back in the Senate after his illness.
– Thank you, Mr President.
– I present the following petition from 755 Citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia:
To the honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled:
The Petition of the undersigned (and those on attached pages) citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia and more particularly electors and permanent residents of the Coolangatta - Kirra - Bilinga - Tugun - Currumbin area of the City of the Gold Coast in the State of Queensland respectfully sheweth:
1 ) That the use of the Coolangatta Airport by aircraft, especially ‘Jet DC9’s and Boeing 727V between the hours of 1 1 p.m. and 6 a.m. constitutes a major disturbance of the peace; and particularly of families with young children who are said to be terrified by the noise which at holiday times has continued throughout the night until 4.30 a.m.
It is considered that a period of 17 hours should be sufficient for the Air Lines to use the facilities in any one day and for the residents to be caused to suffer the excessive noise created by the said jet aircraft.
The undersigned respectfully request that the Coolangatta Airport be closed between the hours of 1 1 p.m. and 6 a.m. in line with Brisbane, Sydney and Adelaide.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, should take action immediately to incur the Curfew as outlined in paragraph ( 3 ) above.
And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral: Is the presence of a tent structure styled the Aboriginal embassy situated on the lawns outside Parliament House contrary to the provisions of the Trespass on Commonwealth Lands Ordinance? Has the Attorney-General given any instructions to the Australian Capital Territory
Police not to enforce the provisions of the Ordinance? If he has, will he explain why he is not prepared to have the law observed? If he has not given any such instructions, will he ascertain why the police have not taken action under the Ordinance and give the reason to the Senate as soon as possible?
– It is not customary to give legal opinions during question time- unless, of course, the opinions are favourable to the Minister who is giving the answer. The honourable senator raises a curious legal problem. I have to speak off the cuff on this matter because I have not looked at it for some time. My recollection is that, when the matter of the disallowance of the repealing ordinance was before the Senate, the disallowance may well have been in substance ineffective. Without going into details, the question the honourable senator raises is quite a serious one, and there may be some doubt as to whether the repeal of the ordinance on the advice of the then Minister for the Capital Territory was effective. The subsequent disallowance may not have been effective in reviving the previous ordinance. But I would npt like to express any dogmatic view on the state of the law. I nave not given any instructions and I have not been asked to give any instructions in relation to this matter. I think the matter comes within the area of responsibility of the Minister for the Capital Territory. If the honourable senator wishes to address some of his questions to the Minister he may get some answers.
-Has the attention of the Minister for Primary Industry been drawn to a statement that the Australian Workers Union will ban the export of merino rams regardless of the result of the wool growers’ referendum on the issue? Is it futile to conduct a referendum sponsored by a national Government, involving a tremendous volume of work and high overall cost if a trade union says that it will ignore the industry’s wishes? In view of this, and in view of many other recent instances of trade union intervention in national affairs, is there good reason to believe that the unions are taking it upon themselves to govern Australia? Who does run this country?
-To answer Senator Drake-Brockman’s question in general terms, 1 can assure him that the Government is running the country and will continue to do so as long as it is in office. As to the specific question relating to the ban on the export of merino rams, the
Government undertook to seek the opinion of those people directly involved in the wool industry in order to ascertain their views as to the continuation of those exports. That ballot is currently being held. The outcome of the ballot will determine what is done about the continued export of merino rams. Any statements made by the Australian Workers Union are matters of concern to the Australian Workers Union. I think we would need to wait and see, therefore, precisely what the Australian Workers Union might do in the event of the ban not being reimposed.
– Is the Minister for the Media aware that foreign film distributors, particularly those of the United States, are mounting an expensive campaign to try to prevent the Government from introducing a system of pool buying of overseas films and television series by Australian companies? Is he also aware that they are being aided and abetted by the Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations? Has this latter group engaged a company called Cramb Tariff Services Pty Ltd to lobby members of this Parliament on a no-expenses-spared basis to try to prevent the pool buying? ls it also true that if this pool system is not introduced Australian commercial television stations will have to continue to pay high prices for overseas programs, thus providing them with an excuse for not having more money available for local production?
– I am not aware that the foreign film distributors are mounting an expensive campaign about the pool buying proposals of the Tariff Board although I dare say that naturally they will be engaging in activities in this regard. I also am not aware that the Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations, commonly referred to as FACTS, has engaged any company specifically for lobbying members of Parliament. I can tell the honourable senator, however, that some distibutors have been to see me about the Tariff Board report and related matters, but certainly not the Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations.
– Do you support pool buying?
– If the honourable senator waits a moment he might hear my reply. Cabinet has considered the Tariff Board report and has referred it to me for my recommendations to Cabinet. Those recommendations are in the course of being considered by my Department, which has set out to seek the views of all interested parties, and I hope to be presenting my recommendations to Cabinet on this matter in the near future. Without at this stage stating specifically my views on pool buying I can say that the advice to me to date- it is only of a preliminary nature- is that some years ago commercial stations and the Australian Broadcasting Commission formed a buying pool of their own for the purpose of purchasing foreign television films from abroad. Rather than reduce the purchase price of a film, the pool had the opposite effect in that the suppliers insisted on a package deal system of selling instead of the selling of an individual production or a series of productions on a single unit basis. This tended to introduce old obsolete films that were not required, some of which have never been used. It put up considerably the cost of films and enabled foreign distributors to off-load the unscreenable films at a price that they were able to secure for themselves. Having said that, let me say now that the experts in my Department are closely studying all aspects and I hope in the near future to make a recommendation to Cabinet on the matter.
– Is the Attorney-General aware that the Supreme Court of South Australia ruled that doctors’ fees in South Australia were subject to price control under the South Australian Prices Act? As it appears that fees and wages could be affected by this decision, will the Attorney-General prepare a statement on the matter for the Senate as soon as possible?
-I understand that this was a decision of the Supreme Court of South Australia upon South Australian legislation.
– On price control.
-Yes. I do not know that it really comes within my competence, but if it will assist the Senate I will look into the matter and see whether some analysis can be provided. Is that what the honourable senator wishes?
– The question is whether price control can include wage control.
– And the relevance that this has to the referendum which is to be put to the people? Yes, I will look into it and if something useful can be put before the Senate I will do so.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Can we have an assurance that, unlike the sorry ‘Oceanic Grandeur’ oil spillage episode, on this occasion the Commonwealth and the States will mount an effective antipollution exercise against the current north Queensland oil slick? Can the Minister disclose the name of the offending vessel? Will the full rigour of the penal provisions in the Navigation Act or equivalent legislation be applied?
– I made some inquiries from the office of the Minister for Transport today. The Minister is going to get me a brief on this matter but 1 have not yet received it. The Department of Transport has this matter continually under review, as has the Department for the Environment and Conservation. I believe that the oil slick is drifting to sea and is breaking up. It is thought that it will disappear as a result of the natural forces of the waves and that it does not pose a threat. The Government is seriously concerned that such things happen. If the owners of the vessel which caused the oil slick have committed any offence under Commonwealth law I am sure that the appropriate action will be taken against them.
-I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate- and I think this question also concerns him as representative of the Treasurer in this place at the present timewhether the Government has given consideration as yet to a submission against the Budget proposals to withdraw tax concessions from the gold mining industry which has been presented to it by the Western Australian Government, the Chamber of Mines of West Australia and the Kalgoorlie District Regional Council? When is it likely that the Government will give a decision in regard to this submission and will it defer the introduction of legislation to carry out the Budget proposals until it has made such a decision?
– I am aware that very strong representations have been made to the Treasurer by Mr Collard, the honourable member for Kalgoorlie, Mr Tonkin, the Premier of Western Australia, and no doubt by other persons. I know that those representations have been under consideration by the Treasurer. I am unable to say when a decision will be given or what the position is in regard to the other matter raised by the honourable senator, but I will have inquiries made for him.
– Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware that the Australian Wool Corporation has been very active in the wool auction room in recent days buying-in considerable amounts of wool on offer? As this signifies a lessening in demand for wool, could the Minister explain the sudden and, we hope, short term loss of interest in wool by overseas buyers?
– It is true that the Australian Wool Corporation has been obliged under its flexible reserve price scheme to increase its purchases of Australian wool. I think that at the last sale the Corporation purchased about 1 5 per cent of the clip. This is a matter of some concern but it is believed that the main reason is the lack of Japanese interest at present, something similar to what we experienced last April. I should say that the Corporation is not obliged to force the price of the market; it is there to dampen down the effect of falls of the price of wool. That is its charter. I can assure the Senate that it does not go beyond that charter. But it is a matter of concern that the Corporation has been required to buy the quantities of wool that it has bought. However, I do not think it is a serious situation.
I will be going to Japan later this week and I will be having discussions with representatives of the Japanese industry in an endeavour to ascertain the reason for the fluctuations in the Japanese attitude towards Australian wool purchases. The Government’s main concern is to ensure that there is long term stability for wool and this will be one of the prime intentions of the Government during the course of our visit to Japan and also in our consideration of the forthcoming wool marketing scheme.
– I wish to draw to the attention of honourable senators the fact that we have sitting in the President ‘s Gallery at the present time a delegation from the United Kingdom branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. The delegation is led by the right honourable Christopher Woodhouse, who is accompanied by the Baroness Bacon of Leeds and Normanton, the right honourable Ernest Fernyhough, Mr Richard Hornby and Mr Ronald King. I particularly single out for the attention of honourable senators the Baroness Bacon of Leeds and Normanton who, in the tradition of English ladies for many hundreds of years of undertaking foreign travel, took an expedition into Normanton in the Gulf country of Queensland in order to discover whether it bore any relation to the Normanton from which her title is derived. We take the opportunity of welcoming the members of the delegation to Australia and hope that they enjoy their stay.
Honourable senators- Hear, hear!
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer, by saying how honoured all Australians are that Mr Patrick White was awarded the 1973 Nobel Prize for Literature. We all are proud that Mr White’s writing has finally been recognised by such a distinguished body as the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters. Is the Minister aware that the Melbourne ‘Sun’ of 20 October reported a spokesman for the Treasurer as saying that Mr White’s $80,000 prize might be subject to taxation? Is he also aware that the money received by people who win a lottery or a large amount of money in quiz games and the like is not subject to taxation? Does the Minister not agree that whatever steps need to be taken should be taken- even to the extent of introducing special legislation to amend the taxation legislation- to ensure that Mr White’s Nobel Prize winnings are not subject to taxation? I might add that I have seen reports that Mr White is thinking of giving away his prize, but I ask my question irrespective of what Mr White might decide to do with his prize.
-The question which the honourable senator asks indicates an apparent anomaly. It seems wrong that those who receive a large sum of money through chance should not have to pay tax on that money and that someone who receives a large sum of money through his efforts or through recognition of his efforts should have to pay tax on that money. I have no doubt that the Treasury would always answer that what the honourable senator suggests would raise great problems because it would mean that others who received large sums of money would not have to pay tax on that money, if the same principle were applied, and if it were extended it could create all sorts of problems. However, I think that this is a special case involving a Nobel Prize, which is recognised by all mankind as a mark of distinction, and I will pass on the honourable senator’s suggestion to the Treasurer.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Transport aware of a decision made by Pioneer Tourist Coaches Pty Ltd to discontinue the service from Adelaide to Alice Springs that has been operating 3 times a week? Does the Minister know that the reason the company gives for taking this action was that it cost 200 per cent more per mile to run coaches over the horror stretch north of Pimba to the Northern Territory border than on a sealed road? Does he also know that the company claims that this road is the worst in Australia? I think that is an understatement. In view of the fact that the cancellation of this public transport facility will force about 7,500 people each year to find alternative means of conveyance, and in the interests of many private vehicle owners and other transport companies that rely on this highway, will the Minister treat this road as an urgent priority in the context of the forthcoming Commonwealth aid roads program? In the meantime will the Minister consult with his colleague, the Minister for Supply, with the object of permitting road users to use the sealed highway running through the Woomera rocket range area?
-What the Pioneer bus service does on its run to northern Australia is a commercial venture. The company now finds that the service is unprofitable and apparently has decided to discontinue it. Of course, those who presently use the bus service will have to find alternative means of transport- possibly the Commonwealth Railways. I know that this road and many other roads in northern Australia are in a disgraceful condition. From time to time I have referred to the road development in the north and to how the Department of the Northern Territory, with the assistance of the Department of Works, has been improving roads to the extent that finances will permit. I have also indicated that the whole question of roads and road grants will be under consideration at the conference on roads which, I believe, is to be held in November. If there is an alternate route through the Woomera rocket range and if there is no threat to security in opening up the range for commercial vehicles, I shall take up the matter with the Minister for Transport and see whether he will confer with the Minister for Supply on this matter.
-Did the Minister for Primary Industry say in Tasmania last weekend that the farm debt situation had improved? Did he also say that increased farm income had resulted in renewed confidence in the future of rural industries and that farmers were now more willing to borrow money? W.Hl the Minister tell the Senate, in round figures, by what amount the farm debt has been reduced and by how much borrowing has increased?
– I cannot give the precise figures which the honourable senator seeks. The only information I can give is that the figures which 1 cited showed that the rural farm debt situation, at the end of the financial year 1972, stood at $2,098m. Twelve months earlier the figure had stood at around the same level. The point that I was making, and one which I would have assumed the honourable senator would have understood, was the relativity of the income of farmers and their debt structure. However, if the honourable senator wants the precise figures I shall obtain them for him.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for the Media as the Minister responsible for the establishment and maintenance of standards in advertising. Has the Minister seen an advertisement placed in the ‘Australian’ of 4 October by the Liberal Party, headed ‘Every extra public servant costs you money’, and referring to the growth of the Public Service? In view of the fact that the graph which appears in that advertisement is completely lacking in detail will the Minister inform the Senate whether this advertisement meets the standards for truth in advertising which would normally be expected of a supposedly respectable organisation, or is it misleading? The advertisement states that the Liberal Party pegged the rate of growth of the Public Service at 3 per cent. Is this misleading? Will the Minister undertake to have this matter investigated and the true position stated clearly for all to understand?
Department is responsible only for Australian Government advertising and of course, through the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, for commercial advertising standards relating to commercial radio and television. Therefore, while the matter is not one primarily for my immediate Department, nonetheless I can tell the honourable senator that for some time I have been having discussions with leaders of the advertising industry. There has now been established, or there is about to be established, a type of self-regulatory body to be known as the Australian Advertising Standards Authority. I think it fair to say that the type of advertisement to which the honourable senator refers- and I have seen it- might have something to do with the establishment of that organisation.
On the Australian Advertising Standards Authority there will be represented a wide crosssection of the Australian community. It will be presided over by Sir Richard Kirby, the former president of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. I understand that the trade union movement has been invited to appoint Mr Souter, the Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, as its representative on that body. As I have said, I did see the advertisement. I think it is of the type which should be referred to this organisation. I certainly will ask that organisation to have a look at it. The advertisement did say that the Liberal Government had pegged the growth of the Public Service at 3 per cent but it did not say that between 1966 and 1970, for instance, the growth of the Public Service had run at an average of about 5.4 percent.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Considering that the Aboriginal people represent aproximately 1 per cent of the total Australian population, can the Minister inform the Senate of the percentage of Aboriginal guests invited to the official opening of the Opera Houseironically referred to as Bennelong- by Her Majesty the Queen of Australia? Since living in this nation is Her Majesty’s first and only Aboriginal knight, namely Sir Douglas Nicholls, was he included in the guest list?
– I do not know what was the percentage of Aborigines invited to the opening of the Opera House in relation to the total number of people invited. The invitations were issued by the New South Wales Government and the whole affair was conducted by the New South Wales Government. Anyone who was present at the proceedings could have seen easily that that was so.
-My question to the Minister for Primary Industry is inspired by a question asked earlier by Senator Maunsell. Can the Minister confirm a report by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics that farm income is expected to rise by 52 per cent, that is, by nearly $ 1,000m to a total of $2,865m in the 1973-74 financial year? If this potential phenomenal increase is a fact, should not the members of the Country Party be telling the primary producers that the gloom under which they lived for 23 years under the previous Government is being penetrated by a strong shaft of the light of solvency and prosperity?
– Order ! The Minister cannot answer on behalf of the Country Party but he can answer the statistical questions that you have placed before him. 1 call Senator Wriedt.
– The figures quoted by Senator O ‘Byrne are accurate. The Bureau of Agricultural Economics anticipates a dramatic increase of about $ 1 billion in farm income this year; that is actual farm income not gross production. From my discussions previously and even those with members of the Australian Farmers Federation at lunch time, I have gathered that there is an air of satisfaction with the present position and that many of the forebodings expressed by members of the Opposition prior to the advent of this Government have not come to pass.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to the reported speech, to the Asian Society in New York, by Dr R. Klugman, the Labor member for Prospect and currently a parliamentary adviser to the Australian Mission to the General Assembly of the United Nations, in which Dr Klugman is reported as saying:
A takeover or Indonesia or South East Asia by Communist regimes would pose a grave threat to Australian democracy.
Does the Government support the statement of its representative at the United Nations? If so, how can the Government reconcile the possibility of such a threat with its statement that there is no foreseeable threat to Australia in the next 10 to 15 years, and with its significant cutbacks in the defence forces of Australia.
– I do not know what was said by Dr Klugman and I do not know in what context it was said. But even from listening to what the honourable senator has said and taking it that way, the conclusions he reaches and the questions he poses do not seem to me to follow from it. There was nothing suggested in what has just been put to me as having been said by Dr Klugman, that such a takeover was probable or possible. I understand from what is put by the honourable senator that something was said by Dr Klugman about some hypothetical matter to the effect that if such-and-such occurred, suchandsuch would follow. There is nothing to suggest that the event which is postulated would or might occur. I do not think it is very profitable for us to discuss matters of foreign affairs on the basis of some hypothetical statement made by Dr Klugman, who is renowned for his philosophy, in some far away country.
– In directing a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, I refer to the strong denunciation by the Australian representative at the United Nations of countries that continue to trade with Rhodesia in defiance of the United Nations resolutions. Will the Prime Minister on his forthcoming visit to the People’s Republic of China raise with the Government of that country the repeated reports that China is a significant purchaser of Rhodesian chrome? Further, will the Government raise in the United Nations the question of eastern European trade with Rhodesia, in particular in Czechoslovakian glassware?
-I thank the honourable senator for what he has said. I recall that he was one who voted with the rest of us to note what was contained in the United Nations resolutions against Rhodesia, to approve of those resolutions and to request this Government to do all in its power to see that these resolutions were implemented. I note what he has said and I will pass the information he has given along to the Minister for Foreign Affairs so that, assuming his facts are correct, some appropriate steps may be taken so that we can all join in a furtherance of the United Nations policy in condemnation of Rhodesia.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I refer to the address of the Treasurer to the Association for the Retention of Australian Ownership on 1 3 October. The address was styled ‘The Government’s Policy on- Foreign Ownership’. I quote from page 6 of this address in which the Treasurer said:
In March or this year I announced that, as part of the whole question of foreign ownership and control, the question or purchases of real estate in Australia by overseas interests Was under study by the Government. The Government is concerned primarily with overseas investment in property development . . .
With this statement in mind I refer to the announcement made on 19 October of the formation of a new company, Yanchep Sun City Pty Ltd for the purpose of acquiring all of the land needed in the Sun City Project in Western Australia. The ownership of this company will be 5 1 per cent Bond Corporation and 40 per cent Tokyu Corporation and it will have a paid-up capital of $ 10m. As the Yanchep Sun City fully planned development covers an area of more than 19,000 acres with 10 miles of ocean frontage in the northern corridor of the planned urban area of Perth, is this to be taken as an example of the Government’s policy following the review which the Treasurer stated was being conducted?
– It is the concern of the Government to see what is happening with foreign ownership and foreign control in Australia, particularly ownership of land. I think this is a matter which has concerned governments all throughout history. There have been rules about the extent to which foreigners may own land in each country. I am unaware of the details of what the honourable senator has put. I will draw them to the attention of the Treasurer and ask for his comments.
-In directing this question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, I refer to his statement in which he referred to Aborigines and their services and said that he wanted a parliamentary committee established to oversee all spending on all Aboriginal affairs. Is the Minister aware that the Senate Standing Committee on Social Environment is already conducting an intensive inquiry into the environmental conditions of Aborigines and that the reference to that Committee includes the matters to which he has referred? Is he also aware that there is a House of Representatives committee conducting a similar inquiry into the welfare of Aborigines? As there is already a duplication of the efforts of senators, members of the House of Representatives and committee secretariats and of the costs involved, will he give consideration to referring his new inquiry to one of the already existing committees or to making investigations with a view to efficiently and effectively streamlining his program, using instrumentalities already in existence?
-At no time have I said that I want a parliamentary committee to inquire into Aboriginal affairs. Later today I shall be tabling some papers and seeking leave to make a statement which will explain the matter referred to by the honourable senator. I know of the 2 committees which have been established. My Department has, I think, assisted both committees in their inquiries. We appreciate the value of their inquiries, and we look forward to their reports. All I have said is that there is a problem in the spending of huge amounts at the discretion of one individual and that the right to scrutinise such expenditure wants broadening. Discussions are taking place as to what other personnel should be used to inquire into Aboriginal affairs expenditure. Until now the system I favoured was an inquiry by a parliamentary committee, but by no means is it definite that that will be the ultimate solution to the problem.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. I refer to the statement made yesterday by the Minister for Minerals and Energy, Mr Connor, that there was no need for undue haste in renewing uranium leases and exploration licences of Queensland Mines Ltd. How does the Government justify its acceptance of this cavalier and unfair attitude of the Minister in the face of the serious financial plight of this company and its associates, which plight is directly attributable to the Minister’s attitudes? Will the Government allow the companies which have pioneered major uranium exploration and development of deposits in Australia to go to the wall because of a stubborn and callous disregard of urgently needed determinations by the Minister?
– I think that question should properly be addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Minerals and Energy.
– I do not mind answering it, Mr President, because it is quite clear that the Minister for Minerals and Energy has taken up with enthusiasm and with great regard for the national interest the problems of minerals and energy throughout Australia to see that the resources are husbanded, developed and exploited in the interests of the people of Australia. To suggest that he would be stubborn and callous is to suggest something completely uncharacteristic of the Minister. Furthermore, the honourable senator puts to me that the Minister said that there should be no undue haste. Why should there be any undue haste about anything, whether it be in the granting of licences or any other matter? The Minister will, as always, proceed with due speed and efficiency in dealing with whatever he has to do. No one would expect him or any other Minister to proceed with undue haste on any matter.
-Has the Minister for the Media had the opportunity to read the Tariff Board’s report on motion picture films and television programs? Did he have his attention drawn to that section which states that neither the Australian Broadcasting Commission nor Film Australia can accurately state the costs of their various productions? Does this statement concern the Minister in his role as Minister for the Media? How can it be assessed that public money is being prudently spent? Is the Government committed to maintaining and developing the private sector of the Australian film and television program industry? If so, how can it ensure that programs produced by the ABC or films produced by Film Australia are produced more efficiently by those bodies than by independent producers?
– I did have an opportunity to read the Tariff Board report and I have read it in close detail. I trust that all honourable senators have read it since it was tabled in Parliament towards the end of August or early in September. I noticed the section of the Tariff Board report to which the honourable senator refers. The reason why the Australian Broadcasting Commission cannot with precision state the costs of its various film productions is that it is engaged in a large number of activities. It is responsible not only for producing television programs in Australia for Australians but also it is engaged in broadcasting networks throughout Australia and is responsible for the production of Radio Australia’s overseas transmissions and for the production of concerts, performances of symphony orchestras and things of that nature. The administrative body of the ABC is responsible for these overall activities. Therefore, the separate administrative costs in relation to individual aspects cannot be broken down. Even if this could be done it would be only with considerable difficulty and would add to the cost factor. So far as Film Australia is concerned, the honourable senator will appreciate that in addition to its own film productions the ABC acts as agent for client departments which ask it to make certain productions. That cost is then charged to the client department. So, on that overall basis it is very difficult with precision to gauge accurately the cost of Film Australia productions. However, aspects of distribution of Film Australia productions are being looked at by my Department. I hope that I have explained the problem to the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Media. Is the understanding which all of us had that the Australian Broadcasting Commission services were not available for advertising purposes no longer correct? If it is a fact that the services of the Australian Broadcasting Commission are not available for advertising purposes, could the Senate have an explanation of the advertisements recently given on ABC services, firstly, for a carpet firm and, secondly, for a proposed periodical?
-True it is, as the honourable senator has said, that under the terms of the Broadcasting and Television Act the Australian Broadcasting Commission is not empowered to engage in advertising. I know that some time ago a considerable portion of the program ‘This Day Tonight’ was devoted to the advertising of a particular product in a program which had been televised on another television station. I drew this matter to the attention of the General Manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The other night I saw the program This Day Tonight’ which referred to a certain carpet advertisement displayed on commercial television, and I understand that on a ‘Four Corners’ program which I did not see there was reference to some magazine that was about to be floated. I view these matters with some concern and certainly will be drawing them to the attention of the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission while ever it is a fact that the Broadcasting and Television Act specifically precludes advertising on the ABC.
– I direct my question to the Attorney-General and refer to allegations of Croatian terrorism made in this Parliament in recent months. I ask the Minister whether, among other items in the highly publicised dawn raids in Sydney on Croatian homes on 1 April last, 6 men were charged with possession of dynamite and explosives. Is it a fact that the charges against four- Blaz Basic, Tomo Juricic Slavo Tokic and Jerko Ravenjak- were completely dismissed by the court and that the charges in respect of the other two brought trifling suspended sentences. Is the Minister aware that, in dismissing three of the other charges against Ravenjak, Mr Justice Leslie said that his arrest was illegal? Is the Minister aware that because of high legal fees paid to lawyers in New South Wales, of which the Minister would be personally aware, these Croatians have expended several thousand dollars merely to establish their innocence? Although I know that the Crown does not normally pay costs- I concede that point- in view of the overwhelming failure of this whole group of prosecutions, amounting almost, one might say, to an abuse of process, will the Attorney-General recommend the making of some ex gratia payment to these men?
-I will look into the matters which the honourable senator has mentioned. I am not sure of the details at all. The prosecutions may have been taken by someone in my Department but I rather think they were not. I think probably they were prosecutions initiated by the New South Wales Government. Perhaps they did arise out of the arrests which were made on an occasion earlier in the year. I will have a look into the matter and see what happened.
-Last week I drew the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Minerals and Energy to the serious reduction in the incomes of the small tin miners of north east Tasmania following the Government’s decision to revalue the currency. The Minister then promised that the matter would be inquired into. I ask whether the Government has made any decision on this matter. If it has not, will the Minister expedite its consideration?
– Yes, I do recall the question asked by the honourable senator. I recall also asking that the information be provided to the honourable senator. I was not aware that it has not been provided, but I shall follow up this matter immediately after question time to see that he does get the information.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. As would be expected the Senate has been absorbed for some time with the problem of foot and mouth disease, but I want to advert to the observations made on this matter last week by the Minister for Primary Industry. The Minister expressed, I thought, a genuine concern for the problem as it might affect the Australian livestock industry. If this matter does not fall within the Minister’s responsibility I ask him to take it up with the Minister for Health to see whether it is true that a reliable vaccine for the control of this very difficult and dangerous disease has been developed in the United Kingdom. If this is the case, can the Minister ascertain the details and let us have them in due course?
– This matter does come within the ambit of the Department of Health, of course, but I shall refer the question to the appropriate Minister.
– Would the AttorneyGeneral be at all surprised to know that the cancellation of the passport of the Croatian leader, Srecko Rover, was signed by the former Minister for Immigration, Dr Forbes?
-No, I would not.
– I take the opportunity to indicate to honourable senators that the United Kingdom delegation to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association is about to retire.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. In view of the Government’s new contract with a South Australian firm for the supply of 200,000 concrete sleepers for the Commonwealth Railways, I ask the Minister whether he or any other Minister received representations from the Western Australian timber industry pointing out the importance of the railway sleeper market to the timber industry. Has the Western Australian Minister for Agriculture expressed concern at any trend away from the use of jarrah sleepers? If so, what assurances, if any, have been given by the Government to the timber industry in relation to what would constitute a serious loss of market?
– I do not know whether the Minister has received any representations from sources in Western Australia since the contract has been let for concrete sleepers. I remember that just prior to the last election a decision was made to use timber sleepers. At that time every possible argument for their use was advanced in this chamber. The effect that the use of concrete sleepers would have on the timber industry and the unemployment it would create, in addition to the then claimed existing unemployment, also were stated in this House as justification for the use of timber sleepers. Upon the election of this Government in December, alternative tenders for both types of sleepers were called and the tenders received were submitted to the Bureau of Transport Economics for evaluation. The Bureau had to report on the tender prices and on the life and durability of the broad sleepers. The result of the evaluation was that it was more in the interests of the Australian Government to use concrete sleepers, and a tender for them was let. The situation last December that could have justified using sleepers which cost more and are of less value no longer exists today because there is no unemployment. In fact we have reached the stage where we have more vacancies than unemployed persons to fill them. Despite the alleged threat to employment in the timber industry in Western Australia we are using the alternative sleepers, thus providing employment to workers in South Australia without a loss of employment to timber workers in Western Australia.
-My question, addressed to the Attorney-General, follows from a question I asked him at the commencement of question time. In view of the fact that the Senate restored the Trespass on Commonwealth Lands Ordinance in order to ensure that its provisions applied to lands in the Australian Capital Territory such as the lands outside Parliament House, and in view of advice as to the validity of the assumptions upon which the Senate acted, which is available to him within his Department, will the Attorney-General ascertain whether the presence of the tent structure is or is not contrary to the provisions of the Ordinance, and state the result of his inquiries to the Senate as soon as possible? If the tent structure is contrary to the provisions of the Ordinance, will he ensure that the Parliament is informed why the law is not enforced?
-I said before that it is not customary to answer legal questions during question time; certainly not intricate legal questions. The Senate did not vote to restore an ordinance, it voted to disallow a repeal of an ordinance and there may be a difference in the legal effect of those 2 approaches. The honourable senator thinks that the disallowance of a repeal operated as a restoration. Well, it may have done, and again it may not have done. I will look into the matter and, if it seems proper to do so, will make some observation to the Senate on the legal position, as I understand it, in relation to the embassy outside Parliament House. Perhaps I should remind the honourable senator that if some proceeding were taken, if some police officer were to take action on the assumption on which the honourable senator is proceeding, it may well be that a question would arise on these matters in the courts of the Australian Capital Territory. I do not know whether it is altogether proper that he should press me to be volunteering an opinion and perhaps indicating that other opinions have been given on a matter which may come up for determination.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport and I refer to the sad disappearance about 10 days ago of the ‘Blythe Star’ which sailed from Hobart at 6.35 p.m. on Friday 12 October. I ask the Minister whether it is a fact that the Overseas Telecommunications Commission’s point of contact for communications with shipping in Hobart is closed after 5 p.m. each night and after 5 p.m. during the weekend so as to make Melbourne the only available point of contact. Will the Minister assure himself that there is no possibility of deficiency in the communications contact available to shipping in circumstances of distress such as can be presumed to have overtaken this ship?
– If the ‘Blythe Star’ is lost, which now seems to be the case, I am sure that we all extend our extreme sympathy for the families of those on board. I am now in a position to report that the official air search has been called off. It was not thought that it could be carried on any longer. The search now comprises 3 main avenues. The Department of Transport has a helicopter service in Tasmania equipped with navigational aids and this has been requested to keep a look-out for the missing vessel. All shipping has similarly been requested to keep a lookout. A couple of police patrols are still searching the foreshores in various areas. 1 am not aware that the operations of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission in Tasmania close down at 5 p.m. Of course, if they do, the question arises whether there is any deficiency in regard to the safety provisions for shipping. 1 shall take this matter up with the Minister to ascertain whether there is any danger as a result of an early closing of the facilities in Hobart, if such closing does occur.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Minerals and Energy whether it is a fact that the Minister for Minerals and Energy is leaving for overseas at the end of this week? If so, will he request the Minister for Minerals and Energy to answer the questions on notice in relation to the proposed petro-chemical industry at Redcliffs in South Australia before he leaves this country this week, as there is an urgent need for clarification of the Federal Government’s attitude on this very important matter?
– I shall draw the honourable senator’s question to the attention of the Minister.
– Before 1 call on Ministers for the presentation of papers, I propose to present some papers myself for reasons which will become clear.
– The first matter to which I wish to direct the attention of honourable senators is that I have received the following message from His Excellency the Governor-General:
The Governor-Genera! informs the Senate of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia that the proposed law intituled ‘Royal Style and Titles Act 1973’, which was reserved for The Queen’s pleasure, has been laid before Her Majesty and that, on the Nineteenth day of October in the year One Thousand nine hundred and seventy-three, The Queen was graciously pleased to assent to the said law.
– Another matter to which I allude is that Senator Wright, speaking on the motion for the adjournment on 27 September, raised for my consideration the advisability of omitting from Senate Hansard the second reading speeches that have already been made by Ministers in the House of Representatives. The honourable senator described the present practice of reproducing these speeches as wasteful and a repetition of printing, and the implication was that economies could be made in this respect. I undertook at that time to consider the matter, and I now offer these observations:
– On 9 October I made a statement to the Senate relating to the proposed inclusion in Hansard of questions without notice which Ministers ask to be put on notice. I indicated that I would seek from the party leaders an expression of opinion regarding the proposal. I have been advised that there is agreement that such questions without notice should be included in Hansard. Henceforth, therefore, unless otherwise ordered by the Senate, questions without notice which Ministers ask to be put on notice will be included in Hansard.
– I now turn to a matter of some substance. Following the adoption by the Senate of new sitting times, I asked the officers of the Parliament to advise me on the impact of the new times. The areas mainly affected are Hansard and the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms.
I am informed by the Principal Parliamentary Reporter that the Hansard staff” will be greatly affected by the new sitting times if an adjournment debate develops at 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays and, to enable staff” to have a meal, it is proposed to suspend the reporting of the proceedings when an adjournment debate begins and tape-record the speeches. Tapetranscription, however, is a slow process, and the publication of a long adjournment debate may be delayed and the report will then appear at the beginning of the next day’s edition of Hansard.
The arrangements for meals in the . Refreshment Rooms for senators and staff will, for the time being, remain the same and this means that dinner will continue to be served until 7.30 p.m. The question whether satisfactory staffing arrangements can be made to serve meals after 7.30 p.m.- if that is found to be necessary- is under examination. For the information of honourable senators I circulate departmental reports on the impact of the new sitting times. I think these reports might be incorporated in Hansard. If that is the wish of the Senate- and I assume that it is- it is so ordered. (The documents read as follows)-
It does not appear that the new hours of sitting of the Senate will create any problems amongst the Senate staff which cannot be overcome by administrative re-organisation. There may be some trial and error in the initial arrangements and, if this causes any inconvenience to honourable senators, they are requested to be understanding during the settling down period, after which everything should run as normal.
Continuation of meetings of the Senate until 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays will require only minor changes in the Library’s staff arrangements.
The Hansard staff will be greatly affected by the new sitting times if an adjournment debate develops. While a senator is speaking, a team of reporters and typists is kept busy and no system of rostering off is practicable to enable some staff members to have a meal at 7 o’clock and others at an earlier or later hour. The Principal Parliamentary Reporter therefore proposes to suspend the reporting of the proceedings when an adjournment debate begins and tape record the speeches. One reporter will remain in the chamber in order to note interjections. When the team members have had their meal, they will replay the tapes and make a transcript of the speeches from them. But the preparation of transcript in this way is a slow process, and the publication of a long adjournment debate may be delayed and the report will then appear at the beginning of the next day’s edition of Hansard. Costs will be increased by the employment of additional typists and printing and publishing delays.
JOINT HOUSE DEPARTMENT
The 3 areas of the Joint House Department that will be mainly effected by the new hours of sitting that the Senate has resolved to adopt, are the technical, housekeeping, and refreshment rooms areas. In so far as the first 2 sections are concerned, some rearrangement of staff meal hours will be necessary to ensure that services are continually maintained during the sittings of the Senate, but this is not expected to create any serious problems, and should not cause any increase in staff costs. However, in the Parliamentary refreshment rooms the new sitting arrangements will have an impact that is expected to cause problems in attracting and holding staff in certain positions and an increase in the cost of operating the dining rooms. At present the evening meal is served in all dining rooms from 5.45 p.m. to 7.30 p.m., and at the conclusion of the meal a significant proportion of dining room staff cease duty. As honourable senators may know, a considerable proportion of the staff employed in the refreshment rooms are married women, and finishing duty at or about 7.30 p.m. suits their domestic circumstances.
However, under the new hours of sitting it is expected that dinner for senators on Tuesday and Thursday evenings will not commence, under most circumstances, before 7.30 p.m. and would have to be available at least until 9 p.m. with the possibility, should a prolonged debate on the adjournment occur, of it having to be extended to 9.30 or 10 p.m. In these circumstances quite a number of staff would be required to remain on duty and the consequent inconvenience to the staff concerned is expected to have its repercussion in a reluctance to take up employment with us.
A further aspect that is open to possible criticism is that the refreshment rooms will be placed in the position of requiring its female staff to work over a period of 12 hours a day and though this occurs on some occasions at present it is intermittent and not the regular occurrence that it would be under the new arrangement. Although the problem of servicing an extension in the dinner period has been considered in the context for meals for senators and members the same difficulties will no doubt be experienced in the staff cafeteria. Presuming that most senate officers and the parliamentary reporting staff would be unable to have their evening meal until after the senate rose, there will be a necessity to hold back staff operating the staff cafeteria for a period comparable with the dining rooms upstairs. No precise estimate can yet be made of the cost that will be incurred in working refreshment rooms staff the additional hours that will be necessary to serve the extended dinner period. However it can be said that the additional work period will have to be paid at overtime rates as it is not administratively possible to cover it within existing staff rosters.
– I move:
I do not wish to say anything about the statement at this stage but it is of considerable importance in view of the new sitting hours put down last week. We may wish to return to this report having experienced the new sitting hours over the next week or two. Therefore I ask leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 18 (b) (c) of the Prices Justification Act 1973 I present the notification to the Prime Minister by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and Australian Iron and Steel Proprietary Limited specifying the prices at which the companies propose to supply the goods which were the subject of the recent inquiry by the Prices Justification Tribunal.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present a Tariff Board report on expandable polystyrene beads and coated paperboard for use in the manufacture of disposable hot drink cups- bylaw, dated 19 July 1973.
– I lay on the table the text of the undermentioned treaties to which Australia has become a party by signature:
I lay on the table the text of an Agreement and Conventions to which Australia has become a party by accession:
I lay on the table the text of a Convention and Covenants to which Australia is considering becoming a party by ratification:
Motion (by Senator Cotton) proposed:
That the Senate take note of the papers.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cavanagh) adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the first annual report by the Secretary on the activities of the Department of the Media for the period ended 30 June 1 973.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a financial and statistical supplement to the Postmaster-General’s Department annual report for the year ended 30 June 1 973.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a record of decisions of the fifteenth annual conference of the Tourist Ministers Council held on Norfolk Island on 9-10 July 1973.
– Pursuant to section 29 of the Australian Tourist Commission Act 1967 I present the sixth annual report of the Australian Tourist Commission for the year ended 30 June 1973, together with financial statements and the Auditor-General’s report on those statements. I present also a copy of a statement made yesterday by the Minister for Tourism and Recreation regarding the Australian Tourist Commission.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the summary of resolutions and recommendations of the twelth meeting of the Australian Forestry Council held at Brisbane on 8 June 1 973.
– Pursuant to section 29 of the Air Navigation Act 1920-1971 1 present the thirteenth annual report on the administration and working of the Act and regulations made under the Act, and on other matters concerning civil air navigation.
– Pursuant to section 39 of the Housing Loans Insurance Act 1965-66 1 present the ninth annual report of the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation for the year ended 30 June 1973, together with financial statements and the Auditor-General ‘s report on those statements.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a statement of Australian Government policy entitled A National Approach to Water Resources Man.agement’ dated 10 October 1973.
– For the information of honourable senators I lay on the table of the Senate documents relating to allegations made by certain honourable senators concerning turtle farming in the Torres Strait Islands. I ask for leave to make a statement concerning the documents.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– In the adjournment debate in the Senate on 9 October 1973, Senator Georges spoke on the question of turtle farming in the Torres Strait Islands. He was followed by Senators Laucke, Keeffe and Webster. In reply I stated, as recorded on page 108 1 of Hansard of that date:
By some means or other I am prepared to make available, after perusal, all relevant documents that may be of assistance.
I further stated:
I can promise honourable senators that a full report will be given on every matter raised by Senator Georges and Senator Keeffe.
On 10 October 1973, in the Senate, as recorded at page 1087 of Hansard, in my reply to a question by the Leader of the Opposition, I stated:
All the minutes and reports of the Aboriginal Co-operative Advisory Committee will be available. Every allegation which was made last week is the subject of a reply from the Department and that reply will be tabled in the Senate.
I cannot account for the reference to the Aboriginal Co-operative Advisory Committee but believe it must have some reference to the Council for Aboriginal Affairs of which Dr Coombs is Chairman. I know of no such body as the Aboriginal Co-operative Advisory Committee and seemed to indicate this in reply to a question of Senator Laucke of 16 October 1973, reported on page 1193 of Hansard, when Senator Laucke asked for the minutes .of the Aboriginal Cooperative Advisory Committee and I replied:
We seem to be at cross purposes as to which documents the honourable senator desires to be tabled. A long document containing the answers to the allegations made by Senator Georges has been received by my office. I have not yet perused it. The document will be tabled at an early date.
I now table the report of the Secretary of my Department on the allegations made in the adjournment debate on 9 October 1973, together with relevant attachments. In the reference to the Aboriginal Co-operative Advisory Committee, which I believe to be the Council for Aboriginal Affairs, the attachments contain the extracts from 2 meetings of this Council, which are relevant to the turtle farm. I am advised that this Council has not had any meetings since March of this year and earlier minutes would have no relevance. I am also tabling with the documents a Departmental reply to statements by Senator Wright made in the Senate on 1 1 October 1973 on this matter and a reply to an article by Mr Peter Sekuless published in ‘The Canberra Times’ on 18 October 1973. I further include in the documents tabled, the explanation of the Secretary of my Department of the extracts of a letter that were sent by him to Dr Coombs and Professor Stanner. These extracts were published in the ‘Australian’ newspaper.
Senator Georges is reported in the Hansard record of 9 October, page 1075, as saying:
This year we will be spending $ 1 70m through the Department of Aboriginal Welfare.
In conversation, the Senator informed me this figure should read $1 17m, and as that figure is the Budget allocation for this Department, I accept his correction. I am convinced that this completely answers allegations of the waste of public moneys on the turtle farm activities. The Department still has full confidence in that project as a viable means of employing many unemployed Torres Strait Islanders.
I wish to give a further explanation to what appeared in Hansard. I accepted when Senator Keeffe mentioned that Dr Bustard had an Island wife that this was referring to some adulterous association. But I find, in fact, his lawful wedded wife was an Islander, and my expression of horror that such a matter was brought into the debate was unjustified and was unfair to the Senator. For this I apologise. I do believe there was extravagance in the administration of the turtle farm, and I believe this was the opinion of my predecessor when he nominated 3 directors to the Board of Applied Ecology. I believe that such appointments were to curtail extravagance, and recent reports would suggest some success in this direction. If the report of the present investigating team set up by Senator Willesee reports the venture has possibilities, I think some alteration in the administration should be made. These alterations should involve a less costly administration located closer to the area of farming and with greater involvement of Torres Strait Islanders.
It may be appropriate to mention the changes I am considering on matters that have been mentioned. All moneys spent under the Aboriginal Enterprises (Assistance) Act 1968 are spent at the discretion of the Minister. A large part of Treasury allocation to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs is spent by ministerial decision. This year some $70m could be spent where the Minister directs. Despite the best investigations and checks of such expenditure some must go to enterprises or causes that do not return profitable results. The annual report for 1971-72 in the Commonwealth Capital Fund for Aboriginal Enterprises showed that of all loans made from the Fund, 29.6 per cent were possible failures or had failed. This field of endeavour is risky, and the mistakes that must occur are too great a responsibility to be decided by one person. I am, therefore, discussing with my Department that all applications for loans, advances and grants be screened by a group of responsible people. Although no final decision has been made on who shall comprise such group, I am inclined to favour an all-party parliamentary standing committee.
The other body to be reviewed is the Council for Aboriginal Affairs. In fairness to this Council, contrary to what a previous Minister has stated, the Council at no time had power to spend money. The Council as previously existed has no place in the present arrangement with the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, but, nevertheless, it is thought the experienced and learned personnel on this Council can still perform a most useful function. As to the future function, the Chairman, Dr Coombs, is now preparing a paper for my consideration, and, whatever future role this Council may perform, it will be answerable only to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.
With the coming into operation of the National Aboriginal Consultative Council, many of the present advisory authorities will have to be changed so as not to impede the acceptance of advice from Aboriginal representatives. I move:
– I thank the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) for the statement which he has made to the Senate. I wish to clear his mind about the Aboriginal Advisory Co-operative Committee which, in some form, seems to have entered into the debate on this matter. The Committee was set up by the previous Minister. I am its Chairman. It was set up to assist in the establishment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Co-operatives. The other members of the Committee are the Deputy Crown Solicitor in Queensland, Mr Ted Badger, and 2 departmental officers, Mr Neville Jansz and Mr Brian Thomas. I cannot for the life of me understand how the Committee entered into the discussion, but there is such a committee. I also thank the Minister for his correction. I stated an amount of $117m, and it is quite obvious that Hansard picked it up as $ 1 70m. As I was speaking to the motion for the adjournment of the Senate, I did not check my pinks and the error went unnoticed. It seemed to me unnecessary for the head of the Department to highlight the error when it should have been obvious to him.
I come now to the statement which has been made. It cannot pass without a comment from me because it continues the deception which the head of the Department has practised and which I stated clearly would be to the disadvantage of the present Minister, as it was to the disadvantage of the previous Minister. I seek the indulgence of the Senate to draw attention to certain points which may not be clear unless the documents relating to the turtle project are available to the Senate. I made this statement: . . the permanent head of the Department, Mr Barry Dexter, deliberately frustrated the decision of his Minister and in fact worked for and succeeded in obtaining 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.
The statement, in effect- I must speak about this- is an answer to comments that I made and to charges that I made. The head of the Department has a right to answer these charges. No one denies that right. But he must state the situation clearly. If it is because of lack of knowledge or of ignorance that he continues in this deception, the sooner that he is informed and the sooner there is a full investigation of the documents the better. Mr Dexter says:
There is no truth in the allegations about myself. I would maintain that I worked to the best of my ability as a public servant serving the Minister of the day.
The answer to that, in my experience, is the opposite. The answer rests in the file for others to judge. I have spoken to Dr Coombs and he equally denies the allegations against him. Let me make it clear that before I made these statements in the Senate I saw Mr Dexter on 2 occasions. Before I made the statement on the Tuesday I contacted Dr Coombs. I endeavoured to see him in the morning and I left a message for him to ring me. He rang me from Sydney. I told him that I was distressed about the events and concerned that he was in a position and had certain knowledge which could have prevented this situation arising. For that reason I held that he must accept some of the responsibility. I informed Dr Coombs on 24 August exactly what I feared, the subject of the allegations I made in this Senate, about the misuse of public moneys and other matters that concerned me greatly. On 24 August Dr Coombs listened to me for an hour and took notes of allegation after allegation which I made based on information which I had received, but it appears to me that Dr Coombs did nothing further about it. Mr Dexter says, according to his statement that he knew nothing about those things, yet clearly I had stated them.
If one looks further one could, if one so desired, seek out the previous general manager of these companies involved in this project. He gave evidence in camera before the House of Representatives Standing Committee on the Environment and Conservation. That in camera evidence included not all but some of the complaints that I made.
– Order! Senator Georges, I do not think you can make reference to in camera evidence taken by a committee in another place.
– I made the statement. Perhaps I should not know of the evidence that was given, but I do know of it in this way: I gave evidence before the House of Representatives Committee and I suggested that the Committee call certain people. One of them was the previous general manager of these companies. He was the one who first gave me some information concerning the accounting procedures which had taken place and which indicated a serious misuse of public moneys. If the Attorney-General casts his mind back he will recall a letter which I sent to him expressing the same concern. It was for this reason that I know just how these allegations were made and how they were based.
I made these complaints clear to Dr Coombs on Friday, 24 August. How did this come about? The Minister on 20 September appointed extra directors to the company. He considered himself the sole shareholder and that he had the right as Minister to appoint directors to companies which were funded by Commonwealth moneys. Mr Dexter says that he did not receive these instructions which were made out by the Minister on 2 1 August until 9.35 on 24 August after the meeting of Applied Ecology Pty Ltd had commenced. That is the meeting at which Dr Bustard refused to acknowledge these directives, in spite of the fact that the correspondence was tabled before him. I tried to ring Mr Dexter. I was put through to his office and told by the girl there that he was on the telephone. Subsequently, after waiting about 5 or 10 minutes, I was told that he was not there. A male voice on the telephone then said: Mr Dexter is not here’. About 2 or 3 minutes’ later Mr Dexter arrived while I was still waiting on the telephone. That did not improve my sense of humour that morning. I also rang Dr Coombs and said to him: ‘Mr Dexter is placing himself in an untenable position and I ask you to advise him and advise me how to proceed at this particular meeting’. That was the meeting that nad been frustrated by the Acting Chairman, Dr Bustard, refusing to accept what the Minister wished.
Mr Dexter says now that once he obtained a clear direction from the Minister he proceeded to appoint the directors. This is not so because I have here the minutes of a meeting which the Minister was required to call. It was a special meeting of shareholders which he was required to call in his office in order to appoint directors to these companies. Yet Mr Dexter in this statement declares otherwise. This to my mind is a complete frustration of the wish of the Minister at this meeting and at every meeting of Applied Ecology and Aboriginal and Islander Products Pty Ltd, and I am prepared to table evidence to show what occurred. There was a deliberate frustration. In the afternoon of that day I went to Dr Coombs and said: ‘Look, we are getting to a position of complete confrontation’. I told him that there was certain evidence that showed clearly that there was a case for the Auditor-General to look at the books of Applied Ecology. In spite of that which occurred on 24 September, we have the statement: ‘To the best of my recollection no allegations about the misuse of funds were ever made to me by anybody. If there was concern over misuse it would have been helpful if the matter could have been brought to my attention’.
On two occasions I attempted to bring this matter to Mr Dexter ‘s notice and he dismissed me. In fact, he went further than that. He denigrated me. There is correspondence, which I believe has now been tabled and which I was not permitted to use the first time I spoke on this matter, that denigrates a member of Parliament, denigrates the Senate and accuses a senator of being a liar- nothing more not less. I am surprised to see that the statement has been tabled. This is now a matter for the Privileges Committee of the other place.
– Order! On that basis you must not refer to that letter because it is already before the Privileges Committee of the House of Representatives.
– I understand that the Minister has already tabled a copy.
– If it refers to a senator, that is another matter.
– I have not tabled it. The tabled documents include a statement on that letter and does not raise the issue of privilege.
– As this is the subject matter of an inquiry by the Privileges Committee of the House of Representatives I think it is highly improper for Senator Georges to refer to it or to give any indication of its contents.
– This man who is head of a Department has no knowledge of the role of a member of Parliament, nor has he any knowledge or clear understanding of the role of Parliament. I go even further and say that last Thursday when I attempted to contact the new Minister for the Capital Territory, Mr Gordon Bryant, I found that his office telephones were out of order. For 3 or 4 hours his office telephones were disconnected. Not only were his office telephones disconnected but also his electoral telephones were disconnected. By whom and on whose direction? It was at the direction of the head of his previous department who, without any knowledge by or contact with the Minister, took action through the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and disconnected the Minister’s telephones. I would say that if the first matter was not a breach of privilege, the second action was. This man, without any concept of what this place is all about, without any idea of what his Minister’s position was or what his responsibilities were, took this action which I described before and which I refer to again now.
Yet here again we have statement after statement which do not coincide with the reality of the situation and the files are the only things that will tell us just how true these statements happen to be. I have no comment or criticism to make of the present Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I apologise to him for bringing this matter forward so soon after his taking over responsibility for that portfolio, but it was necessary to bring it forward. I also apologise to him for raising this matter at this moment, but this statement made by Mr Dexter cannot go past this point without criticism.
I do not want to go through this statement point by point, but if I did we would see just exactly how the head of the Department has endeavoured not to tell the whole story. Let us have a look at page 7 of the statement, which states:
The authorisation of funds for turtle and crocodile farming was as follows:
In this section Mr Dexter is endeavouring to indicate that the funding, and increased funding, of this operation was the responsibility of the present Minister and that because he was responsible for the funding he also should accept the responsibility for what was happening with the money.
– What is the document and what is the date of the document?
-This document is a statement which has been placed before the Senate by the head of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Dexter, and it bears today’s date. I take it that it is today’s statement.
– Where is this statement? We do not have it.
– It has been tabled. It is a public document.
– In fairness I must say that the Minister provided me with a copy of the document that he has tabled.
– You said page 7.
-Yes, but the honourable senator would not have it. It is the document which has been tabled. I have a copy of it here. It reads: 19 June 1970-by Mr Wentworth-for 1970-71, $20,730; 8 September 1971- by Mr Howson-for 197 1-72, $37,000; 1971- 72-through our grant to Queensland, $20,000; 1 June 1972-by Mr Howson-for 1971-72, $60,000; mid-January-by Mr Bryant-for 1 972-73, $2 50,000.
This has confirmed the level of spending previously agreed to in principle by Mr Howson. What the head of the Department failed -to reveal here is that this money was provided for in the previous Budget. The document continues: 7 June 1973- by Mr Bryant-for 1972-73 and 1973-74, $180,000.
The authorisation for this payment also was signed by the previous Minister but it was signed because it was necessary for the headquarters of the project to leave the University and move into those expensive premises at Woden Tower. The document then continues: 17 September 1973- by Mr Bryant- for the period midSeptember to mid-October 1973, $70,000; 5 October 1973 . . . $210,000.
Those last 2 amounts had to be paid, on the recommendation of the directors, in order to allow payments to flow through to the farmers. The amount of $180,000 that was paid was subject to query by the Minister. He wanted to know whether it was necessary to move into expensive premises at Woden Tower. This was not explained. The explanation of the expenditure of $250,000 is given in such a manner that it appears that it was made on the decision of Mr Gordon Bryant and not the decision of the previous Government.
The head of the Department also states that money was not paid directly to Dr Bustard. That is not correct: it was. The head of the Department states, amongst other things, that the payment of $100,000 was approved by Mr Gordon Bryant and that this indicated that Mr Gordon Bryant approved of the expenditure. Mr Gordon Bryant questioned the expenditure of the $100,000, and this is when the questioning began, and it is still continuing. What happened to the $100,000 which was not supposed to go directly to Dr Bustard? The $100,000 went to Aboriginal and Islander Marketing Pty Ltd to purchase turtles. Of that $100,000, $15,000 was placed in the Thursday Island account and Dr Bustard was the only signatory to that account.
The first action that Dr Bustard took was to transfer $14,000 from that account into the account of Aboriginal and Islander Products Pty Ltd. Up until last month Dr Bustard was spending money from that account on his signature alone. He was stopped from doing so by the newly appointed directors. As a matter of fact, yesterday we had a call from the National Bank on Thursday Island because it had refused payment on $ 1 ,900 worth of cheques. Why was this? The answer is that the directors of Applied Ecology Pty Ltd and Aboriginal and Islander Products Pty Ltd gave instructions that 2 signatures were to be required for the drawing of cheques but cheques without 2 signatures continued to be drawn. Dr Bustard may not have been aware of the instruction and the cheques may have been drawn without his knowledge of the instruction. But the point I am making is that the head of the Department says that no money was going directly to Dr Bustard. This is a classic example of a direct payment being made to Dr Bustard because he had full authority for the expenditure of this money.
– What about the petty cash?
-On the imprest petty cash account, we sought from the accountant, Peat Marwick Mitchell and Co., an accounting of all dockets since we took over the companies. I am alarmed to see the total that has been given to us by Peat Marwick Mitchell and Co. In a letter to us that firm states:
In compliance with your request of 24th ultimo, we have prepared an itemised list of all expenditure from the following accounts for the months of June, July and August:
Commonwealth Grant Expenses Account- Dr H. R. Bustard, Field Officers Expenditure Account- Dr H. R. Bustard.
Dr Bustard is free to use this account on a single signature and can draw up to $5,000 by merely seeking reimbursement for dockets which are not properly receipted or certified, to my knowledge. Honourable senators should have a look at this account of Applied Ecology Pty Ltd. It shows completely unauthorised payments of wages to new farmers. The breakdown we have been given is as follows:
Wages paid to new farmers on strength but unpaid due delay advices ex-Brisbane and absence of Dr Bustard, $1,147.08. Wages new farmers, $509.58. Ditto farmers, $256.20.
There is no concern about deductions for income tax and no concern about workers’ compensation to cover new farmers. Here is another item listed:
Two months emoluments T. Nona, $532.
What does the docket show? It shows that the payment was for consulting fees. Who is T. Nona? He is one of the leading representatives of the islanders. He is one of the people who have been sending telegrams down to Canberra to prevent the Senate Committee and the House of Representatives Committee and myself from going to the islands. He is one of the people.
Another one who appears on the list of people receiving payments- he is not shown in the ordinary accounts- is Mr George Mye, who is another island representative. If we look at the payments made out of this imprest petty cash account we would think, and the islanders must think, that God has come to this place, because unauthorised payments which have not been properly certified have been made. I do not say that there has been any deliberate dishonesty. I merely say that the Department has given a blank cheque to this scientist and to the people who ran these companies, and this blank cheque has involved many thousands of dollars.
In part of Mr Dexter’s statement which has been tabled he says that 6 1 per cent of these moneys flowed to the farmers. Peat Marwick Mitchell and Co. made the clear statement that only 22 per cent of these moneys, representing $108,686, went to the islanders-120 of themwhile 1 8 per cent went to Europeans. If one totals it up one finds that that accounts for only 40 per cent and the remaining 60 per cent went to administrative costs. Honourable senators can see why my adrenalin rises and they can see why I become so angry with a head of a department who has no realisation of what Parliament is all about and who allows this sort of thing to happen. The University claimed that it was acting only as an agent. Mr Dexter tried to indicate otherwise. I want to read a statement which was made and which was published in the Press. The following appeared in the ‘Canberra Times’ of 11 October 1973:
In a statement issued yesterday, the Registrar of the ANU, Dr D. K.. R. Hodgkin, explained the University’s involvement in the project.
After some early work both from within the University and under grants from the then Office of Aboriginal Affairs, the ANU in 1971 agreed to requests to administer the grants for the project as agents for an initial period.
It has handled the money and paid staff on Dr Bustard’s authority, in accordance with instructions from the Office of Aboriginal Affairs.
It is fairly clear that by some arrangement by some person, on some person’s authority, the Australian National University acted as agent for a person who was not upon its staff. I could go into greater detail. A comment is made here about Senator Keeffe which he ought to answer. However, this statement ought not to go unchallenged and it has not been allowed to go unchallenged.
Quite unprepared but knowing the contents of this document, thanks to the courtesy of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, perhaps I have ranged too far and perhaps I have confused honourable senators but it is necessary for this Parliament to make clear to public servants, especially to heads of departments, that responsibility rests with the Minister and with this Parliament. Mr Dexter stated in this document that the Department had no advisers. What, then, was the Council of Aboriginal Affairs and what was its continuing purpose? Mr Dexter said that the Council had no authority to make payments. Who paid for the delegation of some 50 or 60 Torres Strait islanders to come to Canberra early this year? Who authorised the payment? Was it the Minister? The question is asked again: How much of this statement can we rely upon? I say that we can rely on very little, and the sooner that it is make clear to heads of departments that the Parliament is not prepared to be played with, the better.
Debate (on motion by Senator Laucke) adjourned.
– I present the 46th report from the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances relating to.the Australian Capital Territory Landlord and Tenant Ordinance (No. 2) 1973 in respect of which there is a notice of motion upon the notice paper.
Ordered that the report be printed.
-In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-1972, I present the report relating to the following proposed work:
Research Laboratory at North Clayton (Monash), Victoria.
– I inform the Senate that I have received a letter from Senator McManus requesting his discharge from attendance on the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence and nominating Senator Kane to be a member of that Committee.
Motion (by Senator Cavanagh) agreed to:
That Senator McManus be discharged from attendance on the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence and that Senator Kane be appointed a member of the Committee.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to constitute a law reform commission.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing orders suspended.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to establish a Law Reform Commission, to enable the task of law reform in Australia to be tackled on a national scale. The Government is concerned to see that the system of law under which people live is responsive to the social needs of our time. The rules which govern the relationship of persons with each other and with the Government should reflect current values and philosophies. This concern is reflected in the importance the Government attaches to law reform.
The Bill is also an expression of the Government ‘s view that except where local circumstances justify different treatment, people wherever they live in Australia should be subject to the same law. For this reason, many questions of law reform must be dealt with on a national basis. The reform of the laws regarding commercial transactions, defamation and evidence, the codes of procedures before the Courts and the criminal law are examples. There is no logical or necessary reason why these laws should vary from one place to another in Australia or why a person should be subject to different rules of law simply because he crosses a State boundary.
The existence of differences in the law between the States and Territories means that the rules of private international law, which were intended to regulate legal relationships affected by differences in law between different countries, apply in Australia as though the States and Territories were foreign countries. These rules cannot be removed altogether while separate State dictions remain but their impact can be lessened by promoting uniformity in the law throughout Australia. Uniformity will mean that it does not matter which States law is to govern a contract for the sale of goods. It will mean that a person’s entitlement to workers’ compensation will not depend on which State he is employed in at the relevant time. It will mean that the right of a person who has been defamed to recover damages will not vary according to the place in which the defamatory matter is published, so that what is published in Sydney in a newspaper with a national circulation may be actionable, but the same story published in the same newspaper in Melbourne may not be actionable.
One could multiply examples of the manner in which differences in the law produce different results according to which State or Territory law is applicable. What I have said should be ample to demonstrate an urgent need to tackle the task of law reform on a national basis. As long ago as 1957 no less an authority than the then Chief Justice of Australia, Sir Owen Dixon, suggested that this Parliament should establish a national law reform body. At the Tenth Legal Convention of the Law Council of Australia held in Melbourne that year the Chief Justice said:
Is it not possible to place law reform on an Australia wide basis? Might not there be a Federal Committee for Law Reform? In spite of the absence of constitutional power to enact the reforms as law, it is open to the federal legislature to authorise the formation of a body for inquiry into law reform. Such a body might prepare and promulgate draft reforms which would merely await adoption.
In all or nearly all matters of private law there is no geographical reason why the law should be different in any part of Australia. Local conditions have nothing to do with it. Is it not unworthy of Australia as a nation to have varying laws affecting the relations between man and man? Is it beyond us to make some attempt to obtain a uniform system of private law in Australia?
The Standing Committee of AttorneysGeneral has not been conspicuous for its success in promoting law reform on a uniform basis. While it is a very useful instrument for exchanging views between law ministers, it is clearly not equipped to deal with law reform on a comprehensive and uniform basis. This cannot be achieved unless an expert body, working full time on the task and removed from the pressures of day to day politics, is established for this purpose.
Each State as well as the Australian Capital Territory has its own law reform body. The existence of these separate bodies must inevitably cause a duplication and overlapping of effort. The Law Reform Commission would not replace the State bodies, although it will- and I am here diverting slightly from what is in print before honourable senators- be able to take over the work now done by the ACT Law Reform Commission. Consideration will be given to the future of the ACT Law Reform Commission. The establishment of a national law reform body would provide an agency for the exchange of information between State law reform agencies and with law reform agencies in other countries. I would hope that when the Law Reform Commission is established it would not be bound to English precedent but will have regard to substantial accomplishments in many areas of law reform in other countries and, in particular, in the United States of America.
So far I have referred to the need for laws to be uniform as between the several jurisdictions existing within Australia. There are, however, major areas of law within the competence of the Australian Parliament in respect of which an Australian Law Reform Commission will play an essential role in the development and reform of the law instead of, as in the past, reliance being placed on ad hoc committees without adequate resources for research and the examination of submissions from interest groups. It should not be overlooked that in respect of the Territories of Australia the Australian Parliament has undoubted plenary legislative power, and the Territories are coming to represent an increasingly significant proportion of the Australian population. Within the next 10 years it is expected that the population of the Australian Capital Territory will outstrip that of Tasmaniaand the population of Darwin is the fastest growing of any Australian city. The Australian Parliament, therefore, has a very direct and substantial interest in reform in the area of private law, quite apart from the question of uniformity of law between the Territories and the States.
The Bill therefore provides that the functions of the Law Reform Commission will include the reform of laws that are within the competence of this Parliament to amend- whether they be laws which operate throughout Australia or Territory laws- and also the consideration of proposals for uniformity between the laws of Territories and the States. Where the recommendations of the Commission cannot be given effect throughout Australia by this Parliament, they can be given effect in the Territories by this Parliament or by the appropriate legislative authority in a Territory and by the legislatures of those states which see fit to adopt them.
Having explained the broad purpose of the Bill and the role of the proposed Law Reform Commission, there are only one or two features of the Bill to which I need to draw attention at this stage. The functions of the Commission are set out in clause 6. They are to review or consider proposals for the making, consolidation or repeal of laws to which this Act applies, and to consider proposals for uniformity between laws of the Territories and the States. The expression ‘laws to which this Act applies ‘is defined in clause 3. It includes all laws, whether statute law or the rules of common law or of equity, that this Parliament has power to amend or repeal. Thus it includes, for example, laws made by this Parliament and ordinances and other laws in force in a Territory.
In reviewing laws to which this Act applies, the Commission will have in view systematic development and reform of the law, including, in particular: the modernisation of the law; the elimination of defects in the law; the simplification of the law; and the adoption of new or more effectivemethods for the administration of the law andthe dispensation of justice. The Commissionerwillexercise these functions in pursuance of references made to it by the Attorney-General.
Under clause 9 the Commission may make, or be asked by the Attorney-General to make, an interim report, and clause 43 requires the AttorneyGeneral to lay a report by the Commission before each House of Parliament within 1 5 sitting days of that House from the time of receipt of the report.
Clause 8 of the Bill would ensure that the Commission is accountable to the Parliament which creates it, and also that it remains under ministerial control in the exercise of its functions, other than the making of reports and recommendations. The composition of the Commission is governed by clause 1 1 , which provides that the Commission is to consist of a chairman and at least 4 other members, each of whom must be either a judge of a Federal Court or a Supreme Court of a State or Territory, a practitioner of such a court of at least 5 years standing, an experienced academic lawyer or a person otherwise specially qualified or experienced. The members are appointed by the Governor-General and may be full time or part time members. The Chairman must be a full time member.
The Bill provides in clause 1 1, sub-clause (7), for a member of the Commission being a legal practitioner of a particular Territory, to be designated by his instrument of appointment as a member in respect of that Territory, and for him to take part in the proceedings of the Commission in respect of such references only as the chairman determines to be of special significance in relation to that Territory. This will enable lawyers with special experience in the law of a particular Territory to bring the benefit of their experience to the consideration of reforms of the law of that Territory.
– Have you any time schedule in mind for this body? Is it to extend overyears or is to be a on-going body? I do not quite follow the intention.
– An on-going body. Related to this provision is a provision in clause 26 that the chairman may constitute a division of the Commission consisting of not less than 3 members with all the powers of the Commission for the purpose of a particular reference. When the reference relates to the law of a particular Territory, the member designated a member in respect of that Territory would normally be one of the members constituting the division. Thus it would be possible for 2 divisions of the Commission to be working on 2 different references concurrently; one, perhaps, relating to a limited question of Territory law and the other of wider significance. Or a reference on a topic of importance to the whole of Australia, determined by the Chairman to be of special significance to each Territory, might be dealt with by the Commission as a whole.
Provision is made in clause 22 for the engagement as a consultant to the Commission of any person having qualifications and experience relevant to a particular matter referred to the Commission. Provision for formal hearings by the Commission or a division of the Commission is made in clause 28 and appropriate provisions are made in following clauses in relation to the taking of evidence, witnesses and similar matters affecting hearings.
The Commission is to be an independent statutory corporation with power, subject to appropriate controls by the Treasurer and the Attorney-General, to submit its own estimates, operate its own bank account and engage its own staff. The provisions relating to the corporate status of the Commission are in clause 10, the appointment of staff in clause 2 1 and the finances of the Commission in Part V. I commend this Bill for the establishment of a Law Reform Commission to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Greenwood) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act relating to the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory of Australia.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to provide for the appointment of more than one resident judge of the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory. The present position is that the Court consists of one judge, whom I shall call the ‘resident judge’, appointed under sub-section ( 1 ) of section 7 of the Act, and a number of ‘additional judges’, appointed under sub-section (2) of section 7, whose qualification is that they are to be judges of another court created by this Parliament. There are at present 7 additional judges all of whom are judges of the Commonwealth Industrial Court.
It has become apparent to the Government that the volume of business in the Supreme Court, which sits both in Darwin and in Alice Springs, requires the services of a second resident judge as a matter of urgency. The present system, dependent as it is upon the availability of the additional judges to sit in the Territory from time to time, has proved unsatisfactory and inadequate to cope with the volume of work.
The Bill therefore amends section 7( 1 ) to permit the appointment of more than one resident judge. The number is not limited, and it will thus be possible to make future appointments from time to time as required. Clause 6 of the Bill amends section 9 of the principal Act relating to judges’ salaries and allowances so as to delete the reference to a specific sum. This amendment is consequential upon section 13 of the Remuneration and Allowances Act 1973 which fixes judges’ salaries and allowances notwithstanding anything in any other Act. The remaining amendments made by the Bill are consequential upon the matters I have already mentioned or consist of drafting improvements. 1 commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Greenwood) adjourned.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator PROWSE)- Is it desired to postpone or rearrange the business?
– I move:
This means that the Senate will deal first with the Aboriginal Affairs (Arrangements with the States) Bill 1973. It is intended that all the Bills relating to Papua New Guinea be debated cognately at the second reading stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wriedt) read a first time.
– I move:
Three years ago, when the legislation to establish the Australian Industry Development Corporation was before this House, the Australian Labor Party, then in Opposition, welcomed it with enthusiasm. But we saw from the beginning that AIDC as then structured could not be expected to stem the rising tide of foreign ownership and control in Australia, let alone reverse it. The Australian Industry Development Corporation was formed at a time of capital scarcity in Australia. Large blocks of capital were needed for big new mining ventures and, in the main, it had to come from overseas. Whether it was venture capital or loan money, when brought in by foreign corporations it added to foreign control of Australian resources.
So AIDC was given the job of tapping overseas capital markets for loan funds, and putting these moneys at the disposal of predominantly Australian companies- to help them to undertake, or participate in, new development or expansion. This in itself was an important task. I should think that almost every Australian would have thought that this was an important task and would have been prepared to give it his wholehearted support and to have wished AIDC well in the mission, limited though it was, that it was able then to begin to undertake. I have no doubt that whatever was the possible role of AIDC then, its role will be of even greater importance now.
Industries processing and using mineral resources require blocks of capital many times larger than those merely extracting raw materials for export. The processing industries are the kind of industrial development we want in Australiaand I think some other countries want it in Australia too- but we also want Australians to share to the greatest extent practicable in the ownership and control, and the rewards of that ownership and control, of those operations. We want a fair deal for Australians, and we include Australian capitalists in that desire.
Where there is strong Australian participation in the ownership and control of a development we can expect that development to be directed towards the national interest of Australia, and towards maximising earnings in Australia. Without such Australian participation we will have the prospect of Australian resources and industries being developed to maximise the global profits of multi-national corporations, and very often at lower export prices than if we in Australia were able to match a little closer their monopolistic powers. When we are concerned with export prices we are not concerned with the export prices of, say, minerals and energy alone, important as these are. We are concerned with the whole range of exports- wool, wheat, meat and so on- within the wide range of commodities that still remain of importance for Australia in the future and possibly of even greater importance in the future than in the past.
AIDC, in its original form, was equipped neither with the functions nor with sufficient financial resources to make the kind of impact on the problems of foreign ownership and control that the Government, and the Australian nation, wished it to make. On the one hand, AIDC just did not have the means of gathering together sufficiently large blocks of entrepreneurial capital for investment in major development. As a borrowing agency of international stature it is already well accepted in the capital markets of the world, but it has been restricted in its access to Australian funds, and has not been in a position to invest in the share capital of projects to any great extent.
Moreover, AIDC has had to operate under restrictions which limited it to investing at the invitation of the company concerned, and to temporary, minority holdings. It could not, for example, act itself as the Australian partner in a joint venture with foreign companies. It has had to decline requests for it to act in this way when other Australian partners could not be found. AIDC has had to decline offers to purchase substantial holdings, including 50 per cent holdings, in companies in Australia at present 100 per cent foreign owned. Under its charter it could only acquire shares when providing finance for a development, or in investing its limited capital funds. And, when it did take shares in a development enterprise, it had to try to sell them as soon as it could. One cannot help feeling that these limitations upon AIDC were the result of pressures by business interests which objected to the competition of AIDC. Similarly, now, much of the opposition to an enlarged and expanded AIDC is derived from those whose interests are served by leaving the field alone to the financial giants who increasingly dominate the capitalist world. But it is not in the interests of the Australian people that we should do nothing, or limit our own powers in trying to hold our own a little more effectively.
With its existing limitations it was clearly not possible for AIDC to operate and negotiate on equal terms with the many overseas corporate giants operating in Australia. Nevertheless, what it has been able to achieve even while hemmed in by such restrictions indicates the contribution which an institution such as AIDC, properly equipped, will be able to make in this area of national policy objectives. By offering development finance in suitable ‘packages’, often containing both loan and equity capital and on terms and conditions tailored to the particular venture, AIDC has been able to help many good projects, large and small, which otherwise could not find suitable finance without .selling out to overseas interests.
Although limited in its own participation, AIDC has often been able to introduce other Australian companies into a project. These companies have contributed to the capital but, more importantly, they have strengthened the management and thus also the financial prospects. To take a few examples, there is a major manufacturing venture in Victoria, over 75 per cent Australianowned, which was able to proceed only when AIDC brought together the Australian partners. There is an important mineral development in Queensland which needed AIDC at a critical time to avoid diluting the Australian ownership. There is a raw material processing venture in Tasmania which is Australian rather than foreign owned and controlled through the efforts of AIDC. A major resource in Western Australia, yet to be developed, has been brought into the hands of Australian companies, instead of being 50 per cent owned by foreign companies.
With the obvious potential of AIDC in mind we said in the policy speech that we would expand its activities to enable it to join with Australian and foreign companies in the exploration, development and processing of Australian resources. This objective, I believe, is supported by over 90 per cent of the Australian people. Australians want us to increase the influence of Australians in our own affairs. Australians want us to be able to stand up for ourselves in world economic affairs which may be vital for us. We also foreshadowed mobilisation of Australian capital by issuing national investment bonds through the expanded AIDC. Our platform spelled out that we would enable ordinary Australians to take part in the ownership, development and use of Australian industries and resources, divert investment by large financial institutions from bricks and mortar into desirable development projects, and make it a primary policy objective of the Corporation to obtain majority Australian ownership and control over existing and future enterprises. The Bills I am now presenting represent the fulfilment of these proposals and policies, which we have a clear mandate to carry out.
The first Bill, the one to amend the Australian Industry Development Corporation Act, expands the functions of the AIDC. The range of industries in which the Corporation may assist companies is extended to include transportation and distribution and activities related to the industries already in its charter and its original charter theme. Development is a comprehensive word. It does not only mean digging enormous holes, driving huge drills into the earth and sea or producing power. Development is development of people in the social and human sense as well as in the purely material activities related to industries. The AIDC is given a second principal function, that of securing the greatest practical Australian participation in the ownership and control of companies engaging in the industries in its charter. The Corporation is given power to initiate particular investment proposals itself, rather than having to wait for approaches from companies. It will no longer be required to divest itself of shareholdings it acquires in companies it assists. The Corporation will no longer have to borrow principally overseas. It will, as necessary and convenient, be able to raise money either in Australia or overseas, provided that it acts in accord with the Government’s monetary policy, as notified to it from time to time.
In all of the above, the AIDC will continue to be required to act in accordance with sound principles, providing funds only to those companies or projects which it judges to be efficient and financially sound. All these provisions will enable the Corporation to fulfil more effectively its functions of assisting Australian companies to develop Australian industry. Special attention will be given to encouraging individual enterprise and supporting smaller Australian businesses in their struggle to compete with local and international giants. Assistance will also be available to establish and expand sound and viable co-operative enterprises.
We also want the AIDC to help implement our policies for industrial development, not to replace private ownership with Government ownership but to help build more productive, more socially desirable, and more positive and progressive Australian industry. To the extent that there is a change in ownership, we will work towards more ownership in the hands of individual Australians. Public ownership in the AIDC area of responsibility would be within the national interest division. But the main general function of the AIDC will be directed at strengthening the individual Australian enterprise in primary, secondary and tertiary industry so that it may sooner obtain better technology and management and more than hold its own against the conglomerates seeking to exploit it on one side and the consumer on the other. In some cases some action of working together by individual enterprises will be essential. The cooperative form of action may often be most appropriate and effective.
Under the provisions of the Bill the Minister will inform the Corporation of Government policy in relation to establishment, development or advancement of an Australian industry. Where it would be in accord with those policies for the Corporation to assist a company or participate in a development project but the Corporation for any reason is unable to help- for example, because the funds required, or the scale of risk, are beyond the AIDC’s unaided resources- the Bill provides machinery for the Government to consider the circumstances of the case and, subject to approval of the Parliament, ensure that assistance is given in appropriate cases.
A series of provisions will enable the Government, in such cases, to provide the needed capital to the AIDC, or to give guarantees which enable the AIDC to support the project itself. In this way the Government will be able to make use of the financial skills and industrial knowledge of the Corporation in pursuing Government policy in relation to industrial development and to Australian participation therein. The accounts of such ‘national interest’ transactions will be kept quite separate from the AIDC’s other moneys, including the National Investment Fund, and a National Interest Committee will be established to advise the Government on the decision to give support in such cases. In the light of the changed functions of the Corporation, the Board of Directors is to be strengthened by appointing to it the Secretaries to the Departments of Secondary Industry and Minerals and Energy. This will provide a needed channel of communication between the Board and the Government, enabling the Board to be fully conversant at all times with relevant Government policies.
The second Bill, establishing the National Investment Fund, provides the means of raising the finance the AIDC needs to perform its new functions in its main areas. The Bill empowers the AIDC to raise funds in a variety of ways, through different divisions of the National Investment Fund. There will, for example, be divisions containing savings plans similar to superannuation and endowment insurance schemes. Contributions to these divisions will be tax deductible within the $1,200 deduction now allowable for payments for superannuation and insurance. Contributions to these divisions will be invested by the AIDC in sound developmental projects and other appropriate assets enabling the ordinary Australian to participate in his country’s development and secure a return suitable to his need and especially to his needs in the future.
Other divisions of the Fund will issue investment bonds. A bondholder’s rights, including income and equity, will be set out in the contract he has with the AIDC and he will know exactly what his position is. Income will be paid to him out of the income earned by the assets in his division of the Fund and he may sell his bond at any time or redeem it at the value of its asset backing. There is an opportunity here for the ordinary citizen to share in the kind of capital appreciation which so far has been confined to a very small percentage of the Australian people. The creation of investment bonds will enable the Corporation to support projects that by their nature cannot be financed with borrowed money. It will thus be enabled to play its role in the financing of mineral development and other long term industrial projects. Because an investment bond is not a fixed interest security providing for repayment of a stated amount at a given time, but a contractual interest in the value of a given collection of assets and in the income earned by them, it is possible to finance projects with little or no return in the early years but high growth and income at a later stage. Such projects cannot be financed with loan money.
Subscriptions to investment bonds as distinct from the superannuation and endowment plans will not be tax deductible, but the Government has decided to contribute $10 to the Fund for every $100 invested in the bonds by individuals resident in Australia. The extra income and capital growth accruing from this Government contribution will flow to the individual investor and when the bonds are redeemed the Government’s contribution will be returned to it. Provided the investor holds his bonds for at least 3 years, the Government will bear, to the extent of its contribution, any depreciation in the value of .the bonds. The Government’s contribution is insurance for 3 years against some of the risk that the investor takes and increases the base of his earnings from, say, $100 to $1 10 during the life of his investment. These measures should provide an incentive to the small investor to put his money into investment bonds, and thereby to seek to achieve the objectives of the AIDC. It is also our intention to make appropriate changes to the 30/20 rule to channel towards the Fund some of the very large amounts of capital available to insurance companies and private pension funds for investment. The Treasurer will be discussing this matter with the companies and firms concerned. It will be the responsibility of the Treasurer, in consultation with these companies, and firms, to work out the rate at which the change in the application of the 30/20 rule will apply. The companies and firms concerned will have a full opportunity to have an effective say in what the rate ought to be.
It will also be possible to use the National Investment Fund as a channel for overseas capital which would otherwise take the form of an equity interest. Where it is desired to finance a particular development project in this way a special division of the Fund could be created. The overseas investor would buy investment bonds in the series in that division and the money raised could be invested in the project. The overseas investor would, in accordance with the terms and conditions of his bonds, be entitled to income earned by the project and to the benefit of growth in its capital value. He would not, however, exercise the control over the project that he could as the owner of ordinary voting shares. Of course, it is not the owner of ordinary voting shares with whom we are really concerned. We are concerned with the owner of a large block of voting shares, who is the very antithesis of the individual in any meaning of the word at all.
Australians subscribing to the Fund will enjoy the benefit of investments that have been assessed and selected by AIDC’s able and experienced Board. In addition, those investments will have been approved by an independent supervisory council, appointed specifically to watch the interests of those who invest in the National Investment Fund and given appropriate strong powers. The council will have a trust responsibility. The Bill provides that the supervisory council will consist predominantly of people whose experience in investment will contribute to the skilful management and investment of the Fund. I have no doubt that suitably skilled and nationally-minded Australians will be willing to serve in this important task. Equally I have no doubt that they will work in harmony with the Board of AIDC to achieve the purposes for which we are building up the Corporation and creating the Fund. The function of the supervisory council will be to protect the interests of subscribers. It will lay down the investment policy to be followed in the use of Fund moneys and any investments not covered by general policies will be subject to individual approval by it. The Bill provides an appropriate balance of powers between the Board and the Council and includes provision for disputes or disagreements to be resolved by ballot of contributors if necessary.
The Board of the Corporation will continue to be responsible for carrying out the Corporation ‘s functions of developing Australian industry and maximising Australian ownership, lt will decide when and how AIDC is to assist companies or participate in projects on the same basis of sound principles as before and will manage AIDC’s investments, including those financed by the National Investment Fund or undertaken in the national interest with government money or a government guarantee. It is essential, for the preservation of AIDC’s commercial borrowing status and its ability to work in close cooperation with other companies in industrial ventures, that the Board remain free to exercise independent judgment in discharging the commercial aspects of its responsibilities. Where the Government supplies money in national interest cases, of course, the Corporation will be required to use that money for the specified purpose and in accordance with the terms and conditions laid down by the Government. But the Bill is drawn so that in these cases the Government, having made clear what it proposes and why it is acting, will carry the financial responsibilities and risks. The normal commercial funds of AIDC, and lenders who contribute to those funds, are completely protected against any losses or costs that result from national interest investments.
The function of the National Interest Committee will be to advise the Minister on what government action should be taken in projects which involve the national interest. It is, of course, up to the Government to decide what action it will take in national interest matters. But in every case the Government will first have the benefit and protection of a financial evaluation of the investment by AIDC, as well as the advice and recommendations of the National Interest Committee.
The National Investment Fund will give every Australian an opportunity to gain a stake in his country’s future development by making weekly contributions in a convenient manner from his pay to a savings plan, or by buying investment bonds. His contribution will be invested in Australian companies and development projects selected for their earnings and capital growth prospects under the supervision of the supervisory council whose duty will be to protect his interests. The Board will represent him and all the other subscribers in exercising a voice in the companies in which their contributions are invested. This will help to counteract domination by companies, particularly international companies, with large blocks of shares. We look to all Australians to take this opportunity to preserve in Australian hands their great natural heritage and the industries established by the initiative and labour of their fathers. We believe they will gladly help us to ensure that great new Australiancontrolled industries develop alongside the many foreign-controlled giants that already exist; and that, where it is economically possible and prudent to do so, control of industries in foreign hands will be regained. Australian citizens are not being asked in this plan to leave it to the Government. This is not government action over or above or in place of individual action. It is based on the basic assumption that individual action is good but it recognises that the individual today is vulnerable to powerful groups, many of them international, and that if he is to hold his own he needs more strength. He can get some of that strength by working together with other individuals and by being backed by the Government.
The new plan for AIDC is a plan for individuals to join together and to accept the support of the Government in preserving and extending their own interests with a proper social conscience and awareness of their responsibilities to the people and to Australia. I ask honourable senators and the public to realise the importance of this legislation, not to expect too much of it but not to dismiss it either with that cynicism that has become all too common when any attempt is made to appeal a little to idealism and for genuine co-operation in an effective enterprise. I am sure much good for the Australian community can come from the development of AIDC. I commend this Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wriedt) read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill has already been explained in my second reading speech on the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill 1973. I commend this Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 27 September (vide page 104 1 ), on motion by Senator Cavanagh:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-This Bill, the Aboriginal Affairs (Arrangements with the States) Bill 1973, provides enabling measures to facilitate the transfer of State officers to the Australian Public Service. Clause 5 of the Bill contains the real core of this legislation and herein it is provided: 5. ( 1 ) The Governor-General may enter into an arrangement with the Governor of a State with respect to Aboriginal affairs . . for-
The Liberal Party Opposition does not oppose this legislation. In his second reading speech Senator Cavanagh, the Minister for Works as he then was, said that this legislation does not constitute any form of compulsion. But he who provides the finance calls the tune and, therefore, I see in this legislation an accord with the avowed centralist policies of this Government. The Commonwealth will take over the State departments of Aboriginal affairs, as was stated to be the intention of the Government by the former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Bryant, earlier this year. He said that he would have the State departments of Aboriginal affairs under his control by 1 July. It is interesting to note that not one State agreed to hand over its department to the Commonwealth at that time. Now, we have this Bill before us which allows officers of State departments who so desire to join the Commonwealth Public Service and to work for the Commonwealth Department of Aboriginal Affairs without any loss of entitlement.
The whole background of this is good. That is why, this being a fundamental clause of the Bill, we will not be opposing it.
Personally, I feel that with the extraordinary complex problems which constitute Aboriginal affairs and with the great variation of need no common denominator policy can be applied to solve the problems which concern the Aboriginal communities. When State officers know the locations within a State, the Aboriginal peoples resident in it and become very close to the actual conditions and requirements of the Aborigines in certain areas, there is a background of understanding which I feel is vital to achieve that to which we all aspire- the betterment of the conditions of the Aborigines. I have no desire today to range far and wide in my discussion on this measure but will adhere strictly to the immediacy of the provisions contained in the legislation. Yet, I must say- I suppose that this has a relationship to the Bill in some way- that we note the maladministration which has been going on in the Department of Aboriginal Affairs as something of a grave nature.
This afternoon we have heard again from the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I am grateful to the Minister for the information which he has provided to the Senate in response to requests made for the tabling of certain documents and papers. I am grateful to him for having done that with expedition. But I somehow feel that we still have not received all the information we must have in relation to this whole matter. That assessment is endorsed by the further statement of Senator Georges this afternoon. This matter is one which will be necessarily looked at very closely from every aspect of responsibility of administration. This is vitally important in connection with the accountability of governments for spending of public moneys: There have been actions which tend not to improve the lot of Aborigines but to worsen it. There is no worse impact upon an Aboriginal than a lack of confidence in himself. When that lack of confidence is brought about by governmental action through applying more and more moneys to projects which are not viable, not only is that a waste of public money but also the recipient of it is not being served in the manner in which he is entitled to be served and in which it is desired by the general public that he should be served. I indicate again that the Liberal Party will not oppose the expeditious passage of this legislation.
-The Australian Democratic Labor Party does not oppose this Bill. Indeed, it would be difficult to dispute the principles that are outlined in it concerning the transference of State public servants to the Commonwealth Public Service. I think that we would all be in agreement with that. Of course, we must all recognise the gradual shifting of responsibility from the State area to the Commonwealth that was an inevitable feature of the decision of the people of this nation in a referendum vesting in the Commonwealth powers in relation to this question. Perhaps it would have been wiser if that had happened many years ago. I say this: There are those who are expressing opinions- I suppose that in some areas they are valid- that the results of that referendum have not been carried into effect quickly enough. I point out that there could be areas in which that is true. But in the whole general problem of Aboriginal welfare and the improvement of the opportunities of these people to join meaningfully in the way of life of this nation, I believe that time is by no means the most important factor.
Sentimentally, we would all like to see things done immediately. However, we are dealing with problems of which time itself is a part. They are problems that have their origin, perhaps, many centuries ago. It is now apparent to us that the attempts that were made by people in this country when there was the first awareness of a responsibility in this area were made in completely wrong directions. That is no criticism of the people of the day and the age who were the first people to recognise the responsibility and the need to do something. It is not surprising that, with hindsight, we see that they made many errors. We had the fundamental error of a handout type of policy that was carried on for far too long. I believe that we must all accept a fair share of responsibility for that. I am not trying to attribute blame to anyone, because blame in this area is of no advantage to the Aborigines. They are the people to whom we are now trying to give opportunities that perhaps they should have received previously.
However, I think that there should be some care in considering the principles that are laid down in this Bill. I accept the necessity that there should be a transfer of some State public servants, a desire on their part to transfer to the Commonwealth and a need for the Commonwealth to obtain those who have been trained in the areas concerned. But it would not be wise to denude the States of all their expertise because State responsibility must and will continue. There are many people who need assistance who are not Aborigines in the true sense of the word nor Aborigines in the sense that it will be the
Commonwealth’s responsibility to deal with them largely. There are many people now who for generations have been fringe dwellers of the suburban areas in several of our big cities. They present a completely different picture. They require a completely different attitude towards whatever assistance is rendered to them than the other people concerned in this problem who are spread over areas further north and other areas. I do not think that it takes long for anybody to appreciate that there is not one simple single problem in this area. There is a problem that perhaps in the beginning had a common origin. But it has branched out into so many facets today that there is a need in particular localities for legal expertise and a local touch.
The State governments are perhaps closer to the people in some of these areas than is the Commonwealth Government in trying to deal with the diverse problems of the Torres Strait Islanders and the suburban dwellers around the cities such as Melbourne, Sydney or even those clustered around the more rural areas such as Warrnambool in Victoria. Three distinctly different types of people have developed today because of 100 years or so of different environments in which they have lived. One separate group is the Aborigines who live in the far north of Western Australia and the Northern Territory and who live under an entirely different set of circumstances and have to face different problems emanating from those circumstances. They perhaps have a common background with other Aborigines, but they pose a completely different picture which requires an approach completely different from the approach which would be adopted in some localised city areas. For that reason I say a word of warning to the Government. I do not suggest that it is the Government’s intention to attract officers from the States. The Government should not be over-anxious to attract State officers. The States have a need and a requirement for skilled officers. The Government should not seek to recruit this staff into Federal departments. Obviously the greatest amount of funds will be spent in future by the Federal departments, despite the generous opportunities that are now to be extended to the States because of the reawakening of requirements in this field and because of the need to provide the opportunities.
I join Senator Laucke in expressing some regret at other stories which we heard today. It would be fallacious to think that the attempts to establish for these people- for themselves and in their own right- business ventures which would provide an opportunity to enter into the type of environment which we have would be successful from the beginning. If we expect the ventures to be 100 per cent successful we would be impossibly unfair to the people who are trying to assist them and to the people themselves. I believe that we must expect a great deal of failure. Those failures will not all be the responsibility of those to whom we are endeavouring to give the opportunity. Mistakes will be made by those to whom we give the responsibility for being an immediate contact with the people and for being immediately responsible for the assistance. Many a man has gone bankrupt several times in his lifetime. Some of our great grazing millionaires have been declared bankrupt, but they have finally succeeded in making fortunes in their chosen field of activity. We must keep these things well in mind as new ideas are tried- and they must be tried, even if they fail and fail again. I believe that if weaknesses are found in administration they must be stamped out Ve are dealing in an area in which we can no longer afford to have any more failures on the administration side than we can possibly help.
Do not let us expect too much of the people to whom we are granting the opportunity. If we do, we will do them a great injustice and ourselves a great disservice. This problem represents one of (he great challenges of this day and age for Australians. It is ours because we have inherited it. It is ours because we have perhaps been too slow in realising it is there and in tackling it with the depth of intelligence with which it should have been tackled in the first place. I believe that a previous Minister, Mr Wentworth, was one of the first persons who began to move away from the idea of handout policies and towards a more constructive and realistic approach to the whole affair.
I do not indulge in criticism in this area. Many have failed in the past. Many will not achieve their goals in future. But it is an area in which all must strive and use their experience, their knowledge and their intelligence. Political parties and political expediency should be left out of the matter because the question far transcends politics and political parties. Who did this or who did not do that for the Aborigines is all a part of Australia ‘s history. The people who are criticised the most today are the people who were the first to attempt to do something. Because their attempts were not headed in the right direction we, with the experience of hindsight, can say that they were wrong. We know that they were wrong but at least they were trying to do something when nobody else was trying to do anything at all. None of us should forget the lesson which the history of our nation teaches us, because in this area there is still a lot that we do not know- more than we think. Therefore, we must be fair to everybody. We must not try to take too much political advantage of attempts which are made and which do not succeed 100 per cent. We must remember the common goal and objective which surely all of us must have. We support the Bill and hope that it will have a speedy passage.
– I do not intend to oppose the Bill which appears, on the surface, to be a purely mechanical one which provides, I think in all fairness and justice, for the transfer of officers from State authorities to the Australian Public Service. I have no reservations with regard to the principle that an officer is entitled to have his rights and privileges protected. My objection to the Government’s proposal at the moment to take over Aboriginal affairs throughout the Commonwealth is that I think that such a takeover should not be happening at this stage of our history. I believe that there should be more consultation and co-operation between the State governments and the Federal Government. I think that perhaps in some way the Government is putting the cart before the horse. As I understand the position, no negotiations between the States and the Federal Government have taken place. I understand that my home State of Queensland and other States are not prepared to hand over their responsibilities to any government.
I believe that the referendum of 1967 certainly gave powers to the Commonwealth Governmentthe Australian Government as it is now called- to make special laws for Aborigines. But I believe that the responsibility of the Australian Government is to ensure that the States have sufficient finance to carry out the programs which they have been endeavouring to carry out for a number of years. 1 speak particularly of Queensland. The previous Minister, when introducing this Bill in the other place, mentioned that quite a substantial amount was handed over to the States by the Commonwealth. The Queensland Government, in its 1972-73 Budget, allocated $7m for the advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. The Commonwealth Government did not match that allocation. It allocated quite a lot less.
I believe that State governments already have set up departments which have accepted responsibility for the advancement of Aboriginal people. Although Queensland has come in for some criticism, I believe that it has led the field in the manner in which it has endeavoured to assist Aboriginal people. I believe that the Commonwealth Government should be making sufficient money available to the States to enable them to carry on the programs which they have been endeavouring to carry on for some time in the fields of housing, health, education and employment so that the Aboriginal people in the various States can be independent, the same as any other Australian. I disagree with the idea that the Commonwealth should have the powers in relation to the advancement of Aboriginal people centred in Canberra. I think that we have had quite a deal of experience of the centralisation of power. I think that what happened here last week and what is happening at the moment on the lawns in front of Parliament House is an indication that the present Government is certainly bungling some of the promises that it made in its election campaign so far as Aborigines are concerned. Otherwise why are they on the front lawns at the moment, and why were they on the steps of Parliament House last week? The transfer of the previous Minister was not in accord with Aboriginal thinking. They had as Minister a man in whom they had faith, whom they trusted and in whom they had hope. But the white man again acted without faith in, or thought about, or consultation with the Aboriginal people.
So the Minister was transferred from his portfolio. It resulted in a display in front of Parliament House which could have turned into violence. It made me sick at heart to see my people making a spectacle of themselves. A number of people standing out there thought that it was a great joke. It was no joke at all. It was a protest about the bungling and mishandling that has gone on in Aboriginal affairs, particularly over the last six or seven months. Despite the dimness coming from the empty vessel on the other side who is interjecting, I would like to continue my remarks uninterrupted, if I may. I believe that the States have their machinery set up to deal with the problems. They are the ones who have worked in this field for a number of years. They have very dedicated people. I have worked alongside them and with them on many occasions in bringing to their attention many of the problems faced by Aboriginal people, particularly in my own State, and have always had a very good hearing from them. They are the people who are closest to the scene and who know exactly what is happening, and they are prepared to consult with the Aboriginal people. To me this Bill is a farce. The Commonwealth, through the Bill, is just starting to do something when it has not even negotiated sufficiently to convince the States that in this area they should hand over their responsibilities to the Federal Government. Although I am not opposed to the mechanics of this Bill, I am opposed to the implications of it.
– Tt surprises me quite a lot to hear Senator Bonner, who has just resumed his seat, introduce a discordant note on this very important matter now before the Senate. I associated myself with the demonstration in front of Parliament House the other day with a view to trying to resolve the problem and to take some of the heat out of this vexed problem. To me that demonstration illustrated the pent up frustration of the Aboriginal people over a century. Senator Bonner was conspicious because none of his people, as he calls them, called for him to speak or to represent them when the demonstration was obviously at its most critical stage. Yet he comes in here now and condemns or speaks in a critical way of the very type of legislation that can take the steam off this issue.
– You would be joking.
– I am not joking. I am deadly serious. I would like Senator Bonner to be more serious because he is representing the Liberal Party and Queensland in this Senate. Queensland is not the only State that has Aborigines. We have a problem in Tasmania and this legislation affects our Aboriginal people very closely. The setting up of an interim national Aboriginal consultative committee earlier this year has inspired a very keen interest among the remnants of the Aboriginal people who live in Tasmania in a better future, better housing, better educational facilities and in a general improvement of their standard of living, quality of life and status in the community. So that there will not be duplication and so that the constitutional powers that the Commonwealth sought and received giving it jurisdication over the program of which this Bill is an integral part, this Government has seen fit now to introduce this Bill to provide for arrangements to be made with the States in respect of Aboriginal affairs. I commend this Bill. The Government of course is very much behind the expansion and development of a council which can present its views directly to the Minister and in turn to the Parliament so that we all can participate in righting the wrongs of the past. It ill behoves Senator Bonner to be critical of this aspect of Aboriginal affairs.
It was stated in the second reading speech, if it needs to be reiterated for Senator Bonner, that the responsibility which the Australian Government seeks in the States is for policy, planning and co-ordination. That is virtually the essence or nub of the legislation. We have had support from Opposition members and from members of the Democratic Labor Party, and I expected this Bill not only to be received very favourably in the Senate but also to be given a speedy passage. The only reason that I rose in this debate was to draw attention to the situation that Senator Bonner created by trying to refer to some demonstration that occurred the other day. He knows very well and honestly in his own heart that this Government was not the cause of that demonstration. Demonstrations occurred on the lawns of Parliament House when the Party which he represents formed the Government. The Aborigines then were lumbering on the river banks in the humpies that Senator Bonner and I know of. I lived with them in areas that he knows well. From what I can gather the situation is not very much different in those cases where Aborigines have been relegated to the woodheap and humpies on the edge of the tip in country towns. This has been an appalling situation and Aborigines are demonstrating now because nothing like this legislation has ever been introduced into the Federal Parliament. However, this subject will keep. Senator Bonner will have to justify his stand; we can most certainly justify ours. I support the Bill.
– I want to add a few remarks to the debate. This Bill is something that is long overdue and I regret that it has caused members of the Opposition, with particular reference to Senator Bonner, to lodge objection or to use the Bill as a vehicle by which to lodge objection. The Opposition had from 1967 until 1 December 1972 to do the very thing that my Government is now doing. We know that there are constitutional problems and that it requires legislation at both State and Federal level in order to put into operation the policy of the Labor Government. This matter goes beyond the realm of politics. It goes right into the very depths of humanity and all of us ought to be cooperating. A spirit of co-operation has been shown in South Australia, Western Australia, and to a lesser degree in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. There should be complete collaboration between the 6 State Governments and the Commonwealth, but this is lacking in some areas. We on this side of the House respectfully suggest to Senator Bonner that we need his assistance and the assistance of members of the Opposition in order to intensify this spirit of co-operation in those areas where it is now lacking. It is quite wrong for us to make political capital out of a demonstration which was amicably, if not satisfactorily, settled in front of this place last week.
The Aboriginal people have a perfect right to protest whenever they want to do so and I will be the first one to support them when they want to protest. The fact that they have set up an embassy on the lawns in front of Parliament House is a further indication of the impatience of the Aboriginal people. Quite frankly it has been a justifiable impatience. I hope that with the line being pursued by the Australian Government at the moment we will overcome these points of objection. I think Senator Bonner made a statement recently calling for land rights for Aborigines. All I can say is that during its last 3 years of office the Government that he supported opposed land rights.
– That is not right.
-Look, Senator Bonner, let us be factual about this. When we were in Opposition we moved motions on matters of urgency in this chamber and you voted against them.
– I did not.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Cant)- Senator Bonner, you have had your say on this Bill and I would ask you to allow Senator Keeffe to have his say.
– I am not trying to initiate an argument; I am trying to set the record straight. What I am saying now is that all members of the Liberal Party at that point of time voted against any suggestion in this chamber that land rights be restored to Aborigines. This is borne out by the Hansard record. So it is a little late in the day to start criticising the Government which is doing everything it possibly can to give back to Aborigines the land over which they have tribal rights. The honourable senator knows that a commission is investigating this matter. It is unfortunate that the Queensland Government has said: ‘You cannot have my land and you cannot have my blacks’. We want to overcome this prejudice. We do not want a head on confrontation with anybody. We want to be able to co-operate with all the State Governments so that the appropriate legislation can be passed by all parliaments- State and Commonwealthand tribal title to land can be restored to Aborigines as soon as possible.
When the confrontation with the Gurindjis was taking place the people who owned the pastoral lease at the time told the previous Government that they were prepared to hand back a fairly substantial area of that property. This offer was rejected under the Prime Ministership of Mr McMahon, and this proposal was not put into operation until Mr Whitlam became the Prime Minister of this country. I well remember a letter written by Mr Wentworth at the time. It was well publicised and I have a copy of it here. He believed that the Commonwealth had the power to take the appropriate action in the States if it was felt necessary, and in fact he intimated that if he could not get action by co-operation he felt he would have to use that power. We saw with the fall of Mr Gorton as Prime Minister and the elevation of Mr McMahon to that post a change in the Minister responsible for Aboriginal affairs at that time. Also there was a discussion in Queensland in which it was said that the matter had been satisfactorily resolved. It was resolved on the basis that the Aborigines of Queensland were to get no land rights and that there was to be no confrontation. In fact, no further negotiations took place. For heaven’s sake, let us face up to our moral obligations for a start and let us face up to the white man’s problem that has been imposed on the Aborigines. This Government is setting off in a spirit of co-operation to seek the assistance of the States. As I said, we have received this co-operation in relation to half the problem, and in relation to the other half there is some spirit of co-operation, particularly in 2 States. I am hoping that Queensland will join the family.
It is a well known constitutional fact that the only areas in which the Commonwealth can legislate are the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. Already big steps have been taken to bring Aborigines in other States under Commonwealth control, and it is in this area where the major portion of the investigation in order to restore lands legally to Aborigines is currently being carried out. I suggest again that this is a time for co-operation. It is not a time for trying to make political capital out of a situation which does not exist. It is not a time for endeavouring to throw obstacles in the way of legislation. Such legislation ought to be met in a spirit of goodwill. Let us not continue to make Aborigines the subject of a political argument. They are human beings, just as we are and just as members of the Opposition are. They are entitled to enjoy the same standards of living as most others enjoy. We are not about to achieve this while this issue is the subject of a political dogfight. So let us get down to taws and assert a spirit of co-operation, legislatively, politically and otherwise.
– In reply- I thank the Opposition for supporting this legislation. I think it was anticipated that it would do so because I see it more as having the effect of preserving the rights of State employees if they transfer to the Commonwealth. Of course, the legislation provides that they cannot transfer unless there is agreement between the State and Commonwealth Governments; there is no compulsion in this regard. If the Commonwealth takes over from the States further powers in relation to Aborigines there will be a need for the State employees who have the skills to deal with Aboriginal affairs to transfer to the Commonwealth. These people can be better employed in the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, although it is Commonwealth-controlled, than if they remained in the State Public Service. We acknowledge that the States have many specialists in this field. We do not have a monopoly on specialists in the Department.
Dealing with the question of what are the powers of the Commonwealth, I do not know whether anyone could give a legal definition of the powers the Commonwealth acquired following the 1967 referendum, or in what areas the powers of the Commonwealth override those of the States when the States introduce legislation in various fields. If Commonwealth legislation does override State legislation in this area, there would be very little legislation that we could not introduce at the present time in order to take away completely the powers of the States. But I am inclined to believe that both the States and the Commonwealth have over the years desired to do the best that they could for the Aborigines in the community. I think that is still our aim. If it is found that there is in existence an organisation or an institution which can do something better than we can for this section of the community or if it is found that we can do something better for them by working through such an organisation, it is not the intention of the Government to take over that organisation.
The previous Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant) had discussed with all State Ministers this question of powers which we could have possessed but have not possessed. Only yesterday the Commonwealth was in the process of deciding to buy a motel in Victoria when I received a letter from Mr Dickie who thought that the matter should be discussed with him.
The plan to buy the motel had to be cancelled until such time as I can see Mr Dickie, which will be next week. We hope that we can reach some agreement on the matter. The Commonwealth has no desire to run counter to the wishes of the States. An allocation of some $30m will be made to the States for housing.
– What is the motel for?
-That is the point. We are allocating $30m to the States for new housing for Aborigines because we acknowledge that the State housing authorities have the machinery for providing housing. Health matters are the responsibility of the Department of Health, in whichever field they may arise. Education is the responsibility of the Department of Education, and that Department possibly can do better than the Department of. Aboriginal Affairs in this regard. All of these proposals are governed by the fact that the people affected have Australian citizenship, and those departments are not geared to give special rights in the areas of greatest need. That is where the Department of Aboriginal Affairs fits in. While for the foreseeable future the State housing commission will provide housing for Aborigines out of a special allocation, the time may come when the States cannot progress quickly enough. We are finding that Aboriginal student children who are coming to the cities have no accommodation and do not qualify for State housing commission accommodation. This is where the Department of Aboriginal Affairs comes in. We find that groups of Aborigines come into the city to work but do not stay because they do not have accommodation. This is the reason why the Department of Aboriginal Affairs is providing supplementary assistance. Everywhere throughout the Northern Territory, in areas of Queensland, and perhaps in all States, where the normal health service does not meet the requirements of some Aboriginal community, supplementary assistance is available through the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. We employ sisters, doctors and matrons in the mission stations of the north.
The same situation applies to education. Education in the Northern Territory is the responsibility of the Commonwealth Department of Education, but if a new school is required in an isolated area elsewhere and it otherwise would not be built, the Australian Government will finance it or build it in order to make these facilities available because there is a special need for special treatment for these children. Conflict with the States will come and must come when laws are made that offend against human rights and civil liberties, laws which are repugnant to
Australian citizenship. If laws are made which make an ethnic group an inferior race of citizens the Australian Government, through Commonwealth law has the power, and shall exercise it, to override State laws, to ensure the civil rights and the dignity of the individual in accordance with international convention obligations.
There are many problems common to Aborigines wherever they are. They want housing, health and educational facilities, job opportunities, self determination and land rights. Those are things which they want in common, and we shall continue to seek to improve the situation. We have done this in the fields of housing, health and education out of capital funds. We are searching to find job opportunities for Aborigines. It was in connection with one of these efforts that there blew up today what Senator Laucke referred to as maladministration. I have pointed out the role of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. Honourable senators opposite must remember, when talking of maladministration in Aboriginal affairs, that all that has been said in this Senate about that subject refers to the attitude of the Department at a time when it was, I think, exclusively under Ministers of other than Labor governments. I am not prepared to condemn departmental officers under even the administration of those times. I think that they have done their best. Possibly there have been mistakes.
I do not want to enter into the donnybrook that we had but I want to make 2 points briefly. Referring to the appointment of directors to the company concerned, the minutes of the company disclose that it was the suggestion of one of Mr Bryant’s nominees that the new members of the company should not be appointed at that meeting and that the appointments should wait until such time as the articles of the company were changed to permit such appointments. The articles were changed and at the next meeting, which we were told was held in Mr Bryant’s office, the new directors were appointed. I call extravagance what another honourable senator called wasteful expenditure on the part of Dr Bustard. Dr Bustard is not employed by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs; he is employed by a company, and if there is any fault on his part in regard to his expenditures, that is the responsibility of the directors of that company. It was solely because we thought that there was wasteful expenditure in this area that the previous Minister for Aboriginal Affairs insisted upon the appointment of 3 directors to clean up the areas in which he thought there was such wasteful expenditure.
– Are you putting the blame on those 3 directors?
-No. I think that the 3 directors have done a great job but this shows the need for something and this is their responsibility at the present time. This is one unfortunate incident in which the Department has become involved in setting up its own company. The Government gives money to many outside private bodies, to many charitable and church organisations, and to companies to assist them to run farms. Those bodies are controlled by boards, and on occasions money is wasted on them. However, taking the matter overall, this Department is keen, its officers are sincere in their work. I think that Ministers who have taken on this job have become attached to the Department and have accepted the challenge. Now we are dealing with people and not, as I was before, with buildings. As was stated earlier, I pay tribute to the honesty of my predecessor in this portfolio. It is sufficient to say that he had the confidence of many sections of the Aboriginal people. 1 do not accept the view that because it was found that he could serve in another position the same care and attention will not be exercised by a Minister who perhaps at present lacks that confidence. If we go forward with our policy, more activities will take place in the central administration but let us forget the idea that has been mentioned that everything is centred in Canberra. For the first time in the life of the Aborigines since white men occupied Australia, white men are listening to Aborigines, although perhaps not sufficiently in the opinion of some Aborigines. That was the reason for the demonstration on the front steps of Parliament House. We are listening. We are establishing the National Aborigines Consultative Council which will advise the Government and will report back to the Aboriginal people about Government policies. It will bring the problems of the Aborigines in the tribal areas to the central administration. It is Labor’s policy to recognise the rights and the cultures of the Aborigines. This Government has in the Northern Territory a bigger Aboriginal organisation operating, with more success and among more difficult sections of the community, than has any State Government. We are not novices in this area.
– You are dealing with a different problem.
– I do not accept that we are dealing with a different problem, but when differences arise I do not discount the expertise and the capabilities of the State organisations. We do not seek to override the State organisations; we seek to work in co-operation. It has been said that he who supplies the money has a bigger control. Development of the Australian Government’s activities in the field of Aboriginal affairs must necessitate a growth in its organisation and a reduction in State activities. When that happens, this Bill will give rights to continuity of employment to employees who come over to Commonwealth departments.
I repeat my thanks to the Opposition for its attitude but it should not seek to make politics out of this question. It is not a political question. When I took over as Minister for Aboriginal Affairs I called into my office representatives of many sections of the community and many members of this Parliament. I talked to everyone who I thought had an interest in Aboriginal affairs and there was no attempt by myself or those I interviewed to voice a political view. They expressed their sincerity and honesty to help these unfortunate people. It could well be that many of them differed in their view but they all had one purpose in mind. I believe that we should maintain this attitude and should not seek to score points for political purposes. We should always remember that we are dealing with human lives and not with material things.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 17 October (vide page 1287), on motion by Senator Cavanagh:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Government, and I think all Opposition Parties, have agreed that the sensible course to follow in regard to this legislation is to deal with the 9 related bills as they are listed on the notice paper. These bills are: The Banking Bill 1973, Commonwealth Banks Bill (No. 2) 1973, Reserve Bank Bill 1973, Papua New Guinea (Transfer of Banking Business) Bill 1973, Papua New Guinea Bill (No. 2) 1973, Papua New Guinea (Application of Laws) Bill 1973, Wireless Telegraphy Bill 1973, Meterology Bill 1973 and Papua New Guinea Loans Guarantee Bill 1973. 1 think it would suit the convenience of honourable members if I dealt with these bills in the order in which they appear on the notice paper, although in some cases it may be appropriate to deal with one Bill before another because all the Bills tend to be dependent upon a principal Bill and a principal situation.
– There are 6 Bills, are there not?
– If you count them up, senator, you will find that there are 9 Bills. Some of them are joined together but they are all consequential Bills. The Liberal Party, and I think all members of the Opposition, do not oppose any of these measures. Indeed, we welcome them in practically all cases as they are the outcome of decisions and negotiations taken by ourselves when we were in Government. It would be discourteous of the Opposition just to agree to this legislation without any comment because new conditions will result from the independence and self government of Papua New Guinea which we all have watched with interest and have been involved in. Therefore I want to make some brief comments on this matter. The Banking Bill is a Bill to amend the Banking Act 1959-1967 and is one of the 4 Bills that are required to transfer the responsibility for the control and supervision of banking in Papua New Guinea to the Government of that country and its authorities. This legislation also will pave the way for the setting up of a separate Papua New Guinea banking system and a central bank in that country. At present all of these activities take place under the Australian Government’s legislation- the Reserve Bank Act, the Banking Act and the Commonwealth Bank Act- as they extend to Papua New Guinea. Responsibility for control and supervision rests with the Australian Government because of those Acts. The effect of these Bills is to withdraw the application of the Australian legislation at a date to be agreed upon.
I think that we would all agree with the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) when he said in his second reading speech that the transfer of such responsibilities is important for a country which is shortly to achieve self government and which will shortly have a state of independence. This move will open up the way for the development of a financial and banking system appropriate to the needs of Papua New Guinea. It equally vests the control of those activities in the hands of people of that country through their freely elected Parliament. It is not necessarily true that the development of the Australian banking systems will in the end be logically the same sort of development as Papua
New Guinea may require. This particular issue was the subject of a detailed examination by committees of officers of both governments established, as I said, by the previous Australian Government. That report was tabled in this Parliament on 29 August 1973. I think that those who have read it will agree that it is a very good report. It was accepted in principle as the general basis for the actions which we are now taking through this legislative process.
Certain principles are involved here. They are that the responsibility for the control of banks and financial institutions operating in Papua New Guinea will take place as soon as practicable and that a central bank be established that will have a full range of power to act as a central monetary authority for a separate banking system. The reference to a central monetary authority interests me very much because I have not heard of such an institution referred to in the Australian system in which the Reserve Bank is regarded by everybody in the full sense of the words as a central monetary authority. It ought to be so regarded and, if it is not, it ought to be extended to become that. But the Papua New Guinea banking system certainly in due course will become the central monetary authority in the independent country of Papua New Guinea.
The Government of Fiji has a central monetary authority which was devised by a consultative process between the Bank of England and the officers of the International Monetary Fund. I am a believer that every country, including our own country, needs to have what in effect is a central monetary authority operating through its Reserve Bank. Some of these powers may not need to be used in Papua New Guinea immediately but they will be necessary in due course.
The other operation is that where certain accounts give rise to special contractual or financial problems the Papua New Guinea business of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation will be transferred to the Papua New Guinea Government Commercial Bank under certain appropriate arrangements. These principles provide a continuity of finance and of operation not only between the governments of the 2 countries but also for those people who are dependent upon that financial support in Papua New Guinea and who may well have entered into some arrangements upon which the continuance of financial support will depend. It seems to me that this has all been thought through very well and very practically and I think it is a credit to the officers of both countries who have been involved.
The first of the ordinances that embodies in effect these particular banking activities is the Central Banking Ordinance which authorises the establishment of Papua New Guinea ‘s own central bank to be called the Bank of Papua New Guinea. It will take over the role that is at present being carried on in that country by the Reserve Bank of Australia. The Government of Australia has made financial assistance provisions to Papua New Guinea in this financial year to provide for the establishment of that new central bank. The second ordinance is the Banks and Financial Institutions Ordinance which contains the detailed provisions relating to the licensing and supervision of banks and financial institutions. This is tending to be part of the central monetary authority area. The Papua New Guinea Government wishes to have these 2 ordinances, if possible, in force on 1 November 1973. This should be possible with the passage of these Bills through this Parliament, I would hope, today. We cannot in effect let Papua New Guinea have separate operation until we pass the legislation here. I would imagine that there will need to be a transfer at an identical moment in time on 1 November, or perhaps the day before. I do not think I need to add any more in regard to the Banking Bill 1973.
The next Bill is the one that amends what is popularly described as the Commonwealth Banks Act. This is the third of the Australian Acts relating to banking which extend to Papua New Guinea. The Act is being amended to provide that, at a date to be determined, Papua New Guinea will be excluded from the operation of the Australian Act. The Bill is related to the agreement to which I have referred and which was outlined in the ministerial Press statement in April 1973. Once again, it follows the general line of policy which was developed with the Government of Papua New Guinea by the previous Government and to which, as I have observed, we take no objection. The greater part of the Papua New Guinea business of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation is to be transferred to a Papua New Guinea Government commercial bank.
Those of us who were involved in the hearings of Estimates Committee B looked at this matter in detail with the Treasury. In the paper entitled Australia’s External Aid 1973-74’, which was presented with the Budget Speech, it will be noted that a payment of $ 15m is to be made to the Papua New Guinea Government in 1973-74 to facilitate the establishment of this proposed Government commercial bank; in effect, this payment will help to fund the bank. Given the commercial nature of the activity which operates in the market place- not in the Reserve Bank style- the financial assistance to be provided for this purpose will be a grant of $10m and a repayable advance which is currently estimated at $5m, but this may vary. The exact amount is not stated in the second reading speech, but we asked this question in the Estimate Committee’s hearings and we were told that a $5m repayable advance is to be loaned at the going bond rate at the time. Details of repayment are not stated, but I should imagine that they will be adequately covered, and therefore I do not propose to make an issue of that.
The next Bill is a Bill to amend the Reserve Bank Act. We have a similar situation here. Because of the creation of the new Reserve Bank in Papua New Guinea, the situation concerning the Australian Reserve Bank needs to be altered so that the Australian Reserve Bank no longer operates, in an Australian sense, in Papua New Guinea. Specific authority is provided in this Bill- and it is quite important- for the Rural Credits Department of the Reserve Bank of Australia to lend to associations of co-operative associations as well as individual co-operative associations engaged in primary production. That removes any legal doubts that there might be about the authority of the Rural Credits Department of the Reserve Bank to lend to these associations of co-operatives. I think that a little more detail about that matter could be provided by the Minister either in his reply to this debate or perhaps in a letter to me as the spokesman for the Opposition. To me, the financing of cooperative activities- either individual cooperatives or associations of co-operatives- is a very important matter in an emerging country such as Papua New Guinea where a strong agrarian, fishery type, small trader activity is building up.
I should like to know something more about the levels of responsibility of those authorities and to what extent Australia is underwriting this venture in any way with advice and help, or whether we are leaving the new Government and the new bank to undertake these matters entirely on their own behalf without any sort of reference to us either for extra finance or understanding or perhaps for some extended back up in some style. I think that the Minister and his advisers will be conscious of what I am seeking to ascertain. It is not a matter in respect of which one would hold up the legislation, but I think that the second reading speech might have spelled out that area a little more precisely. The financing of a great range of small traders through co-operatives is an area that has some hazards for bankers, and I think that the people of this emerging country of Papua New Guinea are entitled to have the expertise of Australian bankers in this field carried on with them and not detached from them too early.
The next Bill is the Papua New Guinea (Transfer of Banking Business) Bill, which is order of the day No. 4 on the notice paper. This Bill allows for the transfer of assets and liabilities in certain areas from the Reserve Bank of Australia to the Bank of Papua New Guinea, which is that country’s new central bank. It also provides for the transfer of certain assets and liabilities from the Commonwealth Banking Corporation to the proposed new Papua New Guinea Government-owned commercial bank. The provision comes into force on the date on which the Reserve Bank Act ceases to apply to Papua New Guinea. The Bill makes provision for a financial settlement between the 2 banks arising from this transfer. No estimate is given of the amount of money involved on the Papua New Guinea Bank’s assumption of assets and liabilities and on the Papua New Guinea Government-owned commercial bank’s assumption of assets and liabilities. Nothing is said about how the financial settlements will take place; nothing is said about whether it will be in the form of a loan and at what rate of interest it will be, or whether it is proposed to make some kind of a grant. Those are things that I think might be spelled out at the appropriate time.
The provisions under this Bill will come into force on the date on which the Commonwealth Banks Act ceases to apply. As I said earlier, a settlement will take place. But certain accounts of the Commonwealth Trading Bank giving rise to special contractual or financial problems will not be transferred to the Papua New Guinea Bank, and this business will be conducted at a special branch of the Commonwealth Trading Bank which will be opened for that purpose and which will be excluded from the transfer. At an appropriate time the Minister might also be able to give us an idea of which accounts are involved and what amount of money is being considered. In effect, this new country, which is being given self government and which is to be granted independence later, will have its own banking system- a reserve bank and a commercial bank, both backed up by Australian expertise and, in some cases, finance, understanding and knowhow.
The Commonwealth Trading Bank will be operating in Papua New Guinea as a banker within its own right. I imagine that it will be the first such bank to operate in the style of a foreign bank in Papua New Guinea as an independent country. What restrictions will be placed on the Commonwealth Trading Bank in Papua New Guinea? Will it be the only such foreign bank entitled to operate there? To what extent will it be doing business in Papua New Guinea? Is the bank ‘s presence in Papua New Guinea limited in time or limited in the amount of money available to it? The thing is a little imprecise, if I may say so, for an Australian banking system which, for the first time, will be engaged in foreign banking in a banking style. This is as I understand it. For many years we have denied to overseas banks the right to come and operate in Australia as banks in the principal sense. They have been allowed to have agencies and corresponding offices here, but, other than in the case of existing licensees, they have not been allowed to bank here.
We have done this because we have expressed no wish to bank abroad ourselves in the total banking sense, and I believe that this is a fundamental mistake. I think that Australia needs to learn to bank abroad in the banking style. We are a big trading country. We have a big trading undertaking. We ought to be learning how to do our overseas banking in connection with our trading operations and not leaving all the banking to people in other countries. The continued presence of the Commonwealth Trading Bank in Papua New Guinea is the first stage of Australia, as a nation, engaging in foreign banking. Although it might not sound like it, it is the beginning.
– I was under the impression that we did in one or two countries. Is that not correct?
– As far as I know, it is not correct. For quite a long time I have felt that we needed to learn how to do this. It is a modest beginning, but I should like to see this spelled out a little more precisely. I realise that it is the first such venture, but I believe that it may lead a long way further. For instance, we have banks in Tokyo but they are not banking; they are representative offices as such.
Having got to that point, I pass from the banking situation to deal with the Bills which provide for the internal self government of Papua New Guinea. I refer to the Papua New Guinea Bill, the Papua New Guinea (Application of Laws) Bill, the Wireless Telegraphy Bill and the Meteorology Bill. These are very substantial measures but what they do, in effect, is exactly what the second reading speech says they do. They give effect to an event which is without any doubt quite historic. We do not want to hold up the Senate, but I think that those of us who are interested in this matter at least have a responsibility to pay a great tribute to past governments of this country and to past officers of the services of this country, both in the civil sense and in the armed sense, who have contributed so much towards the development of Papua New Guinea in such a peaceful and progressive style. I do not differentiate here between people of various political faiths.
In my view it stands to the credit of the Australian people that through time they have achieved this result so adequately and so peacefully. I am sure it is not perfect, but set against other examples of administration of countries by overseas powers in what might be called a colonial style- I never cared for it but, never mind, we had a kind of guardianship situation in Papua New Guinea- I believe that the Australian people performed the function well, they discharged it with dignity, they dug fairly deeply into their own pockets to fund the development of Papua New Guinea, and I think that it stands to our credit both with the people of Papua New Guinea and with ourselves, and it certainly stands to our credit with the United Nations and those observers who have been to Papua New Guinea from time to time to witness the progress of that country.
Therefore, we are standing at a very important gateway in history. I believe that the Australian people can pass through that gateway with very great dignity and honour, and I believe that the people of the new country can enter the gateway with great prospects for a future which is much brighter with promise than it might have been under an administration of a different character. What we have here is a formal Bill to bring about the formal process of self-government in Papua New Guinea. It takes a significant step towards the nationhood of that country.
There are 2 other Bills which amend specific Australian Acts. They transfer the functions of the Bureau of Meteorology and they exclude Papua New Guinea from the operation of the Wireless Telegraphy Act. It is perfectly true, as the second reading speech states, that Papua New Guinea is virtually self-governing now. I think that one has to regard it as that. It is therefore passing through a stage, really, of potential independence. This is the formalisation of an existing state in self-government. There will be no dramatic change and no abrupt steps. The transfer is a formally styled one. It is smooth and it is taking place progressively. I think that there are those of us who believe that the state of independence may be coming on more quickly than the people of New Guinea necessarily desire or is necessarily wise. Only time can judge that. But no Australian would want other than that Papua New Guinea should progress to independence as fast as is desirable and sensible. We want to help them all the way. One would have reservations but one would hold those to witness what happens as time goes on.
The agreed date is 1 December or as soon as possible thereafter. I understand that the Government now in office has worked towards the attainment of a date as early as possible. There have been suggestions that that date has been advanced and that this has been forced upon people. I can only advert to my earlier remarks that I hope that this is not the case. One looks to the country’s independence as something which they want and which is both wise and sensible from our point of view. Because of independence there is a consquential change in the title of the Administrator of Papua New Guinea. He really becomes a High Commissioner. He effectively maintains the same situation of authority and responsibility as a high commissioner which he had as an administrator. In the absence of a High Commissioner there is power to appoint 2 deputies in his place. Their function are specified. The High Commissioner will assume most of the powers now held by the Minister for External Territories. He will determine the number of Ministers of the House of Assembly, their designations and functions. He will be empowered, temporarily, to transfer Ministers from one portfolio to another. He will exercise those powers under an Executive Council style of approach.
Clause 10 provides that the Administrator’s Executive Council will be renamed the Executive Council. Its functions will be to advise the High Commissioner. Again these are measures agreed to by the previous Government, to which we take no objection. The comment which is made in the second reading speech is:
I hope that that is true. Only time will tell. I have great doubt that one can achieve the experience and total familiarity with all the things one needs to do as a new government in a state of independence in such a short span of time. I think that that is unlikely to be true. But I assume that Australia will maintain a constant wish to help the country in every way possible with advice and friendly help rather than, in effect, being in what
I might call an order-giving position. Honourable senators may be assured from the Opposition point of view that that is what we want to happen. If the people of that country are unfamiliar with their new state of independence, or if it proves that they have not got all the experience they can draw upon our help because we have been with them for a long time. I am sure that that wish to help them will continue in what I call a more flexible and more voluntary style.
Clause 1 1 reflects the changes in the Executive as wished by the Government of Papua New Guinea. It gives the Chief Minister more flexibility. The Chief Minister wishes to be known by that title rather than Deputy Chairman of the Executive Council. I think we would all agree with that and would want to support it. Defence and foreign relations remain reserved to Australia until independence. But agreement has been reached with Papua New Guinea that, on the proclamation of self-government, functions will be taken up which will bring these things under a situation of knowledge and control. There may be necessary areas to reserve pending completion of legislative arrangements, but we would be working towards giving them a state of full authority and control at the point of independence. Clauses 13 and 14 deal with the functions of Ministers. I think they are quite straightforward.
Clause 4(d) enumerates the reserved areas. That seems to me not to be anything to greatly worry about. The High Commissioner’s role is similiar to the Administrator’s present role. This will pass off with independence. At the moment in Papua New Guinea there is a portfolio of Defence and Foreign Relations. It will take up the areas of increased responsibility which will pass over with independence. Once again the comment is made that the country will have first hand involvement and experience within these key reserved areas. I doubt that one can get all the experience and knowledge one requires in defence and foreign affairs after taking up those functions for a period of 18 months. Once again Australia will have to stand, in a voluntary style, prepared to help when necessary.
Clause 24 provides that only those laws dealing with reserved matters will need to be reserved for the Governor-General’s assent. That seems to me to be a little thing to get very worried about. I leave the judicial provisions of the Bill to my legal colleagues to take up. I will not deal with them myself.
I have some interest in the matter of the loans raised by the Papua New Guinea Government because they are guaranteed by Australia by virtue of the Papua New Guinea Act. Clause 3 1 of the Bill makes it clear that this guarantee will continue for the life of the those loans which are raised before independence. That is an important matter for that country because Australia, in effect, stands behind the borrower as a guarantor for the life of the loans. 1 think that that is a tribute to the willingness of Australia to underwrite the future of Papua New Guinea.
A number of Acts of the Australian Parliament have application in Papua New Guinea. If any of my colleagues wish to refer to those legal matters that of course is for them to say. I shall not worry about them. As I said earlier, our situation is clear because we launched these matters ourselves. They are now being taken up and applied by the present Government. We do not oppose them. Particular provision is made for identical assumption of responsibility at the time such Acts are being dropped. So it does not seem to me that there will be any gap in time or area on which anyone can enter in a vacuum and cause any trouble legally.
The other 2 Bills which are associated with this Bill are the Wireless Telegraphy Bill and the Meteorology Bill. They are drafted to allow for the exclusion of Papua New Guinea from the provisions of the respective Acts by notice in the Gazette. It has been agreed that both Acts be discontinued at a mutually agreed time. The reasons for this are the enactment by Papua New Guinea of a radio communications ordinance dealing with matters of wireless telegraphy and the transfer to that country of the meteorological functions formerly carried out by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. We will co-operate with them in both those areas. These Bills bring about the first of 2 stages towards the formation of selfgovernment for Papua New Guinea, as mentioned before. The final step of independence is the integral stage in the continuous development of Papua New Guinea from dependency to nationhood.
The June 1973 meeting of the United Nations Trusteeship Council endorsed the views of the Papua New Guinea and Australian Governments on the role of the House of Assembly in important constitutional decisions. Agreements were noted. The whole thing has been done by recorded votes and by majority votes. As mentioned in the second reading speech 2 elements are involved, the view of Australia and the view of Papua New Guinea. They seem to me to have now been brought into fairly genuine harmony.
The Council noted that Australia expected independence to come by 197 S and that it should be achieved by the closest possible consultation. That has indeed taken place. We will await with interest the development of these changes, again hoping that the whole thing is not being run too quickly against the time table that may therefore prove to be more difficult to administer because of the short experience that these people have. Only time will allow us to know whether that is the case.
The Papua New Guinea Loans Guarantee Bill is not a very difficult one. It is a Bill to provide for the giving of guarantees by Australia with respect to loans to be raised overseas by Papua New Guinea. It seeks the approval- it is the last Bill of Parliament- to the provision of contractual guarantees by the Australian Government for overseas borrowings by the Papua New Guinea Government in foreign currencies not exceeding the equivalent of $24m in 1973-74. Honourable senators will remember that I said before that we were going to guarantee all the loans that have been raised so far. Obviously this now is an extension of that guarantee for an additional $24m to be borrowed in 1973-74. This allows these people to operate on their own behalf in the international capital market. It allows them to achieve a favourable rate of 6.75 per cent interest over 1 5 years. That seems to me to be a favourable rate on the international borrowing scene. On many previous occasions we, as a Parliament, have agreed to these contractual guarantees for borrowing, and I think we are wise to continue to do so in this case. That will mean that in due course we will be able to ascertain the quantum of overseas borrowings and we will know how much Australia has, in effect, guaranteed will be paid back in due course for past loans and for this loan. I do not think one would want to say any more about that. It is quite straightforward. We have made these arrangements with the International Bank for Reconstruction Development and also with the Asian Development Bank on previous occasions and we give the customary undertakings by legislation. I do not think that the Government ought to go beyond this in this Bill. The Government will have a certain amount tied up which it has guaranteed, and on any future occasion should the Government of Papua New Guinea want to be an overseas borrower in its right and seek the guarantee of the Australian Government, I would expect that a similar Bill would come forward into the Australian Parliament by which the Government would seek the approval of the members of the House of Representatives and of the Senate to give that guarantee. In effect, the Government is pledging Australia’s credit to a new and independent State, and it is a mark of the Australian people’s confidence and willingness to stay in the game of Papua New Guinea that they will give such guarantees. Not many countries around the world are guaranteeing the borrowings of other countries. Most countries having done this sort of job, are very happy to turn their backs and walk away and say ‘They are on their own now ‘. The fact that we continue to help in this style is to me a mark of our confidence. This brings me to the point at which I came in. It is a further mark in my mind to the credit of the Australian people in all their relations with the emerging independent nation of Papua New Guinea.
-First of all I think we should express our appreciation to the Minister for the informative speeches which have been delivered on all the Bills. I also pay my tribute to Senator Cotton for his succinct but comprehensive analysis of the particular Bills which have informed me and, I am sure, informed all other members of the Senate of this very complex situation which has required parliamentary legislative attention at this historic moment. For in spite of the fact that the Minister is inclined to play down the historicity of this occasion, it is a historic moment when we have moved from the area of proclamations and declamations to the actual pragmatic implementation of the creation of a new nation. We realise that the accompanying complexities are many. The emergence of a new nation is a matter of great complexity and great sophistication. It must emerge and take its place forthwith in an international situation; it must be involved in international commerce: it must have a system of law and it must have a system of social relations internally and externally. All of these things must be provided for in this transposition. I think that the parliamentary draftsmen who in this somewhat unusual situation have, by their drafting, put into legislative form the ideas and sentiments of the Australian nation and the ideas and sentiments of the new nation of Papua New Guinea, also are deserving of our compliments and appreciation.
It is important that we should advert at this stage to the fact that a nation like Papua New Guinea emerging on to the modern world stage cannot do so without continued assistance. This nation is in a sense our child. It is a child really of our creation and we cannot just throw it adrift now without keeping the hand of solicitude and protection upon it. In the areas which are canvassed in these Bills it becomes apparent that the continued interest and identification of Australia with Papua New Guinea is of very great importance and will be essential to the proper development and expansion of this new nation and to the emergence of this new country into its proper position in world affairs. The application of Jaw, for example, might appear to be a matter of some technical significance and no more. It is, of course, very much more than that because Papua New Guinea will have inherited the system of law which we follow, to which we are dedicated and of which we are so extremely proud. Therefore the immediate application of our laws within the indigenous and separate Papua New Guinea context will be of very great importance. It is interesting to see that views have already been expressed there as to the composition of the Bench and the areas from which those professionally qualified should be drawn. There is little doubt, of course, that they will not necessarily be drawn from this country but from other countries, as is stated in the Bill, which have a parallel system of law. In other words, they would be drawn from countries which have the system of the English common law. Therefore we could expect that, allowing for changes that inevitably will take place in any system of law in a different country, substantially the system of the English common law will persist there as it has persisted in the United States, and that the guidance, legal knowledge and expertise of Australia will continue to be available to that country, whether in a general sense or through particular practitioners who will move from our jurisdiction to take their places in judicial and professional positions in Papua New Guinea. 1 should be concerned if I thought that on the economic front Papua New Guinea was merely to be allowed to run adrift, because that could pose tremendous problems not only for that country but also for us. Therefore the creation of a central banking system and monetary control disciplines is essential for the economic viability of Papua New Guinea. In modern society it is impossible for a national unit to become viable and to operate effectively and efficiently in the interests of its people without the modern banking and economic disciplines. The expertise of the banking institutions of Australia- certainly the public banking institutions and no doubt the private institutions- has been made available and will continue to be made available to Papua New Guinea. 1 have not had the opportunity of reading the statement that was made and tabled in August by the Minister as to the consultation between the Commonwealth Bank and the banking authorities in Papua New Guinea on the emergence of the new banking structure, and I should be obliged if the Minister would be kind enough in his reply to indicate the extent to which there will be continuing consultation between the Australian banking institutions- the banking system- and the new banking system of Papua New Guinea so that the most modern banking techniques will continue to be made available. If by any chance, due to a lack of knowledge, a lack of ability, a lack of experience, the emerging economy of Papua New Guinea should find itself in a position of economic collapse that would be a tragedy for that nation. It would expose it with all its vulnerability to all sorts of international pressures and ultimately could pose a matter of very great delicacy and even danger for this country. Therefore, quite apart from our solicitude for Papua New Guinea, and particularly at this point of time, we have a certain national vested interest that Papua New Guinea, as it emerges, should be a nation in the full sense of the term economically strong and founded on a proper application of the necessary modern techniques in every area of life to enable it to operate and function efficiently in the interests of its people and to take its place in world affairs, and more particularly to take its place in this area of the world where both it and we have such a common and enduring interest.
Australia, of course, is one of the most highly developed countries, technically, in the world in all areas of life and perhaps it is therefore fortunate for Papua New Guinea that this body of knowledge will continue to be made available. I have little doubt that it will continue to be made available generously and at all times and continually and that it will be a repository of wisdom, experience and knowledge on which Papua New Guinea will draw. I would hate to think that at any stage for any reason that should be denied or should not be given other than with the greatest generosity and liberality.
For those reasons I think that at this stage the Senate should register its warm appreciation of the fact that the emergence of Papua New Guinea is moving into the condition where very practical steps are being taken, where the actual organs of government are being created and where with a nice display of prudence and gradualism the institutions are being created. Temporary provisions will enable the law to be applied as they desire it to be applied. The banking system will, in due course, operate as an independent banking system. In the meantime intermediate provisions are being made. These things show that there is tremendous wisdom behind the whole of the exercise of the creation of the new nation. Therefore, it gives every promise that independence should be accompanied by tremendous successes. I know that there has been criticism in international bodies and throughout the world as to the Australian performance in relation to Papua New Guinea. I have never been one who has had anything but a certain sense of pride for what we have done in that area.
Let us look at the history of Australia. I think that it is worth recording at this time. Australia was discovered in 1770 or thereabouts. Up until the middle of the 19th century, about 1858, in whole or in part Australia was a series of penal colonies. It was only 40 years after that that we federated for the first time into a Commonwealth and became a nation. Then, 14 years after that we were involved in a world war in which 60,000 young men from this very small nation died. We also gave a great deal of our hardly won treasure which was not very much at that time. After that war we were saddled with the burden of repatriation and paying for the war. We battled through that period in spite of other setbacks of natural origin- droughts, and things of that nature. We had not emerged from that condition when we found ourselves embroiled in the world depression which started about 1929. We battled on through the depression with thousands of our people unemployed for years and with family and personal disasters spilling over the whole face of the country. We had not recovered from the depression when we found ourselves involved in the Second World War. Again, we gave our manpower, womanpower and our treasure in the interests of world freedom and order. That is the history of Australia.
Coincident with that we helped to develop Papua New Guinea to the point it is at today. I think that we have not a great deal for which we have to apologise. There are things that we could have done and perhaps we could have done more. But I think that it is a matter for tremendous pride that in that time, with those setbacks, we created a nation of our own, one of the wealthiest nations of its size in the world and in the process helped to establish the nation of Papua New Guinea to which independence is now coming with the aid and support that we have been able to give it. I put those remarks on record at this time as being my own personal assessment of our record in relation to this nation. I wish this new nation well and I wish it God speed. I think that we can assure it from this
Parliament that it will always enjoy our friendship, solicitude and support. Between us, we can make it one of the great emerging nations of the world.
– As Senator Cotton has so clearly demonstrated in this debate we are considering no less than 9 cognate Bills. But they centre around one major Bill, namely, the Papua New Guinea Bill (No. 2) 1973 to provide for the internal selfgovernment of Papua New Guinea. My purpose in speaking in this debate this evening is to make a few general comments concerning the transfer to self-government of Papua New Guinea on 1 December this year. I do so primarily because I had the privilege of being the only senator who was a member of a delegation from the Australian Parliament to visit Papua New Guinea in June of this year. Although it is a fact that many honourable senators have visited Papua New Guinea from time to time and many members of the House of Representatives have done so, this delegation of which I was a member was the first official delegation of the Australian Parliament to visit Papua New Guinea. It was not my first visit there. I had been there previously about 4 years ago. So it gave me an excellent opportunity of making some comparisons as to the development that had occurred in that time.
The magic date of self-government, fixed as 1 December 1 973, is not a date which 1 believe will make any great practical difference, apart from its psychological importance, to the actual administration which is being carried on because the process of acquisition of self-government has been a gradual one. As we know, over recent years there has been this gradual transference of power. So on 1 December 1973 there will not be any really great change. The great change which will occur and about which I wish to say something later in my remarks will occur, of course, on the date of independence. That is the date which I and my fellow members of the delegation found that the people in Papua New Guinea were particularly concentrating upon and, of course, about which they were particularly concerned.
Dealing with the main Bill before us, the Papua New Guinea Bill, the one to effect internal self-government on 1 December, I note that it provides very broadly and we have been all led to understand that after 1 December there will be full internal self-government. The only matters that will be left to the determination of the Australian Parliament and the Australian Government will be matters of foreign affairs and defence. Indeed, the Bill spells out that point by making these matters reserved matters for this Parliament. Apart from that, one would assume that all other powers will be within the competence of the Papua New Guinea House of Assembly and the Papua New Guinea Government under its Chief Minister. I notice that in the debate on this Bill in another place Mr Andrew Peacock, the former Minister for External Territories under the previous Government, raised the question of whether internal self-government meant that the Papua New Guinea Government would be entirely responsible for internal security. I would have imagined that if Papua New Guinea had internal self-government, then that Government would be the one entirely responsible for internal security. In other words, it would be responsible for the control of the police and the courts system. However, I also notice that the Minister for External Territories (Mr Morrison) in another place did not really clarify this point. I am hoping that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) who is in charge of the Bills might be able to indicate definitely what will be the ambit of the control of internal security because naturally this is one of the major questions that arises in the transference of selfgovernment, even prior to independence.
But I raise this problem also because I notice in the Papua New Guinea Bill (No. 2) that the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court apparently remains with the Governor-General of Australia. I would have thought that if a country had complete internal self-government that it would have control of the appointment of the judges of its courts, particularly the judges of its Supreme Court. There are changes in the composition of the Supreme Court. But as I said, 1 notice that it still remains for the judges to be appointed by the Governor-General. I wonder what will be the relationship between the GovernorGeneral and the Government of Papua New Guinea in relation to the recommendation for such appointments. As I said, I would assume that certainly the recommendations would come from the Government of Papua New Guinea. I am also a little surprised to find that even the actual appointments will be made by the GovernorGeneral. I am not being critical. I am simply a little confused about how far the appointment of judges by the Governor-General ties in with the claim that there is to be full, internal self government as from 1 December.
The provisions of the Bill concerning the establishment of a new court system are of considerable interest. Senator Byrne seemed to feel that Papua New Guinea would maintain a common law system and that the law, as we know it here, will pertain substantially in future in Papua New Guinea. I do not share his views.
– They are the expectations.
– I do not know whether I should say ‘expectations’ because if I did I could be construed as making some judgment about the superiority of our laws as against the laws of other countries. From the experience which I gained on my visits to Papua New Guinea and from the discussions which I have had from time to time with people who have lived there, it seems to me that there has been a very real criticism in Papua New Guinea of the administration of our legal system and of the way in which the Supreme Court operates in our legal system. It seems to be fairly broadly accepted that the application of the common law and its technical rules has not been particularly successful in Papua New Guinea. The Bill contains a provision which will enable the House of Assembly to set up a new village court system. I am not sure whether it has actually been set up yet; presumably not. But there certainly has been a great deal of discussion about it in preparation for this type of court structure.
– Would that system apply customary law?
-That is the object of the system, in a broad sense. It would not apply the technical rules of evidence and procedure by which many people, so it is widely believed, who were clearly guilty have been acquitted. The demand for the new system has, I think, been the result of the criticism which I have described. I believe that the system needs to be watched carefully because the establishment of a village court system, which would apply, as Senator Byrne said, local customs in the solution of many problems, may lead to a great fragmentation of the legal system rather than to the provision of a national law which should be the ideal of a new and emerging nation such as Papua New Guinea. It could also mean a loss of authority by the better trained and better qualified judges and higher courts, and power could be exercised arbitrarily by courts at that lower level.
I instance an experience which I had when I was in Africa last year, where the development of traditional courts has been taken to some lengths. I was surprised to find that in one African State, which was formerly a British colony and which presumably has inherited the British legal system, the Supreme Court could not try cases of homicide. The traditional court or the village court tried cases of homicide and was the only court which could impose the death penalty. I can see a real danger from the point of view of maintenance of authority and of introducing political influences when a court structure at village level is established with too great a jurisdictional power. I am not saying that that is proposed in Papua New Guinea. I simply indicate the dangers inherent in this type of legal system.
I did not rise to speak on legal matters. I rose because I was a member of a quite recent parliamentary delegation to Papua New Guinea. We had a remarkable opportunity to meet diverse elements of the Papua New Guinea community. We had the opportunity to have very close and lengthy discussions with members of a number of local councils. I think that local councils have been among the great achievements of the Australian administration of Papua New Guinea. They have been established for some time now. They have a variety of powers and functions which are much the same as the powers and functions which local authorities in Australia have. The councils are of much greater importance, in many ways, in that community than are local authorities in Australia because they have had to provide a good deal of the economic development and some of the economic services in local areas, much more than we would expect of local authorities in Australia. Also, and probably more importantly, they have provided a great training ground for Papuans and New Guineans in leadership and community work. So it was a very interesting and a very rewarding experience to meet and listen to members of these councils. One thing which impressed us greatly was the interest which most members of the councils have and their willingness to come forward and express their views and generally to discuss their problems with visitors. We met members of councils in the highlands areas and in one or two other places. It was from our discussions with them that we, I think, were able to appreciate some of the major concerns which face the inhabitants of Papua New Guinea as they move towards self government. 1 wish to deal with several of these matters. First and foremost, concern was expressed to us over and over again about independence. The people of Papua New Guinea are quite satisfied and quite content with the notion of” self government. I think that is understandable. The process has been a gradual one. They have become accustomed to the idea. But we found a very great concern at the village leader level or at the community leader level- not at the member of
Parliament level or at the level of the new emerging leaders of the Public Service in Port Moresby- at the prospects of independence. I appreciate that this requires a good deal of leadership, education, explanation and discussion. I am not saying that it is not our obligation to endeavour to hasten along the processes of independence, but I think it is my duty to express in the national Parliament, having had this opportunity to visit Papua New Guinea, the concern that so many people there feel about this matter.
Another matter in respect of which there was repeated expression of concern was the continuance of Australian financial aid and what I might call moral support for the emerging nation. I believe that we as a delegation, speaking on behalf of this Parliament and on a non-party basis, were able to give adequate reassurance to these people and to others at a higher level to whom we spoke, that financial support would certainly continue for the new nation, not only after selfgovernment but also after independence, and that this would be financial support at a level which it has enjoyed in the past. Some of these Bills, the banking ones in particular dealing with the guaranteeing of loans referred to by Senator Cotton, would be a very clear earnest of our intentions in that regard. Nevertheless I think it is our responsibility to keep emphasising this matter to Papua New Guinea at every opportunity we have because undoubtedly there was this feeling that once we handed over to Papua New Guinea we, as a nation, would tend to reduce financial assistance or eliminate it entirely.
Almost as important as the question of continued financial assistance is the question of what might be called moral support, which is not so easy to discuss or define. This has particular personification in the localisation of positions in the various elements of the public service in Papua New Guinea and will be related to the time for which Australians- expatriates as they are known- continue to remain and work in Papua New Guinea. There is a certain ambivalence in the minds of many Papuans and New Guineans. On the one hand they want to hasten the process of localisation because it is important to them as they emerge into nationhood to feel that they are running their own affairs. Naturally it should be the Papuans and New Guineans who are predominant in that regard and who should be able to obtain the highest positions in the public service. But on the other hand they are very well aware of the great importance of the expertise that Australians and other expatriates are able to provide. They are very concerned that after selfgovernment, and certainly after independence, Australia may wipe its hands of their nation and that no Australians, or very few, will remain.
They are very conscious of the importance of the participation of Australians and other expatriates, now and for many years to come, in providing expert services in so many fields of government in Papua New Guinea. They know that within the foreseeable future it will not be possible for their own education system to provide the expertise or the skilled manpower that they will require. They understand also that they have not the internal finances to provide for their economic development. They will be dependent on the outside world, particularly on Australia, for the provision of both these important elements.
Just before I leave the question of localisation, there is another delicate matter of responsibility for the Australian Government in coping with this question. Undoubtedly there is very great concern on the part of many Australians and expatriates who are working there. I must record that on this visit, as compared with the previous time I was there, I detected a lower morale.
– They are trying to protect their property.
– I am not talking of Australians who have invested there and are working there, although undoubtedly there is concern among them also. I was talking more of Australians who are working there as part of the public service and who do not know for how long they will be wanted or what encouragement they will be given to remain. It is important to remember that many of these people believe themselves to be part and parcel of that country. They feel that they are almost citizens of the country. Among them are men and women who went there at an early age and who have devoted their lives to Papua New Guinea. I believe that they need some assurance that they are still wanted and that their services are still required. I understand that in recent weeks there has been considerable improvement in the situation with regard to letting these people know whether they are wanted. When we were there in June there was a real doubt in the minds of many of these people as to whether they would have any future in that country after 1 December 1 973.
The only other question that I wanted to comment upon is what we might call the road to independence. How long is this road and what direction will it take? There is no doubt that there is great confusion, not only in Papua New
Guinea but also in Australia, among those who take an interest in Papua New Guinea as to what is the Australian Government’s policy in relation to independence. I do not think that matter has been clarified in any way during the debate on these Bills in the other place. Perhaps it will be clarified slightly here, but I doubt it. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said before the elections that it was the policy of his Party that there should be independence within the life of the present Parliament, so 1975 was a date that was in many people’s minds. After the Government came into power the Minister for External Territories started to talk about independence in 1974. People who were concerned about the possibility of independence as early as 1975 have been not only further alarmed but also thoroughly confused by statements of that kind. There is also the well known feeling of the Labor Party that we as an Australian nation should not be a colonial power in any shape or form and must unburden ourselves of this unwelcome responsibility which the Labor Party feels that we have. So in this respect there is great confusion, not only in Papua New Guinea but also in Australia. It is a matter which must be resolved.
We as a Party have taken the view that independence should not be thrust upon Papua New Guinea, that there should be a request to us by a representative body of Papua New Guinea which says: ‘We are now ready for independence. We want independence. Will you give it to us?’ This is the only right approach for an Australian Government to take on the matter. Heavens above, the situation will be difficult enough. The big problem will be to resolve the concern and doubts that so many Papuans and New Guineans have about independence. Not only is there concern about independence but also a number of local movements, even secessionist movements, are starting to arise in Papua New Guinea. Surely all of these matters have to be satisfactory resolved before this nation becomes independent. These matters have to be resolved primarily, of course, by the Papua New Guineans themselves, and the decisions have to be made by the only representative body of Papua New Guinea, namely, the House of Assembly. They should not be made by the leaders of the Public Service or the intellectuals in Port Moresby who are wanting to race ahead in obtaining independence. They should not be made even by the leading members of the Government who may be more anxious than many others to get early independence. These matters have to be resolved by the only really representative body of the people of Papua New
Guinea. I believe it will want to treat this matter of independence with care and caution. Certainly the last thing they want is an Australian Government ramming independence down their necks. Members of the Labor Party who have this conscience problem about this matter want to unburden Papua New Guinea as quickly as possible. Another problem from which I think we cannot run away is that of local independence movements or local decentralisation -
– Or separation. I do not know to what extent one should take these claims seriously. These separatist movements or secessionist movements say they want to create their own independent states. I doubt very much whether one should look at them in these terms. I know that the Press loves to blow these things up and to make out that Miss Josephine Abaijah and her Papuan independence movement want to have a separate state and so on. I have had a number of discussions with Miss Abaijah whom I first met last year in Africa and whom I met again in New Guinea in June and again the other day when she was here.
– Is she a left winger or a right winger?
– I believe that she is a person who represents very truly a lot of local feeling, as I hope I represent in this chamber the local feeling of Western Australia as against New South Wales. I think that she may be expressing the situation in rather more extreme terms than I would use, but because secessionist movements are in the air once again in Western Australia I can understand her position better than could Senator Mulvihill. But there is no doubt that these problems of local interests and local movements have to be resolved. We cannot just throw independence at Papua New Guinea before these matters are resolved in some way or other because if we do we will only be leaving the country with a Government which will then be racked by internal civil war.
So in this period between self government and independence we have to ensure that there is some reconciliation of these differences. We have to give wise counsel and guidance during this period towards reconciliation of these problems. I believe that such reconciliation could well come from a satisfactory constitution which provides for a proper system of decentralised government. I am not saying that necessarily it should be a system of government modelled on our Federal system. The Papua New Guinea Select Committee on Constitutional Development which is already sitting and working in Papua New Guinea is, I believe, likely to come forward with some proposals in this regard. Already there is movement towards the creation of newer and bigger district authorities which will be placed in the tiers of government between the local authorities which I mentioned and the House of Assembly. I believe that there will have to be many more of this sort of development before Papua New Guinea is fully fit for independence. Because after 1 December we as a national parliament will still have responsibility for Papua New Guinea’s foreign affairs and defence and, I think, for a general oversight of the affairs of that nation, we ourselves will have to shoulder some considerable responsibility in determining this vital question of independence.
– I would like to add my dissident voice to the rush towards independence in Papua New Guinea. When I first took an interest in Papua New Guinea I was of the opinion that it needed its independence, but the more I studied the country and the more I went up there the more I realised that it was not yet time for independence. It is all very well to say that we have to give independence to Papua New Guinea as fast as possible, but when one looks around the country one can see that the people are not ready for it and many do not want it. Who wants it? The people who really want independence, of course, are the university trained people, the elitist group. They want us to rush into giving independence to Papua New Guinea because they will be the heads of government in the country. I cannot understand why we have to impose our system of democracy on Papua New Guinea. I do not know that our system of democracy is that good.
– It is better than most.
-Oh, yes, but it is not so good that the people of Papua New Guinea have to conform to our way of doing things and must have a parliament which is totally different in type from that which they are used to. We are insisting on imposing our morality on the people of Papua New Guinea. Is our morality any better than theirs? We are insisting on Papua New Guinea adopting our education system, and probably our education system is better. For years we have been trying to impose our laws on the people of Papua New Guinea, but are our laws any better than theirs? We are trying to say to them: ‘Now you are ready for self government’, but one has only to visit the country to see that there are so many separatist movements that it is obvious that after independence is attained the country will be ruled by the army. With the
Bougainvillians despising the Tolais and the Papuans hating the Highlanders and all New Guineans in toto, there is no doubt in my mind that there will be a blood bath following independence. It will be another Vietnam and the intervening power, instead of being the United States, will have to be Australia.
– We will have dissolved the Army by then. You do not have to worry.
-The army will not be dissolved by then because it will be the only means of maintaining law and order in Papua New Guinea, and that will be the most powerful arm in Papua New Guinea. However, that is a question they will have to work out for themselves. I would also like to make a plea for those people who have given so much of their lives to Papua New Guinea. I refer to those despised white people who have lived there. Certainly they may have made a profit from living there, but without them Papua New Guinea would not be where is is today. We are just throwing them to the wolves. They will receive no compensation; they will just have to get out. The fact that they cannot sell their properties there shows, that the Australian people certainly do not want to start farming in that territory.
The other problem is that once Papua New Guinea attains independence it will be a greater financial burden around our necks than it has been in the past because if we do not give assistance to that country the Japanese will. A problem will arise because our foreign relations with Papua New Guinea will be affected because other countries will be willing to assist it. What the Japanese could not achieve during the war they will certainly achieve economically in the next few years if we do not be firm in our relations with Papua New Guinea. Giving Papua New Guinea independence does not seem to me to be the answer, but it seems the ‘in’ thing nowadays is that every nation must have its independence whether or not it is ready, and it seems that we have to assist Papua New Guinea towards independence.
– What about the indigenous doctors?
– I have spoken before in this House about indigenous doctors. The whole system is wrong. We gave Papua New Guinea a university when all it wanted was schools to train apprentices. Perhaps only about 0 1 per cent of the population had the facility for going to university, so we should have been building more and more technical schools to train the people in these skills first. Then later we could have come to the academic position. But we did not do that. Because one of the Administrators wanted a job for himself there he decided that a university was needed, so we rushed ahead and founded that university, and the standard was lowered because no one in Papua New Guinea could reach matriculation level. The university was started with a matriculation standard lower than is accepted here. That is all right if that is the way that the people of Papua New Guinea want it, but I do not think that they really wanted a university. I think that they would have been much happier if we had built technical schools for them.
– They wanted primary schools and the like and could not get them.
– No. We provided a university for about 12 people, or something like that, to start with. It had to have a special first year course to educate the students to reach the standard that had been decided on. The same thing applies to doctors. I have criticised the scheme before. Why provide the people of Papua New Guinea with second-rate doctors? We let them go into that scheme. We did not insist on matriculation and we did not insist on their being trained here. We have given the people a second-rate medical service. Admittedly it is comparable to the feldshers or the barefoot doctors in China but it is not comparable to our system. I think we have failed the people of Papua New Guinea in education and in medicine, and I think we are going to fail them altogether when we hand over independence to them. I feel sorry for the Australian expatriates who have been there for years and have sweated blood for the benefit of Papua New Guinea as well as for their own benefit.
– Some of them have made fortunes.
-They have not made fortunes but they have done all right by themselves and made a good living; and why not? Everyone is entitled to make a living for himself. I still feel sorry that nothing has been done in any of these Bills to make sure that those people are compensated when they want to leave. The Government worries about its public servants but it does not worry about the people in private enterprise who have done so much for Papua New Guinea and who deserve a lot of credit. Anyhow, I wish the new nation well. I hope that my prognostication that there will be a blood bath in a few years does not come true but that is how I see the position in Papua New Guinea. I have been there on only 4 occasions but each time I got more and more disillusioned because I cannot see the people becoming a united nation. The end result is that the Army must take over to control the whole lot and that is when the blood bath starts.
(6.53)- in reply- I thank the Opposition for not opposing the 9 Bills which have been the subject of this debate. I thought the earlier speakers were very cooperative in getting the legislation through. I do not know that I could say that about the last 2 speakers because their contributions could be regarded as being rather provocative. From the point of view of the policy of the Australian Labor Party, there is justification for what has been done. However, my main duty in this House is to get bills through. I suggest that those honourable senators rest on the satisfaction that they made their points and that there has been no effective answer to them. I do not know whether they brought up any issue that will swing the electors at the next election.
I turn now to the questions that were asked. Senator Cotton sought information on clause 5 of the Reserve Bank Bill about lending to cooperative organisations. He asked for information about what associations had received assistance and the amounts involved. This information is available but I do not have it here and it will be sent to him by way of correspondence. He also asked about the amounts of finance to be provided by Australia for the establishment of Papua New Guinea banking institutions. That information is in this year’s estimates of the Department of External Territories. The total amount is $ 1 7m. There is an advance of $ 1 5m to the Government of Papua New Guinea for the establishment of the Papua New Guinea Banking Corporation and a grant of $2m for the establishment of the Bank of Papua New Guinea. There is also a grant of $lm for the cultural development program in that country.
The other question asked by Senator Cotton related to future operations of the Commonwealth banking organisation in Papua New Guinea. He wanted to know which accounts could be retained by the Commonwealth Banking Corporation and what conditions would apply to the Corporation’s future operations. I think we could link those questions with Senator Byrne’s request for information on continued consultation between the Commonwealth Bank and the Papua New Guinea Reserve Bank. In the report of the Committee on Banking in Papua New Guinea in November last year it is proposed that legislation for this purpose be enacted in Papua New Guinea; and that the Reserve Bank of Australia be asked to provide appropriate technical assistance for the new central bank for as long as may be necessary in order to maintain efficient operations following transfer. Therefore the answer is, for as long as is necessary.
What I have just said relates to the central bank. In regard to the Commonwealth Banking Corporation it is proposed that the Papua New Guinea business of the Corporation be transferred as soon as practicable to Papua New Guinea Government ownership; that the Corporation should not compete for banking business with the Government Commercial Bank following the transfer as such competition at that time would prejudice the success of the transfer; that the Corporation be asked to provide appropriate managerial and technical assistance to the Government’s Commercial Bank for as long as may be necessary to maintain efficient operations following the transfer; that the extent to which, consistent with the above information, the Corporation should be permitted to continue to engage in banking business in Papua New Guinea, particularly in cases where there may be special contractual or financial problems involved in the transfer of accounts, should be a matter for further detailed consideration by the appropriate authorities. I think that the short answer is that the Commonwealth Bank will have an influence on and give guidance to the Papua New Guinea bank for as long as is necessary.
– From what were you quoting?
-The report of the Committee on Banking in Papua New Guinea. The membership of that Committee is not stated but I take it that this is a Commonwealth Bank publication. It can be made available to the honourable senator if he wants it. Senator Durack wanted information on the ambit of the control of internal security. I am advised by the Minister that this is a question which is being dealt with by the authorities and he hopes to make an announcement just before the question arises. I believe that the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) wants to move an amendment to the Papua New Guinea Bill (No. 2), the Bill relating to legal matters, in order to provide for the taking of an oath of office rather than making an affirmation or taking an oath of allegiance, because it is the intention to appoint some judges who may not be from British Commonwealth countries. For the purpose of getting these Bills through the second reading stage I will leave matters at that. I thank the Opposition for its support.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
-Could I be informed which of these Bills authorises the guaranteeing of loans by the Australian Government? Is it this Bill?
– I am advised that it is the Papua New Guinea Loans Guarantee Bill which is No. 20 on the notice paper.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cavanagh) read a third time.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relation to the adjournment of the Senate, I put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I apologise for speaking at this time but I have no other way of raising this matter. I want to support what Senator Withers has been trying to do by questions to which he has been unable to get an answer from the Government. I wish to point out to this House and to the country that the Australian public- particularly the travelling portion of it- are subject to one of the most colossal frauds ever perpetrated by an Australian company. I refer to certain aspects of the operations of Qantas Airways Ltd. Everyone knows that the number of people in this country who travel to and from the United Kingdom and Europe is growing every year. Yet an Australian company is defrauding Australians and is preventing them from receiving the full benefits of revaluation. Unfortunately it seems to me that the Government is allowing its own company to act in that way. There has been a revaluation of about 25 per cent in the last year or so. The economy class or charter flight fare to Europe was $700. The fares that Qantas set are subject to an agreement with the International Air Transport Association which has determined that the fares are to be paid in American dollars. When the fare in American dollars was $US850 the Australian price was $700. Today the American public is still paying $US850 but in terms of Australian money this amount is roughly $573. This Government has always said that any benefits from revaluation should be passed on to the Australian public. Why then has not the Government seen to it that its own company passes on to the travelling public this reduction in the cost of travel? If this reduction were passed on a married couple would be able to save $250 on tickets bought in the United States or in Europe.
– What about when you bought American dollars and had to pay your fare here?
– I think that a lot of people would be happy to do so. But Qantas has now told IATA- and I think that it has the greatest nerve to do so- that it cannot accept fares from an Australian except from the point of origin of the person’s passport. If a person has an Australian passport he has to pay his fare in Australian dollars. I think that this practice should be stopped straight away. But if it is stopped another snag arises. There is a financial restriction on the amount of money that one is allowed to send overseas. I think that this amount is about $4,000. The Government would have to relax that restriction to allow people to buy their tickets in London or in America. But why should the public have to go to the trouble of buying their tickets somewhere else, even if Qantas allowed them to do so?
Qantas is controlled by a board of people who are so old that they let their company lose in the race for charter flights. Suddenly they have been revitalised. They now see that there is a thing called charter flights and they are now really getting into the money. But if the operations of Qantas were subjected to the provisions of the Trade Practices Bill- assuming that we are to pass itthis would be one of the first things that the Government would stop. The Government is trying to bring in a Bill to stop this sort of practice, but will not stop Qantas from engaging in it. Why is not the Government doing something about it? I have said on 3 or 4 occasions that it is time that Qantas got out of IATA. I do not think that that organisation does anything for us. All it does is build up the prestige of the board of directors of Qantas. It does nothing for the travelling public. I think that neither Thai International nor Singapore Airlines is a member of IATA. Despite that, one receives much better service from these 2 companies than one does from Qantas. The food is better, the wine is bettereverything seems to be better.
– Do they have world wide operations like Qantas?
– Well, Thai International has a tie up with the Scandinavian Airlines System. I think that Malaysian Airlines was a member of the now defunct Malaysia- Singapore Airlines. Singapore Airlines has a tie-up with other organisations. So one can still travel on a world wide basis with these airlines. Although these companies do not belong to IATA they get along quite well and they are making profits. As I have said, Qantas could do very well if it got out of IATA.
I ask the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh), who represents the Minister for Transport and Minister for Civil Aviation in this place, to tell this chamber some time tomorrow or the next day why it is that the Government is helping Qantas, which is an Australian company, to defraud us. Alexander Barton would be proud of the way in which this company is operating. Yet the Government allows it to go on. The whole of the Qantas board should be sacked for allowing the public -
– Oh, you cannot do that.
-No. Have we got friends on it?
– They have just been appointed.
– Well let us not sack the new members. We will leave the new members because they have not had a chance to do anything. But they were on the Board when the revaluation occurred and they must be setting policy at the moment so I ask supporters of the Government to get on to their friends to give me a little support on this matter. Will the Minister please tell us in the next day or two why it is that the travelling public of Australia is being defrauded? It is a fraud because the Government was the first to say that the effects of revaluation should be passed onto the people of Australia. Where is it being passed onto the people?
Why not refer this matter to the Government’s Prices Justification Tribunal? How could this body allow such a practice? It would not dream of allowing it if a private individual was concerned but because Qantas is a government concern the Government lets this practice go on. I understand that because of revaluation Qantas has received a bonus- I am not sure of the figures- in the vicinity of nearly $20m as capital gains.
– That is too much.
– It may be too much. I do not know the exact figure. But the Minister could tell us what is the capital gain on Qantas ‘s loans overseas on which that company now pays low interest or it pays fewer dollars in interest. I ask the Minister to stop this exploitation and to let the people get value for their dollars.
- Senator Turnbull must be the best informed man in this place on international air fares judging from the number of times that he speaks here on this question. He always seems to be the victim of some airline company which has not satisfied him. He has asked me to convey a number of questions to the Minister for Transport and Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Charles Jones), and I will do so. He asked firstly whether at some time in the next day or two I would give him an answer as to why the Government is helping a company to defraud the Australian people. The answer to his question is no, I will not. It is similar to the question: Will you stop beating your wife?’. To answer this question would be an admission that the Government is helping a company to defraud the people; it would be an admission that the Government is defrauding the Australian people. Qantas Airways Ltd is a government instrumentality and as such it works on a commercial basis. It gives a service which is good enough for the Queen.
– But she did not get a revaluation benefit.
– I do not know what she paid. I do not know whether she paid in Australian dollars or in British currency. Qantas, operating as an international venture, finds it necessary to be a member of the International Air Transport Association. I will draw the attention of the Minister to the other questions raised by the honourable senator and get an explanation for him. I will not get an answer to his specific questions but I will try to get information that will explain this matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 7.10 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
Did the charter flights operated into Australia by World Airways Incorporated at the beginning of this year have an adverse effect on Qantas’ load factors on the Pacific route; if so, why were further requests from World Airways Incorporated to operate charter flights into Australia agreed to.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
World Airways operated 30 inclusive tour charter flights, carrying some 5,000 passengers, from the United States to Australia between January and May, 1973.
The passengers were drawn from professional, predominantly medical, associations in the U.S., which each year organise holiday travel programs to various parts of the world for their members using charter flights.
There is no evidence that the 1 973 World Airways program that was approved had any significant adverse effect on Qantas load factors on the Pacific route. It would be reasonable to assume, however, that some passengers of this kind might travel to Australia on normal scheduled services if a charter program has not been approved.
Airline Operations Between the West Coast of the United States of America and Australia (Question No. 310)
asked the Minister representing, the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Minerals and Energy, upon notice:
– The Minister for Minerals and Energy has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
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.
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Qantas Airways Limited, in common with other international carriers, incurs the majority of costs involved in operating services in its national currency. These costs have not been reduced by revaluation of the Australian dollar. Whilst revaluation of the Australian dollar has realised some savings in Qantas’ expenditure overseas, there has been a substantial reduction in the company’s revenue remittances on travel sold in other countries, including the United States, where currency changes have taken place in the past 12-18 months. The net effect of these exchange gains and losses on Qantas’ operating account has led the company to the decision that it would not be economically feasible for adjustments to bc made in international fares sold in Australia to take account of the changes in the value of exchange rates between the revalued Australian dollar and other currencies, including the United States dollar. This decision is fully in accordance with the recommendations of the International Air Transport Association made to and approved by the governments concerned, including the Australian Government, following special meetings held by the Association to consider the worldwide effect on international air fares of fluctuations in the currencies of a number of countries in the past 12-18 months.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Science, upon notice:
– The Minister for Science has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Minerals and Energy, upon notice:
– The Minister for Minerals and Energy has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The PostmasterGeneral has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question.
As a result of this examination, a number of small official post offices will be converted to the non-official method of operation over the next few years, and it is likely that about 300 post offices could be involved. At these post offices, the level of indoor postal work can usually be handled by less than three full-time officers, including the Postmaster, and does not require the attention of career staff to be conducted efficiently. About 100 of the offices concerned are in New South Wales. The changes will be made progressively over the next 3 years or so to allow for the relocation of permanent staff and for suitable re-arrangements to be made to maintain the existing range and grade of postal services. 1 must emphasise that these post offices are not being closed, but the proposal is simply to change the method of operating them. No doubt these are the post offices to which the honourable senator is referring although, as he would know, the Department has for some years been reclassifying official post offices and closing official and non-official post offices where there is no justification to retain them. This has been a continual process over the years and more recent statistics as at 30 June are as follows:
Number of non-official post offices closed: 1968, 189; 1969,214; 1970, 191; 1971,279; 1972,280; 1973, 117.
The change from official to non-official operation at these post offices will not result in a breakdown in country services as the range and grade of postal services being provided will be maintained. The only change is in the method of control to one more appropriate to the level of business being transacted. This change should not react against rural development. In fact, the change can bring benefits to a small town by providing an additional source of income for a local resident, and can give a valuable boost to a declining business.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment and Conservation, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Environment and Conservation has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Minerals and Energy, upon notice:
– The Minister for Minerals and Energy has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(a) and (b) The Minister is in negotiation with two wholly-owned Australian firms who have the necessary technology and ability to establish such a refinery. Construction will commence when negotiations and planning have been completed.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment and Conservation, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Environment and Conservation has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
– On 23 August 1973, Senator Davidson asked me a question without notice as follows:
I refer to discussions in Adelaide yesterday at the annual conference of the Australian Universities Staff Association. At this conference there was criticism of Australian universities for producing what was called a glut of some specialists and a shortage of others. Can the Minister say whether any consideration has been given to the provision of training in what was described yesterday as community orientation? If not. will the Minister note this point and inquire whether there can be a response to a call for a greater breadth of interpretation in specialist education?
As I stated in my reply at the time, I have not seen the report to which the honourable senator refers, and the Minister for Education has advised me that the Australian Universities Commission has made inquiries and has been unable to obtain any information or statements relating to a glut of some university trained specialists and a shortage of others. If the honourable senator wishes the matter to be investigated further, perhaps he might provide additional details about the statements he has quoted so that further inquiries might be made.
Postal Charges: Effect of Metric Conversion
– On 18 September 1973, Senator Sim asked the following question without notice:
Is it a fact that the Government has asked industry not to take advantage oif the conversion to the metric system in order to increase charges? As the Government has announced new postal charges with a limit of 20 grams or 0.7 oz on letters that now attract a 7c postage charge instead of 28 grams or I oz as previously, will the Minister refer these increases to the Metric Conversion Board for comment as to whether the Government is taking advantage of conversion to the metric system in order to increase charges?
The Minister for Science has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
On 12 September my colleague the Postmaster-General introduced three Bills into the Parliament to effect conversion of postal rates to the metric system and to introduce some variations. However, the approval of those proposals is a matter for the Parliament. Accordingly, the honourable senator will have an opportunity to debate the rales when the Bills are presented to the Senate.
Australian Dollar: Exchange Rate
– On 27 September 1973. Senator Young asked the Minister representing the Minister for Overseas Trade, the following question without notice:
I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Overseas Trade. Some time ago I asked a question of the Minister with regard to the change in the exchange rate of the
Australian dollar. I repeat my question to the Minister. What is the Government’s attitude towards export incentives? Will the present arrangements be updated to assist Australian exporters by ensuring that the changed situations do not place them at too much disadvantage?
The Minister for Overseas Trade has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
-On 10 October 1973, Senator Dame Nancy Buttfield asked me the following question:
I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General: ls it a fact that recently new telephone books have been published but that these have not yet been distributed in all States? Is the Minister aware of the extreme frustration imposed upon long suffering subscribers to the telephone service by the constant changes of telephone numbers throughout the year? Will the Minister take up with his colleague the Postmaster-General the possibility of reserving all changes in numbers to once a year when the new telephone books are distributed so that people arc noi constantly ringing up wrong numbers that they find in lbc telephone book?
The Postmaster-General has now furnished me with the following information in reply.
Distribution of the new Adelaide telephone directory was to have begun before the end of August. Because of the unusually extensive telephone number changes and other alterations necessary this year, production of the directories was unavoidably delayed. Deliveries in Adelaide arc well advanced and deliveries to other Stales should bc completed within the next three to four weeks.
I can assure the honourable senator that, as far as practicable, any number changes involving large groups of metropolitan subscribers are made to coincide with the issue of the new telephone directory. This is not always possible, particularly in country areas where new automatic exchanges are progressively replacing manual exchanges but in these cases, a special interim directory usually is issued. Special arrangements are made to assist callers as much as possible during the period between the changeover to the new numbers and the completion of directory distribution.
Taiwanese Fishing Boats
-On 10 October 1973, Senator Drake-Brockman asked me the following question without notice: 1 ask the Minister for Primary Industry: When the 2 Taiwanese fishing boats were arrested off the Western Australian coast on 3 May were 2 other boats boarded within the 12-mile limit? If so, where did those boats come from and why were they not arrested and brought to Western Australian pons?
I undertook to obtain the necessary information for the honourable senator. That information is as follows:
Three Taiwanese fishing vessels were boarded by naval personnel and a Fisheries Inspector off the coast of Western Australia, 3 May 1973. Two of these vessels, Chiah Long No. 1 1 and Chiah Long No. 12 were apprehended and escorted to port. Their masters were charged and subsequently convicted in the Perth District Court of fishing within the declared fishing zone. The third vessel, the Yeon Lim No. I was found to be 12.3 miles from the nearest point of land. Visual fixes had indicated that this vessel, and its sister ship Yeon Lim No. 2 were operating within the declared fishing zone when first sighted by ‘HMAS Acute’. Subsequently, a radar fix had placed Yeon Lim No. 1 at the above position just beyond the declared fishing zone. The master of that ship was warned not to operate in the declared fishing zone and allowed to continue operations. These vessels were not apprehended because of doubt as to whether they were actually fishing when sighted, whereas there was no such doubt with respect to the first two vessels.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 23 October 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1973/19731023_senate_28_s57/>.