28th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to inform honourable senators that the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Willesee, will be absent for the first half of question time because he is meeting the Singaporean Minister for Foreign Affairs at the airport. Senator Willesee expects to return from this engagement at about 1 1.30 a.m. I ask those honourable senators who wish to direct questions to Senator Willesee, in either his own ministerial capacity or his representative ministerial capacity, to hold such questions back until his return.
-Will the AttorneyGeneral explain the functions of Professor Howard, whom, he has informed the Senate, he will appoint as his general counsel? Why does the Attorney-General require a general counsel, to be paid at a sum of $25,000 a year? In what way is the legal advice from his Department inadequate or unsatisfactory?
– It is not a question of proposing to engage Professor Howard. I indicated yesterday that he had been engaged. The fee is an appropriate one. It is a very proper fee for an eminent lawyer. I do not need to stress his qualifications. I understand that not even the Deputy Leader of the Opposition would question the eminence of Professor Howard in the field of law in Australia. As to his functions, his engagement has been, if I might say, with the concurrence of the Department- not that that is at all necessary. A great deal of constitutional and other legal work is facing the Government at the moment. Honourable senators will be aware that there are a number of referendum proposals and that the Australian Constitutional Convention is still continuing its work. There is a great deal of movement in the legal field. I think it has been commented on in the Senate that there is an enormous amount of important legislation which is affecting the whole economic and social area of Australia.
– That is usually done by the Department.
– The honourable senator interrupts and says that that is usually done by the Department. If he presses me I will say that I, as Attorney-General, inherited a run-down organisation. The best is being done to repair the failures of the previous Government to provide the proper facilities and backing for a lot of zealous officers who were trying to do their best in an area which was badly organised and not provided with proper facilities or sufficient manpower to cope with the problems of the previous Government let alone those of a Government which is endeavouring to achieve outstanding legal reform.
– My question is addressed to either the President or the Leader of the Senate. We have just heard something about badly run-down organisations. Could I be informed why there appears to be no business sheet indicating how this Senate will be run this morning? Can the Senate be informed why the Leader of the Government in the Senate and the Leader of the Senate are not sitting together at the table this morning?
– I have no knowledge of the seating arrangements and I have no knowledge of any rearrangement of ministerial responsibilities in this chamber. I think this question lies within the province of the Leader of the Government in the Senate, and I call Senator Murphy.
– I do not know the reason for any absence of a business paper. There is a notice paper for the Senate. As for the appearance of the Leader of the Government in the Senate, I am here and the other Ministers are here with the exception of Senator Willesee- I have explained that he is at the airport- and Senator Bishop who is, unfortunately, still ill. We hope that he will be ready soon to rejoin us in the Senate. I am informed that it is expected that he will be here on 19 November.
– Order! I think I should inform honourable senators that because of the temporary absence of Senator Willesee my normal method of calling honourable senators will have to be abandoned this morning. I will call honourable senators as I see them rising.
– I was interested in the answer given by Senator Murphy to a question asked this morning by Senator Greenwood. Does the Leader of the Government in the Senate think it proper to avoid his responsibilities by attempting to assassinate the character and performance of somebody who was his predecessor as Attorney-General? Does he not have to solve the problem by appointing people to the staff of his Department in a proper sense and style if he has a backlog of work?
– I think it is proper that persons be appointed to deal with the backlog of work or the work that is anticipated, and that has been done. A great deal of reorganisation has occurred in the Attorney-General’s Department; that has been done with the concurrence of the Public Service Board because it has been necessary. I would think there has been a transformation of functions there to meet the legal problems that the Australian Government has to face. A lot of that already has been done and a good deal of it is still to be done. The honourable senator suggests that somehow an endeavour has been made to attack the previous AttorneyGeneral. It is not I who raised the question and complained about the fact that an eminent lawyer had been engaged by the Government to assist in dealing with the legal problems which the Government is facing. It is a proper appointment of a proper person at a proper fee and I think the proper attitude of the Opposition ought to be to welcome it and to congratulate the Government on what it has done.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment and Conservation. In view of the fact that mercury has been detected in fish in the vicinity of the Derwent River and other Australian waters, can the Minister say what the Australian Council of the Environment is doing with respect to industrial effluent control? Is it the intention of the Council to formulate recommendations so that State governments and the Commonwealth can adopt standard procedures to prevent pollution of Australian waters? I also would like the Minister to tell me why he is not sitting at the table next to his colleague Senator Murphy.
– Order! If I wish to direct Senator Cavanagh to the table I shall direct him. If he wishes to remain in the seat in which he is sitting at the present moment he may do so.
-In answer to the last part of the question, the seat here is very comfortable, and I am happy in it. In answer to the first part of the honourable senator’s questionanother environmental question- let me say that the Australian Environmental Council has established a sub-committee on marine pollution which is examining the whole range of issues relating to the marine environment. A standing committee of the Australian Environmental Council is meeting in Canberra today and the Ministers are to meet in Hobart on 30 November and the work of the sub-committee will be discussed at these meetings.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. I direct the Minister’s attention to a recent accident on the Barton Highway at the point where it leaves the Australian Capital Territory, in which 2 people were killed. In view of the fact that the Minister for the Capital Territory has publicly expressed the opinion that roads leading to the Australian Capital Territory are unsatisfactory, will the Minister advise what action the Government intends to take to improve these roads?
– I have read about the accident on the Barton Highway. The current position is that planning and designing of highways etc. is a matter for the States and is financed through the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act. The determination of the specific roads to be improved is left in the hands of the States. The Act expires in June 1974 and a new Act will then come into operation. It is desirable that the Commonwealth have more say as to where money will be expended and in regard to the development and type of roads, tourist potential and so on. Therefore I would say that under the new Act the Commonwealth will have greater power to supervise expenditure, and particular attention will be given to the roads leading into the Australian Capital Territory.
– I saw the remarks of Mr Hicks and in fact I referred them to my colleague the Minister for Health to see whether he had anything to say about them. Unfortunately I have not heard from my colleague at this stage but I most assuredly will take up with the Minister for Health the suggestion of Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson who, of course, was Minister for Health in the previous Government.
– Did the Minister for the Media earlier this year express concern that payola was possibly being used to promote records and other products on radio and television? Did the Minister take any action to carry out an investigation into this matter? If so, what was the nature of the inquiries? As a result of the inquiries, has the Minister any additional information for the Senate?
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLANDBecause of the developments that were taking place and found to be in existence in some parts of the United States of America and the United Kingdom I determined that this matter should be investigated in Australia. I referred it to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board for inquiry and report to me. The Broadcasting Control Board has in fact conducted an investigation, and it has reported to me that because individual station managements are invariably closely involved in the selection of the record play lists it is a rare situation in Australia for disc jockeys to be solely responsible for the selection of the musical items for the stations involved. It would therefore appear from the investigations conducted by the Broadcasting Control Board that here in Australia the apparent rigid management controls of program content are proving an adequate safeguard against payola.
There is another practice, colloquially known as plugola, which is the practice of on-air personalities giving advertising plugs to goods and services, including musical recordings, for which they could receive some personal consideration. The Board has recently issued a circular letter to all station managements on the matter drawing to their attention the undesirability of the practice of ad-libbing in the presentation of advertisements as this could lead to overcommercialisation. As the honourable senator would know, earlier this year I requested the Board to take action against any stations that engaged in over-commercialisation.
– Order! Earlier this morning Senator Marriott asked me a question in relation to the Senate business paper. Since then I have made inquiries through the Clerk of the Senate about the matter raised by the honourable senator. The Senate business paper has now been distributed to honourable senators. Honourable senators will see that it is a fairly lengthy document, and the reason for its delay is the shortage of staff in the printing area. A technical problem was involved in the reproduction, which was the cause of its not being circulated at the time when the Senate met. The responsibility for this falls on my shoulders and I apologise to honourable senators for the business paper not being available earlier.
-My question is in support of that asked by Senator Marriott of the Leader of the Government in the Senate in which he asked about the non-availability of the Senate business paper and also about the change in the seating arrangements at the table on the Government side of the chamber. I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: Is it a fact that last evening he, as the Leader of the Government, moved for the adjournment of the Senate 50 minutes before its appointed time? As Leader of the Government will he see to it that at no stage between now and the end of this session he challenges the Opposition with holding up the business of the Senate, as he is the person who makes the decision when the business of the Senate is to conclude before its appointed time? Is it a fact that the Leader of the Senate is not sitting beside him at the table this day and that that is an uncommon circumstance? Will he give an assurance that he did not attempt to mislead the Senate when he indicated that there is no disturbance in the Government benches at this time?
-The motion for the adjournment of the Senate is normally put at 1 1 p.m. on Wednesdays. Last night I moved for the adjournment of the Senate a little earlier. I think the honourable senator is right in saying how much earlier. In fact, the Senate sat on until, I think, 11 p.m. or a little later because long speeches were made during the adjournment debate. A number of honourable senators- some of them are on the Opposition side and some of them are senior members of the chamberthought that because of the work of the day and the reception which had been held for the distinguished visitor during the suspension of the sitting for dinner it would be appropriate for the Senate to rise a little earlier than usual. I moved for the adjournment. I think it is fair to say that what I did was not in any way opposed by the Leader of the Opposition. I had spoken to him before and I think that what I did was concurred in by the Australian Democratic Labor Party. I thought that it was appropriate. Sometimes one does these things in the exercise of judgment. I spoke to the Minister who was in charge of the Bill which was before the Senate. When some little difficulty arose on the matter in the Committee stage, that seemed an appropriate stage to move the adjournment morion and I moved it. This course has been taken on other occasions by other Leaders of the Government in the Senate. I would think that most senators would agree with the wisdom of what I did. It was open to any senator to oppose the proposal which I put to the Senate, but I am glad to say that it was agreed to.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Minerals and Energy. In view of the serious overseas fuel crisis necessitating drastic cuts in the use of hydrocarbon derivatives for power, heating and transport in the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States of America, would the Minister press for a higher priority for bringing into use at the earliest possible time the known reserves of the North West Shelf and the Cooper Basin which would include the early commencement of the national pipeline grid in order to avoid the possibility of the disruption to industrial and social life that is high and growing in other parts of the world?
– I can assure the honourable senator that the construction of the national pipeline grid is a matter of urgency for the Department of Minerals and Energy. I will refer this question to the Minister to try to get some information on what has been done. One is concerned with the possibility of a fuel shortage in Australia and the possibility that it could get worse over the years as we seem to be running out of fuel. The Government’s intention and desire is to develop all the reserves that we can as fast as we can for the best benefit of Australians.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Is the Minister aware of an unfair hardship that has arisen in the payment of the $1,000 bounty to re-engaging servicemen? Have over 5,000 men qualified for this bounty? Have a small number- slightly in excess of 100 men- been disqualified and of those disqualified are a much smaller number excluded from receiving the bounty because their enforced retirement at 55 years of age leaves them short by less than one month of the 3 years re-engagement service necessary to qualify? Can the . Minister give some consideration to such cases, as some men excluded have a total service of from 20 to 30 years as against some of those eligible having less than 10 years total service? Is it possible for eligibility to be denied after 30 years service because enforced retirement at 55 years leaves a serviceman one to five days short?
-I thank the honourable senator for drawing this anomaly to attention. I will pass this on to the Minister for Defence.
– Will I put the whole question on the notice paper?
– No. It is not necessary to put it on the notice paper. I will pass it on to the Minister for Defence and see whether the matter can be attended to.
– I direct to the Minister representing the Minister for Health a question which relates to the exploitation of housewives in the Australian Capital Territory. Is he aware that eggs are being offered for sale in the Australian Capital Territory in dirty, second-hand cartons? Is he aware also that some of the eggs in these cartons are dirty, are underweight and contain blood spots? Will the Minister have an investigation made of whether the marketing of eggs in this condition is a breach of health regulations and an infringement of the registered trade mark of the New South Wales Egg Marketing Board? To verify my question I display to honourable senators a dirty, filthy carton which my wife received yesterday with eggs in it. As a former commercial egg producer, let me say that I was unfortunate enough to have one of the eggs out of this carton on my plate this morning and it had one big blood spot in it.
-As one who has been in hospital recently and has been put on a diet which involves the nonconsumption of eggs, I am not aware of the matters raised by the honourable senator. However, I will refer his question to my colleagues, the Minister for Health and the Minister for the Capital
Territory, to ascertain what the position is and what action, if any, has to be taken by them.
– Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware of a recent Tariff Board report consequent on a matter that was referred to the Board, namely, whether the inclusion of 6 secondary industry products in Schedule A of the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement would be detrimental to Australian industry? Is he aware that this has been done on previous occasions and the Board has recommended that the items be not included? In view of the indifference of the previous Government, and of this one to date, to damage done to primary industry by excessive imports, will consideration be given to designating some appropriate body to assess damage, when appealed to, and to recommend appropriate action?
– If I heard the honourable senator rightly, he castigated the previous Government for its indifference- he now nods -to primary industry, and in particular the damage done to it by the previous Government neglecting to be concerned with excessive imports. I am pleased to have such a firm declaration by the honourable senator who is, of course, an Opposition senator and is in a close position to observe what he says was the indifference of his own Government to the problems of primary industry.
– Order! Senator Murphy, you are beginning to debate the question.
– I assure the honourable senator that the present Government- in particular the Minister for Primary Industry- is not indifferent but keeps a careful watch on all matters concerning primary industry and that I, as Minister for Customs and Excise concerned with imports, also do. I will look into the matter which has been raised by the honourable senator. I am sure that, with his efforts and ours, we will be able to overcome the damage which was done by the previous Government to the interests of primary industry.
-Can the Minister for the Media say whether any competitive awards are given in this country to encourage the standard of quality of the Australian film industry? Is the Government doing anything to build up the prestige of the industry in this country?
-A number of competitive awards are made from time to time. For instance, the Australian Writers Guild makes a series of awards. I think that most of the commmercial television stations make a series of awards which are commonly referred to as ‘Logies’. The Australian Film Institute also makes a series of awards. The next series of awards by the Institute is to be made on 2 December of this year. My Department has been asked to contribute an award and it has agreed to provide a trophy and an award of $1,000 specifically for the most imaginative use of film techniques to depict an aspect of Australian life or endeavour. I might add that no film produced by Film Australia, which is a section of my Department, or by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, will be eligible for this award.
-Will the Minister representing the Treasurer confirm reports that the Australian Labor Party Caucus yesterday overruled the Treasurer and voted to retain tax exemptions on gold mining profits? What were the arguments advanced by the gold mining industry that convinced the Government it should postpone its Budget plan to drop the exemptions?
-The honourable senator must be joking if he thinks I am going to make any comments about what happened at a Caucus meeting.
-I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security. Before asking my question may I say that I acknowledge the fact that the Government increased the age pension by $1.50 in the last Budget and that these increases will be made twice yearly until the pension is 25 per cent of the male average wage. In view of the present rate of inflation is the Minister able to forecast how soon the pension will reach that 25 per cent? If necessary, will the Minister seek an additional pension increase over and above that promised, to compensate for inflation?
-The Government not only increased the pension by $ 1.50 in the Budget session but also, as I said yesterday, by $ 1 .50 in the first session of this Parliament after the election of a Labor Government. It is not possible for me or any other honourable senator or member to forecast what the inflation rate will be in future years. All reports indicate that inflation in Australia is slowing down considerably as a result of Government action taken in recent weeks. But because it is impossible for me or anyone else to speculate on what the rate of inflation will be in future years it is naturally impossible for me to say when the full pension rate will amount to 25 per cent of average weekly male earnings.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and I refer to the announcement of the Government’s proposal concerning trade union training. I find the proposal of interest and I seek information. Firstly, does the Government’s proposal to establish a national trade union college involve the erection of a new building in Canberra for this purpose? Secondly, will the Minister consider adding to the students and union members eligible for training courses representatives of management in order to develop greater understanding of trade union administration?
– I am of the belief that this proposal will not necessitate the erection of another building. I think the course is to be held in conjunction with the adult education program in the Australian Capital Territory. Whether the course will be extended in the manner suggested I do not know; it has been designed essentially for trade union training. However, I am prepared to take the matter up with the responsible Minister to see whether he wishes to reply to the question or whether he would extend the course.
– Has the Minister for the Media noted a report that the Queensland Government has opened a new film centre to produce video tapes on educational subjects which will be distributed to schools and teachers colleges? What steps has the Australian Government taken to provide assistance in educational films and television at the national level for use in schools throughout Australia?
– I saw the report of the action taken by the Queensland Government. I think the report appeared some time last week. Despite the opposite political persuasion of that Government to this Government, I commend the Queensland Government for the initiative which it has taken in that respect. As to that part of the question about what the Australian Government is doing, I think the last time a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers took place on educational broadcasting was 4 years ago- in 1969- and the meeting before that was in 1966. Therefore, very little has been done by way of co-operative effort between the Commonwealth and the States collectively on educational broadcasting. My Department and the Commonwealth Department of Education have been investigating this matter, and we hope that early in the new year we will be able to arrange another Commonwealth-State conference. In the meantime, we have determined that it is necessary to ascertain what is actually available in all schools throughout Australia by way of reception facilities, broadcasting sets, television receivers and audio-visual techniques. My Department and the Commonwealth Department of Education are now preparing a questionnaire to be sent out to all schools in Australia to ascertain that information prior to the holding of a CommonwealthState broadcasting conference.
– Is the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs aware that for the last few years some 90 Aborigines from Ernabella and Hermannsburg missions and Amata and Indulkana reserves have been going to the River Murray area in South Australia to work during the fruitpicking season and have been earning between $60 and $90 per week for 8 weeks or more? Is the Minister also aware that the South Australian Community Welfare Department received a grant of $ 1 5,000 each year from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs to supervise the welfare of the Aborigines during the fruit harvest? Is it a fact that this year the $ 1 5,000 grant was returned because the Community Welfare Department was not continuing its supervisory role? Is it also a fact that the Department of Labour was prepared to take over the role as long ago as last August, to make sure that the Aborigines were employed, but that it has had no reply from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs? As the Minister has recently taken over the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, will he straighten out this bungling by the Department which could affect the employment of some 90 Aborigines?
– I do not think that there has been any bungling by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. The money was voted each year for the welfare of the Aborigines who were placed on fruit-picking ventures along the Murray River. As a result of reports which we received and complaints about the behaviour or treatment of Aborigines, this year the $15,000 was not made available. It is not a question of the money being returned; it was not paid to the
Community Welfare Department in South Australia for this purpose. Of course, the question is one of supplying labour rather than anything else. It is an appropriate payment for the Department of Labour rather than the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. That is the explanation. The Department of Aboriginal Affairs has discontinued that payment. It has been taken up by the Department of Labour, which is anxious to supply labour for the fruit growers, rather than the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, which is concerned with the employment of Aborigines. It is thought by the Department of Labour that the money could be utilised better by it, and it would not have the complaints that were received about this venture in the past.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer to current criticism of the Government’s purchase of the painting ‘Blue Poles’. Is it a fact that the previous Government paid out substantial taxpayers’ funds in the form of subsidies and concessions to the Barton group of companies? Has the failure of those companies fleeced Australian taxpayers of considerable sums of money? Can the Minister say whether the moneys given to the Barton group exceeded the cost of the painting which art experts believe is appreciating in money terms and therefore represents a considerable capital investment as against a complete loss by the previous Liberal Government?
– I do not understand the question. You cannot compare like and unlike. I cannot see what ‘Blue Poles’ has to do with the Barton companies.
– I understand that the previous Government did pay sums of money to the group of companies which was controlled by Mr Barton who has now departed from these shores. I will endeavour to get the details for the honourable senator. As I understand it he is asking about the amount of moneys paid pursuant to legislation to mining companies which were operated by Mr Barton. I am unaware whether any moneys paid by way of subsidies or concessions, or in any other way, amounted to the sum which was paid by this Government for Blue Poles’.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether it is a fact that the Minister for the Northern Territory and
Minister for Northern Development has been asked by Cabinet to inquire into and report upon the proposed tourist complex of the Japanese businessman, Mr Iwasaki? If so, when is the report expected to be placed before Cabinet? Will the Minister ensure that the decision of Cabinet is released to Parliament as soon as possible?
-I ask the honourable senator to place his question on notice.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Defence indicate whether the full complement of patrols boats is on duty in northern Australian waters to detect fishing poachers? In all cases are such fishing vessels apprehended, irrespective of their nationality?
– This question primarily is for the Minister for Defence and I will draw it to his attention. I understand that the Royal Australian Navy has provided vessels for fishing surveillance in accordance with requests from the Department of Primary Industry. Fishing vessels have been apprehended for breaching Australian fishing laws. As far as I am aware this would be done irrespective of nationality when intrusion was in breach of our laws and was not acceptable to Australia.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment and Conservation. As the Premier of Tasmania now has turned down the offer of $8m for expenditure on a moratorium on the flooding of Lake Pedder, and as the Minister has displayed such keen interest in the conservation of the environment of Australia’s most beautiful State- Tasmania- and further, as it is increasingly and tragically clear that the destruction by pollution of the Derwent and Tamar Rivers and possibly parts of the north-west coast of Tasmania is taking place, will the Minister reconsider the offer and give the Tasmanian Government an opportunity to accept the money to meet the cost of steps necessary to save those rivers and that coastline?
– I do not think the 2 matters can be considered together. The offer was made, with possibly an open cheque, to enable the Tasmanian Government to have a moratorium and, if necessary, provide an alternative to the Lake Pedder project. This offer was rejected by the State Government much to the concern of the Australian Government. We have no right to force our opinions upon the States in matters over which they have sovereignty. That ends that matter in relation to a grant of money. Now we come to the question of the pollution of the Derwent River. As I stated in a reply earlier today, a standing committee of the Australian Environmental Council is meeting in Canberra today and the Ministers will meet in Hobart on the question of marine pollution. This matter will be considered. If there is a need for the Australian Government to provide finance to combat pollution in rivers, I assure the honourable senator that the interest of the Australian Government is such that separate finance will be made available. But it is not a question of transferring money offered for one project to another project.
– The Minister representing the Minister for Minerals and Energy will recall that over several weeks I have been asking for payment of revaluation compensation to a small group of small tin miners on the north-east coast of Tasmania. Last week I was informed that inquiries had been made into those applications. Will the Minister tell me whether he is pressing for early payment of revaluation compensation to those miners. I assure him that the delay in payment is a matter of considerable embarrassment to several of them.
– I am not fully informed as to what the honourable senator has been seeking for several weeks because it is only this week that I have been representing the Minister for Minerals and Energy. As it is apparent that the applications have been processed I shall take the matter up with the Minister today and see whether early payment can be made if it has been approved.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I refer to an announcement which was made by the Treasurer in the House of Representatives at question time this morning that the Government intends to alter its Budget proposals in relation to tax concessions on gold and selected minerals so far as they affect companies but not dividends. I refer to an answer which I received in this Senate on Tuesday from the Treasurer in which he informed me that the Government had decided to proceed with the proposals announced in the Budget in relation to the gold mining industry. I now ask the Minister: Why has the Government changed the decision within 24 hours? Does this mean that at any time other Budget proposals may also be changed within 24 hours? How can this Parliament have any confidence in this Government’s economic management in view of the cavalier way it is proceeding with its Budget proposals?
-As a Western Australian and as Senator Durack is from the same State I am amazed that he is taking umbrage at the fact that the gold mining industry will get some benefits which it was not going to get at the time of the Budget. I thought the honourable senator would have welcomed that tremendously. I do not know what answer he received from the Treasurer. It appears to me that the Premier of Western Australia has been so persuasive as to get Mr Crean to change his mind on this matter. For that the Treasurer should not be condemned.
– Come on, come on.
– Here we are in a situation where Western Australians are getting something, and who is condemning them? Two Liberal Party senators from Western Australia.
-I wish to make a personal explanation. I claim to have been misrepresented by Senator Willesee.
– I did not mention a name.
-Cut that out, Senator Willesee. You have been here long enough. You pointed to me and waved across to Senator Durack. Do not come at that nonsense.
– Are you asking a question or making a personal explanation?
– I am making a personal explanation.
– Then you will make it after question time.
-I claim that I have been misrepresented by the last speaker.
– I will call you immediately after question time.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour. I refer to the foreshadowed introduction of colour television in Australia and the need to make available to the Australian public colour TV sets, wholly or partially produced or assembled in this country or imported in part or whole from foreign countries involving foreign labour. Is the Minister aware that a fully viable and comprehensive electronics industry is vitally important to the defence forces of Australia and to Australia’s ability to be self-supporting in times of international emergency? Is the Minister also aware that the Australian electronics industry is technologically highly advanced, a pace-setter in world research and- most importantly- a significant employer of the Australian working population? Will the Minister assure the Australian people that no decision of the Government will result in harm to a vital industry or result in unemployment in that industry.
– I can assure the honourable senator that the Minister is aware of the 3 points. Nothing would be done by the Australian Government that would be harmful to an Australian industry. The question of what protection should be given to production of Australian colour television sets is under considerationI think there is a Tariff Board report on it- by the Australian Government. I think this is a question on policy and it would be wrong for me to attempt to answer it. However, I could not answer it because definite final decisions have not been made.
-To avoid my making a personal explanation I ask a question of Senator Willesee in his capacity as Minister representing the Treasurer. It relates to the gold mining tax concessions. Does he recall that some time ago Senator Durack asked him a question on notice which included this question: ‘Will the Government make a decision on this matter?’ Does not this indicate the interest of Senator Durack as a Western Australian Liberal senator in an attempt to get the Government to change its mind? Is it not a fact that yesterday Senator Willesee in his answer said: ‘ … it has been decided to proceed with the proposals announced in the Budget’?
– That was the written reply to Senator Durack?
– Not from me but from the Treasurer.
-I understand that it is over your name. Senator Durack had asked a question upon notice of the Minister representing the Treasurer. I assume that the answer was put down on behalf of Senator Willesee. I take it that Mr Crean has no capacity to answer questions in this place.
– That is right.
– I therefore ask: Will not Senator Willesee concede that since the introduction of the Budget Senator Durack has continually asked questions in this place in an endeavour to have this proposal deleted from the Budget?
-Firstly, as honourable senators know, I refer all Treasury questions to the Treasurer. I do not think that this peculiar situation that we have of six of us trying to represent 21 Ministers in the other place ever works so that one can be really responsible for answers to questions, particularly those which relate to the Treasury. So when the answers come here, while the technical point is whether I lay them down the answers certainly come from the Treasurer. We seem to be accused of all sorts of things here. One is that this has been done in a terrible hurry, that we are doing it in a short space of time. But Senator Withers rightly points out that Senator Durack asked questions about it some time ago. The decision on gold mining upset all Western Australians. Mr Tonkin has been over to see the Prime Minister, and Mr Collard, in particular, has been working tremendously on it because it affects his electorate and, energetic member that he is, he has carried it forward. I come back to the point that all Western Australians should rejoice that we have made a better decision on this matter. Whether we have hurried it or not is not important, but the fact is that we did not hurry it, as Senator Withers points out in his question.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that the Government has plans for a survey of 60,000 people to decide what our national anthem will be? If so, why is it that only 60,000 people will decide what the Australian national anthem will be? Why is ‘God Save the Queen’ not included on the list?
– I am not sure of the exact number but I understand that some sample has been selected of the Australian people, no doubt by the usual sampling methods so that if the figure is 60,000 it will fairly represent the Australian people. The honourable senator is aware of the techniques used in this sampling process. It means that a decision can be made by a representative sample which will give a true indication of the general opinion of the Australian people. I suppose if the result were very close one could probably say that a larger vote should have been taken. It may be that the sample will give sufficient indication of the clear view of the Australian people. That is why it will be done that way. It will be done that way no doubt to save the expense of conducting a vote of all citizens. As to whether ‘God Save the Queen’ is included in the list, my assumption is that what has been done was done by decision of the panel of persons which was set up to make a judgment on the matter. I think that is the answer that has been given previously. If there is any departure from that course I will inform the Senate.
-My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security. I refer to a newspaper report which states: ‘The Federal Government has appointed yet another inquiry- this time into manpower available for social welfare work’. Does the Minister know whether the report is correct? Will he give some detail of the need for such an inquiry? Cannot the Department concerned undertake such an inquiry? Will he advise me how many people will be involved? Does he know the terms of reference of such an inquiry?
-The estimates for the Department of Social Security were dealt with by a Senate Estimates Committee meeting this week and unfortunately the matter to which Senator Davidson now alludes was not referred to specifically at that meeting. I am unaware of the details mentioned by the honourable senator. All I can do under the circumstances is to undertake to refer the question to my colleague, the Minister for Social Security, in another place and obtain an answer for . the honourable senator.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Treasurer a question. In his reply to Senator Durack relating to the gold tax Senator Willlesee stated that he considered the reason for the removal of the tax was the persuasive arguments used by the Premier of Western Australia, Mr Tonkin, on the Treasurer, Mr Crean. Is it a fact that according to newspaper reports this morning the decision to lift the gold tax was not made by Mr Crean but was made by the Caucus of the Australian Labor Party? Is he not proud of the democratic rights of the Caucus when he says it was the Minister who made the change?
-The honourable senator has asked me: Is it not a fact that the newspapers stated something this morning? I have not read the newspapers this morning. I do not know.
-My question is directed to you, Mr President. It is my recollection, and I think the Attorney-General would confirm my recollection, that on Tuesday of this week he announced to this chamber the terms of appointment of Professor Howard about whom I asked a question earlier. The Hansard report of Tuesday contains absolutely no reference to the statement he made. Would you, Sir, as a matter of urgency, ascertain why Hansard contains no account of the statement which was made and ensure that for those honourable senators who are interested Hansard will provide a copy of what was said?
– I cannot answer the question directly because I cannot recollect the question that was asked and the answer that was given. However, earlier this year I gave honourable senators an assurance that there was no interference with the parliamentary reporters’ reporting of the events that take place in the Parliament. I shall take the first opportunity to investigate this matter, and inform honourable senators before the day’s proceedings have concluded.
-Will the Acting Minister for Primary Industry take a plea from me to the Labor Government that it immediately seek to reintroduce the free school milk plan that has been withdrawn at its direction? Will the Minister study the contents of advice given by Mr Geoffrey Loftus Hills, who is a former head of the dairy research division of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and who yesterday hit out in a very rugged fashion at the Australian Government’s decision to discontinue the supply of free milk to school children? Will the Minister note that this gentleman says that school milk is essential to ensure good nutrition for the young and points out that because the of increase in the number of mothers going to work and the growing tendency to let children eat whatever they like, children need milk as a supplement? Also, will the Minister direct the attention of the Government to a statement in a British scientific journal in relation to the same matter? That journal states that the decision to withdraw free school milk is an outrageous sacrifice of straightforward fact and, more importantly, children’s health and looks like a simple but vicious principle of penny pinching. I plead with the Government to see a reason for reintroducing free milk for school children.
– In the first part of his question the honourable senator asked whether I would take up a plea. I do not know where the plea comes from or with whom I should take it up. This matter of free milk for school children was given deep consideration by the Cabinet following the presentation of the Coombs task force report which questioned the advisability of this practice. Of course, people disagree about the value of milk for school children, and there were reports which questioned strongly whether the milk was being drunk by the school children, particularly those who needed it. It was decided to continue the provision of this milk in areas where it was thought that the need existed because of underprivileged or undernourished children. So it is not a matter of putting up a case that milk is of benefit to the children. It is thought that in today’s affluent society children follow suitable dietary habits at home and that therefore it is not necessary to supply milk to school children. If this is not the case in any area, finance will be made available for the supply of free milk. I certainly do not intend to suggest that the decision was made because the Minister had not read the reports of some authorities to which Senator Webster has given some consideration. I assure the honourable senator that the views of all authorities have been taken into consideration.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Meat Export Charge Bill 1 973 Meat Export Charge Collection Bill 1 973 States Grants (Home Care) Bill 1 973 Aged Persons Homes Bill 1973 Delivered Meals Subsidy Bill 1973 Air Navigation Bill 1973 Atomic Energy Bill 1973 Aliens Bill 1973
Territory Authorities (Financial Provisions) Bill 1 973 Air Accidents (Australian Government Liability) Bill 1 973 Superannuation Bill (No. 3) 1973 Sheltered Employment (Assistance) Bill 1973 Handicapped Children (Assistance) Bill 1973 Conciliation and Arbitration Bill 1973
– On behalf of my colleague, the Special Minister of State, I present for the information of honourable senators ‘Procedures for Australian Government Grants to Local Government’, a joint paper presented by the Special Minister of State and the Minister for Urban and Regional Development.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the annual report of the Commonwealth Scholarships Board for 1972.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present the first report of the Migrant Task Force- South Australia, together with a brief resume of the report.
-Is Government business, notice of motion No. 2, standing in the name of Senator Murphy, formal or not formal?
Motion (by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill Tor an Act relating to the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to implement the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and for other purposes.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That standing order 127 be suspended to enable business of the Senate, notices of motion Nos. 1 , 2 and 3 to be dealt with.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That at 4.30 p.m. intervening business be postponed until after consideration of Government business, order of the day No. 18.
– I present the report of Estimates Committee B relating to the particulars of proposed expenditure for the year 1973-74, together with the Hansard record of the Committee ‘s proceedings.
Ordered that the report be printed.
-I present the report of Estimates Committee C on the particulars of proposed expenditure for the year 1973-74, together with the Hansard report of the evidence taken.
Ordered that the report be printed.
-I present the report of Estimates Committee E on the particulars of proposed expenditure for the year 1973-74, together with the Hansard report of the evidence taken. Before formally moving that the report be printed I want to refer to paragraph 5 of the report because it is of some significance when compared with the reports of Estimates Committees of previous years. Paragraph 5 states:
The Committee was not able to conclude its consideration of the estimates of expenditure for the Depanment of Aboriginal Affairs because of the great number of questions which senators wished to ask on Document A, Division 1 12, subdivision 3, line 01, an. amount of $70,050,000 for payment to the Aboriginal Advancement Trust Accounts. This included an item of $700,000 for support of turtle and crocodile farms, which were the subject of Senators’ interest. Without expressing any opinion on these projects, the Committee recommends that this item be subject to continuing scrutiny.
At this stage I would like to point out that it is not intended that the continuing scrutiny be carried out by Estimates Committee E due to the number of inquiries made, the information sought and the complex nature of the operations of the company involved in this matter. The Committee is aware that inquiries into this matter are being conducted at present by the Special Minister of State (Senator Willesee) and by the Auditor-General. It is felt that after the report of the Auditor-General is tabled and considered by the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Public Accounts, that Committee might decide to initiate an inquiry on this matter.
During consideration of the Estimates considerable reference was made to what action the Public Accounts Committee should have taken in this matter. I do not propose to speak on that now. But when the Estimates are being considered by the Committee of the Whole I propose in my capacity as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee to make the Committee’s position quite clear to the chamber. I thank the Senate for its indulgence in allowing me to speak to this report, particularly to paragraph 5, because it is of some significance when compared with the reports of other Estimates Committees. I also hope during the consideration of the Estimates to discuss the delay that took place in the examination of the appropriations and to speak about the conduct of questioning.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Senator DONALD CAMERON (South Australia) I present the report of Estimates Committee D on the particulars of proposed expenditure for the year 1973-74, together with the Hansard report of the evidence taken.
Ordered that the report be printed.
-I present the report of the Estimates Committee F on the particulars of proposed expenditure for the year 1973-74, together with the Hansard report of the evidence taken and move:
That the report be printed.
I want to make some reference to paragraph 3 of the Committee ‘s report which states:
The Committee further reports that it was unable to complete its examination of the Particulars of Certain Proposed Expenditure in respect of the Year ending on 30 June 1974 for the Department of Minerals and Energy, Division 890, Subdivision 1.- Plant and Equipment- Item 04 (purchase of pipes and associated equipment for the Moomba-Sydney Pipeline) $54,000,000; Sub-division 2-(for expenditure under the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Power Act) $13,100,000; Sub-division 3- (for expenditure under the Atomic Energy Act) $1,388,000; 4-(for expenditure under the Pipeline Authority Act) $107,000,000; and Division 891,-Other Services Item 01. (Coal Exploration) $ 1 ,000,000.
The Committee examined the estimates for 2 departments on Monday, 12 November, from 2 p.m. until 6 p.m., and then from 7.30 p.m. until 10.30 p.m., and at that time it seemed it was unable to complete its examination of the matters referred to it. The Committee then adjourned. The Committee yesterday met to consider its report and approved of the report which I have presented. The matters that have not been completed will be completed in the Committee of the Whole.
-I seek leave to speak on the motion if leave is necessary.
– I am advised by this learned Clerk that you do require leave. Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I am a member of Estimates Committee F and I acknowledge the report that has been presented to the Senate. There are some important aspects of this report which it is necessary to draw to the attention of the Senate. The Chairman of the Committee has noted that section 3 of the report contains the words:
The Committee further reports that it was unable to complete its examination of the Particulars of Certain Proposed Expenditures in respect of the Year ending on 30 June 1 974 for the Department of Minerals and Energy. . . .
I mote that an earlier Estimates Committee in its report also stated that it was unable to complete its examination. This seems to me to be a unique situation as I am unaware of any other occasion when an Estimates Committee has reported back to the Senate that it was unable to complete its examination. I imagine that this is the first instance. Senator Wright prompts me to complete the investigation. The peculiar circumstances relating to the failure to complete our investigation were set out in some fashion by the Committee’s Chairman when he spoke a moment or two ago. However, the reason why this report is incomplete lies at the door of the Chairman, Senator Cant, and I am afraid that I must pass that responsibility to him. The obligation is on the Committee to complete an investigation if the investigation of estimates is to be of any benefit to the Senate. Senator Cant was quite correct when he said that he attempted to gain as much time as possible for this investigation but he was incorrect in saying that it was impossible for the Committee to continue its investigations on another day prior to reporting to the Senate.
Time was short and on Monday, 12 November, when we met we spent from 2 o’clock until 6 o’clock on examinations. The Chairman then brought us back half an hour early at 7.30 p.m. and later extended our sitting time so that we adjourned at 10.34 p.m. A reference to the Hansard report of Estimates Committee F is quite important because it shows that at about 10 o’clock Senator Durack was questioning departmental officers. In the midst of his questioning the Chairman suddenly rose and said:
Order! The Committee has completed its examination of the matters that have been presented to it. The Committee stands adjourned to a time and place to consider its report.
I suggest that the Chairman was entirely out of order and had no right to make that statement. I immediately spoke in the Committee. Mr President, I point out to you the great difficulty experienced when a chairman has made such a declaration. The time was late but there was an interest on the part of at least some honourable senators to continue the examination. Mr President, I draw your attention to the statement of the Chairman whose words were:
Order! The Committee has -
– Order! The Senate has not the benefit of having seen the report because it has not been circulated. The motion that it be printed has not been carried.
– I am giving the facts. I take it you are not taking objection -
– Quite manifestly this will invite debate but it is not for the Senate now to debate the report. That opportunity will occur during the Committee of the Whole. Bearing that in mind, will you now proceed to conclude your remarks, Senator Webster.
– I am not debating the matter but putting forward the facts of what occurred. Some members of the Committee say that we have not concluded the examination and it is important for several matters to have the attention of the Senate. I have noted that the Chairman stated:
The Committee has completed its examination of the matters that have been presented to it.
That was not a fact because Senator Durack was in the course of his examination. I acknowledge that the hour was late and that this may have been a wrong selection of words. I rose then and stated:
I disagree with you, Mr Chairman. Obviously you cannot make that statement when we are in the middle of questions.
The Chairman went on to say:
The arrangement, Senator, was for the Committee to commence its hearings at 2 p.m. . . . I do not propose to give any more time.
I objected and said:
It is not for you to say, Mr Chairman -
As you know, Mr President, I do argue with the Chair if I think it is wrong at times. I said:
It is not for you to say, Mr Chairman, whether or not we will finish. If we have not finished the questioning we will continue on another day. That depends on the Committee.
Regrettably the Chairman stated:
It does not depend on the Committee at all.
He went on to say:
I know that the Committee has to report to the Senate on Thursday. There is no time for any further meetings.
He later said:
The Committee has been considering item 04 for more than an hour and it still will not get rid of it. Members of the Committee want to come back to it again.
The Chairman then stated:
The Committee stands adjourned.
We had the difficult situation where a chairman was attempting to finish a committee hearing. He stated, as can be seen in Hansard, that he would not have the Committee meet again. It was regrettable that we had to accept that situation. So that the Senate will realise the great importance of the questioning that was taking place, I inform it that the Committee was considering estimates for the Department of Minerals and Energy and was dealing with an innovation. The Committee was considering 2 items. One was under division 890, subdivision 1.04, for the purchase of pipe and associated equipment for the Moomba-Sydney pipeline, an amount of $54m. The amount was not insignificant. We were further dealing with division 890, subdivision 4, relating to the expenditure by the Pipeline Authority of $107m. They are sizable amounts with which we had to contend. Our questioning was a continuance of the questioning at a meeting of Estimates Committee F in May of this year. Honourable senators may recall that at that time the Department had spent $6m or $7m. That amount had not been appropriated anywhere for the Department to expend. I believe that it had sought this money from additional Estimates and that it had already spent $7m prior to May. This matter was an important one. From knowledge gained as a member of the Public Accounts Committee I was alerted to the fact that some difficulty was taking place with this expenditure. At some stage that amount had to be recouped. It was the recoupment under these 2 items to which we directed our attention. I doubt that we received satisfactory answers to our questioning.
– Order! Senator Webster, you asked for leave to make a statement. The Senate gave you leave to make a statement, but there is a resolution of the Senate which states:
The Report of a Committee shall be presented to the Senate by the Chairman and if considered necessary may propose further consideration of any particular item. A reservation by any Member of the Committee may be added to the Report. The Reports from the Committee shall be received by the Senate without debate and their consideration deferred until consideration of the Appropriation Bill.
That is a clear unequivocal declaration by the Senate when it set up these committees. I suggest that the way that you are proceeding, Senator Webster, you are inviting the Senate to debate this report. The proper place to debate it, as the Senate declared, is the Committee of the Whole during consideration of the Appropriation Bill. I would be grateful if you would conclude your remarks.
-Mr President, I had sought leave, and I had sought it as it was necessary, as you said in the early part of your statement, to direct the Senate’s attention, on the motion for the acceptance of this report, to the fact that there should be some provisos. I sought leave. My understanding is that I have leave at the moment. I will conclude my remarks, but I wish to draw 2 other important points to the Senate ‘s attention.
– Do the other matters relate to a debate that should be, under the terms of the Senate’s resolution, referred to during a debate in the Committee of the Whole?
-Mr President, if the advice which you have read to us were to have any impact it would probably be necessary for a senator to point out difficulties which may have arisen when he rises on the motion for the adoption of the report so that he can move for an extension of time for the inquiry.
– Order! The motion is not one for the adoption of the report. It is simply that the report be printed. The adoption will take place at a later stage. I would be grateful if you would draw your remarks to a conclusion.
– I rise on a point of order. As I understand the position, the terms under which the Estimates Committees have been set up and which you have read, Mr President, say that the Senate will receive a report without debate. That has been done. The motion is that the report be printed. Is it not possible to speak on that motion?
– Yes. Of course a senator can speak to it. The subject matter of the report must not be debated. On this occasion Senator Webster sought leave to make some comments. The Senate granted leave. The Senate has declared that at this stage the report shall not be debated. It is my opinion that Senator Webster has been debating the report. Therefore, I asked him to draw his remarks to a conclusion. The opportunity will be presented during the debate in the Committee of the Whole to deal with this report.
– I will conclude quickly. There are 2 important matters to which I must refer.
– You do not have to refer to them.
– I feel that in my situation I must.
– All right, I will hear you.
-The 2 further matters which required questioning by members of the Committee- I doubt that we received a proper answer- related to an opinion which had been presented to the Government on the Pipeline Authority Act.
– I rise on a point of order. Senator Webster is deliberately canvassing the debate which will take place later. Mr President, I ask you to take the necessary action.
- Senator Webster, name the matters which are causing you concern without debating them.
– I conclude quickly, but the importance of these matters will be seen. I have stated the limits in relation to the moneys that were sought under the Pipeline Authority Act. I mention that the Government had received an opinion that that Act was wholly unconstitutional. It required some investigation on our part to find out whether we should report to the Senate on the very important matter of expenditure of this amount. That spread into a number of areas. The Committee was still investigating the matter when the Chairman chopped off the opportunity to discuss it. That was something to which I took objection. I suggest to the Senate that there should be a further opportunity to debate this matter.
– There will be a further opportunity.
Senator CANT (Western Australia )-There has been an attack on me.
– Order! Senator Cant, you have to seek leave to make a statement.
– I ask for leave to make a personal explanation.
– On the ground that you have been misrepresented?
– On the ground of the attack that has been made on me.
-Is it on the ground that you have been misrepresented or misreported?
-I do not think that I have been fully reported.
– It is up to the Senate. Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I advert to only one statement made by Senator Webster, and that is: Had the Government received an opinion as to the validity of the Pipeline Authority Act? Let me put the Senate right in the picture on this question. It was this question which caused all the trouble. At 12.30 p.m. on Monday I received a telephone message from someone representing Senator Webster asking me to have an officer from the Attorney-General’s Department or an opinion from the Department at the meeting of Estimates Committee F as to the validity of the Pipeline Authority Act. I tried to contact the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) to get his advice on this matter, but he was at a Cabinet meeting and I was unable to contact him. The meeting opened at 2.5 p.m. that day. At the conclusion of the consideration of the estimates for the Department of the Northern Territory, because we were sitting in the chamber and because I thought that people might want to have a cigarette or go to the toilet, I adjourned the Committee for 10 minutes and asked members to return for a private meeting before we started on the estimates for the Department of Minerals and Energy. I advised the Committee of the message that I had received from Senator Webster. He said that that was not the message that he had sent me. He had asked someone to ask me to have an opinion from the Attorney-General’s Department as to the validity of the Pipeline Authority Act.
– As I told the Committee, my message was to the Minister.
– Nevertheless, it got to me as Chairman of the Committee. I thought that I had to give a ruling on this question. I criticised Senator Webster for making an application to me at 12.20 p.m. on the day of the meeting, when that meeting had been set down more than a fortnight previously. I accepted Senator Webster’s explanation that he had found only that day that the information had come into his hands.
– He alleged.
– He stated it. It was not an allegation. I do not want to be unfair to the honourable senator; nor do I want him to be unfair to me. I then stated that I would not permit questions of a legal nature to be asked, because they were not allowed in this chamber and on several occasions in the Senate you, Mr President, had ruled out of order questions asking for legal opinions. I then said that the Parliament of Australia had the powers that it asserted that it had. It had asserted that it had the power to pass the Pipeline Authority Act. If anyone was aggrieved by the passing of that Act or thought that it was invalid, he had his remedy by going to the High Court of Australia. The High Court is the protector of the Australian Constitution. Not being trained in law but having on my Committee an honourable senator who is so trained, in the person of Senator Durack, I asked for his advice and he said that my ruling was legally correct.
Senator Durack then asked that he be allowed to ask questions of fact. I asked him what his question of fact was in order to determine whether I would allow it, and he said that it was as to whether the Department had received an opinion that the Pipeline Authority Act was invalid. I agreed to allow that question and then stated that I would be the judge as to whether any further questions were legal questions or questions of fact and that the Minister would be the judge as to whether they should be answered if they were on matters of policy. This created all the confusion. Senator Webster came into the Committee as the agent of Sir William Pettingell of the Australian Gas Light Co., and that is what he is offended about at this stage. Mr President, I have nothing further to say until the debate is resumed.
– I wish to speak to the motion ‘That the report be printed ‘.
– Order! I have ruled already that there can be no debate on the presentation of a report. The question is: ‘That the report be printed ‘.
- Mr President, I asked for your ruling as to whether I could speak on the motion ‘That the report be printed’ and you said that I could.
– No, I did not.
– You said that it could be done.
– I am reminded that I did rule that way; but I would be grateful if you would speak to the motion relating to the printing of the report in the shortest possible time.
– I thought I had a right to speak.
– Yes. I have accorded you that, and I have apologised.
-I rise only to put the proposition that the Committee should be able to sit again and complete its consideration of these very important estimates. I do not want to get involved in the discussion that has taken place on why the Committee did not complete its consideration of the estimates and whether the Chairman, Senator Cant, was to blame. The fact remains that we did not complete our consideration of some very important estimates. They were referred to by Senator Cant when he presented the report. They involve the expenditure of more than $150m. They relate to such important matters as the appropriations for the Atomic Energy Commission, the Pipeline Authority and the Moomba to Sydney pipeline. It is a fact that we were in the middle of our consideration and had not completed our examination. I had not completed my questions and I know that one or two other senators had not asked some questions that they wanted to ask about the pipeline feasibility studies that were taking place and other pipeline proposals that might be in the pipeline so to speak.
I rise to support the remarks made by Senator Webster in speaking to this motion. These are important matters and they have not been considered. I suggest to the Senate that it ought to give leave to Estimates Committee F, or direct it accordingly, to sit again and complete its consideration of these estimates. There is time for it to do so. The Appropriation Bill has not yet been passed by the House of Representatives. It has not even been introduced into the Senate. It must be passed by the end of the month, we know; but undoubtedly there will be time for us to complete our consideration of the estimates by then. I am advised that I cannot move an amendment to the motion ‘That the report be printed’ and that the only way I can get this matter before the Senate is to seek leave to move a motion. I will now indicate what my motion is, although I cannot move it. I would be grateful if the Leader of the Goverment in the Senate (Senator Murphy) would indicate whether he will grant leave for me to move my motion; otherwise, I will be forced to oppose the motion for the printing of the report. My motion is:
That the particulars of proposed expenditure contained in division 890.1.04, division 890 subdivisions 2, 3 and 4, and division 891 relating to the Department of Minerals and Energy be recommitted to Estimates Committee F for consideration and report to the Senate by 22 November.
– The motion before the Chair at the moment is that the report of Estimates Committee F be printed.
– I would have to consider Senator Durack ‘s proposition. I would have to speak to the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Cant.
- Mr President, I understood that Senator Durack indicated that if he is not given leave he will oppose this motion. I ask you to consider putting his request for leave to the Senate so that he will not be in a false position in considering the motion.
– I was saying that the substantive motion before the Senate is that the report of Estiamtes Committee F be printed. I was about to direct my attention to the Leader of the Government in the Senate to see whether he wished to take some action to accord Senator Durack a particular grace that is available to him, before I put the motion. I call Senator Murphy.
I might be able to consider the matter during lunch and give an answer to Senator Durack ‘s request.
- Mr President, Senator Durack had the call. I take it that standing this matter over will not deny to Senator Durack the right to resume his remarks. I take it that the understanding is that when we resume the debate on this matter Senator Durack will have the right to continue his remarks.
- Senator Cant’s motion was that the report be printed. Senator Murphy has moved that the debate on that motion be adjourned and that the adjourned debate be an order of the day for a later hour this day.
– I take it that I still have the right of reply to the debate.
-Of course. The question is that Senator Murphy’s motion be agreed to.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Does the honourable senator claim to have been misrepresented?
– I do.
- Senator Webster seeks leave to make a statement on the ground of having been misrepresented. Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-I will be very brief. Senator Cant said that I came here as the agent of a particular company. I say to Senator Cant that I have been in touch with that company. I am in touch with a great deal of the business community of Australia, as I am with a great many of the constituents in Sydney and in the area to which fuel will go by means of this pipeline. There is a great deal of consternation about this matter. I did not come into the Senate as an agent of the company which the honourable senator mentioned. I came into the Senate as an agent of all the constituents in Australia. I hope I will continue to represent them and not take a parochial view as some others do.
– I move:
There are some technical problems in relation to printing.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-! ask for leave to amend my notice of motion.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
As the motion was expressed originally it would have disallowed the general increase in sewerage rates for all types of premises. My purpose however is to disallow only the increase relating to business premises, whereby hotels, motels and other establishments will have to pay $25 as against $15 previously, for the first toilet unit, and $50 as against $15 previously, for each additional unit. The motion as amended will achieve this purpose. The Seat of Government (Administration) Act empowers the Senate to disallow any part of an ordinance, and this has always been interpreted to mean that part of a section of an ordinance can be disallowed. I regret that the wording of the motion is now very complicated but this is necessary to precisely express the purpose which I want to achieve.
I speak on behalf of the business people, that is, the people with motels and hotels in the city of Canberra. This matter is outside my realm of Queensland but, as we stated last night in debating the question of Senate representation, it is for parliamentarians generally and for honourable senators in particular to look after the interests of the Territories. So I bring this matter forward.
– But you would not let them have direct representation, would you?
– There was no occasion for it, as the Senate agreed last night. In this case we see an anomaly which has been created by the restructuring of the sewerage charges for the city of Canberra. It is interesting to note that previously the average householder paid $15 per annum for his sewerage pedestal. The charge has now gone up to $25. For hotels and motels the charge was previously $15 but it has now gone up to $25 for the first sewerage system in the hotel and $50 for every additional pedestal. To my way of thinking this strikes a blow at the tourist industry in this city. I am not arguing whether the rates are low or high, generally speaking. It is a matter of the relativity of charges for the resident and business community to those which apply to hotels and motels. I think it is possible that the people of Canberra have been spoon-fed for quite a long time by various governments. It is quite possible, from the information which I have, that they are getting off very cheaply even in the present situation. But I think there must be some relationship between what the resident pays and what the visitor pays when he comes here as a tourist. There is no question but that this high charge will be passed on to the people who come as tourists into this capital city of ours which has a particular advantage and attraction in being the national capital. Many people come here in order to see the workings of this institution and the surroundings which have been laid out at considerable government expense.
Even now we notice in the gallery a number of children. Continually we see school parties coming into this city in order to see the Parliament and Canberra. Is it right that these people in hotes and motels should be slugged at a much greater rate than the ordinary resident and that this charge should be passed on to children such as those in the gallery and tourists generally? We talk about the value of the tourist industry. As one who has been associated with it for over 40 years that is one of the reasons why I am speaking on this matter. If I remember rightly, this Government at the last election said that it was keen on the tourist industry. Here we find a striking illustration of where the Government is really slugging the tourist industry instead of encouraging it. If it is suitable to charge the ordinary citizen only half the usual rate for sewerage, then surely people using sewerage on a large scale should be entitled to at least the same rate if not a lower rate because of quantity use. I have served for a long time in local government. For over 30 years I have served as Mayor and as an alderman of my city of Mackay which was one of the first cities in Queensland to be sewered. I know that a great charge on the operation of the sewerage system relates to the amount of water which is used.
If anybody can tell me that people in a hotel or motel use more water for each pedestal than people do at home, then I will take a lot of convincing. In a home there is usually not only a couple but also very often a family. These people very often utilise the one system. As a consequence quite a considerable amount of water is used. But let us look at what happens in a hotel or motel with the average person who comes here. Most of us have travelled. When we go to a city and book in at a hotel or motel how long do we stay in our room? We are not there very much at all because we are sightseeing, visiting people, or doing other things outside the hotel or motel. Therefore the water consumption for each person would be a lot less in a hotel or motel than it is in a private home. The Lakeside Hotel is a new hotel which has just been built. It is a high class type of motel. I think there are about 274 units. Because it is new and because it is a high priced utility in the tourist industry I think its occupancy runs at between 30 per cent to 40 per cent. Here we are asking that hotel to pay $50 for each unit in each room. Probably 60 per cent to 70 per cent of the rooms are not being occupied.
I think that a very warped view is being taken in relation to these charges for hotels and motels in this community. An occupancy of 70 per cent for a hotel is a pretty good figure. Even then, 30 per cent of the rooms are not being utilised as far as the toilet amenities are concerned. Under those circumstances this seems a very undue and heavy charge in comparison with what other people in this community are paying. Under those circumstances this is something which should be restructured. For that reason I have moved for the disallowance of that provision. Over a period of years the aim was, and it still is, to lift the quality of tourist accommodation. One of the greatest moves forward made in this direction was the supplying of amenities such as toilet facilities in each room for the tourist. At one time one had to trot down the long corridor somewhere looking for the bathroom, the toilet or some amenity like that. Today because of this modern trend of lifting the standard we find that our hotels and motels have given this bathroom and toilet facility to each room so that people have this modern convenience in a modern way. This is what the tourist industry is demanding all over the world. If we are to pick out the tourist industry and slug it by comparison with what is paid by others, that will be the wrong way to go about encouraging the hotel and motel industry to lift its standards even further. I do not want to take much more time for we have been running late as a result of other intrusions that have taken place, but I do think that we should encourage a high standard of accommodation in this city and in the Commonwealth generally. I feel that the Commonwealth Government’s decision to slug the industry twice as much a unit as the ordinary householder pays is a very retrograde step.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse)- Is the motion seconded?
– I formally second the motion. I understand that I can speak to it later.
– When Senator Wood spoke on behalf of the business people of Canberra it illustrated that a community the size of Canberra with a population which is estimated within the foreseeable future to reach 250,000 has to rely on Senator Wood to bring its business before the Senate. It is a contradiction, of course, of the attitude that the honourable senator took last night, when he found a very important matter before the Senate, that Canberra business people should have to rely on someone from Queensland to do this for them. I suppose he should be complimented for being so nationally minded- possibly centralist minded- that he would take up a matter in the interests of Canberra. The financing of sewerage in any city is very difficult. We always complain when we hear of a new rate being struck by the various local government bodies for the provision of this facility. As I see it, the railway systems seem to find a very effective and efficient way of financing their responsibilities for providing these amenities for the public by charging the people who use them. Therefore the cost is borne by those who use the facilities. On the other hand, for the residents of Canberra- although it is very desirable to see the galleries full of tourists, the buses coming in each day and the motel complexes being built here- to have to bear the cost of the toilet facilities in these major complexes is perhaps asking them to bear an unfair burden. The rate of $50 for an additional unit in a motel is in proportion to the usage, I should say, since an ordinary householder is now required under the ordinance to pay $25 a year as against $50 for every additional toilet unit.
Senator Wood complains about the problem of the Lakeside Hotel which has 274 rooms but which does not have full occupancy. The tariff at that hotel would exclude many people from staying there. Some of the top suites cost $120 a night. Since that hotel is able to ask such a tariff it must also provide a proportion of it towards paying for the facilities that are now being provided here by the community. The point I would like to make is that hotels and motels in Canberra which are getting the benefit of the tourist industry and the promotion of tourism actually pay much less in total rates.
Sitting suspended from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.
– Before lunch I made the point that hotels and motels in the Australian Capital Territory pay much less in total ratesthat is general, water and sewerage rates- than do those in other capital cities. Because of the nature of the development of Canberra as our national capital, there has been a very large expenditure of public money to provide facilities such as the lake, parklands, many very attractive and modern public buildings and structures such as the water jet, and the carillion and the lighting of buildings at night. Perhaps I should have given prioity to Parliament House itself, which is becoming a Mecca for nearly all Australian people and particularly for children who feel that it is part of their education to come to Canberra.
In this situation, the hotel and motel industry has proliferated in Canberra. We have such hotels as the Lakeside International Hotel with 250-odd units and charging tariffs up to $100 a night. With complexes such as the one I have mentioned and others, the sewerage system must provide for the potential use. Of course, the numbers of residents at particular times fluctuate. The hotels have peak periods and less busy periods, but the facilities have to be provided to service the potential of a motel or hotel. Naturally, the cost is larger because of the larger size. We can imagine the sort of outcry we would have from the proprietors, the licence holders and lessees of these organisations if the National Capital Development Commission had not provided these facilities during the construction of the hotels. The expenditure of a very large amount of money is involved. Senator Wood mentioned that the use of water in these facilities contributes to the cost of the sewerage. This is not completely correct because there is no charge for water in the sewerage accounts. This is included in the water accounts.
It is my view, and I believe it is one that can be sustained, that the tourist industry should have to pay its way in the form of paying charges which accrue as a result of the development of these big accommodation complexes in the Australian Capital Territory. I think it is fair to ask why the industry should not contribute. I wonder whether the hotels and motels charge a cheaper tariff as the result of their low total rates. I refer now to Brisbane, which is the capital city of Senator Wood ‘s home State. He did not draw our attention to the charges that apply there, but I will. Whereas Senator Wood complained that the fees in the Australian Capital Territory had been increased from $15 a unit to $25 for the first unit and $50 for every additional unit, in Brisbane the charges are $52 for each of the first to seventh unit, $65 for each of the eighth to eleventh unit and $78 for the twelfth and each additional unit. This comparison makes it quite obvious that the charges that are being made under this ordinance are quite reasonable. Of course, they add to the cost of accommodation. I think we must relate the charges which apply in hotels in Canberra to charges which apply elsewhere. Rate on a room or unit at the Lakeside International Hotel is an average of $98, whereas the rates on the Wentworth Hotel in Sydney is $594 for a unit.
– How long is that for?
– This is per unit per year. It is an indication of how these charges have escalated.
– I do not think you are taking a fair calculation when you say $98. Is that an average?
– I saw a set of figures. I should like to have had them available, but evidently the officer who was advising earlier misunderstood the time of resumption of the Senate. He was to give them to me. I will make a point of placing them on the table of the Senate when I receive them.
– A room could cost that amount a night, but the average room costs $27 or $28.
– I will supply the documentation for honourable senators. I have asked that the figures be made available to me. The Wentworth Hotel in Sydney pays rates of $594 a year per room or unit. The Southern Cross Hotel in Melbourne pays rates of $437 a year per room. The Lakeside International Hotel in Canberra pays $98 a year. So, on that comparison the Australian Capital Territory hotels are very well catered for by the local authorities.
– The Australian Capital Territory has a population of about 150,000, not 1 or 2 million, as other capitals have. You are talking a lot of rubbish.
– The honourable senator must remember that, although the population in the Australian Capital Territory is in excess of 150,000, the tourist population exceeds that figure. I have heard estimates that more than 300,000 tourists come to Canberra, and a proportion of those tourists would seek hotel or motel accommodation and would use the facilities which are available.
If we alter the present charges to the hotels and motels, someone still has to pay the bill. It will mean that the people who reside in the Australian Capital Territory will be asked to pay more for their own facilities. I also have some figures which relate to the Menzies Hotel in Sydney. The Menzies Hotel pays $ 1 ,0 14 per room in rates.
– Per room, per unit or per suite?
– Per room or unit.
– You honestly do not know the figures you are reading out. You do not understand.
– I have quoted the total annual rates- that is, the water, sewerage and general rates- paid by hotels or motels in Canberra. The rates I have quoted are the charges paid per room or unit, and such charges are cheaper in Canberra by far.
– Is this per room or unit?
-Room or unit, yes. One can have an en suite room or one can have a room which does not have facilities so that one has to toddle down the passageway.
– What about the larder? Is that a room?
– What about what?
– You would not understand.
– The honourable senator would be a specialist in larders because his head is made of lard.
– Where did you get this information?
– These statistics are provided in the report which has been submitted by the National Capital Development Commission on the rates charged in Canberra. The report makes comparisons with the rates charged to hotels and motels in other cities.
– Can you table this document?
– I said that I would, and I certainly will table the document. But I want to get on record comparisons of the rates charged at certain hotels. The Menzies Hotel in Sydney pays $1,014 total annual rates, the Park Royal in Adelaide pays $257, and the Canberra Rex in Canberra pays $ 124.
– That is what they pay?
Senator O’BYRNE They are the total annual rates, yes. So if we compare the $594 paid by the Wentworth Hotel in Sydney with the $98 paid by the Lakeside Hotel in Canberra, and if we compare the $1,014 paid by the Menzies Hotel in Sydney with the $124 paid by the Canberra Rex, we can see that the tourist industry in Canberra is being very well served by the Commonwealth, by the Commission and by the people of Canberra generally. I would like to make another point. I know that Senator Wood has spent a lifetime promoting the tourist industry. I want to compliment him on the work that he has done. I also want to encourage the development of the tourist industry in Canberra because, as I said before, Canberra is a mecca for Australians, and the growing numbers of people that visit here annually should be properly catered for. On the other hand, we have an obligation to see that the charges for these services are borne with equity. If the numbers of people using these facilities are such that the cost of installation and other servicing charges require the imposition of rates of this level, we should see that these charges are implemented. The motion for the disallowance of this ordinance is a matter for the Senate to decide. I believe for reasons of equity and fairness that these charges should be maintained.
– The Opposition will support the motion moved by Senator Wood. We support it for a number of reasons. But at the outset I ought to make it quite clear that the Opposition is not opposed to the general principle that the residents of Canberra should pay for the services they receive. That ought to be made clear because when these rates were originally introduced, I think back in 1968, it will be recalled that the present Government, the then Opposition, attempted to have the relevant ordinance disallowed. I think the proposal was to charge $ 10 per pedestal, and we said at that time that some rates ought to be imposed upon the residents of Canberra. What we are saying is that those rates imposed by means of this Ordinance upon class 5 dwellings, I think it is- we talked a lot about hotels and motels- tend to be a punitive tax. We take no exception to the fact that for the normal classes 1, 2, 3 and 4 dwellings the rate has gone from $15 to $25 while the additive charge has gone, I think, from $10 to $12.50. That is fair and reasonable. However, we question why hotels should be singled out to pay $25 for the first pedestal and $50 for each additional pedestal when the remainder of the Canberra community pays basically $25 with a $12.50 additive.
I would like to make just one comment on Senator O’Byrne’s comparative figures. It is almost impossible to compare these sorts of figures. As you remarked this morning at question time, Mr President, one ought to attempt to compare comparables. It is not reasonable to compare the Southern Cross Hotel in Melbourne with the Lakeside Hotel in Canberra or some hotel in Brisbane. There are all sorts of interrelated facts to which one does not have access when making such comparisons. Perhaps I could give a simple illustration of this. With 2 colleagues of mine I happen to be attempting to pay off- I do not own it- a house in Canberra which has 2 pedestals in it. I understand that the sewerage rate to be imposed on my colleagues and I will be $25 per annum. I regard that as a very minor imposition. I live in a country town in Western Australia of some 18,000 people. In my own residence I have 3 pedestals, and I pay some $ 1 04 per annum in sewerage rates.
So if one makes the comparisons made by Senator O ‘Byrne, is one really comparing com.parables? If we are talking about equity between the communities, surely the rates paid per pedestal by the residents of my own home town is nowhere near comparable with that paid by the residents of Canberra. The argument may be advanced that the residents of the Capital Territory ought to pay some sort of national average, but I understand the argument that is used in the Capital Territory is that the residents ought to pay a reasonable or proper sum towards the actual cost of what it is costing in Canberra to provide these amenities. We have no quarrel with that. But for me to attempt to compare what I am paying per pedestal in Canberra with what I am paying per pedestal in Bunbury is, I think, a completely futile exercise. They are 2 completely different communities which have different problems in providing these services. The populations are different and everything else that one would like to think of is different. In this instance we are talking of Canberra, which is a planned city. Things are planned well in advance. The honourable senator was comparing these facilities provided in Canberra with those provided in an old city like Melbourne which is almost 140 years old and which has all the problems of constructing sewerage works in built-up areas. I think such comparisons are quite irrelevant. Senator O ‘Byrne has offered to table the document from which he has quoted. I should have asked him to do so immediately he sat down. However, he did offer to table it and no doubt he will send it down to the table.
– I now table the document.
-Thank you, Senator. I come back to what I said originally. We are not opposed to the concept that the people of the Capital Territory ought to pay a reasonable and just share of the cost of the amenities which are provided out of public finances. What we are opposed to is one group in the community being singled out for what in fact is a punitive tax. For those reasons the Opposition will support the motion for disallowance moved by Senator Wood.
– Very briefly I wish to indicate my support for the motion. Our leader has indicated the general attitude of the Liberal Party Opposition in relation to this matter. I would like to commend Senator Wood for having introduced this motion for disallowance and particularly for his having amended the original proposal so that the present proposal is to embrace only the disallowance of increases in connection with business premises, including hotels, motels and other establishments. I feel that the Ordinance underlines the incidence of the unfair treatment of a certain section of the community, which I feel must be rectified. The increases in charges are extremely selective and represent a very heavy impact on the hotel and motel accommodation in the Australian Capital Territory. From the tourist point of view it would be most undesirable to impose a terribly heavy impost.
I believe that Senator O ‘Byrne possibly included in the figures that he cited ratings other than those for sewerage. In some States, the Council rates, water rates and sewerage rates are brought together into one figure. I felt that the figures he referred to surely must not be factual if applied to sewerage alone. The hotel and motel industry in the Australian Capital Territory provides some 2,000 rooms. An extra $95,600 would be required from the industry under this proposal to cover its guest rooms, plus the charges for staff and public area units. I have no doubt that the levy proposed in the Ordinance which seeks to double the sewerage rate for toilet units to $50 each after the first 2 units at $25 each would have a very heavy impact on the tourist industry, leading to an increase in tariffs. I believe that one of the biggest bugbears of tourism in Australia at the present time is the ever escalating tariff charges for accommodation. To increase the basic sewerage rate by $25 making it $50 across the whole of the business community would, in fact, increase the liability of this section by no less than $357,700. While this business community has a combined total of less than 12 per cent of the flushing units in Canberra it is being asked to pay more than 2 1 per cent of the total estimated revenue from sewerage rates in the year 1973-74. I believe that a very heavy impost on motel and hotel accommodation could well be reflected in policies in other parts of Australia. So I believe that from the point of view of undesirable selectivity, burdening on section of the community, the business interests, in this way this is wrong. I am completely in favour of the motion for disallowance of this regulation, as moved by Senator Wood.
-The Ordinance which is under examination at the present time has existed in Canberra for a number of years. But there is now a move to increase the sewerage rate for people and for business in the Australian Capital Territory. Senator Wood has moved that the sewerage rate for businesses be that which exists at the present time. I believe that there is a good argument for this. The document that Senator O ‘Byrne produced to the Senate is most interesting. I believe that a reading of the Hansard report of what he said will leave one as fully unaware of the facts as if one were to attempt to study the document from which he read. This document has been presented by a member of the Government as being a comparability study for 1972-73 of hotels and motels based on the National Roads and Motorists’ Association Accommodation ratings. If I remember his remarks correctly, what Senator O ‘Byrne attempted to do with this document was to compare the rates for water and sewerage for a hotel such as the Wentworth Hotel in Sydney- they would be some $500 a room or unit- with those for a hotel such as the Lakeside International Hotel in the Australian Capital Territory which would pay $97.82 a room or unit.
I have just received this document and I have examined it only quickly. But it is completely irresponsible to suggest that the figures here provide any basis for comparisons of what might be charged by local authorities for water and sewerage rates for a particular room in either the Australian Capital Territory or in capital cities. Let me take one example: Mr President, as you are a Victorian you may know the Hotel Australia in Melbourne very well. I think that I am correct in saying that the rates charged by the Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works are generally levied on the premises as a whole. They are not levied on a room basis. I imagine that what has happened here is that the total rate that is payable to the MMBW as a whole is divided by the number of rooms in the Hotel Australia. There are 102 rooms in that hotel. It is shown in this document that the total water and sewerage rate is $ 1 88.92 and the general rate is $21 1.37, giving a total of $400.29 for each of the 102 rooms in the Hotel Australia. The total charge a room according to this document is purported to be $782. Of course, this is entirely wrong to anyone who knows anything about the hotel business.
The Hotel Australia would contain numerous restaurants, function rooms, foyer entrances, book selling stalls and other facilities to which the total rates paid would have to be applied. In short, dividing the number of rooms in a Melbourne hotel into the total rates payable for that hotel would not provide a reliable basis for comparison with a hotel in the Australian Capital Territory. If we examine the comparison of some of the rates that are payable in the Australian Capital Territory in the various hotels that are instanced, we find that a completely wrong set of figures has been produced. Looking at this document, it would appear that one could name at least 8 or 9 hotels outside the Australian Capital Territory that pay well under the present $90 a room which it is suggested that the Lakeside Hotel is paying at the moment. I would discount the figures in the absence of further explanation. Canberra relies very heavily on tourism. It appears to me that the claim that the tourist industry should pay a higher rate per toilet than is paid in a domestic household is wrong because it is a charge that is levied on a highly selective basis. Apparently, one section of the community is required to pay double the rate charged to the rest of the community for exactly the same service.
I notice that in the submission put forward by the Australian National Travel Association it is stated that the business community in Canberra has a combined total of less than 12 per cent of the flushing units in Canberra but is required to pay rates totalling $357,700 or more than 2 1 per cent of the total estimated revenue from sewerage rates in the forthcoming year. That appears to be entirely inequitable. The new charge of $50 a unit would have a particularly punitive impact on the travel industry which obviously in these days has to provide flushing units, in addition to the normal ratio of units in public and staff areas, at the rate of at least one unit per guest. Of course, every unit is not used. What an entirely unfair proposition it is to compare hotel rooms with private residences. I was advised yesterday that about 68 per cent or 69 per cent of hotel rooms in Canberra are occupied at any one time. This is not a particularly good rate and whether such an enterprise in Canberra is a commercial undertaking is a matter for the owners to decide.
The increased tax obviously means that the tourist industry in this city will have to charge people looking for accommodation a higher tariff.
I can remember the then Opposition arguing in this place a year or so ago that cheaper accommodation should be available in Canberra. The present Government has a supposed preoccupation with the containment of inflation. This is certainly something that is wanted by the people of Australia at present. An additional sewerage rates bill of about $250,000 on the Canberra business community in one year can only have a serious inflationary effect. Such a charge will increase rentals and accommodation tariffs. Senator Drake-Brockman, the Leader of the Australian Country Party, indicated our view some little time ago on this matter. I have pleasure in supporting Senator Wood’s proposal to disallow the ordinance.
That the motion (Senator Wood’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed (vide page 1 839).
– I seek leave to move a motion to recommit to Estimates Committee F the items referred to in the Committee’s report, namely, those estimates in respect of which the Committee was unable to complete its examination.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
- Mr President, there is a motion -
– That the report be printed.
– Yes. I think Senator Cant indicated that he wanted to reply. Perhaps we can sort out the procedural difficulties in this matter. Senator Cant moved his motion that the report be printed during the course of the debate. If Senator Cant does not mind we could deal with the matters before the Senate together at the conclusion. But I think that he should have the right to reply.
- Senator Cant has a right to do that. If he elects to use his right he may speak either when he closes the debate on the motion that the report be printed, or to Senator Durack ‘s amended motion.
– Pursuant to leave, I move:
That the particulars of proposed expenditure contained in division 890.1.04, division 890 subdivisions 2, 3 and 4, and division 891 relating to the Department of Minerals and Energy be recommitted to Estimates Committee F for consideration and report to the Senate by 22 November.
I have indicated in the remarks that I have already made the reasons for the motion. I do not propose to say any more.
-I appreciate what Senator Durack wants to do. I am firmly of the opinion, having studied the way the proceedings went last Monday and in view of the opportunities that I gave for these Estimates to be considered, that any further consideration in Committee would be of no value.
– It was of no value because we were not able to get answers.
-One of Senator Webster’s difficulties; even at question time, is that he never asks a question seeking information; he invariably asks a question with an eye on the next question he will ask. In Estimates Committees the information that he wants could be obtained by asking two or three direct questions. But he wanders around the place taking 20 questions to get to the point. It is a complete waste of time and this is where the proceedings are delayed. It is not a proper interrogation of the witnesses at all. The honourable senator does not look to where he wants to go. As I told him the other night when I was trying to force the examination through in order that he would be able to get where he wanted to go, and I knew where he wanted to go- to consideration of the pipeline authority- if he can waste time so can I. That is the only way I could deal with frivolous and repetitive questions.
– By taking it over yourself?
– Yes. It is the only way, otherwise the honourable senator would still be going on the other matters. Had I not had to leave the Committee and put Senator Wilkinson in the Chair, Senator Webster would not have got even to consideration of the Pipeline Authority because I would not have let the Committee take item 04 with subdivision 4. 1 would have made the Committee deal with the other divisions first and would have deferred item 04.
– Because of the manner in which the Committee had conducted itself all day. The Committee commenced its work at 5 minutes past 2 o’clock and I would have been quite entitled within my powers as Chairman to have adjourned the Committee at 10 o’clock. Now Senator Webster challenges my right to adjourn the Committee at half past 10.
– No, I do not.
- Senator Webster did this morning. All that was wrong with Senator Webster was that he was not awake.
– Why do you not read Hansard? I did not challenge your right to adjourn.
– The honourable senator did challenge my right to adjourn the Committee and had the numbers there to prevent me from adjourning it, but he woke up too late. He wants to come in here now and repair the damage. The Committee met at 5 minutes past 2 and I had a break at half past 4. Then there was the private meeting that I spoke about this morning. We went back at half past 7 and continued until half past 10. The notice calling the meeting which Senator Webster received said: ‘I wish to remind you that Estimates Committee F is scheduled to meet between 2 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Monday 12 November 1973 unless otherwise ordered to consider the estimates for the Department of the Northern Territory and the Department of the Minerals and Energy’. I had already given the Committee, with Senator Webster’s concurrence of course, an hour longer than the Committee was set down to meet for on that day. In addition to that I had to have in mind the resolution of the Senate- the Senate makes these resolutions itself- that the committees report to the Senate on or before 15 November 1973. What opportunity was there from half past 10 on Monday night to have another meeting?
– Two days.
– Maybe it is 2 days for Senator Webster. I do not know, but he might walk around the lobbies here doing nothing half the time. It was not 2 days of spare time for me. With that in view I thought that the Committee should not meet again. Senator Webster is not deprived of anything if the Committee does not meet again.
– We cannot pursue our questions to the civil servants.
– It is not that honourable senators opposite want to investigate the estimates, it is that they want to interrogate the public servants. Is that what they want?
– That is what these committees are all about.
– It is not the appropriations that honourable senators are worried about, the $ 160m-odd they talk of; it is the interrogation of public servants.
– That is unfair. What we were trying to do in Committee was get information via public servants. Be fair.
– All I can say to Senator Young is that the Opposition has successfully buried the Estimates Committees.
– Why, because we were too penetrating?
– The Opposition may have the numbers but numbers do not mean anything in this situation. We do not have to provide background notes, we do not have to provide officers and we do not have to provide Ministers. Honourable senators opposite can move all the motions themselves but we on this side do not have to put anyone on the Committees. That is the situation that the Opposition has successfully brought about. It has destroyed probably the most valuable asset of an opposition that this Senate has had and if I have any say in my Party that is what it will be.
– It is a good job -
– Order! Senator Webster, you made a great number of allegations against Senator Cant as Chairman of the Committee earlier in the day. Senator Cant is replying and must be heard in silence.
– I do not get angry with Senator Webster over this matter. He is entitled to come in here and say what he likes but he should be fair in what he says. I did my best to get the consideration of the Estimates through but there was no co-operation. I was not prepared to continue to sit without co-operation. Senator Webster knows what I am referring to. I do not want to go into the matter in any depth but he knows the situation that was applying to the Estimates Committee at the time. I do not think that any useful purpose will be served by sending this matter back to the Estimates Committee. I am firmly of the belief that we will not get these Estimates considered by the Estimates Committee and that on 22 November we will be in the same position that we are in today. The investigation of the appropriation for the Pipeline Authority will not have been passed or, I should say, noted. The appropriation is not passed by the Committee, the Committee only takes note of it. Following the interjection of Senator Durack I now realise what is required of these Estimates Committees. No date is suggested when the Committee might meet. As the report has been presented, I do not know whether the officers can be made available.
– What is wrong with meeting next Tuesday evening?
– I do not know whether they would be available then, or when they would be available. That is something which the relevant Minister would have to tell me. The officers are made available over a certain period when meetings are called. Some of them have to come long distances to attend. They have other commitments. They were aware that this report had to be presented by today. I do not know their commitments. I do not know whether we can get them back. Over the period that the Estimates committees are operating there is a responsibility on the Government to make departmental officers available. If the Senate now decides that Estimates Committee F shall sit again, I suppose that in conformity with that resolution the Government would have to do something to make officers available. I do not know whether we would get the appropriate officers.
I do not have much more to say about Senator Durack ‘s motion. If the Senate decides to reconstitute the Committee to consider the estimates which have not been considered fully up to date- there has been about one hour’s consideration of the Pipeline Authority and I do not know how much longer members of the Committee want; then there are other matters to be consideredI would like some formal notice of when the Committee is to meet. I live 2,500 miles from Canberra. I give up a lot of time to attend to the business of the Senate. I would want to know when I am required to be in Canberra for this meeting. The matter is not quite as easy as everyone thinks. In view of the way honourable sentors opposite have been performing to date, I do not think that we would be able to deal with the matter on Tuesday morning. That is my considered opinion. We cannot sit on Wednesday morning because I am not available to chair a meeting then. I have a Caucus meeting to attend, and I will attend it. That leaves Thursday.
– You have not mentioned Tuesday night, after 7 o ‘clock.
– It does not take much thought to work out a solution.
– Some of us have commitments.
-AU these things have to be taken into consideration. Unless honourable senators opposite have something of substance and something more than they have been asking the witnesses to date, I do not think that the recall of the Committee to consider these estimates would serve any purpose.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– The question now is that Senator Durack ‘s motion be agreed to. Senator Durack, do you wish to address yourself to your motion again?
– No; I have already spoken to it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motions to disapprove Determination No. 657 of 1973 and Determinations No. 656 and No. 658 of 1973.
-I suggest that both motions be debated together.
– And that they be voted on together or separately?
-That they be voted on together, too.
-Is there any objection?
– I understand that the proposal is that the 2 motions be debated concurrently but that they be voted upon separately. If my understanding is correct, there is no objection.
– As there is no objection, the course set out by the Minister will be followed.
That the Senate disapproves the following Determinations made under the Public Service Arbitration Act 1 920- 1 972- No. 657 of 1973- Administrative and Clerical Officers’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service.
That the Senate disapproves the following Determinations made under the Public Service Arbitration Act 1 920- 1 972-
The determinations, it will be recalled, are in the form of Public Service Arbitrator’s determinations increasing the salaries of officers of the Second Division of the Public Service by 16 per cent and the salaries of officers of the Third Division by 12 per cent, at a time of roaring inflation.
I make it quite clear that in my view there is no question, in this debate, of the sanctity of an arbitrator’s determination. The first reason is that the Public Service Arbitrator in these determinations is simply formally giving his imprimatur or approval to decisions arrived at by the Public Service Board. Secondly, I suggest that this is a case in which the Parliament has a direct responsibility. This is not a case in which, under the Constitution, we are required to relegate the decision to an arbitration tribunal. It is a case in which the Parliament has the direct responsibility. It is pertinent to note that the Parliament has complete power and authority to deal with the salaries of its servants- in this case, officers of the Second and Third Divisions. It is legitimate to comment that no want of power can be urged for the abstinence of the Parliament from interfering with these decisions. We know that we are about to face referenda in which the Government will claim that it is necessary for it to have increased power to deal effectively with other incomes, but the Government cannot avail itself of that excuse in this case. My proposition is that if a huge increase is sanctioned in this instance it makes a mockery of any claim that the Government’s impotence is due to want to constitutional power. The total amount involved in these 2 determinations, according to my information, is $56m for a full year. So far, I have made a brief prefatory statement to my main submission.
My chief and most important submission is this: Great injustice is done as between different levels of officers if a flat percentage rate of increase is applied to salaries. Consider the case of an officer who has a salary of $20,000. If the increase is 10 per cent, his salary is increased by $2,000. Another officer has a salary of $5,000 and if it is increased by 10 per cent all he gets is $500. One officer gets $2,000, the other gets $500. This is not a process of fixing a differential between the officers at the base level to mark the differential in skill and responsibility; it is an adjustment by reason of a shift in the cost of living over a period. To apply 1 per cent to all levels of officers works quite inequitably, I suggest, against the lower levels of salary.
I am amazed that this percentage increase system has gained acceptance for so long. The reason why I take a stand today is that in this first year of Opposition, when I am quite free to move in this matter, it is time to register my complete objection to it as a matter of equity as between different levels of officers. Instead of a flat percentage a tapered percentage should be applied so that if the lower officer on $5,000 a year is to get an increase of $500 then the officer on $20,000 a year would be well paid by way of increase with not more than $1,000, probably some figure of about $800, to mark the different scale of living and expense to which he would be subjected.
Secondly, I object to this increase because it is quite excessive in a time of roaring inflation. As I pointed out, in the case of Second Division officers it is an increase of 16 per cent. There are grades of officers on salaries from $22,000 to $26,000, and an increase of $4,000 to an individual officer is completely unjustified. The scale of the increase sets a lead to other competing interests in the community, is in competition with the demands of other sections of employment in the community and aggravates inflation in a most significant way. I have indicated that it represents an increase of no less than $62m in aggregate in 1 year in the cost of operating the Commonwealth Public Service. It is inequitable in another degree when related to the affairs of other people in the community, particularly primary producers. It is shown by the figures that I have before me that by this increase the salaries of some officers will go from $22,582 to $26,225- that is to say an increase of almost $4,000. In July 1965 such an officer was on $13,124. That means to say that over the period of 8 years from July 1965 to May 1973 there has been an increase in salary of 100 per cent.
Consider the contrast. During that period the incomes of primary producers, taking the average over the whole area of primary production, up to last year decreased by 33- 1 /3 per cent and 40 per cent of farmers were living on less than half of the increment voted under this Determination. That is to say 40 per cent of them since the early 1960s have been enjoying a net income of not more than $2,000. All these figures have been put before us by the Bureau of Agricultural
Economics and they are indisputable. Although Senator Wriedt, the Minister for Primary Industry, in his newfound interest in primary production, is prophesying a great increase in the aggregate of primary producers’ incomes for this year and next, this year’s income has been achieved and that for next year is still to be harvested. Farmer Wriedt will find that various misfortunes may beset a harvest before the money from it actually gets into the bank accounts. Although there has been great improvement in meat, wool, wheat and sugar there has been no improvement whatever in dairying, fruit growing and small farming. It is on behalf of the small farmer that I speak and compare these bloated costs to which I am objecting in this Determination.
Lastly, the reason for my trying to disallow these determinations is that these huge increases are self-defeating. They are self-defeating to the individual because he goes into a higher income tax bracket and his income tax is quite severe. The higher he goes in that bracket the greater will be the relative imposition of increased income tax on him as against his lower level brother. So when that officer gets to $30,000 and the lower level officer gets to something like $7,000, the proportion of the salary taken in income tax from the higher paid officer is obviously much greater. If you project that on for 10 years and pre-suppose that you maintain something of the same relativity of rates of income tax as you have today, then you will have an immeasurable gap between the 2 levels that is self-defeating to the higher bracket and a complete illusion. Of course, it is self-defeating because of its impact on inflation, and everybody who becomes the victim of inflation has any value either in his assets or his income just draining out by reason of covered inflation.
For those 3 reasons I ask the Senate to disallow these Determinations. I suggest that what was wanted at the time these Determinations came into force was a voluntary reduction by Ministers of the Crown, say of $4,000 a year; a voluntary reduction by members from their new increases, say of $1,000 a year; and a conjoint operation giving a lead to a reduction rather than an ill-conceived increase such as we have in these Determinations.
– The Government opposes the motion moved by Senator Wright. The proposition is that the arrangements arrived at to deal with the salaries of senior public servants by way of the procedures set up under law should be departed from now in a special way. The honourable senator is entitled to move his motion. The procedure is there. But disapproval would have the consequence, in effect, of a disallowance of the increases which were granted pursuant to law to administrative and clerical officers in high positions in the Public Service. If one looks at the situation in general there may be support for the view, which Senator Wright puts forward, that the increases are not justifiable. There may be opposition to the view which he puts forward, but the Government takes the view that there is a system. Under that system there is conciliation, consultation and the arbitral processes. We are familiar with those processes which affect the ordinary citizen in the Public Service. There are similar procedures, similar practices of consultation and conciliation and tribunals to deal with the determinations or, where it becomes necessary, arbitration.
It is true that this was a consent matter. The Public Service Board and the staff organisations reached agreement. The application was filed with the Arbitrator under the Public Service Arbitration Act. The determination was issued. I understand that the cost is $56m in a full year. The Board has responsibility under the Public Service Act as a primary wage fixing authority. It deals with applications such as this every day. Dozens or perhaps hundreds of these applications flow through the office of the Board. The Board is charged with a very high responsibility and the Government has to assume that that responsibility is being discharged bona fide in the proper exercise of the powers of the Board, with due regard to the rights of persons affected by the exercise of these powers. Those affected include the staff officers concerned and the general public which has to pay to provide the revenue to meet these increases.
The policies of the Board are worked out and applied consistently by the Board. I do not think it is contended by the honourable senator that there has been any departure from the policies of the Board on this occasion. What has been done is a matter of policy, comparable to what would be done outside the Public Service. The Board found that other public and private employers had moved their pay scales for these groups in a way similar to what has been done since the last fixation and as was done in this determination. In the Board ‘s judgment increases of 1 6 per cent for the Second Division and 12 per cent for the Third Division clerical and administrative group were warranted. The determination reflects the viewpoint of the Board. I say to the Senate that we ought not to interfere with what is being done. It is no secret at all that probably some members of the Government felt exactly the same as Senator Wright now feels about the matter.
– The Minister for Labour.
– There has been a great deal of publicity about the matter. I think it is true that the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) spoke quite strongly and persuasively and with a considerable amount of fervour on this matter.
– He was probably right, too.
- Senator McManus says that he is probably right. However that may be, whether right or wrong, the fact is that we have entrusted these matters to a wage fixing authority. The law is the law which was laid down in these matters by the previous Government. The Public Service Board which is responsible for these matters is largely composed of public servants who were engaged by the previous Government. I think that there has been some slight change in the Board but, by and large, it is the Board which was set up by law to do these things.
– Does the honourable senator think that it is a satisfactory system when, in a sense, they are fixing their own salaries as well, are they not?
– If the system is not satisfactory, let us change it. But it has operated in this particular instance. The determination has been made. Where will the Senate be if it interferes in this way? I do not say that the Senate has not the power. Senator Wright is quite entitled to invoke it. But the determination has been operative for some time. This is not really the way to deal with it. I do not think it is a satisfactory set-up where these matters can be dealt with in this way. Perhaps it is necessary that each House of Parliament have the ultimate power and retain the ultimate power, in effect, to disallow. I am reminded that the salaries of the members of the Board- that is their own personal salariesare fixed by Parliament and not by themselves. Their salaries do not vary in some ratio to the salaries of those staff members which are determined by the Board.
– We have not fully effectuated that principle since we adopted the procedure of fixing them. That is to say, we have not exercised our full responsibility iri the fixation of the upper salaries so as to keep the lower ones down.
- Senator Murphy will recall that he opposed the increase in the salaries of statutory officers. We supported him.
-Senator Wright says that we have not fully carried out our control over the higher salaries. He says that we should do that in order to keep the other salaries down.
– Do not misunderstand me.
-I would not like to misunderstand the honourable senator because what he has said will be very unpalatable to most members of the Public Service and, I think, probably to members of the public. It may be the honourable senator’s purpose, but it is not my purpose, to see that the salaries of the lower paid members of the Public Service are kept down. I think that there might be a lot more to be gained if there were to be more equity and less gaps. But the honourable senator may not have intended that. Of course he will have the opportunity to clarify his statement if, in some way, I have misunderstood him or if his thought has not been sufficiently expressed. I will not pursue that. He can explain what he means himself. Senator Gair said that we had opposed the increased salaries for statutory officers. If I recall properly, in the Senate we deferred the fixation or the increase in the salaries of the statutory officers until such time as there had been a review taking into account the proper relationship between the salaries of the judiciary, Parliament, the Ministry, statutory officers and permanent heads.
Whatever arguments there are against the systemand there may well be cogent arguments about its operation in some areas- we have the system. Let us not interfere with its operation in this particular instance. If the honourable senator wishes to have a review of the wage or salary fixing mechanism, let that be attended to. We hardly have a right to interfere with a particular instance of fixation by the authority concerned, expecially where it has been arrived at by a process of conciliation and agreement between the parties. I therefore ask the Senate to reject the motion moved by Senator Wright.
-in reply- If nobody else wishes to participate in the debate, I want to reply briefly to one or two matters. Firstly, as Senator Murphy has said, these are consent determinations. I used more indefinite language by saying that they were a mere formality. I dispute the propriety of a Public Service Arbitrator invoking his procedure simply to give approval to an agreement already arrived at. The Public Service Board should take the responsibility of that and enact the increases by regulation. This is a mere travesty of arbitration procedures. Secondly, the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Murphy) says that the Government must assume that there has been a genuine compliance with procedures. One notices that the Government proceeds upon assumption. The gentleman who, by reason of this determination, has had his salary uplifted from $22,582 to $26,225, in May 1973 received an increase of $570-2 per cent plus $130 gross- by virtue of the national wage case. It is all very well to say that there are procedures of conciliation and arbitration in industry outside the Public Service- in the great wide world where industry has to earn its living. This gentleman by the national wage case received an increase of 2 per cent plus a gross figure of $ 130, making a total of $570 already in the kitty before the Public Service procedures were applied to give him an extra $3,600. It is time that we began a surveillance of hole-in-the-corner methods in the Public Service. True, the Public Service Board is an independent body, but it is part and parcel of the great bureaucracy and it cannot be left to have the final say if we are confronted with huge salary increases of this significance. To say that it is entitled to the final say is to ignore the permanent parliamentary precaution that has been in the law ever since it was given this authority. But it is not palatable or political to check these machinations, and therefore only the very few start the process of correction. For my part, this is only the start of the process of correction.
The last thing I want to say is that Senator Murphy referred to the fact that Parliament had brought back within its authority the duty of fixing by parliamentary enactment from time to time the salaries of the statutory officers, parliamentary officers and heads of departments. We did so. It is said that we did so to keep down the lower salaries. It would be a gross and malicious distortion of my remark, in view of the basic proposition I am putting here, to interpret me as saying that it is for the purpose of depressing salaries. My meaning should be understood. If today a head of a department is on $30,000 a year, which is near enough to his salary -
– Yes, I know- plus an expense allowance which is tax free and possibly the equivalent of other people ‘s $3,000.
– Which you introduced.
-I know that we introduced it. But the people who managed politics in the last decade were not the disciples of heaven and we do not regelate our affairs to there. Governments come and go and we each have our duties to perform. Let us assume that heads of departments, who are on $30,000 a year this year, will come along for perhaps $31,000 next year. Then I would think the fellow on $20,000 would come along for a $700 increase and the fellow on $8,000 would come along for, say, a $500 increase. So, applying a tapered percentage to give a better level of increase relatively to the upper level and to the lower echelon, one would get a much greater degree of justice than one gets now. The purpose of parliamentary fixation of these important salaries was that Parliament would prescribe the level for the most responsible in the community. Instead of having it bucked and interfered with by public service arbitrators and public service boards, those authorities are expected to take it as the maximum and not to exceed it by a wretched principle, and to fix underneath that level within the departments other salaries which, according to the responsibilities of the positions, are just. I have no authority to speak with any definitiveness in that respect, but I want to speak quite clearly so that my purpose will be known. Of course, it has been revealed and referred to that the concern in this respect is not exclusive to me, although I am being isolated today. There are some important factors in the community which will compel the Public Service Board and the Public Service Arbitrator to bring about equity, lack of inflationary aggravation and some degree of relativity between these salaries and the outside world before many years have passed. I hope that some support will be forthcoming in this Senate.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse)- The motion before the Chair is notice of motion No. 2, which was debated in the cognate debate. The question is that the motion be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– The question now is that parts 2 and 3 of Senator Wright’s motion be agreed to.
Question resolved in the negative.
– This morning, in answer to Senator Greenwood, I undertook to find out why a deferred answer given on Tuesday by Senator Murphy to a question without notice by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson had not been published in Hansard. I now inform the Senate that the practice is that copies of answers to questions upon notice and deferred answers to questions without notice are supplied to the Reporting Department by the Senate office which, on this occasion, did not receive copies of the answer. The missing answer was not delivered to the Reporting Department. There was probably some confusion or misunderstanding because the copy was headed, ‘Ministerial Statement’. However, a copy has since been sent to the Government Printer and will be included in Tuesday’s report when it is published in the weekly edition of Hansard.
Debate resumed from 10 October (vide page 1 146), on motion by Senator Cavanagh:
That the Bill be now read a first time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
-Is there any objection? There being no objection, that course will be followed.
This Bill amends the Excise Tariff 1921-1972, as amended by the Excise Tariff 1973 and by the Excise Tariff (No. 2) 1973, in accordance with Excise Tariff Proposals No. 1 introduced into the Parliament on 21 August last. The changes which operate on and after eight o’clock in the evening on 21 August 1973, give effect to the Government’s Budget measures relating to excise duties. A summary of the changes is being circulated. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.
This Bill provides for increases in Customs tariff rates and is complementary to the Excise Tariff Bill I have just introduced. The Bill is necessary to give effect to the Government’s Budget in relation to spirituous beverages, tobacco products and certain refined petroleum products. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.
– I move:
This Bill, to amend the Diesel Fuel Tax Act (No. 1) 1957-1972, contains amendments consequent upon Budget measures which increased the customs and excise duties on refined petroleum products. The Bill varies the rate of tax to be collected on diesel fuel which is sold or disposed of to a person who is not the holder of a certificate and is therefore not entitled to receive concessional duty treatment. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.
– I move:
This Bill amends the Diesel Fuel Tax Act ( No. 2 ) 1957-1972 and is complementary to the Bill I have just introduced. The Bill varies the rate of tax to be collected on diesel fuel used in propelling a road vehicle on a public road. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the provisions of the Excise Act 1901-1973 relating to the dutiable contents of certain prescribed beer vessels. Section 77b of the Excise Act prescribes the dutiable content of kilderkins, halfhogsheads, barrels and hogsheads. The present dutiable content of these containers was fixed at a time when all bulk beer vessels were handmade of wood and the prescribed dutiable contents reflected the average fills at that time. However, because of the turn to usage of factorymade stainless steel vessels for bulk beer the average fill of todays containers is now in excess of the present prescribed dutiable contents. In practice, for some years now, the largest size vessel in common use has been the kilderkin, the dutiable contents of which is being increased by 2.5 litres to 79 litres by this Bill. Similar increases are proposed to the dutiable contents of the other vessels named in Section 77b. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.
– This is a fascinating excercise in not knowing where one is at any given point of time in the management scale which we have operating in this chamber at the present time. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) who is sitting on that comfortable chair would know better than most people what I am talking about. We are discussing here a series of orders of the day. Order of the day No. 1 is being set to one side because, as I understand the facts of life, it attaches to order of the day No. 1 5. It would be far more appropriate and sensible, therefore, if the notice paper were to put the Bills in such an order that those which are to be conjoined appear in reasonable proximity to each other. We are currently considering order of the day No. 2, the Excise Bill (No. 3) 1973, order of the day No. 3, the Customs Tariff Bill 1973, order of the day No. 4, the Diesel Fuel Tax Bill (No. 1) 1973, Order of the day No. 5, the Diesel Fuel Tax Bill (No. 2) 1973, and order of the day No. 6, the Excise Bill (No. 2) 1973. 1 will be looking at those Bills in very brief style and my learned friend from South Australia, Senator Laucke, will be taking care of the Wine Overseas Marketing Bill 1973 and the Wine Grapes Charges Bill 1973. The honourable senator has a particular interest in those matters.
Therefore I will refer to orders of the day Nos. 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 as being taken conjointly and in one debate. I need to take a little time to look at these measures as I go through. The Excise Tariff Bill (No. 3) which is order of the day No. 2, gives effect on and after 8 o’clock on the evening of 2 1 August to the Government’s Budget measures which increase the excise duties on potable spirits, manufactured tobacco products and refined petroleum products. A summary of the changes has been circulated. At the outset I must say once again, as I have said on previous occasions in this Senate both as a Minister responding for the Minister for Customs and Excise and as an Opposition senator listening to arguments advanced during debates on customs matters, that one must compliment the Department of Customs and Excise for the most workmanlike way in which it brings its material forward. One gets the second reading speech; one gets a note on the clauses; one gets a summary of the proposals. All of these things are put together. I believe that many other departments could well copy this procedure with advantage to themselves and to the honourable senators who deal with these matters in this place.
Clause 1 of Excise Tariff Bill (No. 3) gives the title and the citation of the Bill. Clause 2 gives the date of commencement. Therefore we are disposing of a matter to finality in the Senate. On 15 November we are dealing with a matter which relates to 21 August 1973. One presumes that in the collection of the additional revenue these matters will be backdated to the point of time. Clause 3 of the Bill amends the Schedule to the principal Act in accordance with the Schedule to the Bill. Clause 4 provides for excise duty to be imposed on goods falling within the excise tariff and the items that are specified when they are manufactured or produced in Australia on or after the hour of 8 o’clock in the evening of 21 August 1973, using standard Australian Capital Territory time, or were manufactured or produced in Australia before that time, being goods which at that time are subject to the control of the customs or to excise supervision or are in the stock or in the custody of a manufacturer. One ought to observe that we are dealing nearly 2 months later with matters which are consequential in their revenue collecting scales as at 2 1 August 1973. One could make a nice argument that no one is due to pay any duty or excise on products manufactured after 21 August to this date because the Senate has not ratified the Bill and therefore it is not law. I do not think the Senate wants to take that nit picking attitude, except to observe that it is an untidy way of going about things.
The next item on the notice paper is the Customs Tariff Bill. It provides for increases in customs and tariff rates and is complementary to the Excise Tariff Bill (No. 3) which I have just been discussing. It gives effect to the Government’s Budget proposals in relation to spirituous beverages, tobacco products and certain refined petroleum products. It has been observed before by honourable senators here in the Opposition that it is the Government’s job to raise the revenue for the purpose of Government expenditure proposals. This Government sought to raise revenue on a very wide variety of changes and increases in the whole revenue scale. There were about 65 of them. The Government had available to it 2 alternative courses to that, namely, to spend less money totally or to alter in some way the tax scale. The Government was in some difficulty, having promised not to increase taxation. Yet at the same time having increased expenditure very substantially it had to find revenue by means of all kinds of devices, and this is one of the devices. So it is proposed to increase the rates charged on spirituous beverages, tobacco products and certain refined petroleum products.
The schedule refers in great detail to spirits, brandy, whisky, rum, my favourite drink, and many others. I do not intend to go into great detail in this regard except to observe in general that it is not the Opposition’s proposal to set the revenue to one side, although I understand that the Government itself has some proposals to alter its own revenue raising arrangements compared with what it originally set out to do. This could well produce a consequential situation in the Senate in which many of the revenue items which we had said previously ought to be regarded as part of the total revenue will have to be examined far more critically in the light of the fact that the Government has decided to alter some of its revenue schemes and not others. That is a matter which gives rise to very great concern amongst honourable senators in the Opposition. In the end, if the Government is to decrease its revenue it has to have alternatives to that situation. What is it going to do? Perhaps in due course, the Minister may care to tell us.
When we look at Diesel Fuel Tax Bill (No. 2), we are in the same situation as pertains to Diesel Fuel Tax Bill (No. 1 ). Both Bills make changes in the raising of revenue by altering the rate of tax on diesel fuel. Both Bills are justified in that area. Then, we have the Excise Bill (No. 2) which alters the basis of measurement for the dutiable contents on kilderkins, half-hogsheads, barrels and hogsheads. Those dutiable content rates were fixed at a time when all hog beer vessels were hand make of wood and the prescribed dutiable content reflected the average spills at that time. There has been a change in the method of container usage. Wood has largely been replaced by stainless steel vessels. These are far more precise in their measuring capacity. Therefore, there is a change in the general measurement scale between the old wooden barrel and the new stainless steel barrel system.
The stainless steel barrel system has been under observation for quite some time. Because of the unfortunate haste with which we are dealing with these Bills I am unable to get the facts from the library. But it is said that this change in the quality arrangement from a wooden barrel to the stainless steel barrel has had a further effect of increasing the rate of excise on beer over and above the actual rate proposed. That may well be true. But it it impossible at the moment to ascertain the facts. I would like to say this: I was involved, at the commencement of the last world war, in a survey of the wooden cask manufacturing industry. I can well remember that very
English craft of cooperage that has now very largely passed away. I imagine now that beer manufacturers have to pay an increased rate of duty they are sad that wooden cooperage has gone and stainless steel has come in its place.
The principal objection that I have to the passing of these Bills at this time is that we have been pushed into examining these matters rather earlier than we thought would be the case. Therefore, one has not had a chance to examine them critically other than to observe that they are part of the total revenue-production scale. The Senate has a very great responsibility to be careful about how it looks at revenue items. These are matters that governments have to judge and take responsibility for. But if the Government itself decides to alter its revenue raising proposals as laid down in the Budget- they were laid down across a very wide spectrum of revenue-raising- it cannot complain in any sense if, on subsequent occasions, the Opposition decides to examine some of these revenue measures in more detail and perhaps with some prospect of consequential amendment. On the question of the quantity scale for barrels, hogsheads and kilderkins, I would like the Minister, in his reply, if he can possibly do so, to tell us what is the percentage change in the quantity arrangement as it affects the duty in the scale of this change of measurement system. He may be able to do that. But I think that over and above that one cannot spend a great deal more time on these measures unless one decides to take the very straight forward and positive attitude of refusing the Government the revenue that is proposed to be raised by these various methods. The Opposition has not decided to do that at this stage. It has decided to take these Bills as part of the revenue raising process and to pass them accordingly, but with the reservation that it may be necessary to examine later revenue raising measures far more critically. On an occasion like this that may arise in the future I will seek to adjourn the debate to allow us adequate time to ascertain and examine the facts.
– I refer to Excise Bill (No. 2) 1973 and to the schedule attached to the Bill. I take this opportunity merely to express briefly my intense opposition to the obsession which this Government, following perhaps the precedent set by its predecessor, has with the acceptance of the metric system of weights and measures. If honourable senators look at Excise Bill (No. 2) they will see that the dutiable contents of a hogshead shall be taken as 234 litres. For many years without any difficulty people who dealt in liquid merchandise have had no difficulty in handling gallons, pints and so forth. But we now find for some reason which confers no economic or other valid benefit upon the community as a whole that this Government is intent on taking us into the area of metric weights and measures.
– The decision has been made for Australia to convert to the metric system.
– I know that the decision has been made. I have already referred to that. But merely because a mistake has been made initially, I do not think that that is any reason why it should not be corrected before disaster overwhelms us.
– The honourable senator will have to move heaven and earth -
– Just a moment. I will deal with heaven and earth on a more suitable occasion and when the matter before the chair is more apt.
– How would the honourable senator measure distance? In imperial or metric measurement?
– I would measure it in imperial measurement. I do not want to speak at any length now because I propose to raise the matter more adequately on a subsequent occasion. But this metric system has been adopted. I am not blaming this Government only for it. I do not want to sound unfair in this matter. But it has already caused a considerable increase in the price of milk and this Government has already used the device of measuring postage rates in grams in order to make an extraordinary increase in the cost of postage. Previously, it cost 7c to post a letter weighing half an ounce. Now, 20 grams is the maximum weight of a letter to which the 7c postage charge may be applied. That is roughly 60 per cent of the weight of a letter that would have been carried for 7c under the old imperial weights system. The post office is inflating the cost of its postage charges by using the metric system. As I said, on another occasion I will list a great number of commodities on which the price has been inflated simply by the use of the metric system. In the case of beer, I am informed on credible authority that the primary glass manufacturers are opposed to making litre bottles. At the moment, the normal bottle one buys is a 740 millilitre bottle. Last week I asked the lady in charge of our milk-bar in my little suburb for a 740 millilitre bottle of lemonade. She did not know what I wanted.
– Did not she understand about lemonade?
– She did not understand the metric system. She is in good company. Most of the people in Australia do not understand it, either. With these few introductory remarks, I will leave Excise Bill (No. 2 ) 1 973.
-The Excise Bills before the Senate are of some importance and they add considerably to the income of the Commonwealth Government during this present financial year. Most of these duties have been imposed already. They were imposed on the night that the Budget was presented in the House of Representatives. The effect of these measures can only be described as inflationary. It gives me no pleasure whatsoever to speak to them or to realise the impact that they will have on the community. When the previous LiberalCountry Party Government was in power I can well remember over the past few years that on nearly every occasion on which indirect taxation was increased Labor Party members would stand up and criticise wholeheartedly the attitude of the then Government. They said that such action was the very opposite to what the working man wanted. They said that he was an individual who wanted to see direct taxes applied on the basis that if a man received a small income he should pay little tax. If a man received a large income he should be taxed more heavily. That principle usually appeared to me to be reasonable. It was never in my imagination that a Labor Party would come into government and at the first opportunity would impose duties that we see imposed in these Bills. They are calculated to represent very excessive indirect taxation.
We find that the cost of those consumer products which the labouring man in our society appears to enjoy- for instance, cigarettes and beer- has been escalated quite significantly by the impost of new customs duties on items such as cigarettes, tobacco, petrol and even diesel fuel. I am opposed to the imposition of this type of taxation. I imagine that a government has a variety of obligations to take into account when it is seeking to raise extra revenue. My recollection is that before last December the Labor Party members said that if they gained office there would not be a need to increase taxation. While the Government has hidden behind the vow that it would not increase personal taxation it has increased indirect taxation. The effect of this type of taxation is inflationary. The tax on fuel, whether petrol or diesel fuel, has created an impost on all goods that have to be transported. It is impossible to calculate the cost of these goods without taking into account the cost of transporting them. I would suggest that there is no area of manufacture or transport which has not had to increase its prices since the introduction of this government impost. As I said, this is an inflationary measure and the Labor Government has something to answer for in regard to the great escalation that has occurred in the rate of inflation.
I noted an article which appeared in one paper this week which said that some of the industrial experts at present are saying that the rate of inflation in this country is beyond a joke and that desperate measures will now have to be taken to counter an inflation rate which will be running at some 20 per cent at least this side of Christmas but which early in the new year will probably not escalate to such a great extent as that created by the Labor Party in its first year of office. The inflation rate has a tendency to have a harsh effect on those people who live beyond the great city areas. It can be well seen that the Government’s move to place an impost on transport, which means an added cost for freight, is directed against those people who live beyond the seaboards of this great country. Indeed, this is another example of an attempt by the Labor Party to injure those who live in our rural areas.
I am surprised at the hard and fast stand that the Labor Party is taking against rural and primary producing industries. The Labor Party has deprived these industries of concessions which they had by way of small subsidies; it has deprived primary producers of the taxation deductions that were available to encourage them to become more efficient by replacing their old machinery with new machinery which in turn would create efficiency in production; and it has withdrawn from them the ability to be able to obtain taxation deductions on their assessable incomes for works of a capital nature such as the construction of dams and storage sheds for fodder.
The Northern Territory is not another area that will be affected by this legislation. Yesterday Senator McLaren said that when he visits the Northern Territory he indicates to the people how he has encouraged the Government to look after them. Of course, it was brought out in a Senate Estimates Committee debate earlier this week that instead of looking after the transport needs of the people of the Northern Territoryand the former Government of an anti-socialist flavour had seen fit to contribute $138,000 by way of subsidy for the transport of consumable goods into the Territory- this Labor socialist Government on the strength of an idiotic report put to it by the Coombs task force accepted a recommendation to the subsidy on the cost of transport into the Territory. This action alone has meant an increased cost of $ 1 50,000 or $200,000 to the people of the Northern Territory. This does not include the cost which will result from the measure now before us. It will add 5c on to the cost of each gallon of fuel, 5c to each packet of cigarettes and also an extra charge on beer. The increased impost on these items is against the interests of people who live beyond the seaboard cities. Without doubt, many areas of our economy have been disastrously affected by Labor’s policies in the last 9 months.
It cannot but be argued that the Government took a most unusual action when it reduced by 25 per cent the import duty on goods from overseas. This was an illegal action as the Government did not refer such a reduction to the Tariff Board. It just decided to write 25 per cent off the existing rates of tariff as they applied at the date that the Budget was introduced. This action has had an effect on not only those industries that are producing consumable items for home consumption but also those producing industries that were exporting overseas. These industries are finding that they are facing great competition from other countries which have lower standards of living and lower rates of inflation than this country. They are finding that it is probably better to diversify and to produce some other items. We are going to be divested of the benefit of having certain goods produced in Australia. In other words, we will not be so self-supporting.
I think that the first major firm that was being forced out of business because of the reduction in tariffs is located in the Albury-Wodonga complex. What stupidity it is for the Government to declare its interest in expansion of decentralisation and then to put forward a move that is likely to reduce the ability of private industry to employ labour. The whole basis of this Government’s taxation system is most harmful to the community. For some peculiar reason- one which I am well able to follow but which I am afraid the general public in Australia has not taken to its heart as yet- is the fact that Labor tends to hit those who would be its supporters. These very measures hit the small person, the person who perhaps is earning a moderate wage and who is hoping to build a house. This is the very man who has been hit by increased interest rates. This is one of the imposts which such people will feel in the coming year. The worker on a moderate wage, of whom we are so proud, probably has a higher percentage ownership of motor vehicles than any other group of people in the world. One need go only to the vast factories of the multi-national corporations of this country to see acres and acres of vehicles which are owned by the employees of those factories. It is a great thing that we have been able to build up such a standard of living in this society. But the average worker will not see the effect that increased interest rates, increased petrol tax and increased tax on cigarettes and beer will have on his pocket until about 6 or 8 months hence. It is only then that he will begin to realise that there is an inflationary tendency in this country and that all of these imposts will lead him out of business. As Mr Clyde Cameron said a day or two ago, it will lead to increased unemployment in this country. I draw the Senate’s attention to the fact, as I have done on a number of occasions- the public should be alerted to it also- that we have in office a government that is directed absolutely to the socialisation of this country. It will bring it about by any means and, if it means bringing it about to the detriment of the working man, that is what it will do. In support of what I say I shall quote from an article- I am afraid I have not the date of it- apparently from the ‘Australian’ published prior to the Labor Party coming to office. It is a comment on the book entitled Towards a New Australia’ which was written by Jim Cairns on Labor’s basic aims. The article states:
The basic aims of the Australian Labor Party are socialist aims. They are to change society from its acquisitive, competitive character, as it is in capitalism, to a humane, co-operative society which is socialist.
A change of this nature is basic and it is revolutionary. It is unlikely that it can be quickly brought about in Australia. It is unlikely that one, or even several, Labor Governments could by themselves do very much towards changing Australia.
Labor in office, as is the case of working-class governments everywhere, is very much subject to the strength of the capitalist power centres. They are still as much as ever the hegemonic power in Australian society. But Labor values are sound and strong values; there is no reason why they should not prevail over capitalist values- except that we ourselves may not stand resolutely for them.
There is no reason why the people should not choose humane leadership genuinely concerned for others and for the most needy first, rather than slick, social-climbing ‘swingers’.
I could go on. Jim Cairns outlines in his book the revolution that he hopes to bring about in this society. It will be brought about, firstly, by the degrading of the worker, and the measures we are debating are measures which will hit the worker most. The worker who hoped to have some pride in owning his own home will not be able to do so. The Government will see that he gets into a rented, government owned house. That is Labor policy. If he wishes to own a vehicle, the Government will see that the interest rates become so high that the cost of owning vehicles- and homes also- is something that the average working man will not be able to afford.
It will raise the cost of transport and fuel to such an extent that the average working man will not be able to afford to keep his vehicle. I know that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh), who, like Jim Cairns, so rightly recognises himself as one of the great socialists of our society, fully recognises that this is so. I would be surprised if Senator Cavanagh is not one who previously stood up and said that he abhors indirect taxation. I would think that he would wish to apply taxation on a different basis. But here we see Bills being brought in to the harm of the ordinary working man, and I say that they spell shame, as do many other items in present Labor policy, for their effect on the Australian working man. (Quorum formed.)
– What a shambles this Government is. Until 2 minutes ago in this Senate the Government that accepts the responsibility of governing this country was represented by only one Minister and no back benchers until Senator Keeffe came in.
– Because they would have had to sit and listen to Senator Webster make a speech for about the eighth time.
- Senator Cavanagh in the past has demonstrated that he understands the principles of Parliament. Will he now, cynically in order to take a quick trick, run away from those principles? Does he say to this Parliament and the people of Australia that it is not the duty of members of his Government to be in this chamber and that it is not the duty of his Government to keep the numbers in this Parliament? All the slick interjections we hear today cannot wipe out the appeal to high principle that he made when in Opposition. The people of Australia should know that the Labor senators are rarely, if ever, in this chamber. They are, of course, at the behest of their masters, in Caucus. This Government is in a total shambles. The business of this Senate from minute to minute, from hour to hour, is in total and abject disorder. No one can tell what the next business will be in this chamber.
The business is in disorder because the Executive government and the Government Party are in disorder. The democratic concept has been raped by the Australian Labor Party, and no other word will satisfy. There is today no executive government, no Cabinet government, under the Westminster concept in Australia. The Executive Government of the Labor Party has sold out and abdicated to Caucus. This is the very destruction of the Westminster system, and
I have said so before in this Parliament. If an Executive reaches a decision in private and upon a majority voting for it, under the Westminister system all within that Executive are compelled to secrecy and solidarity and to implement it. The idea that they, who have taken a Cabinet oath of solidarity and secrecy, can run from Executive government into Caucus and lobby amongst their fellow members to reverse a decision taken in Cabinet is the very destruction of Parliament. We are seeing today decisions made by Cabinet being reversed and destroyed. It is not good enough for Senator Willesee to seek to be tricky and clever today by saying: ‘We reversed a decision. Is not the reversal good when we reverse a decision so as to restore aid to the gold mining industry’? The fact is that the Executive Government -
- Mr Deputy President, I rise to order. On the score of relevancy -
– You cannot take it today, can you?
– We have heard both Senator Webster and Senator Carrick make the same speech about 8 times, and we are sick of it. Are we debating a Bill on the Labor Party? Has Senator Carrick said one word about any one of the 6 Bills now before the Senate? I ask that he get back to somewhere near the subject matter of the Bills. I have here a team of advisers to advise me. They are not experts on the operations of the Labor Party and cannot help on that.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse)- The point of order is taken on the relevancy of what is being said. I trust that Senator Carrick will connect his remarks to the Bills that are being debated in this cognate debate.
– They are absolutely relevant. I have said that Executive decisions that are made, including decisions to raise revenueand these are revenue Bills- are altered by Caucus. Mr Deputy President, nothing could be more relevant, and the response to what I have said proves that the soft spot was touched. Let me deal with these Bills. Not only are the Senate and the Business of the Senate, in terms of order of business, including the order in which these Bills are called on, a shambles- I think that comment is relevant- but the Cabinet system of government is a shambles because decisions made in relation to budgeting which, by tradition, are enshrined in the Budget and carried out, are now being dismantled and altered during the sitting weeks of Parliament.
Senator Webster has rightly referred to the fact that these Bills are revenue raising Bills which cut right at the heart of progressive taxation. The Labor Party has, as part of its platform, the support for progressive taxation and. the rejection of regressive taxation. It said the people of Australia: ‘Elect us and there will be no increases in taxes. We do not need any increase in taxes’. I need not demonstrate the relevancy of this statement. These Bills, step by step, are the skeletons of broken promises of the Labor Party. They are in direct defiance of the mandate which it was given. Worse than that, over the years the Labor Party has lived a sham. It has posed as the Party of the little man- the Party of the lower and lower-middle income earners- and has said that it would do nothing to hurt them and everything to help them. The whole thrust of this Budget is against the little person. Its whole aim and its whole drive are to hit the little person. Who is hit most by the imposition of an excise? Who is hit most when the sales tax on cigarettes, alcohol, petrol, oil and all the little pleasures is increased? Only the little, man, because the richer man can afford to pay. Who is hurt most when the Labor Party increases interest rates? It posed as a low tax, low interest rate Party. Taxes and interest rates are now the highest they have been in the history of Australia. This method of revenue raising is quite disastrous.
The Government says that it is in favour of maintaining full employment for the people of Australia, of keeping people in the jobs of” their choice and of keeping them where they have spent their years and have established themselves. Yet the Government has introduced general tariff cuts which will, in the months i ahead, disturb, on its own admission, tens of thousands of people who will be put out of the textile industry, the leather industry and the electronics industry. The only answer given by the Government is that it is only structural unemployment and that the Government will shift these workers. Recently Mr Whitlam made an illuminating statement. He said that he did not think that unemployment was as important as inflation. Little pockets of unemployment are occurring already in all country towns now that the Government has cut back the unemployment relief which was maintaining full employment in the country. What a strange kind of government it is that inveighs against multi-nationals- what an ugly word the Government has made thatand then proceeds, by tariff cuts, to destroy Australian industries and to force Australian people to buy goods from multi-national and foreignnational companies which are established and maintained wholly overseas. What kind of hypocrisy is it when a government imputes these things? I hope that I will never again hear this corruption of talk about multi-nationals. Every time the Government drives an Australian company out of business and every time it says that, by tariff cuts, it prefers to buy overseas than to buy in Australia it is making itself the mendicant client of multi-nationals and foreign-nationals. It is selling out to foreign companies.
Let us get this matter perfectly straight. The propaganda which was put out to bait the people is now reacting against the Government. I have never heard so much nonsense in my life as has been spoken recently. The Government, through this revenue raising, is trying to take money from people in the private sector and punish people in the private sector so that it can have its orgies in the public sector. That is the very simple solution. It wants a prices power not merely to control prices but to control the whole private sector, to control the charges which State governments and local governments can levy and to control wages. As the Prime Minister said, and most lawyers agree, prices include wages. The Government wants these powers so that it can reach out and congeal the private sector, control it and stultify it so that the public sector can grow. What we are seeing today is a series of Bills which is aimed at eroding the poor and at inflating the socialist rich. What we are seeing today is part of doctrinaire socialism which is creating the 14 per cent rate of inflation in Australia, which is preventing people from buying their homes and which is creating the scarcities, which Senator Cavanagh acknowledges, in housing which are hitting many people.
I say that this Government is now a shambles because of its broken pre-election promises, its policies, its failures to uphold its platform and its propaganda which is now exposed at every level by the jingoistic words which have been mouthed. How now for our narrow jingoistic socialism when we are selling out to great industries overseas? After all, this is the basis of the Labor Party’s economic policy.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned. .
– by leave- I bring up the report of Estimates Committee A relating to the particulars of proposed expenditure for the year 1973-74, together with the Hansard record of the Committee’s proceedings.
– by leave- Pursuant to the resolution of the Senate this day instructing Estimates Committee F to consider further the particulars of proposed expenditure for 1 973-74, 1 now inform the Senate that it has been arranged that Estimates Committee F will meet next Tuesday night from 8 p.m. until 10 p.m. to complete its consideration of division 890, subdivision 2, 3 and 4, and division 891, which relate to the Department of Minerals and Energy.
Proposed Joint Sitting
Debate resumed from 8 November (vide page 1 70 1 ) on motion by Senator Murphy:
That the Senate, consistent with its Resolution of 6 May 1971, which was transmitted to the House of Representatives by Message No. 153 of 1971, concurs in the Resolution transmitted to it in Message No. 20 1 of the House of Representatives, viz.: “That this House is of the opinion that-
That the foregoing Resolution be communicated to the House of Representatives by Message.
And on the amendment moved thereto by Senator Prowse:
Paragraph (1), leave out all words after “That the Senate”, insert “while not agreeing to the Resolution, transmitted to it in Message No. 20 1 of the House of Representatives, for a joint meeting of the Senate and the House of Representatives, expresses the opinion that planning for the New and Permanent Parliament House should commence immediately and that the site be upon Capital Hill. “
-At 6.52 p.m., which was 8 minutes before the Senate was due to adjourn, on Thursday of last week, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh), in all good faith and sincerity, moved that the question be now put. I objected. A vote was taken. The Senate, in its wisdom, decided that the debate should not cease, the motion being defeated by a majority of 5 votes, 25 to 20. That indicated that at that hour, because of the parliamentary and electoral duties, ill-health and such, there were only 45 out of 60 senators available to vote on a subject which would have an effect on the Australian nation for many hundreds of years- an effect which would be for good if the right decisions were made, and for evil and harm, and at great cost, if the wrong decisions were made.
I am one of the first to admit that perhaps too much already has been said about if, when, where and how we should build a new and permanent parliament house. I recall the debates of 1968 when I was one of the big majority in the Senate who voted for Capital Hill. Hindsight is valuable sometimes and on looking back I am of the opinion that if the Prime Minister of the 1950s and early 1960s, now Sir Robert Menzies, had had his way, made his decision and said that it was to be built on the lake side, possibly we would have a new and permanent parliament house at this time. If not complete and ready to occupy, it would have been under way on the lake side. That did not happen and I forecast that a new and permanent parliament house never will be built on the lake side. What I have just said brings into stark reality before us today the fact that we have a motion before us requesting a joint meeting of the 2 Houses of Parliament to decide certain factors regarding a new and permanent parliament house. An amendment to that motion was moved by you, Mr Deputy President, indicating that you desired that the Senate should not have a. joint sitting with the House of Representatives but should give an opinion that the new and permanent parliament house should be sited on Capital Hill. An amendment has been foreshadowed by the learned Deputy Leader of the Democratic Labor Party (Senator Byrne) in which he will ask the Senate to support the holding of a convocation, a convention, to decide how, when, and where a new and permanent parliament house should be built.
– A convocation of members of both Houses.
-A convocation of members of the Parliament as opposed to a joint sitting of the Parliament. Senator Byrne no doubt will give his views on this proposal if and when the time arrives. The first point I want to make now is that at 6.56 p.m. last Thursday when I stood in my place I did not do so for any mischievous reason. I did not want to delay a decision but I wanted to prevent the taking of two or three votes during the last moments of the parliamentary week when only 45 senators were available to vote. A little while ago there were more than 50 senators in this building. If we can come to a vote on the questions before us this evening I believe that in spite of parliamentary and other duties and health requirements 55-odd senators would be available, which is about par for the course for a nearly complete muster of senators to give a Senate decision. I said that in 1968 1 supported Capital Hill. At that stage there had not been built onto the present Parliament House the 4 wings or corners that have been added at a total cost, I suggest, of some $5m to $7m. Those wings provide modern office and committee accommodation and are of a pretty good standard.
– Per wing. At that stage this building needed a terrific amount of repair. I am not so solidly sold on Capital Hill at the present time. One of my reasons is the action taken by my Tasmanian colleague, Senator Wright, in recently introducing a Bill which also shows a map of the parliamentary triangle. It showed this building partly used and the new edifice of parliament house built on Camp Hill. It showed the remainder of the parliamentary triangle as not built on but retained as a national memorial garden. I believe that there would be no finer spectacle in Australia than the view from anywhere on the far side of Lake Burley Griffin across to the buildings now fronting the lake on this side, with the gardens, trees and statuary, and with this building rising behind and linking with a new and permanent parliament house on the Camp Hill site. As a backdrop there would be Capital Hill, untouched by buildings for all time. That would happen if we agreed to Senator Wright’s Bill. There would be a beautiful garden in the background.
In our Senate party room not so long ago it was pointed out to me that if you look from here across to the other side of Lake Burley Griffin you do not see the Australian War Memorial on top of Mount Ainslie; you see it at the base of the Mountain with gardens in both the foreground and the background. I believe that to have the new parliament house placed in such a situation on Camp Hill and with an everlasting memorial garden on Capital Hill, as Senator Wright suggested, would be a happy way out of all our afflictions. I am not going to go through all the arguments again and I am not going to listen to interjections. In this type of debate we should not be interrupted by stupid interjections and wisecracks. We should consider points seriously and speak freely of our many thoughts on this matter.
I make it quite plain that I will oppose any joint meeting of the Parliament to decide this matter or any matter other than a constitutional one. I believe that no good would come from it and that it would be an added waste of time. If we come to a vote I will support Senator Prowse ‘s amendment because at least that would kill the motion relating to a joint meeting. If that amendment is defeated I will consider the foreshadowed amendment of the Deputy Leader of the Democratic Labor Party. I want to say to the Senate that I believe all three proposals should be defeated. If I were the Leader of the Government in the Senate today, or the leader of the House- whoever has the power- I would say that we should withdraw our motion and the 2 amendments and allow Senator Wright to make a second reading speech on his Bill. I would say that we should make a decision on that Bill and insert in it the words ‘Capital Hill’ or allow Camp Hill’ to be specified as the Bill stands. I would at least let this Senate pass a Bill which would be a parliamentary document. That is what the Senate wants. Senate resolutions have no effect in law. They have no influence anywhere. Governments do not have to obey resolutions of the Senate. On the other hand a Bill at least must be transmitted to another place.
This Government appears to want to get on with the job of starting to plan and build the new and permanent parliament house and I believe that if it got a Bill from the Senate it would be put high on the notice paper for the remainder of this session. The Bill finally would pass in some form and would become an Act of Parliament. A decision would be made which would be to difficult to unmake, although it could be made by the will of Parliament. The planners could get on with planning. At the moment the Parliament has its foot on the development of this area of Canberra. The planners, who are experts- they have proved that- are standing off, waiting for 185 members of Parliament to decide where the new and permanent parliament house will be. The only way we can give our real decision to this nation is by passing a Bill and foregeting about motions which need not mean anything. In my heart of hearts, I hope that the motion and the 2 amendments will be defeated and that the Bill will be brought on and a decision reached. If not, 1 hope that we will prevent a joint meeting of the 2 Houses. If we do not do that and we must make an ineffective decision by way of resolution, I hope that we will opt for Camp Hill.
– Briefly, I find myself in a very similar position to Senator Marriott in that I would like to see both the motion and the amendment defeated. I would like to see Senator Wright allowed to go on with the Bill which he has presented to this place. I believe that, if the members of this Parliament had been able to make a decision years ago, then, in all probability, the site of parliament house would have been decided long ago. I believe that it was a wrong premise that people other than the members of this Parliament should have made a decision as to the site on which the new and permanent parliament house was to be built. Of course, it is a fit and proper proposition that the members of both Houses should be the people to make the decision. I do not believe that the members of both Houses have yet had a fit and proper opportunity to vote. I believe that when the last vote was taken many members were absent. At least that was so on one occasion. This is a decision which should be made when a substantial majority of members are present.
I listened to this debate last week and I heard speaker after speaker traduce the conditions under which the members and the staff in this place do their work. I believe that the conditions under which the members of the Senate, the members of the House of Representatives and the staff of this place work compare favourably with the conditions in any parliament house in Australia, and more so. Certainly they compare favourably with the conditions in Parliament House in New Zealand. When one takes into consideration that wing after wing, comprising 3 floors, has been added to this place, that every member, as far as I am aware, has his own room in which to do his work, that attendants work under at least reasonable conditions, and also the cost of the new edifice, it makes one wonder whether- at this time, when conditions are so inflationary, when the money is needed for other purposes and when there has been a mighty increase of at least 20 per cent in government spending in this country consequent upon the last Budget it is not a most extravagant proposition to go ahead in the near future with the erection of a new parliament house. Be that as it may, I do not believe, unless only as a very last resort, that this House should submerge itself with another place in making a decision on this matter.
– What does the honourable senator mean by ‘submerge 1
– I would like to see this motion and the amendment defeated. I would like to see Senator Wright allowed to proceed with his Bill which could then be sent to another place. My reservation about Senator Wright’s Bill- and I may be quite wrong- is that I think Capital Hill, in all probability, is not the best site in Canberra for a national garden. But, with that reservation, I say positively that I believe that he should be allowed to proceed with his measure. It gives, as someone said here last week, the very distinct form of legality. The wording of Senator Prowse ‘s amendment, as far as I am concerned, immediately rules it out of court because I believe that at this time Australia simply cannot afford the millions of dollars which would be necessary to erect the new and permanent parliament house.
-I desire to say a few words on this matter. First of all, I will oppose any suggestion of a joint meeting of the 2 Houses. I will do so for a number of reasons: It has no constitutional validity. Any decisions taken would not be binding or would not have any effect on anybody. There is the problem of having a meeting with no debate, as has been suggested, but with, more or less, a counting of heads on the 2 sites. This can be done in many other ways. There was a suggestion at some earlier stage that we clear the parliamentary dining room and have the meeting there.
– Or in King’s Hall.
– Or King’s Hall. I think there are many problems in that because while Parliament is meeting in one chamber or the other it is protected by privilege and many other things that go with Parliament but it is very questionable, if we meet somewhere else whether the law of privilege applies. I do not believe that just getting a vote or a count of heads would achieve anything. So, for that reason I am against any joint meeting.
With regard to the site, I do not see why we cannot vote as we did before on a particular site which members of this chamber believe would be the best place to put the new and permanent parliament house. I have always been a supporter of Capital Hill and I will continue to support Capital Hill. I believe that that is the most dominant place in Canberra. I understand that in the original design it was the site for the permanent parliament house. It is the most conspicuous place in this city. The mere fact that a ring road has been put around the hill does not mean anything. It can be filled in again, if it has to be. There are some problems about enough parking space under modern conditions. But, with underground parking, I believe that could be overcome. For that reason I have always supported Capital Hill, and I will continue to support Capital Hill. I intend to oppose any joint meeting because I do not think it will achieve anything. Joint meetings are provided for in the Constitution under certain conditions. This is not one of those conditions. Therefore I oppose the motion.
-A number of propositions in relation to this matter are now before the Senate or are projected. Some have been put before us on earlier occasions. One was that there should be a joint sitting of the 2 Houses to determine the matter. That is the resolution primarily before the Senate now. To that Senator Prowse has moved an amendment and Senator Wright has in contemplation a Bill which will follow the ordinary legislative procedure.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Cant)- Senator, I understand that you have spoken previously on this matter.
– I was wondering whether I had spoken about it on the adjournment debate or some other debate and not substantially on the resolution. I was under the impression that I had spoken on some interlocutory proceeding. If that is not so, I have no right to speak now, except that I could address myself to the amendment.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I am advised by the Clerk that you have spoken previously on this matter.
– On the motion or on the amendment?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- After the amendment was moved.
-Did I specify to what I spoke? Am I entitled now to speak?
– You cannot hog the time.
– That is a practice which has been followed here.
– It is not a very good advertisement for a senator when he does not know on what he spoke.
– I am wondering whether I embraced both in my speech.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- My advice is that you spoke after the amendment had been moved and it is taken that you have spoken to both.
– Thank you. If I project an amendment which may come up, I could speak to it at that stage, I take it?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Yes.
– Thank you.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- The question is ‘that the words proposed to be left out be left out’, as proposed by Senator Prowse ‘s amendment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
That the words proposed to be inserted be omitted and in lieu thereof the following words be inserted:
– I take a point of order, Mr Acting Deputy President. Have you not got to put now a resolution that the words which Senator Prowse ‘s amendment proposes to be inserted be inserted before you take any other amendment?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- That is the question before the Chair to which Senator Byrne is proposing an amendment. I call Senator Byrne.
– I move:
That the words proposed to be inserted be omitted and in lieu thereof the following words be inserted: is of the opinion that an assembly of all members of the Federal Parliament be convened forthwith within Parliament House, to determine by vote of such assembly the site of the new and permanent parliament house. ‘
This might appear to be casuistry but it is of very real significance. Both Senator Marriott and Senator Lawrie raised a certain point, namely, that the projected formula for a joint sitting of both Houses is a formula that has existence and legality within the Constitution and is available in certain situations for certain purposes. After a double dissolution a joint sitting of the Houses may be convened if the rejected Bill is again presented. That is a constitutional situation. When this matter was debated before Senator Cavanagh was prominent in that debate and took that very point, that a joint sitting of both Houses was not a desirable thing. My recollection is that he said that the Senate as a House would be swamped and overborne by the House of Representatives which has a greater number of members and that therefore in a joint sitting that House could overwhelm this House. My proposition is that we should take- and this is a term the meaning of which the honourable senators on the Government side would know readily- a plebiscite of members whether they are members of the House of Representatives or honourable senators in this chamber. All of us should meet as a college, as an assembly of elected representatives to the Federal Parliament, irrespective of and divorced from our membership of either House, to decide by resolution at that common convocation where in our opinion, should be the site of the national Parliament so assembled in assembly- on Camp Hill, Capital Hill or elsewhere.
I know that, to use a colloquialism, that may be considered by many honourable senators to be hair-splitting. But it does appear to me, firstly, that it does not import into this suggestion a type of meeting that is contemplated in the Constitution and only for a constitutional purpose. Secondly, it will not bring the 2 Houses into any type of traditional or emotional conflict because members will be meeting as elected representatives of the people and not as members of the Senate or members of the House of Representatives respectively. Thirdly, it will give the opportunityand I do not want to limit the possibilityof debate, discussion and the ventilation of opinions at such an assembly. It could proceed as an ordinary debate with representatives of parties being given, if they wished, an allotted number of speakers and other members, independents and others, electing to speak if they so desired. The matter therefore could be rationally discussed and the consensus of opinion would be thereby determined.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Order! The question before the chair is that the words proposed by Senator Prowse ‘s amendment to be inserted be left out.
– I see.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Sub.sequently if you are successful with that amendment, we will be able to move to insert other words.
– Should I wait to move this formally? The advice that I received very quickly from the Clerk, as I conceived it, was that I could move it at this stage and in the terms indicated.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- My advice from the Clerk is that that is the question before the Chair.
-At what stage shall I formally move my amendment and in what terms?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- If you are successful with the proposition that you have before the Chair, that the words which Senator Prowse ‘s amendment proposed be inserted be left out, then you may move to insert the words that you want to insert.
– Should I delay this until that resolution has been presented? Is that it? I got other advice.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- The advice from the Clerk is that it can be moved as a whole but will be put in 2 parts.
– I do not understand that.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- He can move it as a whole but it will be put in 2 parts.
– What do you mean ‘as a whole’?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- That is that the words will be left out and that the other words will be inserted. It will be one motion but 2 votes.
-Then I should move ‘that the words proposed to be inserted by Senator Prowse ‘s amendment be left out’, and having done that, I should then move ‘that in lieu thereof the following words be inserted’. Is that correct?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Yes.
-The words to be inserted would be these: is of the opinion that an assembly of all members of the Federal Parliament be convened forthwith within Parliament House to determine by vote of such assembly the site of the new and permanent parliament house.
I was arranging to have the amendment reproduced and circulated but there was not enough time before the debate concluded. I move that amendment in the hope that this may be a way of resolving the matter. If the Bill projected by Senator Wright is presented and passes this place it may well find a fate in the other place which may not be the fate for which we are looking. In those circumstances and in view of the experience of the resolutions of both Houses whereby there was a strong opinion in this place for Capital Hill and a bare majority in the other !>lace for an alternative site, I think this is a very logical proposition; and in the light of the history of the Parliament on this matter in recent times it is the most practical way of resolving the problem and discovering what is the assembled view, the consensus, by a plebiscite of members of the Parliament of Australia in this unique situation.
– If your amendment is carried and this meeting of the assembly takes place and a verdict is arrived at, what procedures do you envisage taking from then on?
- Senator McLaren asks me whether there would be any compulsion within that executive government to implement such a decision. Of course there would not.
– On a point of order, Mr Deputy President, could I have your ruling. The honourable senator has moved that the words proposed to be inserted by the amendment moved by Senator Prowse be left out. They read: While not agreeing to the resolution transmitted in message 20 1 from the House of Representatives’. I contend he is moving a direct negative. He is moving that the Senate agrees to a joint meeting. I ask for your ruling.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I do not think it is a direct negative.
– I am indebted to you, Mr Deputy President, and to Senator Lawrie ‘s intervention in the debate. Senator McLaren was asking whether any resolution, other than a matter that is resolved by a Bill passing in the normal course through both Houses or otherwise prescribed by statute would have any compulsion upon the executive government. Honourable senators will recall that on the last occasion when motions were moved in both places I said that there was a very small majority in the other place for the site of Camp Hill and that there was a substantial majority in this place for the site of Capital Hill. I remember saying to Senator Cavanagh at the time- perhaps we had a little wager- that the executive government would move in immediately and within 7 days, I think I said, would select Camp Hill as the site. It actually happened within 24 hours. That happened in spite of the strong resolution of this chamber and the rather flaccid resolution in the other place. Therefore, whether it is a resolution in that place or this, I agree with Senator Wright that in the absence of a Bill, a statute, there is no compulsion on the executive government. But if such an assembly of such moment and in such unique circumstances were convened, and after deliberation and debate a resolution were formally and seriously arrived at, the Government would be required, I think, by convention and by the logic and demands of the situation, to take notice of such a resolution. That appears to me to be a logical and reasonable way. I think this type of assembly divorced from the presence of both Houses as such, or members and senators as such, but as representatives of the people in the federal Parliament to determine what would be the site of the House that represents the political hopes, desires and aspirations of the people, would meet the wishes of the elected persons in another place. It is in that spirit and in that purpose and in the fond hope that it may succeed that I present my amendment.
– I rise to speak to this amendment in the belief that someone may get the impression that it is something new and therefore may vote for it. Originally we received a message from the other House requesting a joint meeting. Senator Murphy moved that we comply with the request and have a joint meeting. I am opposed to such a meeting for reasons I have stated. We have just decided by vote to agree to part of Senator Prowse ‘s amendment. Obviously the Senate was against the proposal of Senator Murphy and did not support it. Honourable senators would be entitled to think that any motion concerning a joint meeting had been disposed of. Now we get the same goods wrapped in a different parcel for us to accept as not being a commitment to the House for a joint meeting and therefore a precedent is not being established. We are asked to have a plebiscite which will be called not by the House but, I think, by the Executive, whereby there will be a meeting of members of both Houses. Of course this comes about as a result of this Senate being in session. Whatever the procedure is called, the functions of the Senate cannot be altered. This matter is being debated because the Senate has decided to debate it. We are trying to avoid the setting of a precedent. We are asked to adopt a subterfuge and do the very thing in Senator Murphy’s motion which we rejected. The same motion is being moved but it is now being called something else.
Senator Byrne’s own words are that we attend as elected representatives of the people. We are elected representatives of the people by the very fact that the people voted us into a House of the Parliament, and my plea is that we uphold the dignity of that House. As elected representatives of the people that is a duty that we have. The other method having been rejected, the same formula is contained in Senator Byrne’s amendment in an attempt to bring about a joint meeting for the purpose of getting the majority of the members of the House of Representatives to decide this question. Mr Gorton said that the Executive would decide if the Houses could not agree. I think that attitude was not proceeded with because there was so much hostility to it. If there was known to be an overwhelming majority of all members in favour of one site the Executive would go ahead with a proposal knowing that it would be supported should it be criticised. If we want a plebiscite there is nothing to stop the Executive from sending a written notice to every member of the Parliament asking for his or her choice of a site for the parliament house. That could be done without having a joint meeting. If there has to be a joint meeting it would be better to have an equal number from each House than to go into a chamber where members of the Senate would be swamped 2 to 1. We should see through this amendment and reject it as we have just rejected Senator Murphy’s proposal.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I call the Leader of the Opposition.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy President, for the courtesy, but I speak as an individual senator having the right of a free vote. I am not prepared to vote for the amendment proposed by Senator Byrne because I agree with the arguments advanced by Senator Cavanagh. I think I should make a couple of points clear. As I understand it, the motion proposed by Senator Murphy has not been agreed to. The two propositions now before the Senate are either part of the amendment of Senator Prowse or the amendment of Senator Byrne. I intend to vote against both of them because I believe the only solution to this is the method foreshadowed by Senator Wright. I am still a ‘Bill ‘ man, if I may classify myself as such. I thought I ought to put that on record. I do not think Senator Prowse ‘s solution or Senator Byrne’s solution is the correct one. As I said at the outset the only proper solution is that foreshadowed by Senator Wright. I will stay with that attitude and vote against all these propositions.
– I wish to support the amendment submitted by Senator Byrne. It is most unusual for us to be on the one side on a major issue, and this is a major issue of the Parliament. We are having the old red herrings drawn right across the trail by those who say that it is the Senate versus the House of Representatives. It has nothing to do with that at all. If indeed this issue were the Senate versus the House of Representatives we would be defeated anyway. I understand that this is a simple situation where every senator can vote as an individual, not representative of a party, not a representative even of a group that may get together on this kind of issue. We are simply seeking a consensus of all members of the Parliament by virtue of their meeting together as a group. What is so terrible about that? We do it in the dining room every evening where we discuss there things over a meal. We are seeking some formal type of decision by the groups of members of Parliament sitting together as individual members of Parliament, not the Senate versus the House of Representatives. No great constitutional crisis will come out of such a meeting. The Senate carried this very type of motion previously. We sent it as a message to the House of Representatives and it duly stayed at the bottom of the notice paper for the whole of the period until it was taken from the notice paper. The Government of the day did not allow that matter to be discussed in that House. We must realise that exactly the same thing can happen to a private member’s Bill that may be passed by the Senate. I believe that a quick decision by all members of Parliament will influence the Executive far more quickly than a Bill which is passed in this Parliament.
I have examined the proposed legislation that Senator Wright wishes to submit. I would want to amend it so that Capital Hill was the site chosen. I make no secret of my views in that regard. But I do not think that that Bill is adequate to meet the situation. I think the only way in which we will get a new and permanent parliament house is by the Government of the day introducing legislation so that it is part of the Government’s business and is dealt with in that manner. I do not think the matter will be resolved by means of a private member’s Bill, whether it is introduced by Senator Wright, by me, or by anyone else.
– Let the Government introduce a Bill.
-I would be happy if it would. I believe that we have to give a very clear lead in indicating where we want the new parliament house, because I can recall that on the last occasion this matter was discussed there were 3 possible sites, namely, the lakeside site, Camp Hill and Capital Hill. I am firmly of the opinion that the lakeside proposal was stymied for all time as a result of a question I asked of the then Minister for the Interior about the foundations of the Treasury building. It was discovered from the answer supplied by the Minister for the Interior that an extra $250,000 would have to be found if the building were put on the lakeside site. Senator Wright would know something of this matter because I think he was Minister for Works at the time. If he was not Minister, it must have been his immediate predecessor. The limestone caves had to be filled with concrete for weeks and weeks to get an adequate foundation for the Treasury building. The very day that my question was answered in this Parliament was the day on which the Minister made the announcement that Parliament House would not be built on the lakeside site because of these problems.
That was 4 years ago. We started to argue about the site. At that time the Senate made a request that the 2 Houses of the Parliament should have a joint meeting. The House of Representatives has made a similiar request on this occasion. There may be some technical difficulties constitutionally in resolving the motion that has come before us. I spoke in support of that motion. I now speak in support of
Senator Byrne’s amendment because I think it eliminates the qualms that honourable senators may have had in relation to the constitutional position. I urge honourable senators to vote for this amendment so that we can get a quick decision and so that we are not faced with having a Bill on the notice paper this year, next year, some time or never in relation to it. Our speedy resolution of the matter will give a guide to the Executive. To make a decision now is the quickest method by which to get something done. I repeat none of us or not many of us want this decision made quickly for reasons of our own comfort. Very few of us will be in this Senate chamber when the building is finally erected. We want a quick decision for posterity. Let us do something soon, otherwise when my grandson is listening to the Senate debates in years to come he will hear the same arguments put forward. I hope that honourable senators will vote for this amendment so that we can get some satisfactory decision which will be a guide to the Executive of this Parliament.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- The question is: ‘That the words proposed to be left out of Senator Prowse ‘s amendment (Senator O ‘Byrne’s amendment) be left out’.
Question resolved in the negative.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- The question now is: ‘That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator Prowse ‘s amendment) be inserted ‘.
– Am I in order in moving an amendment to that amendment? The question before the Chair is in relation to the substantive part of Senator Prowse ‘s amendment, and I wish to move an amendment to it.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I am advised that if the honourable senator wishes to speak he will have to seek leave.
– No, I do not want to speak; I want to move an amendment.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Acting Deputy President. I suggest that the position is that on the first amendment that was put the words that came from the House of Representatives have been left out. Senator Byrne moved, for the purpose of inserting certain words that he wanted in, that Senator Prowse ‘s words be left out. That amendment was negatived. The motion now before the Chair is that Senator Prowse ‘s words be inserted. I submit that it is permissible for any honourable senator to move an amendment in relation to part of those words. As I understand it, Senator Sir
Kenneth Anderson wishes to propose an amendment to Senator Prowse ‘s amendment. His amendment is to leave out the words ‘Capital Hill’ and insert in their place the words ‘Camp Hill’. I submit that that is quite admissible and it is open to any honourable senator to do that. I submit that Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, having risen, is in order in putting that amendment.
– In speaking to the point of order, Mr Acting Deputy President, I seek clarification as to what has happened to Senator Byrne’s amendment.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- It was defeated.
– I called for a division.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- One senator cannot ask for a division. The Standing Orders are clear in stating that ‘senators’ may call for a division. It requires more than one senator.
– There were a number of calls.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- No division was called for.
– I submit that the matter should be recommitted. There was complete confusion and I submit that the matter should be recommitted.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Order! The Chair was not confused.
– As a matter of courtesy, Mr Acting Deputy President, can the vote be recommitted so that there is clarification?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- No.
Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, although the Senate has decided not to leave out those words, you are entitled to move an amendment to the words that are to be inserted.
– Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President.
– I rise on a point of order. Do I take it now that a final decision of the Chair in relation to the vote of the Senate is that the amendment I moved was put and defeated on the voices?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Yes, and there was no call for a division.
– There were 3 calls for a division.
– I am sure there were calls for a division. I suggest in the circumstances that the matter should be recommitted. There has been confusion and I think the motion should be recommitted.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- You can do that only by leave.
– Then I ask for the leave of the Senate to have the matter recommitted.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- The
Chair is not confused. There was no division called for. The amendment was defeated on the voices.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I accept your ruling. But I am asking now for the leave of the Senate to recommit the motion because in the opinion of some honourable senators there was confusion. That is a matter for the Senate to decide.
– I move:
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- The question is that so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would allow a vote to be taken on this matter.
-On all the matters.
– No, break it down.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- No,
Senator Murphy, only on the matter that is in dispute, that is, on the question of Senator Byrne’s amendment. Those of that opinion say aye; to the contrary no. The ayes have it. The question now is: That the words proposed to be left out of Senator Prowse ‘s amendment (Senator Byrne’s amendment) be left out. All those in favour say aye; to the contrary no. I think that the noes have it.
Honourable senators calling for a division
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- The
Senate will divide.
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Byrne’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– We have now reached the situation where another question is before the Senate. I ask honourable senators to resume their seats. The question now before the Senate is that the words of Senator Prowse’s amendment proposed to be inserted be inserted.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSON (New South Wales) (5.25)-by leave-My purpose in rising is to move an amendment to leave out the words ‘Capital Hill’ contained in Senator Prowse’s amendment and to insert the words Camp Hill’. The purpose of doing this is to clear the air for all times. I will not speak at any length. The situation is that Senator Prowse’s amendment is now before the Chair. In its absolute terms, it is not in agreement with the proposition that we should choose Capital Hill as the sight for the new and permanent parliament house. If we have these 2 votes, I suggest that it would clear the air beautifully. Therefore, I move:
Leave out the words ‘Capital Hill’ contained in Senator Prowse’s motion.
That is the first motion. If I succeed- I do not expect to- then I will insert the words ‘Camp Hill’.
- Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson has moved an amendment to Senator Prowse’s amendment that the words ‘Capital Hill’ be left out and the words ‘Camp Hill’ be inserted.
– No, I intended to move the motion in 2 legs.
– I am happy for honourable senators to deal with the 2 questions in the one motion.
– Does the Senate agree to that course being adopted?
– Very well.
– The question is that in Senator Prowse’s motion the words ‘Capital Hill ‘ be left out. All those in favour say aye, to the contrary, no. I think that the noes have it.
- Mr President, may I suggest that we take a division in case the numbers become important.
– I agree with that.
– A division is required.
Ring the bells.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Question so resolved in the negative. The PRESIDENT- The question now is:
That the words proposed to be inserted by Senator Prowse’s amendment be inserted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
That Senator Murphy’s motion, as amended by Senator Prowse ‘s amendment, be agreed to.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed (vide page 1853).
-Five Bills have been debated cognately and have been canvassed fairly well. I think that the Senate could now proceed to vote on the second reading of these Bills.
– I agreed to look after these Bills in Senator Murphy’s absence. Although Senator Murphy has returned and is now in the chamber I would like to continue to deal with this legislation and to answer one or two points which I think necessitate a reply. Firstly, I thank those responsible members of the Opposition who agreed to support and expedite the passage of the legislation by keeping their remarks brief.
Questions were raised about the new rate of Customs duty of 63c which has been applied to each 1 8-gallon keg of beer. The reason for this increase is that, whereas a wastage of one gallon of beer was allowed for as a result of wood soakage for beer stored in wooden kegs, the allowance for beer stored in stainless steel kegs, which have now replaced wooden kegs, is only half a gallon. This is not to say that a person will get more beer in his glass because much of the profit on beer is still made from the head that is put on a glass of beer.
Senator Hannan was somewhat critical of the change to the metric system of measurement. His criticism was not limited to the metric measurement of quantities of beer. He wanted to know whether there had been profiteering as a result of the changeover from the imperial system of measurement, with which people are familiar, to the metric system of measurement. Of course, this question has been the subject of investigation by a parliamentary committee. We have to realise that many other countries use the metric system. Also, the metric system provides for a much easier system of measurement and computation. Further, I am sure that the metric system will beneficial for our children. It will be difficult for those who have become accustomed to imperial weights and measures. Where there is an increase in price following the changeover, and I do not doubt that there will be exploitation if the Government gets control over prices, every attempt will be made to rectify the matter. We will use what control we have got.
Criticisms are made about the increased postal charges. The postal institution has never been a profitable one and there is always the question of how much we should raise postal charges or subsidise the Post Office out of general revenue. Of course, practically every year prior to this year we have had increases in postal charges. Because of the change in the system of weights there may be an increase in the cost of some items posted.
I do not think there is more I can say. I think it is unfortunate that the less responsible members spoke on this matter because we have heard their speeches at least 8 times before and I have replied to their utterances at least 4 times before when I was the Minister responsible for these Bills. This is just tedious repetition. Whom it convinces I do not know. Possibly on most occasions there is a half empty House. There has been talk of the socialist Labour Party and the effect on the poor in our community. Now we find some Liberal Party members claiming to be the champions of the little man.
From one honourable senator we always hear of the persecution of rural areas. Honourable senators opposite hate the fact- they cannot get over it- that primary industry is more prosperous today than it has been for decades. They cannot get over the affluence in our society and the prosperity we have today. They hope that if they repeat often enough their claim that we are penalising the poor widows and the poor outback man somebody may believe them enough to cast a vote for them at the next election. We have so often heard their claims; we have so often replied to them. What interest rates, transport to the country, socialisation of the community and a book written by Cairns have to do with these excise Bills we are now discussing I do not know. Freedom is given in this House on the question of relevancy making it possible for honourable senators to depart from the subject matter of the Bills. But to those who spoke to the Bill I express my appreciation for their attitude and I hope they give the Bills a speedy passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
(Motion by Senator Cavanagh) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the question on the remaining stages of the passage through the Senate of the Customs Tariff Bill 1973, the Diesel Fuel Bill (No. I) 1973, the Diesel Fuel Tax Bill (No. 2) 1973, and the Excise Bill (No. 2) 1973 being put in one motion at each stage of the consideration of all or several of the Bills together in Committee of the Whole.
Debate resumed (vide page 1853) on the question:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a second time, and reported from Committee without requests; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Cavanagh) proposed:
That the Bills be now read a third time.
– I wish to thank Senator Cavanagh for handling the Bills during my absence.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a third time.
Debate resumed from 30 August (vide pages 347 and 348), on motion by Senator Wriedt:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
– Is it desired that we deal with the 2 Bills together?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– These Bills are purely machinery Bills. They provide, for conversion to metric measure, definitions of what shall determine a winery and what shall determine a distillery. The imperial weight of tons- 2,240 lbs- is converted to tonnes- 2,204 lbs- under the metric system. The Wine Overseas Marketing Bill changes, quite simply, 25 tons to 25 tonnes. This is the Bill which has reference to wineries and distilleries. The Wine Grapes Charges Bill changes the weight from 10 tons to 10 tonnes.
The charges levied by virtue of this Bill will provide the sources of finance to operate the Australian Wine Board. The Wine Overseas Marketing Bill sets the basis for a distillery or a winery to qualify for a vote on matters pertaining to the continuation of the Australian Wine Board.
At present the maximum levies which are permitted are $2.50 per ton for fresh grapes and $7.50 per ton for dried grapes. The current operative rates are $2.10 per ton for fresh grapes and $6.30 per ton for dried grapes. In the conversion from tons to tonnes there is an increase of 1 . 5 per cent in the levy because the amount which is now applicable when applied to 2,204 lb as against 2,240 lb results in a slight increase. The levies at present are not at their maximum. Last year the Board’s income from the levy was $512,597. Of this, $308,283 was spent on publicity in Australia, and $144,730 was spent on publicity and services in overseas markets. The general matters pertaining to the industry- grape production, wine making, brandy making and so on- are not in these instances relevant to the Bills. They are machinery Bills which give effect to the changes to the metric system from the imperial system. We support the proposals.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a second time, and passed through their remaining stages without amendment or requests or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Murphy) read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill is similar to the one with the same title that was introduced in this chamber on 27 September. That was the Bill that the Opposition refused to debate until next year. Following that refusal the present Bill was introduced into the House of Representatives and it has now been passed by that House. The Bill is an important measure to combat inflation.
– Is the Bill identical to the previous one?
-No. It deserves the early consideration of the Senate so that its long overdue provisions can be brought into operation at an early date.
I have received representations that amendment of certain provisions is desirable. In the light of these representations I foreshadow that in the Committee stage I will be moving certain amendments, which will deal, in particular, with the following matters: The Court will be empowered to adjust the rights of parties to contracts rendered unenforceable by the legislation; Division (2) of Part V will not apply to contracts made before the commencement date, to banking or insurance contracts or to sales by auction or competitive tender; contracts covered by clause 45 ( 1 ) will be rendered unenforceable instead of illegal; pyramid selling will be redefined; the exception in favour of the Standards Association in clause 51 (c) will be extended to cover standards or performance; the scope of clause 45 (3)(b) will be limited in relation to contracts for supply to be made by one party to another. I have not received any representations that could not appropriately be dealt with at the Committee stage.
The purpose of the Bill is to control restrictive trade practices and monopolisation and to protect consumers from unfair commercial practices. The Bill will replace the existing Restrictive Trade Practices Act, which has proved to be one of the most ineffectual pieces of legislation ever passed by this Parliament. The Bill will also provide on a national basis long overdue protection for consumers against a wide range of unfair practices. Restrictive trade practices have long been rife in Australia. Most of them are undesirable and have served the interests of the parties engaged in them, irrespective of whether those interests coincide with the interests of Australians generally. These practices cause prices to be maintained at artificially high levels. They enable particular enterprises or groups of enterprises to attain positions of economic dominance which are then susceptible to abuse; they interfere with the interplay of competitive forces which are the foundation of any market economy; they allow discriminatory action against small businesses, exploitation of consumers and feather-bedding of industries. In consumer transactions unfair practices are widespread. The existing law is still founded on the principle known as caveat emptor- meaning ‘let the buyer beware’. That principle may have been appropriate for transactions conducted in village markets. It has ceased to be appropriate as a general rule. Now the marketing of goods and services is conducted on an organised basis and by trained business executives. The untrained consumer is no match for the businessman who attempts to persuade the consumer to buy goods or services on terms and conditions suitable to the vendor. The consumer needs protection by the law and this Bill will provide such protection.
The Bill, Mr President, is especially important because of its relevance to inflation. The purpose of many restrictive practices is to maintain prices at levels higher than would otherwise prevail. This contributes to the inflationary trend. It also reduces the likelihood that the benefits of the Government’s recent tariff cut will be passed on to the public. Increased competition from imports will be of little benefit if not accompanied by increased domestic competition. Consumer protection also assists in the fight against inflation. It is the consumer who has to bear the burden of higher prices and of unfair methods of dealing.
The Bill gives effect to a recommendation by the Council of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in December 1971 concerning action against inflation in the field of competition policy. The recommendation urged member governments of OECD, as part of the action to be taken by them against inflation, to adopt stronger measures to control restrictive trade practices and to protect consumers. The Government has a firm electoral commitment to introduce effective legislation in the areas of restrictive trade practices and consumer protection. This implements the promises made by the Government at the last general election. The Government believes, Mr President, that the Bill introduced into this Parliament should, as far as possible, indicate what forms of conduct are to be prohibited. We believe that the existing Restrictive Trade Practices legislation is unsatisfactory in this regard. Under that legislation prohibition of a practice or agreement comes not from the law itself but from a restraining order made by the Trade Practices Tribunal. These proceedings can only be instituted by the Commissioner of Trade Practices where, in his opinion, the institution of such proceedings is desirable. To this, there is a real exception in the case of resale price maintenance and apparent exceptions in the cases of collusive tendering and collusive bidding.
In our view, except for resale price maintenance, the existing Restrictive Trade Practices Act unfairly places the burden on persons whose responsibility it is to administer the law, not to make it. I do not overlook the need for some flexibility in legislation of this kind. Some agreements and practices are not objectionable. The law should provide for such agreements or practices to be treated after appropriate consideration by the administering authorities as exceptions to the general rule. This is the approach taken in the Bill. A related consideration is that a law is bound to be ineffective if it commits to the administering authorities more work than they could hope to perform.
The unsatisfactory operation of the existing Act is made clear in the recently tabled Sixth Annual Report of the Commissioner of Trade Practices. This report states that on 30 June this year there were no fewer than 12,360 operative agreements entered in the register maintained by the Commissioner. This was only 193 fewer agreements than the corresponding number on 30 June last year. The Commissioner and his staff have done their best to deal with a vast number of agreements and practices in accordance with the procedure laid down by the Act. But it is clear from the report that the rate of progress they have been able to achieve is extremely inadequate if effective control of restrictive agreements and practices is to be attained within a reasonable period. The progress being made under the existing Act is such that it would be many years before the legislation had any significant impact on the economy.
– Has a copy of this speech been circulated?
– I believe that it has been circulated.
– Oh, surreptitiously, thank you.
– If that is a reflection upon the attendants, Senator -
– Certainly not. Certainly not.
-It was put in front of you. You must have been sleeping.
– I withdraw it. Of course.
– Why not have Government senators in the House. What about their attention in the House. Nobody is interested.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse)- Order!
-This would be unsatisfactory if inflation was not a pressing problem. Such a slow rate of progress is plainly intolerable. (Quorum formed).
Another important principle is that a breach of such legislation should give those who are affected by the breach the right to bring private enforcement proceedings. Under the existing Act one who is adversely affected by a practice or agreement has no right to take the first necessary step of instituting proceedings in the Trade Practices Tribunal. Under that Act the institution of such proceedings is the exclusive prerogative of the Commissioner of Trade Practices. If the Commissioner takes no action the person adversely affected by the practice or agreement has no alternative course of action. It is clear that the effectiveness of legislation with respect to trade practices will depend upon the existence of a strong administrative agency. This Bill recognises the need for such an agency.
The agency will be called the Trade Practices Commission and will consist of a Chairman, a Deputy Chairman and such other members as are appointed by the Governor-General. The Trade Practices Commission will replace the Commissioner of Trade Practices. It will have a wide range of responsibilities covering not only the granting of authorisations for conduct otherwise prohibited, the granting of clearances where there is uncertainty as to the application of particular provisions and inquiring, at the instance of the Attorney-General, into the need for further legislation with respect to practices that appear to be operating unfairly against the interests of consumers. The Commission’s functions with respect to consumer protection will complement those of the Consumer Standards Commission which my colleague, the Minister for Science (Mr Morrison) is establishing. The Bill provides for mandatory consumer standards where desirable. The method will be to prescribe the standard by regulation. Any such regulation will be made under the legislation now proposed although decisions to prescribe standards will be taken in close consultation with the Minister for Science. Some of the functions of the Trade Practices Commission will involve the making of administrative determinations of a quasi-judicial character similar in a number of respects to the determinations at present made by the Trade Practices Tribunal. The Bill provides for the Tribunal to be retained as a body of review. It will have power to review determinations of the Commission upon the application of an interested party.
I now refer to some features of the drafting of the Bill. Legislation of this kind is concerned with economic considerations. There is a limit to the extent to which such considerations can be treated in legislation as legal concepts capable of being expressed with absolute precision. Such an approach leads to provisions which are complex in the extreme and give rise to more problems than they remove. The present Bill recognises the futility of such drafting. Many matters have, of course, had to be stated in detail. But other provisions, particularly those describing the prohibited restrictive trade practices, have been drafted along general lines using, wherever possible, well understood expressions. I am confident that this will be more satisfactory. The Courts will be afforded an opportunity to apply the law in a realistic manner in the exercise of their traditional judicial role.
The constitutional power of the Australian Parliament to enact legislation such as that contained in the Bill was clarified by the very important decision of the High Court in what is known as the Concrete Pipes Case. For present purposes that case established that restrictive trade practices and monopolisation legislation contained in the Australian Industries Preservation Act could validly derive support from the corporations power. It also established that legal problems can arise when provisions that depend on that power are drafted so as to be inextricably mixed in their operation with provisions that depend on other powers. The Bill takes account of these considerations. Most of the provisions are drafted so as to apply only when a corporation is involved. But these provisions are given by clause 5 a separate operation in reliance upon other powers. In the result, provisions which appear to be restricted to situations involving a corporation, will have an extended operation involving inter-State trade or commerce, the Australian Capital Territory, Northern Territory or dealings with the Australian Government, any of its authorities or instrumentalities, or the use of postal, telegraphic or telephone services or a radio or television broadcast.
The present Act places much emphasis on secrecy. Everything on the register of trade agreements is subject to secrecy requirements, as are the functions of the Commissioner and his staff until, in relation to a particular agreement or practice, he institutes proceedings in the Tribunal. Such secrecy is undesirable and goes beyond what is reasonably necessary for the protection of confidential information. The Bill confines secrecy to confidential information. However the secrecy which has applied to the register is not to be removed. I should add that under the Bill the existing registration requirements are not to be continued. The importance of the register will become progressively less and less. The existing overseas cargo shipping provisions have been included in the Bill in their present form. This should not be taken as an indication that the Government is satisfied with the provisions. They will be the subject of a later review which will take into account, amongst other things, international negotiations. This will be done by the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones), who has the ministerial responsibility in this area.
My last preliminary comment is that recently I received some suggestions that the Bill should contain a provision to ensure that, in appropriate cases, legal aid be available to persons involved in proceedings under the legislation, whether in a court, the Trade Practices Tribunal or the Trade Practices Commission. Such a provision would plainly have much to commend it. I have the matter under consideration and expect to introduce an appropriate provision by way of amendment when the Bill is being considered in Committee.
In brief, the Bill prohibits the following practices: Contracts, combinations and conspiracies in restraint of trade; monopolisation; exclusive dealing; resale price maintenance; price discrimmination; anti-competitive mergers. The provisions with respect to contracts, combinations and conspiracies in restraint of trade are to be found in clause 45. No exhaustive definition of these terms is provided, but sub-clause (3) makes it clear that certain specified forms of conduct are included. This clause will cover collusive tendering and collusive bidding, which are not the subject of any specific provision. Contracts covered by this clause are rendered unenforceable and this applies whether they were made before or after the commencement of the provision. Monopolisation is defined in clause 46 so as to cover various forms of conduct by a monopolist against his competitors or would-be competitors. A monopolist for this purpose is a person who substantially controls a market. The application of this provision will be a matter for the court. An arithmetical test such as one third of the market -as in the existing legislation- is unsatisfactory. The certainty which it appears to give is illusory. Sub-clause ( 1 ) of clause 46 applies where the conduct takes place in the market controlled by the monopolist. In such a case, the sub-clause applies so long as the conduct is directed to eliminating or substantially damaging a competitor; preventing the entry of a person into the market; or deterring or preventing a person from engaging in competitive conduct. Sub-clause (2) applies where the conduct is in another market. In such a case it is necessary that the anti-competitive conduct of the monopolist involves taking advantage of his monopoly position. Exclusive dealing is denned in clause 47. It covers arrangements in accordance with which either the supplier or the acquirer of goods or services has limited his freedom to deal as regards persons or places. Exclusive dealing is prohibited in 2 sets of circumstances. The first is in the course of carrying on a business in reliance on a licence, permit, authority or registration under a law of Australia or of a Territory. The second is where the effect of the practice may substantially lessen competition or tend to result in a person being in a position to control a market.
Resale price maintenance is denned in Part VIII in substantially the same terms as denned in the existing Act. One of the changes made to this definition ensures that the definition covers action by a manufacturer to induce a retailer, who has obtained the manufacturer’s goods through a wholesaler, to maintain retail prices specified by the manufacturer. Another change ensures that the definition covers the practice by which a supplier stipulates minimum prices at which a distributor may advertise, as distinct from sell. Permissible methods of recommending resale prices have been clarified, as also have the evidentiary provisions in clause 99. The practice of price discrimination is denned in clause 49. There is no need, as under the existing legislation, for a threat or promise, and the prohibition extends to the granting, as well as the obtaining, of discriminatory prices. The practice is prohibited where it will substantially lessen competition or tend to result in a person controlling a market.
Mergers are prohibited by clause 50 where an effect would be to lessen competition or to tend to result in the corporation being in a position substantially to control a market. The prohibition does not apply to the acquisition of snares in the capital, or assets, of a body corporate in pursuance of an offer made before 28 September 1973. The Bill does not conflict in any way with the operation of the Companies (Foreign Takeovers) Act. Provisions to avoid such conflict are to be found in clause 90. Sub-clause 9 of clause 90 enables the Government to ensure that a merger is permissible if, in the Government’s view, there are special considerations which conform to the interests of national economic policy.
Authorisations may be granted by the Commission in respect of some practices. The effect of an authorisation is to remove the prohibition that would otherwise aply by virtue of this legislation.
Authorisations may be granted in respect of contracts or combinations in restraint of trade, other than those having the purpose or effect of fixing, controlling or maintaining prices of goods; exclusive dealing; and mergers.
The Government has concluded that the impact of the legislation would be greatly lessened if provision was made for authorisations to be granted in respect of agreements fixing the prices of goods. These agreements are now generally recognised in many countries as being undesirable, particularly in times of inflation as we are now experiencing. The Bill I introduced on 27 September drew no distinction in this respect between goods and services. Authorisations could not be granted under it for price fixing agreements relating to either. The present Bill does not rule out the possibility of an authorisation being granted in respect of an agreement fixing the prices of services.
Traditionally in legislation of this kind restrictive practices relating to services have not been felt to merit quite the same degree of control as restrictive practices relating to the supply of goods. There is now an increasing concern with services, and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development in particular has urged member countries to strengthen their legislation in this regard. The Bill has been prepared on the general basis that restrictive practices relating to both goods and services are of concern. However, representations have been made that a number of special considerations may apply to particular kinds of services and the Bill now provides for applications for authorisation of price fixing agreements with respect to services. It is essential that the Commission should be able to deal expeditiously with applications for authorisations. The Bill has been framed with this in mind. The Commission will not be required to hold a public hearing in respect of every application for an authorisation. It will be able to hold such a hearing where it considers it appropriate.
If the Commission deals with an authorisation application without a public hearing, the relevant documents will be available for public inspection, subject to special provisions for the protection of confidential information. In all cases the Commission is to be required to take any submissions into account. The approach to be taken by the Commission in considering whether to grant an authorisation is indicated in sub-clause (5) of clause 90. The Commission is directed by that provision not to grant an authorisation unless it is satisfied that a specific and substantial benefit to the public is likely to result or that the effect on competition is so slight that it can be disregarded. The Commission is also required to be satisfied that, in all the circumstances, the benefit to the public or the slight effect on competition justifies the granting of an authorisation. The position, therefore, is that the onus will be firmly on the applicant to satisfy the Commission that the granting of an authorisation is justified. Unless and until an authorisation is obtained in respect of a practice falling into one of the prohibited classes I have mentioned, such practice will be unlawful. The Bill recognises, however, that there is a need for special transitional provisions for a period immediately following the commencement of the legislation. The prohibitions of contracts in restraint of trade and exclusive dealing will not become effective until 4 months after the commencement date. During that period it will be possible for persons to apply to the Commission for authorisations in respect of those practices. As the Commission may find itself unable to give full consideration to the applications it receives in this period, provision is included to enable the grant of interim authorisations. An interim authorisation, if granted, will have the effect of permitting the practice to continue until the Commission, after full consideration, makes a final determination.
I should make clear that the Commission will not grant interim authorisations as a matter of course. Parties wishing to obtain such an authorisation in the 4-month period would be wise to lodge their applications as soon as possible after the commencement of the legislation. The Commission will not be under any obligation to grant instantaneous interim authorisations to persons lodging applications near the end of the period. The Commission will be able to attach conditions to any authorisations, interim or final. Breach of such a condition will entitle the Commission to revoke the authorisation.
Applications for authorisations for proposed mergers will, as with all other authorisation applications, be placed on a public register as soon as they are received by the Commission. This is necessary if the Commission is to take into account the views of other interested persons. Until there has been an opportunity for such persons to make their views known on a proposed merger, the Commission could not be expected to make a determination authorising the merger. This will not prevent parties to proposed mergers having prior informal and private discussions with the Commission. I would expect such discussions to be of considerable assistance to parties contemplating possible mergers, even though the informal guidance given by the Commission will not be binding upon it.
The Bill also provides for clearances. The purpose of a clearance is to remove uncertainty as to the applicability of certain provisions, in contrast to the purpose of an authorisation, which is to permit a practice to be engaged in notwithstanding that it falls into a prohibited class. The provisions relating to enforcement and remedies in respect of breaches of the restrictive trade practices provisions are to be found in Part VI. The question whether there has been a breach of the law will be a matter for the Court, as is the case with breaches of most other laws. Pending the establishment of the proposed Australian Superior Court the only Court with jurisdiction under the legislation will be the Commonwealth Industrial Court. Under another Bill this Court is to be renamed the Australian Industrial Court. Such matters will not be determined by the Trade Practices Commission or the Trade Practices Tribunal, both of which are administrative bodies.
A breach of a provision in the legislation with respect to restrictive trade practices will render the person liable to a pecuniary penalty, an injunction, or damages. Proceedings for a pecuniary penalty will need to be instituted by the Attorney-General or the Trade Practices Commission. The penalty, when received, will go into Consolidated Revenue. The amount of such a penalty will be a matter for the Court to determine as appropriate in all the circumstances. The circumstances in such matters can be expected to vary considerably from case to case and the penalty determined by the Court can be expected to vary accordingly. The maximum penalty the Court will be able to determine will be $250,000.
Such a penalty and the proceedings to recover it will be civil in character. A breach will not constitute an offence for the purposes of the criminal law and the penalty will not be a fine. The difference may at first appear to be only a matter of form. The important consequence is that such proceedings, involving business dealings to the extent that they do, will not find their way into a criminal court. Proceedings for an injunction will be able to be initiated by the Attorney-General, the Trade Practices Commission or by any other person. Proceedings for damages will be able to be initiated by any person who suffers loss or damage as a result of a contravention.
Provision for certain classes of agreements and practices to be exempt from the legislation I have described is to be found in clause 51. This clause follows closely the corresponding provisions in the existing legislation. In addition there is a power similar to the one in the existing Act to exempt by regulation organisations concerned in the marketing of primary products. There is also power to provide exemptions by regulation for practices related to inter-governmental arrangements.
The consumer protection provisions are to be found, for the most part, in Part V. Some of these provisions are expressly limited to transactions involving consumers. The meaning of a consumer is dealt with by sub-clause (4) of clause 4. Unless a contrary intention appears, that provision excludes a person who uses the goods or services in question for the purpose of, or in the course of, trade or business or for a public purpose; or a person who acquires goods for the purpose of resale. The consumer protection provisions do not necessarily displace State legislation in the same field. Clause 74 expressly states that Part V is not intended to exclude or limit the concurrent operation of any law of a State or Territory. The Bill recognises that in many consumer protection matters there is a need for a national approach, and that the effectiveness of State laws is necessarily limited. Division 1 of Part V prohibits a number of unfair practices. Clause 52 prohibits misleading or deceptive conduct- and does so in general terms. It is important that there should be such a provision if the law is not to be continually one step behind businessmen who resort to smart practices. Clause 52 overlaps the operation of some of the other more specific provisions. I point out in this connection that a breach of a specific provision exposes the person concerned to a penalty, whereas a breach of the more general provisions in clause 52 gives rise to a right to an injuction only. Clause 53 prohibits a number of specific forms of false representations with respect to goods and services. Clause 54 prohibits the offering of prizes in connection with the promotion of goods and services when there is no intention of actually providing the prizes.
Clause 55 prohibits misleading conduct covered by the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property as revised at Stockholm on 14 July 1967. This Convention covers conduct that is liable to mislead the public as to the nature, the manufacturing process, the characteristics, the suitability for their purpose or the quantity of goods. Clause 55 does not come into operation until the Convention enters into force for Australia. I expect that this will be soon.
Clause 56 prohibits the practice known as bait advertising. This is the practice in accordance with which a bargain is advertised and in point of fact the bargain either does not exist or is available for a very short time. The purpose of such advertising is mainly to attract a customer into a store.
The practice of referral selling is prohibited by clause 57. This is the practice by which a supplier induces a customer to acquire goods or services by indicating that the consumer, after paying for the goods or services- and I stress that is after such payment- will get rebates or commissions on subsequent sales by the supplier to other persons whose names are provided by the consumer or who view the work done for the consumer by the supplier. Clause 58 prohibits the acceptance of payment without intention to supply as ordered. Clause 59 prohibits the making of misleading statements about home-operated businesses.
Clause 60 prohibits coercive conduct by salesmen or debt collectors at a person’s place of residence. Pyramid selling is a practice that has been a cause of much concern in recent years. This practice is prohibited by clause 61.1 have already mentioned that the Bill will enable consumer standards to be prescribed and made mandatory. Provision is made in this connection for product safety standards and product information standards. A prescribed product safety standard will require compliance with safety standard requirements. A prescribed product information standard will require the disclosure of information relating to matters such as the performance, composition, contents, design, construction, finish or packaging of goods. The provisions relating to both kinds of standards are to be found in clauses 62 and 63.
Clause 64 deals with the practice of unsolicited goods and unsolicited directory entries. The clause prohibits the assertion of a right to payment for such goods or directory entries. This provision does not apply if the person against whom a right to payment for goods is asserted, ordinarily uses like goods in the course of his profession, business, trade or occupation. Under clause 65, a person who has received unsolicited goods is to be relieved of liability for loss or damage to the goods, other than loss or damage resulting from the doing by him of a wilful and unlawful act.
Division 2 of Part V provides for a number of conditions and warranties designed to protect the consumer to apply and to be incapable of being excluded. These provisions are limited to consumer transactions. I have already referred to the limited meaning of consumer under subclause (4) of clause 4.
Clause 67(1) prevents the inclusion in consumer contracts of provisions rendering Australian law inapplicable to contracts, the proper law of which is otherwise Australian. Sub-clause (2) of this clause prevents the substitution of provisions in the law of another country for provisions in Division 2. Clause 68 renders void a term of a consumer contract that purports to exclude, restrict or modify the application of Division 2. Clause 69 provides for certain conditions as to title, encumbrances and quiet possession to be implied in every consumer contract. Clause 70 implies certain conditions in consumer contracts for the supply of goods by description. Clause 71 implies certain undertakings in consumer contracts as to quality or fitness. Clause 72 implies certain conditions in consumer contracts for the supply of goods by reference to sample. Clause 73 implies certain conditions in consumer contracts for the supply of services.
A contravention of a provision of Part V- other than the general provision in clause 52- is to be an offence. The maximum penalty for such an offence is to be, in the case of a corporation, a fine not exceeding $50,000, and in the case of an individual, a fine not exceeding $10,000 or imprisonment for not more than 6 months (clause 79). Contraventions that can be regarded as excusable are the subject of a special defence provided in clause 85. Provision for injunctions is included in clause 80. A right to recover damages is conferred by clause 82. Apart from that right, clause 87(2) empowers the Court, upon finding that there has been a contravention, to direct a refund of money or a payment to a person who has suffered loss or damage.
The jurisdiction to deal with consumer protection proceedings under the Bill is to be confined initially to the Commonwealth Industrial Court. This will assist the early development of a cohesive body of case law which might not be possible, if, in the early stages of the operation of the legislation, courts of lower status- presided over by magistrates, for example, were to have jurisdiction. In due course it will be desirable to confer jurisdiction on such lower courts to deal with consumer protection matters. It will be desirable that the ready enforcement of rights under the legislation is facilitated in this way. A suitable opportunity to confer jurisdiction on courts of lower status will arise when the proposed Australian Superior Court is established. I envisage that an amendment for the purpose will be effected at that time.
Mr President, it will be apparent to honourable senators that the Bill is of great importance. It represents a great advance in the areas of restrictive trade practices and consumer protection and attends to a wide variety of problems. This is intended to promote efficiency and competition in business, to reduce prices and to protect all Australians against unfair practices. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The question I am about to ask Senator Murphy is quite simple and it is for the benefit of the Opposition and other interested parties. May we now take on board that this is the Bill which the Government wants and that the Government will not be proceeding with the Bill previously introduced? If the answer is yes, we can, as can the whole of the community, disregard the first Bill and no longer study it. Is this the Bill which the Government will now be promoting? Will it no longer be promoting the Bill which was previously before the Senate? Just so there is no confusion amongst us -
– And the whole business community of Australia.
-And no confusion amongst the whole business community of Australia. Everybody ought to know which Bill will be proceeded with. Everybody ought to know whether this present Bill is now the major thrust of the Government’s legislation. In fact the Government may drop this Bill and proceed with the original Bill.
– by leave- The intention of the Government is to proceed with the Bill which I have just introduced. I should indicate that this Bill is substantially and very largely the same as the previous Bill. Several amendments have been introduced into the Bill which probably would have been introduced at the Committee stage when the previous Bill was before the Senate. As I have indicated there are some other matters which would be appropriate for consideration at the Committee stage of this Bill.
– The other Bill no longer needs study?
– That is basically all I wanted to know.
-The Bill is substantially the same. As I indicated in opening there are certain matters to be considered at the Committee stage. I stress that I have not received any representations that could not appropriately be dealt with at the Committee stage. It is for that reason that I suggest, with very great respect, that the Senate ought to allow this matter to proceed. If there are any matters which it is felt should be put forward it will be appropriate to do so at the Committee stage of the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Greenwood) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) proposed:
That the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
– The Opposition will not oppose the motion which has been moved by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy). It takes this course for a variety of reasons. The Senate will recall that on the previous Bill on basically the same subject matter the Senate took a certain course of action. In view of the remarks of Senator Murphy that this Bill, while substantially the same, is at variance with the Bill introduced previously, the Opposition at this stage feels that it should look at the Bill before coming to a decision as to whether we ought to adopt the same course as we did 2 or 3 weeks ago. I ought to make it quite clear that we may well take that course of action. I am giving no guarantee one way or the other. We are not opposing the motion at this stage because we wish to put the Bill to study before coming to a conclusion. This is but an example of how reasonable the Opposition is in all matters in this chamber.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 17 October (vide page 1286), on motion by Senator Cavanagh:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This Bill provides for an increase in the payment of fees in respect of licences for commercial broadcasting stations. It is a budgetary measure and it increases the basic licence fee for broadcasting stations by 4 times from $50 to $200 and also produces a new scale of rates for taxing the gross earnings of the broadcasting stations. It is said in the second reading speech that the increase in additional revenue which is to be gained from this proposal is $120,000 in 1973-74. Last year the income from licencing amounted to $491,204. The increase in fees, naturally, would have the greatest impact on the viability of the smaller stations. I notice that effort has been made to ease the incidence of the rating in the very low scales of earnings.
In the old Bill the amount of 1 per cent of gross earnings was levied on income not exceeding $ lm. The new proposal is for 1 per cent of gross earnings up to $500,000. In the old scale there was a 2 per cent levy on earnings exceeding $ 1 m and not exceeding $2m. In the new proposal it is 1.5 per cent of gross earnings from $500,000 to $lm. There are 8 categories of assessment, as it were, in the new scale. There were four in the old scale. In the old scale of fees there was a rise from 1 per cent to 4 per cent, whereas now there are gradients of 0.5 per cent increases over the figures hitherto covered by the old scale. In effect, it means that the industry will be paying $150 more per fee for licence. There are 118 commercial stations in Australia and the total additional revenue is expected to be $120,000. It is always a matter of concern when charges are increased. In the case of the smaller broadcasting stations, particularly those in the outback areas and those in the remoter parts of Australia, the impact of increased costs bears heavily. I am gratified to see an endeavour being made to assist the stations in that category. I appreciate the fact that revenue must be obtained. There has been no increase since 1964, in either the licence fees or the rates of levy imposed on the gross earnings of the stations. The Opposition will not oppose this Bill.
-The Opposition will not oppose this Bill, with perhaps one exception. I have indicated to my colleague Senator Laucke that I will oppose the motion for the second reading of this Bill. If the Senate does not divide on the motion for the second reading, I wish it to be recorded that I am opposing the Bill. This Government is using broadcasting as a milch cow, and there is a limit to the amount that can be drawn out of it. The amount of $ 120,000, which is the amount of revenue involved in this measure, is not likely to wreck the industry. Nobody suggests that for one minute. I do not think the amount is terribly significant. However, I do ask the Government to have a look at the figures produced in the latest report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. I do not have a copy of the report in front of me, as the Bill was called on a little unexpectedly; but I see that the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) has one. My recollection is that the number of broadcasting stations making a loss in the year ended June 1971 was only nine. However, last year’s figures show- the Minister can check this-that there are now 19 stations losing money. If the number of stations losing money has doubled in 12 months, this seems to me to be a particularly inappropriate time to increase the licence fees for the stations.
Radio stations, like all other industries, are faced with rising costs- the cost of equipment, the cost of material, the cost of wages and the cost of the program material which they have to use. So, this impost really is more a symbolic one than a serious economic attack on the stations. I agree with my colleague Senator Laucke that that is in fact the case; but it is the principle to which I take some mild exception. For that reason I intend to vote against the motion for the second reading of the Bill. Where is this likely to stop? Very wisely the Government says: ‘We do not intend to increase licence fees in respect of television stations’. Why? The answer is that television is faced with the cost of the introduction of colour, and everybody knows and everybody agrees that this must cause a substantial increase both in capital costs and in operating costs. So, television stations are exempted from this increase in licence fees.
But I ask the Minister for the Media- this is a matter in relation to which I have given him considerable credit previously- to recall bis interest in frequency modulation broadcasting. Possibly due to his own initiative, it looks as though the introduction of frequency modulation broadcasting may be speeded up. Although this is likely, one cannot be sure, because under the provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Act the Government has to call for applications for licences, and so on and so forth. But it seems to me a fair probability that some of the people who will receive frequency modulation licences will be people who at present are operating the amplitude modulation stations to which these increased fees apply. So these stations will be faced with the increases in capital costs and operating costs brought about by the introduction of the more modern system of sound broadcasting, namely, frequency modulation broadcasting.
I do not want to go off on a red herring in relation to frequency modulation, but the Senate will appreciate that the Government, as a result of a report by the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts- I see that my friend Senator Milliner is in agreement with me on this- proposes to refer the question of the frequency band in which frequency modulation is to be introduced to a new independent investigator or inquiry. I commend the Minister for this and for the way in which he has listened to a proposal contrary to the one which was adopted by the previous Government and which he was proposing to adopt. I appreciate his flexibility in saying that this matter is worthy of a further examination. I do not know what the end result of it will be; but, whichever band is chosen- whether it be in the very high frequency band or in the ultra high frequency band- the end result will be that radio stations will be faced with increased costs. Those things being so and having a particular interest in these matters, I think that this is a bad time- it is a time of raging inflation, the effects of which the stations have to meet, in common with the rest of the community- to increase the licence fees of the radio stations. I intend to vote against the motion for the second reading of the Bill.
– It is getting towards the hour at which the Senate rises. I appreciate the comments made by Senator Laucke when he said that the Opposition does not intend to oppose the Bill. Normally in those circumstances I would say that I appreciate the easy passage of the Bill. But because of the lateness of the hour and having regard to Senator Hannan ‘s comments and his desire to have his name recorded as being opposed to the motion for the second reading of the Bill, I intend to take some of the time of the Senate to make one or two observations. Firstly, let me say that as a result of the proposed increase in the initial licence fee from $50 to $200 for each individual commercial broadcasting station- there being 1 1 8 of them- it is expected that an extra $60,000 will go into Consolidated Revenue. The additional estimated $60,000 will arise from the expected increase in the revenues of the 118 commercial broadcasting stations throughout Australia in the year 1 973-74.
I think Senator Laucke made mention of the fact that there are comparatively no marginal stations. Honourable senators will observe that, in relation to the revenue accruing to Consolidated Revenue from advertising receipts by broadcasting stations, it is not proposed to impose a percentage increase on the gross earnings of stations earning advertising revenue up to $500,000. So, in fact, in relation to all stations earning less than $500,000 a year- that is the greatest proportion of them; and, frankly, I think the Government is being very generous in its attitude in this regard- there will be an increase of a mere $3 a week. There has been no increase in this type of taxation on the stations since 1964. So, from 1964 until this financial year- a period of a decade- the actual additional impost in taxation of this nature on the commercial broadcasting stations has been comparatively little. To say the least, it has been infinitesimal.
Whilst it is true, as Senator Hannan says, that in 1971 the number of commercial broadcasting stations showing a loss was 9, and in 1972 the number of commercial broadcasting stations showing a loss was 19, 1 am sure that the honourable senator will agree with me on 2 things: In that financial year there were very serious economic circumstances existing in many of the rural areas. This was at a time when national advertisers were quite loath to expend the amount of money they previously were expending with certain rural radio stations. This year has been a year of considerable buoyancy in the rural areas. The wheat crop is good and additional sales have been effected. Also, additional sales of wool have been effected to Japan. Generally speaking, the buoyancy of the rural economy has picked up considerably. I suggest that this is likely to have a substantial or at least some economic effect on those commercial broadcasting stations that were affected in the year 1 97 1 -72.
Unfortunately, I do not have the figures available to me to show the net result before taxation of those stations in existence in 1964. I would have had other figures available had I known that the Bill was to be debated at this late hour. The lastest figures available to me at this stage are those for 1968 which show that the revenue for 114 stations was $8m. In 1972 the net revenue result before taxation of 118 stations was nearly $ 12m. As the honourable senator will appreciate, this represents nearly 50 per cent increase in net result.
– Gross result, is it not?
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLANDNonet result before taxation but after paying the licence fee. Over the last 5 years the net result has been increased by some 50 per cent. If the position were the same from 1 964 to 1 968-1 am not saying that it was- it would mean that in that decade there was a 100 per cent increase in profits. Here we find a situation in which the commercial broadcasting stations have not had an additional impost made upon them since 1964. Senator Hannan was formerly a part time member of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. I know that he has a considerable knowledge of the broadcasting and television industry. He will appreciate that this type of revenue is used basically for the purpose of financing the operations and activities of the Broadcasting Control Board. Because there has been a substantial increase in the number of broadcasting stations and television stations and because the workload now thrown on the Broadcasting Control Board is significantly greater than it was a decade ago, it is only natural that an increase in the revenue required to enable the Broadcasting Control Board to continue to give the very effective service that it gives to the Australian people is necessary.
Senator Hannan mentioned the subject of frequency modulation. True it is that the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts which has been charged by the Senate to inquire into all aspects of radio and television has presented an interim report and has suggested that a second look should be given at the recommendations of the Broadcasting Control Board on frequency modulation. I think that I told the honourable senator by way of an answer during question time that some time earlier than that I had put a submission to Cabinet. It was on 25 September that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) announced that the Government would be establishing another independent committee.
– I commend the Government for that.
– I appreciate that. I am just mentioning to the honourable senator that I am hoping that my colleague, the Special Minister of State (Senator Willesee) and I will be in a position later this evening to make a further announcement on that matter. I believe that the Government has been more than reasonable in considering the extent and the amount of the increases imposed in relation to this matter. I appreciate that the Opposition is not opposing the legislation. Therefore, I suggest that the motion that the Bill be now read a second time be put to a vote.
– The question is:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Those of that opinion say ‘aye’, to the contrary no*.
– No. I wish my no vote to be recorded.
- Senator Hannan ‘s name will be recorded in the journals as dissenting from the motion. I declare the motion carried.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– The Senate will be aware that there has been considerable public disquiet in New South Wales about the collapse of the Barton group of companies. I wish to raise a matter of the utmost gravity- a matter which can only be described as one of the greatest political scandals of the century in this country. The allegation has been made that the Attorney-General of New South Wales, Mr Ken McCaw, personally intervened to stop the investigation and prosecution of Alexander Barton and Thomas Barton who have been responsible for the loss of almost $2 5 m by the public of Australia. These 2 master swindlers have been protected by the Attorney-General of New South Wales- the Minister charged with upholding the law in that State.
The investigation officer of the Corporate Affairs Commission of New South Wales is prepared to go before a public inquiry or royal commission and say that because he had ample evidence that they had been guilty of fraud and misrepresentation he contacted the Bartons solicitors, McCaw, Johnson and Company and told them he wanted to interview the Bartons. Almost immediately, the investigating officer says, he was summoned to the office of the New South Wales Attorney-General and told by Mr McCaw that he, McCaw, did not want him to proceed any further with the investigation of the Bartons.
There is only one possible explanation of how the New South Wales Attorney-General could have know of this request. He must have been contacted by a member of his former legal firm and asked to intervene to protect the Bartons. The Corporate Affairs officer rejected this approach by Mr McCaw and told the New South Wales Attorney-General: ‘If you want me to drop this investigation you will have to instruct me in writing’. The next day the investigating officer was told by a superior officer in the department that he was being taken off the investigation. He was taken off it immediately. He later checked departmental files and discovered that no further action had been taken on this investigation of the Bartons. The officer says he was preparing a recommendation that prosecutions be launched against the 2 Bartons and the company’s secretary when he was taken off the case.
This is the most flagrant case of political protection of malpractice yet to surface in this country. There can be no doubt that had this prosecution been launched the public would have been warned and at least some of the funds invested in the Barton companies would have been saved by the public. Instead the Bartons were allowed to continue their giant swindle and later to skip the country. This is a matter which must be fully and properly probed. This Parliament has power over corporations. It has a Select Committee on Securities and Exchange inquiring into malpractices. I call for a similar Senate committee to inquire into this scandal.
-We have listened to a statement which concerns a subject completely out of the range of my knowledge. But I have been in this Parliament long enough to know that senators speak here because they have absolute privilege. I heard reference to the word ‘swindlers’ by the honourable senator who has so distorted and abused the privilege of this place. I say that because he knows that the person accused of this cover-up has no representation in this House and so far as it would appear had no notice that these accusations were going to be made. If the honourable senator had given notice to Mr McCaw that he intended to raise this matter he would have said so.
The period before an election is preserved by laws from abuse so far as television stations are concerned. The Press of the country has been alerted prior to this accusation from the honourable senator from Sydney. Right on the eve of the election for the New South Wales Parliament the honourable senator has taken advantage of privilege, for prearranged publication in the Press, of this sort of ex parte accusation 2 days before an election, which will prevent the person accused not merely from having the right to reply in this place but from having any real opportunity to reply in the Press. The Press is entitled to report proceedings in this Parliament so long as it does it fairly and accurately. I emphasise the requirement of its privilege of reporting in that word ‘fairly’.
Be it remembered that Mr McCaw has submitted himself to cross examination in court to justify himself against an insidious imputation that the Australian Broadcasting Commission made against him to this effect. Be it noted that the ABC, when making an accusation against him, told a lie as to his connection with a firm of solicitors, and then claimed in its defence that what it said had none of the imputations that Senator Gietzelt has hoarded in his mudbag until the very eve of the elections in the hope that the Press of this country will have such lack of principles as to print what he has said. I think he would hope, by the array of what we see, to arrange headlines for it. He knows that this is the evening of the day before the elections and there will be no opportunity for the party accused to reply.
I think that a senator who so abuses the privilege of the Federal Parliament, without notice to a man who has submitted his whole reputation on this very matter to the scrutiny of the Supreme Court of New South Wales within the last fortnight, and expects the Press of the country to be so depraved in principle as to print prominent accusations of this sort a day before an election, so timed as to prevent the person accused having any real right of reply, is acting in an abysmally depraved manner. I hope we will take this action into consideration at an early date and take precautions to prevent the absolute privilege that we enjoy in the Parliament to speak in this place without liability for defamation from being abused by swindlers operating within this place.
– I have very little knowledge other than what I have read in newspapers about the affairs of Alexander and Thomas Barton or of Mr McCaw whom I have never met or heard of apart from what I have read in the newspapers. All that I know of the matter that has been raised by Senator Gietzelt is that I know the information which he gave to the Senate tonight was information which had only recently come into his possession. In fact, it came into his possession only today. I believe he was acting properly in drawing it to the attention of the Senate. The very fact that there had been litigation about another matter related to the Barton companies but not related to the specific allegation made tonight, which relates to claims which have been made by an investigating officer of the Corporate Affairs Commission of New South Wales, is beside the point.
What prompts me to rise is to comment on the absurd impertinent hypocrisy of Senator Wright- that Senator Wright should of all people have the audacity today to come into this Senate and accuse people -
– I rise on a point of order. The word ‘hypocrisy’ has been used in reference to Senator Wright. It is offensive and should be withdrawn.
-Is it offensive to you, Senator Wright?
– I will withdraw it. I do not want to haggle about it. I only wish to say that I find Senator Laucke ‘s sensitivity rather disarming.
– I rise on a point of order. I think the Standing Orders preclude as a matter of parliamentary propriety the use of any expressions that impute dishonesty or lack of principle.
– I have withdrawn.
– The word ‘hypocrisy’ would be within that category. For the standing of the Senate I would think that the use of such a word would attract an automatic requirement of withdrawal.
– I have a dictionary of forbidden words, but I cannot find that one amongst them.
-Mr President, I have withdrawn. But having withdrawn, I would like to comment that I am surprised at the sudden sensitivity which has overcome Senator Laucke, who was quite happy to hear the word ‘mudbag’ being used by Senator Wright and I also was quite startled to hear Senator Wright suggesting that words which impute impropriety should not be used when he described Senator Gietzelt as a ‘mudbag’ on several occasions a few moments ago.
I will not use the word ‘hypocrisy’ but I will say that it is a sign of the selectivity of Senator Wright in approaching these matters. I find it completely audacious on his part to come into the Senate tonight to complain about an abuse of privilege when only yesterday when this very Senate was discussing the purchase of a painting by this Government he referred to corruption on the part of people who were not involved in politicspeople engaged in business. He in his coward’s castle accused of corruption people whom he knew could not answer. Yet he now comes along with this fulsome manner he has, which of course impresses no one, even his own colleagues in the Liberal Party who have approximately the same opinion of him as I have, and tries to impress us with this superior virtue that he, Senator Wright, would never traduce anybody outside the Parliament, when he has made a career of it ever since he has been in the place. I do not think anybody is impressed. I do not think the Press will succumb to his insults. The Press will have watched him down the years and will not take very seriously what he has said tonight. Senator Gietzelt has drawn the attention of the Senate to a serious matter. He has made a specific proposal that there ought to be an inquiry by way of royal commission into this matter. The fact that there are or are not elections to be held is not in my view a matter which affects the validity of what he has said tonight. He raised this matter as soon as the information was given to him and I believe he has properly raised it. I do not believe that the insults of Senator Wright will overcome what he has said. The only way that it can be overcome is to have a royal commission or inquiry along the lines Senator Gietzelt suggested.
– I know nothing of the background except what I read in the newspapers concerning the Barton affairs but I have heard what Senator Gietzelt said tonight and I recalled what I read in the newspapers this afternoon of a statement by Mr McCaw following an accusation of similar import which was made yesterday by Senator Mulvihill and which received very considerable publicity in the newspapers this morning. According to the report, Mr McCaw said:
This false allegation was based in anonymity and uttered in malice under parliamentary privilege to try to help his New South Wales Labor colleagues in Saturday’s election.
It is beneath contempt for Federal Labor politicians to use the Canberra Parliament’s cloak of privilege to falsely smear innocent people for blatant electioneering purposes.
Nothing of the son ever occurred, and this is just another proof that smear tactics are the only policy and technique of Federal and New South Wales Labor politicians.
Mr Ryan is the Commissioner of Corporate Affairs in New South Wales and he stated, as reported in the same newspaper, the Sydney Sun’:
At this stage, I want to make it clear that at no time during his term of office has Mr McCaw interfered or given any direction as to the course of any investigation being undertaken.
As Attorney-General, he has always acted on my recommendations in regard to the Commission’s inquiries.
I find it incredible that Senator Gietzelt has not read the Sydney ‘Sun’ this afternoon and that in the face of what appears in that newspaper. That he should come in here and make an allegation, without giving the basis for it, which is completely contradictory of what Mr McCaw said this afternoon, is one of the basest uses of parliamentary privilege that one can imagine. I agree with what Mr McCaw says. There are some
Labor politicians from the State of New South Wales who do use this Senate to smear -
– You name them.
-Senator Gietzelt and Senator Murphy, and the record establishes it quite clearly. They have used this Parliament to accuse people of dreadful crimes and to so impute to them a name and a notoriety such that they can scarcely hold themselves up afterwards as worthy citizens. It is a disgraceful use of free speech in the Parliament and I echo every word that Senator Wright has said. If Senator Gietzelt wants to have an inquiry let him put the facts, the basic material for an inquiry, and I am sure that he will not find this Senate unresponsive. But to come forward with simply innuendo and allegation in the face of categorical denial by the man he is accusing is quite insufficient.
We have seen Senator Gietzelt speaking in relation to pistol licences, Senator Wheeldon making allegations of bribery, and Senator Mulvihill making accusations against Mr McCaw, all at question time in the week before an election in New South Wales. Of course, they secured the desired result. There was some publicity of the fact that the questions were asked. And what do we have happening on the night that the Senate adjourns at 7 o’clock? Unaccustomed though it is, we have the Press gallery present. Is it by sheer chance that they are here? It may be; I do not know. But I have the suspicion that they were aware that something was to be said. This is our democratic procedure but I do wish the Press would exercise responsibility when they report something which occurred in the Parliament, when the impact of it is to do damage to individuals who may be innocent. That is for the Press to decide. I have always believed that one of the real problems of our society is how that responsibility is exercised. But if it be that this is an accusation made by design with malice for electioneering purposes, irrespective of the harm it does to individuals, it is the basest and most contemptible sort of actions that individuals can engage in.
– I must rise to the defence of honourable senators on this side who remind us of the Alexander Barton scandal which has been a running sore in the securities market for a number of years. It was responsible, honourable senators will recall, for the appointment of the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange. To me it seems to be highly relevant to bring forth and to determine here the accusation that the New South Wales
Government has been neglectful in carrying out its duties and in carrying out an investigation of this group of companies whose record was available. The knowledge of their misdemeanours was widespread and it was referred to in this Parliament and in this Senate on a number of occasions. I even at one stage referred to Alexander Barton as the greatest financial spiv that this country has ever seen. It was common knowledge that the companies floated by this person and his associates had taken people for a ride to the extent of $ 18m. It is not just recently that this knowledge was made available.
– It is worse than the turtles.
– It is considerably worse than the turtles but the underlying principle may be the same. It was known to the authorities in New South Wales that there was a widespread scandal here but nothing was done. Still nothing is done. Alexander Barton was allowed to escape from this country and he will not be brought to justice. Those many people who have been deprived of their savings by the misappropriation, falsification and the promotions of this gentleman will not receive justice. It is most necessary that honourable senators raise the matter in the manner in which they feel justified in raising it, and for that reason Senator Gietzelt ought to be supported here and ought not to be the subject of vilification of honourable senators opposite who belong to the same Party as that which is in office in New South Wales and which has done nothing to expose the rackets that have persisted and which have allowed the king of the rackets, Alexander Barton, to escape.
– Not the king, Senator.
- Senator Rae may share some knowledge that I have, but he is one of the kings of the rackets that have existed with respect to securities and exchange. It was unfortunate that the Securities and Exchange Committee, winding up its investigation, was unable to investigate Alexander Barton ‘s companies. It was unfortunate, because the evidence that this investigation was likely to reveal had already been revealed by investigations into other companies. The Committee would merely have been going over the same ground. But this does not remove from the New South Wales Government the responsibility of carrying out an investigation. It has delayed the investigaiton and the initiatives which should have been taken. Senator Gietzelt said that it did so for a particular reason. He has a right to say that and to ask for an inquiry. Honourable senators opposite have no right. (Quorum formed). It is as well that a quorum has been formed because, if it had not been formed and the Senate had been counted out, we would have found that quite a number of members of the Opposition were on aircraft heading for home while one of their colleagues called for a quorum. I have nothing more to say in support of Senator Gietzelt ‘s right to demand an inquiry, on the information which he has. His standing as a senator is sufficient to allow him to speak as he has spoken and to demand the investigation which he thinks is necessary.
– I think that Senator Gietzelt has raised some matters which are not being properly attended to in New South Wales but which are matters of national importance. I refer to an article in today’s ‘Daily Telgraph’, Thursday, 15 November. Under the heading ‘Doormen Sacked In Kings Cross Police ‘ ‘ Blitz ‘ ‘ ‘, the article states:
At least 6 doormen at Kings Cross night clubs have been sacked following a police blitz on the area.
The sackings came after detectives from the 21st division visited owners of all clubs in the area to check employees.
This follows a statement from the Police Commissioner, Mr Hansen, in which he threatened to ‘close the Cross’ in a crackdown on violence.
The detectives are believed to have warned club proprietors to get rid of any doorman with a criminal record.
One employee said the detectives asked for a list of all club employees so that their criminal records could be checked.
He said more sackings were certain in the near future.
The doorman said that as a result of the police blitz, one well known strip club seemed certain to close.
I have never seen so many police in such a small area in my life ‘, the doorman said.
It looks like they’re fair dinkum this time’.
Before the crackdown, a man known to his colleagues as ‘Mr Sin’ -
That is Mr Sin, not Mr South- had employed at least 16 standover men as bouncers in clubs with which he is connected in Kings Cross.
– Was this Senator Sim?
– No, Mr Sin.
– What is the difference?
-He who is without sin shall cast the first stone. The article continues:
Last night, a well known identity in the area said these heavies ‘ were responsible for several recent bashings.
He said the bouncers were so well armed ‘that they could take on a small army’.
Mr Sin’ has employed a chief bouncer who has at least one shooting to his credit.
This bloke just goes from club to club to make sure everything is quite’, the informant said.
At least 16 doormen could be called to any spot at the Cross within 2 minutes if required by the ‘overlord’ to handle a situation.
– Order! What is the purpose of this recitation?
– It is to illustrate that I had experience of the situation which exists in New South Wales, with corruption and Mafialike activities. (Quorum formed). I rose simply to commend Senator Gietzelt for drawing attention to the fact that the Premier of New South Wales and previous State Attorneys-General have been issuing pistol licences to these crooks and spivs who have been running Kings Cross and Sydney for so long. I shall relate a personal experience which I had. One night I was at a reception with my brother and his family. We looked down into one of these night clubs. A man pointed a revolver at me, through the window, where we were standing. We were watching the type of racket which was going on. In these clandestine clubs -
– What was going on?
-Baccarat and all types of illegal gambling. There could have been a little bit of stripping going on. One honourable senator has recently become connected with this art, through the family. Nevertheless, the point I make is that New South Wales is becoming as corrupt as New York. The bashings and the muggings will continue because the Government in New South Wales has issued licences to these crooks who run Kings Cross and areas of Sydney. I believe that if we cannot get some satisfaction through the New South Wales authorities we should raise this matter because it is of national importance. To think that Australia, with all its great history, is being reduced to this level through the New South Wales example of being a refuge for gangsters, crooks, doublecrossers and these people whose activities have been reported in the Press. It is time there was a good clean-up in New South Wales at the State level, at the Premier level and at the AttorneyGeneral level. They are closing their eyes to these activities. There is no shadow of doubt about that. Under the surface there is widespread corruption and that type of thing in New South Wales. We have heard the histrionics of Senator Greenwood about how terrible it is to raise these matters in the Senate. Where can they be raised if they are not raised here?
– I will speak briefly only because the dinner break has been completely mucked up for most people, except members of the Liberal Party who are now eating their snails and lobster mornay. I also support Senator Gietzelt in his attitude towards the widespread corruption that exists in official organisations in New South Wales, starting from the Premier of the State and working down.
– Order! You cannot say that.
-Mr President, the truth has to be told.
– You tell the truth.
– I am telling the truth* because the Premier of New South Wales at no stage has done anything to clean up the corruption in New South Wales. It is all very well for Senator Wright to come in here tonight shedding maudlin tears and putting on his usual clownish performance while saying that this sort of thing does not happen and that this is not the place where a matter of this sort ought to be raised. He, in collusion with some of his doubtful quantity colleagues, has endeavoured to turn the Senate chamber into a circus on more than one occasion since the present Government was elected.
I respectfully suggest that the accusations made by Senator Gietzelt and those who support him here tonight ought to be investigated as a matter of very great urgency. The matter of the Alexander Barton group of companies, which took some $20m to $30m off mostly small investors, is one of the great scandals of” this century. We remember the Jet-Air scandal and other acts of corruption in this country when people on the Opposition side of the chamber were in government. They are protecting these people because they believe that the bigger criminals in the community ought to be protected. Senator Wright is one of the foremost people in always leaping to their defence, as he leapt to the defence of these corrupt people tonight. I hope that this investigation will be precipitated so that these Watergate scoundrels in the community can be thinned out and gaoled for life. Gaol is where they deserve to be.
- Mr President, I rise to put on record the fact that on the first occasion on which Senator Wright drew your attention to the state of the Senate, the only members of the Liberal Party who were present were himself and Senator Rae. On the second occasion on which he drew your attention to the state of the Senate, about 3 minutes later, the only Opposition senators who were present were again himself and Senator Rae. Ever since, the only Opposition senators who have been present, apart from a brief entrance by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers), have been Senators Rae and
Wright. Mr President, I believe that the action of Senator Wright in calling your attention to the state of the Senate was a deliberate attempt on his part to stifle the things being brought forward by Senator Gietzelt and Senator Georges. Senator Georges was speaking at that time. I do not think it says very much for the scruples of Senator Wright, who always professes to uphold the great principles of this Parliament, when he uses every opportunity to stand up and try to stifle matters which people legitimately bring forward. If those honourable senators are wrong, they have to answer for their statements outside even if they do not have to answer for them in this place. I think that Senator Wright has done himself a great disservice in the eyes of this Parliament and in the eyes of the public at large by what he has said and done here tonight.
– I have listened to the debate with a great deal of interest. To say the least, whatever be the facts, Senator Gietzelt has the right- indeed, the responsibility- to raise matters in this Parliament if he believes that they are of an investigatory nature. For Senator Wright to rise in this chamber tonight and talk about distortion of facts and abuse of privilege after I have sat here for 1 1 years and listened to him while he was in government, and those who sat alongside him, abuse their privilege, distort the facts and call decent, honest, working-class citizens communists and traitors, was the most amazing thing that I have ever heard. We know that Mr Barton at least has skipped this country, whatever be the facts concerning him and all these other people.
But what will Senator Wright say about an ordinary, decent trade union official who was going about his business of protecting members of his union in a club on a Sunday night and was belted and bashed and put into hospital? That man’s spleen was removed. No action was taken against those who carried out that deed. That is the sort of thing that is going on in New South Wales. If Senator Wright can sit there, coming from Tasmania as he does -
– The building workers did not -
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLANDSenator Rae talks about the building workers union. It was not the building workers union which was involved in this case. It was Actors Equity, and this case concerns the operations of an illegal club. An official of a registered industrial union was going into the premises to protect the working conditions and wages of members of his union. He was thrown down the stairs. His ribs were fractured and, in the course of surgery, his spleen was removed. Members of the Liberal Party in this place are not raising an objection to that sort of thing going on in a State in which they say there is no corruption.
I would have thought that the police force and those responsible for the administration of justice would be leaving no stone unturned in ensuring that people who do that to an official of a registered union are apprehended and dealt with. According to this man, who is lying in St Vincent’s Hospital in a very serious physical condition, when the police came along he was told to merely get a taxi and go home. If that is what is going on in the State I represent, I believe that there has to be a change of government. It is the responsibility- indeed, the duty- of my colleague Senator Gietzelt to raise the facts concerning these matters if he genuinely believes, as I am sure he does, that there is a case for others to answer.
-Is the election campaign over now?
– I thought it might be fair if I summed up on behalf of the Opposition. I thought it might be relevant if I drew attention to the fact that an election is to take place in New South Wales, strangely enough, within a couple of days.
- Senator Wright is leaving the sinking ship.
- Mr President, may I address you and the chamber?
– I thought it might be of interest to point that out until the Minister for the Media, Senator McClelland, made clear what this exercise has been all about. He made it quite clear that it is related to an attempt on behalf of the Labor Party to achieve a change of government in New South Wales. I am reminded of the fact that the last time similar tactics were engaged in in this chamber was immediately prior to the State election in Queensland.
– You did the same in Tasmania.
- Senator Poke wants me to refer to Tasmania. Strangely enough, in this chamber tonight so far I have not referred to Tasmania. I remind honourable senators that an inquiry is being conducted in that State, but it is being conducted in the way in which one would expect it to be conducted- that is, by State authorities. If some matter involving allegations related to the government of a State arises, the proper place for the inquiry to take place is in that State. No doubt Senator Poke has a very close interest in the outcome of the inquiry which is being conducted in Tasmania as has one of his other colleagues from this House of the Parliament -
- Mr President, I raise a point of order.
– Order! What is the point of order?
– There is an insinuation by Senator Rae that I have been associated with something in Tasmania which is supposed to be illegal. I want to make a clear and concise statement to this Senate, and I want an apology.
– Order! Senator Poke, I want to hear your point of order. There is no substance in your point of order. You can make a personal explanation when Senator Rae has resumed his seat.
- Mr President, I am taking a point of order.
– Order! Senator Keeffe, what is the point of order?
– A statement made by a senator from the Opposition is offensive to me and my colleagues on this side of the chamber. I request a withdrawal of the insinuations and an apology.
– Order! I have been listening with great care to Senator Rae. He had not even completed his sentence when Senator Poke rose to his feet. If Senator Rae was making imputations against Senator Poke I am sure he will withdraw them. But I thought that there was no suggestion of any imputations of wrong doing and I would be grateful, Senator Rae, if you would clear the matter up.
-Thank you, Mr President. I go on, if I may, to say this: I have not the slightest doubt that Senator Poke, having occupied an office in a Party which was involved in allegations which are being investigated, would be anxious to have the matter clarified in the spirit in which some of the members of his Party have professed to be anxious to see the matters alleged to have taken place in New South Wales clarified. I find it hard to believe that Senator Poke should take exception to that unless he wishes us to believe that he is not anxious to have matters such as that cleared up. I simply point to the fact that the 2 occasions on which this Senate has been treated as it has this evening have been in the few days before an election in a State. One was in relation to an election in Queensland and now it is an election in relation to New South Wales. I think that if that fact is reported the basis upon which this matter has been debated tonight may be judged by all fair readers.
-Mr President, I take exception to what Senator Rae insinuated. He talked about my holding office in a Party. I am proud to say that I attained the position of Senior Vice-president of the Australian Labor Party in Tasmania. I also attained the position of President of the Australian Labor Party in Tasmania and the position of Senior Vicepresident of the Federal Executive. I do not think that Senator Rae can compare the offices which he has held in his Party with the offices which I have held in my Party. I strongly resent that Senator Rae should insinuate that I, along with other members of the party, have been something in Tasmania which has been shady. I throw this challenge to Senator Rae: If Senator Rae can show anything to point the finger of the least suspicion at me I shall donate $ 1 ,000 to the Liberal Party. In turn, if he cannot prove what he has insinuated he should donate $1,000 to the Labor Party. Come on. Show your money. It is put up or shut up as far as I am concerned. I am not going to take those insinuations. I have been an official of the trade union movement. I have been on the executive of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. I have never yet heard anybody sink so low as has Senator Rae here tonight in insinuating that I have ever accepted a bribe. I have never accepted one and I would not accept one. I take exception to that insinuation.
– Order! Senator Rae, you were making no insinuations, I take it, were you?
– No, Sir. I thought I had made that plain. In the circumstances I must decline the challenge from Senator Poke since it does not apply.
– No, you have not got the guts?
– Order! That matter is cleared up. Senator Rae was not making any insinuations against your personal integrity, Senator Poke. I call Senator Cavanagh.
– I want to say a few words because Senator Rae said that he was summing up for the Opposition.
- Mr President, -
- Senator Cavanagh rose just before you did, Senator McAuliffe.
– I will bow to you but I think -
– Order, senator.
– . . . that an apology would be in order -
– Order! This is not the first time -
– . . . because, Mr President -
– Order ! Senator McAuliffe, please resume your seat. The Presiding Officer calls that honourable senator whom he first sees. Prior to Senator Poke getting to his feet and before Senator Rae got to his feet, Senator Cavanagh had been on his feet. He rose at the same time as you and therefore I called Senator Cavanagh. I shall call you immediately after Senator Cavanagh.
– Thank you, Mr President.
– I had no desire to compete with my colleague. I would have yielded willingly -
– I thought the Minister might be closing.
– Order! No, I proposed the motion for the adjournment of the Senate.
– I would have been willing for Senator McAuliffe to speak before me but I thought that I would leave sufficient unsaid and it would be possibly better for Senator McAuliffe to speak after me so that any mistakes or imperfections of mine could be corrected by my more capable colleague who could assist me. Senator Rae said that he would sum up. But it is obvious that in attempting to sum up he did not get to the debate at all but went into other accusations. We travelled all around, from Mr McCaw originally to, I think, Senator O ‘Byrne looking at strip-tease in Kings Cross and there was some suggestions of crooked deals with Senator Poke in Tasmania. This is all because there is no answer to Senator Gietzelt ‘s accusations. Senator Gietzelt made very serious accusations against a Minister of the Crown in New South Wales. They were so serious that those who spoke in opposition thought it shocking that such serious accusations should be made. They acknowledged that they were serious accusations. If there are serious accusations against a Minister of the Crown I think that a member of Parliament has a responsibility to make them public. But honourable senators, after admitting that they were serious accusations, said that they were raised for the purpose of some publicity on the eve of an election.
Are we to have a moratorium on corruption? Are we to let corruption go on because there is a State election? When we obtain knowledge of those serious accusations, and knowledge that someone is doing something underhand which is not his public duty, should we let him continue without exposing him because there is an election pending? Should there be a free and open go on crookedness just because an election is pending somewhere? Now we come to the other point. If there is a desire to use this information for an election purpose, is there not a responsibility on a member to make this plain before voters innocently decide how to cast their vote as to who their representative will be without knowing of the activities of a certain candidate? Should they know about it? Is there not a responsibility, if it is on the eve of an election, to show this? If Senator Gietzelt is successful in getting a good Press it will be unusual. There is more of a chance with an adjournment debate at 7 o’clock when there are no fights in the other place. Members of the Press come here in the hope that Senator Wright will misbehave- as he sometimes does- and that they will be able to report him. But if Senator Gietzelt has succeeded and there is some malpractice on the pan of an individual who is a candidate for an election, what is wrong?
Should we not seek a full Press coverage to expose malpractices? We have a responsibility to show them up. The accusation was that the investigations were pulled off a group of companies. Everyone knows the companies are corrupt. It was suggested that there should not be this investigation because something might come out before the election. These are plain points which should receive wide publicity, even if it is for the purpose of an election, because we should not support corruption getting into our Australian Parliaments. I think Senator Gietzelt had a responsibility to speak. I think he had a duty to those who believe in honesty and decency. Getting back to the issue, the Opposition speakers rose to condemn Senator Gietzelt. They admitted the seriousness of the charge, there was no denial of the accusations and no question that there should not be an inquiry. To say ‘You should not bring it up because it is so near an election ‘ is simply rubbish.
- Mr President, I want to apologise to you for having raised a sort of challenge when I did not get the call. I was just enthusiastic to get to my feet and when you gave the call to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) I felt that that may have closed the debate. I hope that you will accept my explanation.
-Thank you very much.
– I am prompted to speak in this debate because one must have serious doubts about the sincerity of Senator Wright and Senator Greenwood when they respond when accusations of this kind are made. I must also now include in that category Senator Rae because he made some reference that a similar matter was introduced on the eve of the Queensland elections. I can recall speaking some months ago- true, it was on the eve of the Queensland elections, but that was coincidentaland I spoke to the subject on which I did speak because the Standing Orders of the Parliament provided me with that opportunity when the States Grants Bill was before this House. I spoke about Mafia type tactics being introduced into the gambling industry in Queensland and being organised by a panel of bookmakers in Queensland. That evening I was subjected to a very vitriolic attack by Senator Wright and Senator Greenwood who seem to be the heavy artillery for the Opposition in these sorts of things. They challenged me and made all sorts of accusations that I was using it for political purposes on the eve of a State election, that I had produced no proof to the Senate and that I was not able to document the evidence and place it before the chamber as proof of what I was saying. I accepted that and 2 evenings later, on the adjournment debate, I brought 9 documents before this Parliament as proof of the accusations that I had made about Mafia type tactics that were being introduced into the gambling and bookmaking industries in Queensland. Particularly, I sought leave to have the documents incorporated in Hansard. With great repetition loud noes came from Senator Wright and Senator Greenwood on each occasion that I sought leave, so much so that the House remained sitting until 20 past 2 in the morning. If anyone wants to read the pages of Hansard which record the history of those events he will see, without my going into them in detail, that the documentation which I produced was ample proof of the claims I had made. Furthermore, if further proof is required, the bookmakers concerned in Queensland have resigned and the association which they were using for their Mafia-like tactics was disbanded at the request of the Minister.
But what concerns me more is that although that documentation was produced in this House- and I say again to the Senate that the bookmakers association which was being used as the vehicle for these Mafia-like tactics was dissolvedthere was silence from Senator Wright and Senator Greenwood on the question that they had erred in their accusations against me. They remained silent with the silence of Dean Maitland. They have still not apologised. But what concerns me even more was that after I had produced these documents in this Parliament my life was threatened by one of the persons mentioned. He said at Sydney Airport that he would get rid of me. Even though I made this claim in the Senate and produced evidence, Senator Wright, still in a cowardly manner, sat in his seat and forgot the whole incident. I must say that I cannot have any opinion of Senator Wright, Senator Rae and Senator Greenwood in these matters other than that they are false. I do not think they are sincere. I think they just do this for the sake of political expediency, to try to dodge answering the questions.
Senator Gietzelt was entitled to make the claims that he made. As a matter of fact, in my capacity as Acting Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control certain information came into my possession which influenced me to see whether I could persuade the Committee to inquire into accusations similar to those which Senator Gietzelt has placed before the chamber tonight. However, because a royal commission was taking place in New South Wales the Committee decided to leave the matter in abeyance until the conclusion of the royal commission. I think Senator Gietzelt had every right to do what he has done. I object to the attitude that has been adopted by Senator Wright and Senator Greenwood particularly in trying to say that these things are done for political purposes. I tell those senators: You still stand answerable in my eyes. Nearly 9 months have passed since I produced proof of the claims that I made in this place and I informed you of the threats that have been made on my life by these people. Yet you still sit there and you have not got the decency or the manliness to say: ‘In this instance, I was wrong. You did produce proof. I erred in thinking that you did it for political purposes’. Instead you are trying to condemn Senator Gietzelt as you condemned me. I am sure that now he has been challenged he will produce proof.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 7.56 p.m. until Tuesday, 20 November, at 2 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
Concrete Railway Sleepers
Jarrah Railway Sleepers
Concrete Railway Sleepers
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following information for reply to the honourable senator’s question:
The figures are subsumed under the ‘travelling and subsistence’ component of administrative expenses for each Department (as recorded in the Appropriation Bill (No.1) of 1973-74) which covers all modes of travel and ancillary expenditure.
However, in answer to Question No. 346 the Special Minister of State has provided information on the number of officers of each Department who travelled abroad during the period 2 December 1 972 to 7 June 1 973 and the total costs of such travel (Hansard, 24 October, pages 1449-50).
In addition the Public Service Board has provided me with estimates made in 1972 which indicate that the total cost of air travel by Australian Public Servants in 1971-72 was approximately $9m in respect of domestic journeys and approximately $4m in respect of international journeys. Public Service Board estimates for 1971-72 indicate that gross savings of approximately $ 1.2m a year would have been achieved if all Australian Public Servants had travelled economy class on domestic journeys, and that for international journeys the gross savings for this group would have been of the order of $0.75m for 1971-72.
As to procedures overseas, the Public Service Board does not have all of the information requested. I have been advised, however, that in the United States of America, the United Kingdom and New Zealand the following air travel standards apply for international travel:
The Public Service Board currently has the question of air travel standards under investigation and hopes to bring the examination to a conclusion shortly. The Board, however, has an obligation to consult Staff Associations before final decisions on any new standards are reached.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice:
– I am advised that the answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Anic- with explosives in possession.
Convicted and sentenced to four (4) months imprisonment suspended on a good behaviour bond for three (3) years.
Convicted and fined $30- appeal lodged- date of appeal to be fixed.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 15 November 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1973/19731115_senate_28_s58/>.