28th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
-The Minister representing the Treasurer will recall my question of 4 December about the merits of setting up a widely representative permanent Federal economic council to fight inflation. In view of the result of last Saturday’s referendum, does the Minister now consider that the suggestion should be investigated as a matter of urgency?
-I will pass on the the Treasurer the request of the Leader of the Australian Country Party. If the Treasurer has any response to it, I will let the honourable senator know promptly.
-I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: Now that the people of Australia have shown their overwhelming distrust of this Federal Government’s search for power and, in effect, have told the Government to use the powers it already has, will the Leader of the Government tell the Senate when the Government will decide on and announce a plan to stem and reduce the alarming rate of inflation which it, and it alone, has created in this country?
-First of all, the Leader of the Opposition is off course. The Australian people have taken their decision in relation to whether the Constitution should be amended. They are entitled to take that decision. Our view is that the people should be asked to make a decision on these questions. The fact that the people rejected the proposals put to them is their business, and they are entitled to take that view. What is wrong is the attitude which the Opposition takes in voting against proposals being put to the people for their consideration, as it did on that occasion and as it has done on other occasions. As to what ought to be done about the economy, everyone agrees that there should be an all-round approach to these questions, particularly the question of inflation. Every school child knows that there is world-wide inflation. If one reads the public documents, it is clear that when this Government came into office there was already an incipient high rate of inflation. (Opposition senators interjecting)-
-Listen to the scoffs from honourable senators opposite. If one looks at even the documents of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, this is apparent. No attempt ought to be made to fool the people on this question, because such an attempt will not succeed. If the Opposition wants to help, it will assist in passing legislation such as the Trade Practices Bill- the consumer protection legislation- which everyone in the community agrees will be vital if we are to tackle the problem of inflation. If the Opposition thinks that because the people of Australia have rejected the proposals put forward in the referendum it is entitled to go ahead and oppose the legislative proposals brought forward by the Government under the Constitution as it now stands, I think it will find that it is sadly mistaken.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, is put in the context of the festive season. Will the Australian representatives at the United Nations be participants in moves to seek political sanctuary for that long-time political prisoner, Ben Bella?
-Yes, I take note of the fact, although I do not think it is relevant, that we are approaching the festive season. I do not quite know what the situation is with regard to Ben Bella at the moment, but I will certainly find out and let the honourable senator know.
– Is the Minister for Foreign Affairs aware of the plight of the Russian ballet dancer Valery Panov who was dismissed from the Kirov Ballet and has been subjected to interrogation and imprisonment by the Soviet secret police after applying for a visa to emigrate from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to Israel? Has his attention been drawn to reports that Mr Panov sees public protests in the West as the best hope of securing his freedom to emigrate to Israel? Is he aware of the protest to the Kremlin by leading Western artists, including the eminent British actors Lord Olivier and Paul Scofield designed to win visas for Mr Panov and his wife to emigrate to Israel? In view of the Minister’s general statements to the United Nations Assembly this year supporting the international agreements on human rights, will he undertake to protest to the Soviet Government specifically about its refusal to let the Panovs go to Israel? If so, will he make public the text of his protest?
-The honourable senator’s question contains a lot of detail. I know something of the matter. I think a lot of the detail contained in his question is correct. However, I think I should obtain a detailed answer for Senator Kane.
-I regret that I am not aware of the film to which Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson refers. If he will supply the reference, I will certainly look into it, and do so promptly. A great deal of concern is being felt not only by the censorship authorities but also by others about the possible relationship between violence in films and violent behaviour. A good deal of work is being done in this area. I am encouraging further work. In any event, there seems to be some indication that violence portrayed in films may be related to violent behaviour, and this may apply to very young children. But I will look into the matter promptly in the context that the honourable senator has raised it, namely, that of the forthcoming holidays.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Services and Property. Has the Minister seen reports circulating since last Saturday that the Government intends to abolish compulsory voting at referendums? Can the Minister state whether there is any truth in these reports?
– Yes, I have seen the reports. The answer is no, there is no truth in them whatsoever.
-Has the Minister for Foreign Affairs attempted to confirm whether the Minister for Overseas Trade, Dr J. F. Cairns, said in Hanoi- I quote from a Press report- that in the past Australians were involved in making war upon your country and your people5? Has he also checked whether Dr Cairns expressed regret -again I quote- ‘at the Australian association with the United States war of destruction upon your country’? If these statements were made, is this another occasion on which Dr J. F. Cairns has taken over the foreign policy of the Government and what does the Minister propose to do about it?
-I have not yet checked whether that is an accurate report of what happened. It is not, of course, an attempt and there never has been an attempt by Dr J. F. Cairns to take over the foreign policy of the Government. The fact of the matter is that he was, as I understand it, at a dinner in Hanoi with some people whom he had invited to Australia some time ago. I think Dr Tien is the name of one of them. It was fairly natural that they would return hospitality to him. What he said in that regard is his personal opinion. He has had a very strong opinion on the matter.
Opposition senators- Oh!
-I do not know what the ignorant guffaws are about. The fact of the matter is that his attitude on the Vietnam war is very well known. It is strongly held by him. I think he has written two or three books on the subject. Of course honourable senators opposite disagree with him. They have disagreed with him over the years. To try to link this up in the way that they are trying to do is completely wrong.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is the Government fair dinkum about its anxiety to control inflation in Australia? If so, why has the Cabinet made the irresponsible decision to provide an annual leave loading to Commonwealth public servants that will cost at least $27m a year? How does the Government expect the rest of the community to resist copying this example which, in the face of the state of the economy, can only be described as gross mismanagement?
-I am not really the person to answer these questions. My understanding of the matter is that this follows what has been negotiated in outside industry and that certain undertakings of the Government are involved. It is part of the resolution of the terms and conditions of employees. One cannot simply pick on the employees of the Government and say that there is to be no advance in their wages and conditions, and hope to cure inflation in that way. All that that would lead to is industrial unrest. Surely these matters must be determined on the basis of fairness and equity right across the board. That is what the Government is endeavouring to do. It would like the assistance of the Opposition parties, not their obstruction, in its endeavours to deal with the problems of inflation.
– Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware of statements by the Victorian Minister for Agriculture, following last Friday’s meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council, to the effect that the proposed new wheat stabilisation plan is a blow to growers? As the Victorian Minister evidently feels that the Australian Government’s proposed stabilisation price for growers, instead of a guaranteed price, will adversely affect growers, can the Minister indicate whether the Australian Government is interested in continuing wheat stabilisation?
– I did see the statement referred to by the honourable senator. The new wheat stabilisation proposals were placed before the meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council last Friday, at which Mr Smith was in attendance, and also before the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation last night. It has been traditional over the years for matters which have been discussed within the Council not to become matters on which individual Ministers should make public statements. I have no hesitation in saying that I believe Mr Smith to be totally irresponsible in saying what he said. The position is still negotiable. The matter will have to come back to the next meeting of the Council for final determination. I believe Mr Smith was in breach of confidence of the Council in making the statements that he did. As I have stated on many occasions, the Government still believes in the principle of stabilisation for the wheat industry. The proposals which have been put before the Council and before the Wheatgrowers Federation are in fact a stabilisation plan. I am sure that by February, when we can finalise this problem, the wheat industry will have the same security and strength as it has had in the past.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Urban and Regional Development refers to question number 543 of which I gave notice on 8 November last. It concerns the approval of regional boundaries under the Grants Commission Act and also seeks information about applications by local authorities this financial year. One part of the question seeks to know whether a extension of time will be given to applications beyond 3 1 December 1973. As we are in the last days of the sittings of the Senate I am wondering whether I will get an answer to my question before 3 1 December 1 973.
– The matter has been referred to the Minister but a reply is not to hand at this date. I will take it up with the Minister’s office today to see whether I can get a reply by the end of the session.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Is the Government concerned at reports of the continual build up of North Vietnamese forces in South Vietnam and the flagrant violation of the ceasefire agreement by North Vietnamese forces? Is the Government aware that an estimated 600 heavy tanks, 600 pieces of artillery and tens of thousands of troops have infiltrated into South Vietnam since the ceasefire agreement? Will the Government instruct the Minister for Overseas Trade Dr Cairns, to protest to North Vietnam over these violations during his present visit to that country? What action is the Government taking to ensure that Australian aid to North Vietnam is not being used to support the North Vietnamese war machine? Finally, if the Government has not yet taken action, will the Minister assure the Senate that the Government will take urgent action to ensure that Australian aid will not assist North Vietnam to continue its offensive against South Vietnam and to continue murdering the people of South Vietnam?
– In dealing with the question of aid, as honourable senators know- I have said it many times- the Government’s policy is to contribute to the post-war reconstruction of all countries in Indo China. The aid that has gone to North Vietnam so far has consisted of wool and roofing iron. I do not think that those commodities would be used in any way for the killing of opposition soldiers. We are disturbed about the whole question in Vietnam. There have been accusations by both sides of violation of the agreement -
– They are fighting only in South Vietnam, are they not?
– We are not in a position to say which side has initiated these breaches.
-How silly can you get?
– How communist can you get?
– South Vietnam is being invaded.
- Mr President, I think that I have answered the question. Honourable senators opposite seem to be doing pretty well themselves.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. Is he aware that it is impossible to dial emergency numbers on the red telephones, that is, those telephones placed in stores, cafes, hotels, etc., without the use of coins, unlike public telephones installed in normal telephone boxes? Is the Minister also aware that after all other instructions on these phones it states in very small print: ‘For emergency service- and all other calls- see the proprietor’? Does the Minister know that some proprietors are not aware of what is required to make emergency calls on these telephones? As these calls are made in times of crisis and with a need to avoid delay, will the Minister take steps to have red phones altered so that emergency calls can be made without the use of coins? Can instructions be spelt out clearly in a prominent position to avoid confusion and delay in making such calls, the lack of which has, on some occasions, caused great distress to many people in such a situation?
– I well recall the situation when the previous Government entered into a contractual arrangement with, I think, Victa Ltd for production and distribution of these red telephones. When in Opposition we were critical of the then Government for entering into the types of contractual arrangements which were entered into. If my recollection is correct, it was pointed out by way of an urgency motion that this facility, which is complained of by the honourable senator, would not be available on the red telephone. I do not know what can be done about the matter now. It was drawn to the attention of the Parliament three or four years ago, if not longer. If I remember correctly, the former member for East Sydney, Mr Devine, drew it to the attention of the Parliament. However, I shall refer the honourable senator’s question to my colleague the Postmaster-General. I am sure that if anything can be done it will be done.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral state why the Deputy Crown Solicitor in Melbourne has sought from the clerks of barristers in that city the names of those counsel who are members of or are sympathetic to the Australian Labor Party? Have the Deputy Crown Solicitors in other States sought similar information as to the identity of barristers supporting the Australian Labor Party in other capital cities? Why should a Deputy Crown Solicitor be concerned with a barrister’s political allegiance?
– I suppose one good reason would be that the honourable senator has been asking questions here about those to whom briefs of the Crown have been delivered. I have had to address my mind to the question a little. I think, from what I read in the newspapers, that in New South Wales, anyway, if one looks at the list of counsel briefed by the Commonwealth one will see that it is almost a roll call of those lawyers who are standing for pre-selection for the Liberal Party in New South Wales. I regret that the honourable senator has seen fit to raise questions such as he has. I am sure that the substance of what he is alleging is incorrect. If he wishes the matters he has raised to be pursued, I will make further inquiries into them. But I assure the Senate, from my understanding of the matter, that insofar as lawyers who are briefed by the Crown have political affiliations, by far the vast majority of them would be known publicly to be members of the Liberal Party.
I regret that this subject has been raised at all. Our stand is quite clear. I have indicated that counsel have been briefed because of their ability. It is well known that outstanding members of the Liberal Party have been briefed and will continue to be briefed under the present Administration. I think that certainly there ought not to be any system under which there is some bias in one direction or the other. I regret that this matter has been raised in this way by the honourable senator. But, if he insists upon pursuing it, then I shall see what I can do to obtain the figures on the publicly acknowledged affiliations of banisters and see whether the matter can be clarified.
-May I ask a supplementary question, Mr President?
– A supplementary question may be asked if the honourable senator wishes to elucidate matters which are inherent in the answer which has been given.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral: In view of his reference to the fact that he regards counsel who have been briefed by the Commonwealth as members of the Liberal Party, did he initiate the inquiry made by the Deputy Crown Solicitor in Melbourne with a view, as he would see it, to redressing an imbalance?
-No, I did not initiate an inquiry by the Deputy Crown Solicitor. I repeat that I shall pursue this matter if the honourable senator wants it pursued. I shall endeavour, as far as I can, to find out the facts in relation to the matter. I regret that it has ever been raised by the honourable senator in this chamber. I suggest that representatives of the Bar in Victoria, as well as in New South Wales, would be shocked and scandalised that the honourable senator has seen fit to raise these matters in this chamber in this way.
– My question, addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health, may also concern the Minister for Primary Industry. Is the Minister aware of recent arrangements to streamline the importation into this country of cattle semen from New Zealand by the adoption of new procedures which do not at the same time lower the threshhold of concern to ensure against the introduction of disease? Would it be possible to have a similar review of the stringent conditions applicable to the importation from New Zealand of sheep semen to enable the establishment of a coarse wool breed of sheep for the carpet manufacturing industry in Australia?
– I am sure that the honourable senator will appreciate that I personally am not in a position to answer immediately the question directed by him to me in my capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Health. I certainly will refer the honourable senator’s question to our colleague Dr Everingham. I assume that in any consideration of it he would confer with our colleague the Minister for Primary Industry.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Minerals and Energy. I refer to a South Australian report concerning the setting up of an oil recycling plant. Will the Minister ask his colleague to examine the claim in the report that about 5,000 gallons of recycled oil a day could be produced from used oils? Will he also ask his colleague to arrange for a further examination as to whether such a process would be useful to Australia’s energy resources? If such is the case, will the Government consider some financial subsidy for such projects?
– This is another fairly technical question on minerals and energy. I will have to refer the question to the Minister concerned and obtain an answer.
– Is the Attorney-General aware that savage racist persecution of Russia’s Jewish minority is still taking place? Is he aware that the most recent significant victims are Mr Valery Panov and his wife who have been dismissed from the Kirov Ballet and suffered other persecution because they applied to migrate from Russia to Israel? I ask the Minister, as an international advocate who has appeared successfully at The Hague: Is it not a fact that the Soviet Constitution provides that every citizen shall be free to leave the Soviet? Is not a similar resolution embodied in the International Covenant on Human Rights? Can the Minister explain the different attitudes of this Government to racism in Russia and racism in South Africa?
– It is true that the International Covenant on Human Rights provides for the freedom of persons to leave a country and to return to it. It is true that this is embodied in many other statements of human rights. I accept what the honourable senator said about the Constitution of the Soviet Union. As to any international enforcement of the various rights which are stated in the International Covenant, except, I think, under the provisions of the judicial tribunal which has been set up to deal with human rights in Europe there is very little provision for enforcement of such rights. I am not aware of the particular circumstances to which the honourable senator referred. I doubt that they are susceptible to any kind of judicial inquiry at the international level. As for this Government’s attitudes on racism in South Africa, they are well known and in accordance with the strong statements which have been made repeatedly in the United Nations.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, but he may care to refer it to the Minister for Primary Industry. I refer to a Ministerial statement made to the Senate last week by the Leader of the Government in which it was indicated that $5m will be made available to the fruit growing and fruit processing industries. Can the Minister give details regarding the proposed allocations of the $5m grant, firstly in the various areas of currency revaluation compensation for the sectors of the fruit growing industry affected by the withdrawal of certain sales tax exemptions; secondly, with regard to compensation for unsalable fruit juice derivatives on hand and losses due to assets becoming redundant as a result of the Government’s decision in respect of the exemption from sales tax being removed; and, thirdly, in the area of assistance for promotion and research into alternative markets for juices?
– The policy department is Primary Industry, in this area, is it not?
-Yes. It also touches the portfolio of the Treasurer. In those circumstances I think it would be better if the honourable senator placed the question on the notice paper and the information then could be supplied to him from the various Ministers involved in answering his question.
-Did the Minister for Primary Industry in a recent television interview say that he expected to make an early statement on assistance to be granted to the apple export industry? Can the Minister indicate when that statement will be made?
-I hope the statement can be made before the end of this week.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. It concerns the principle of ministerial responsibility and in particular the pronouncements of Ministers at public functions both in Australia and in foreign countries. Is it not a fact that all such ministerial statements must be regarded as having Government authority and support unless accompanied by a clear qualification that the statement is only the personal opinion of the
Minister? If not, how can anyone ever know whether a Minister is voicing his personal views or those of his government? Is not a Minister bound to express in public functions when representing Australia the determined attitudes and policies of his Cabinet?
-I think there is a general principle that when a Minister is speaking publicly he is speaking on behalf of the Government but that may be qualified, as the honourable senator indicates, either by some explicit statement or by the context of the function. There may be various ways in which the qualification or indication can be made that the statement is not really a governmental announcement. The question is hypothetical and I think it would be better, if there were any doubt about any particular pronouncement, that if a question were asked it be specific.
-Has the Attorney-General directed the Commonwealth Police to investigate the accuracy and circumstances of a very serious allegation that the lives of Mr Hawke, his wife and children were threatened because of Mr Hawke ‘s support of the Israeli cause? If so, has he a report to give? If not, will he make sure that the Commonwealth Police investigate this matter and report to the nation, as I think everyone would like to know more about the circumstances of this situation?
-The Commonwealth Police and others already have investigated these circumstances. I think it not desirable that I inform the Senate at this stage, in any event, of the result of the report.
-I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: In view of the decisive defeat of the proposals put at last Saturday’s referendum, is it still proposed to persevere with the other 4 referendum proposals which obviously would be more repugnant to the Australian people than those on incomes and prices? Does the Minster agree that voters should not be tormented or their attention distracted by the introduction of spurious referendums at either a Senate or House of Representatives election?
– Many reasons have been given for abandoning democracy. Sometimes dictators have said that democracy is undesirable for the people and that the dictators know best. All sorts of other reasons have been advanced over a lengthy period throughout the great civilisations and into our own, but I think that it has been left to the honourable senator from Tasmania to advance the reasons that the people will be tormented and their attention distracted if they are allowed to participate in the democratic process. The answer is that the Government will proceed with the referendums.
(Senator WEBSTER proceeding to address a question to the Attorney-General) -
Questions shall not refer to-
a) debates in the current Session; or
proceedings in Committee not reported to the Senate.
This matter is on the notice paper and will be debated.
– I agree. The point of order is upheld.
-Mr President, I appeal to you. Earlier Senator Wright asked a question about the first item on the notice paper. No objection was taken to that question.
– No, he did not. You are out of order, Senator Webster.
-I direct a question to the Minister for the Media. Is it a fact that the Australian Government has allocated $300,000 to replace radio receivers which are used in the education of children in isolated areas? Is it a fact that sets which are used for the ‘School of the Air’ will have to be replaced? If the answer is in the affirmative, what period of time will elapse for the transition to be effected?
– I will answer this question in my role as Minister representing the Acting Minister for Education. The Government has decided to replace radio receivers which are used in the education of isolated children, and the expenditure involved will be provided by the Australian Government. It is necessary to replace these receivers in order to meet the terms of an international telecommunications agreement which is aimed at improving transmissions and reception and reducing interference. Because Australia is a party to the international agreement it is bound by the agreement to change fixed service high frequency radio transmissions from the double sideband to the single sideband by the end of 1977, and the expenditure of $300,000 to replace these sets for the education of isolated children will take place in that transitional period.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Does the Australian Government intend to make financial grants to the States to allow them to pay an annual leave bonus to State public servants on the same basis as is proposed for Australian Government public servants and which, it is said, will cost the Australian taxpayer $2 7m annually?
– It will hardly be necessary in those States which are already paying that bonus. They have preceded the Commonwealth in this field. It is not a very revolutionary thing that we are doing. It is paid by a large section of private industry. That is why we have followed, as is commonly done with public servants in Canberra. The States have already beaten us to it.
-I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer: In which States are annual leave loading payments being made.
-South Australia and Queensland are two.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral: Does the International Covenant on Human Rights grant the ability for parents to give their children religious education of the parents’ choice.
-Of course, the International Covenant does not give them anything: it is only when legislation is passed in this country that the rights which are referred to in the Covenant can come into law. The precise terms of the Covenant in regard to education escape me, but generally the covenant refers to the preservation of religious freedom.’ The honourable senator will recall that this matter is covered in the Bill on human rights which I introduced. There is also a reference in section 116 of our own Constitution to the freedom of religion.
-Will the Minister for the Media take notice that, like other viewers of television, I am sick and tired of an almost daily diet of the opinions of Laurie Carmichael, Jack Mundey, Norm Gallagher and Jack Halfpenny, all members of the Communist Party? Without interfering with the independence of the television companies, is there any way he could suggest to them that there are other trade union leaders?
-The honourable senator is well aware that there are other trade union leaders. It appears to me however that members of the Opposition complain bitterly when any trade union leader, including the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr Bob Hawke, appears on television to express the point of view of the industrial organisation by which he has been elected. I do not intend to set myself up as a censor of political programs or as an arbiter of taste. All I can say is that these are matters for the opinion of the television programmers themselves and, if they believe any person has a newsworthiness value attaching to him, undoubtedly he will be given the air.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration. Has the Minister seen reports in the Adelaide ‘News’ that a Mrs Helene Theologos, of Victoria, is trying, apparently without success, to have her son returned to Australia? What inquiries has the Minister made regarding the welfare of the son and about the mother’s request for him to be returned to Australia? Will the Minister take all possible steps to clarify the position as soon as possible?
– I am unaware of the details raised by the honourable senator. I will refer them to my colleague, the Minister for Immigration, to see whether he can provide the honourable senator with an early reply.
– Does the Minister representing the Treasurer recall that on 23 October I asked a question ‘concerning the awarding to Mr Patrick White of a Nobel prize by the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters? Does he also recall that I then suggested that Mr White’s Nobel Prize money should be exempt from taxation and that he said he would pass my suggestion on to the Treasurer? Did the Minister pass on to the Treasurer the suggestion I made regarding Mr White’s prizemoney being exempt from taxation and, if he did, can he now give the Senate the Treasurer’s answer?
-I do not remember whether the question was asked on 23 October but I do remember the suggestion that this matter be passed on to the Treasurer. I do not physically walk down and give the Treasurer such information. My staff normally handles these things. I regret that an answer has not been received. I will try to get it as soon as possible.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour. I refer to the S-week-old strike initiated by the Ship Painters and Dockers Union at the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd shipyard in Whyalla. Is the Minister aware that this dispute arose as a result of the sacking of a painter working in the shipyard? Is he also aware that BHP offered to re-employ the worker very early in the dispute in order that the issue be settled by arbitration? Can the Minister tell me whether the Government intervened at that stage to urge the union to discuss this matter at arbitration? If not, can the Minister say why the Government did not take such action? Is the Minister aware that the delay in settling this argument has cost Whyalla workers more than $300,000 and that the wives of many of these unionists recently demonstrated their feelings in opposition to the dispute in an attempt to get the workers to return to work? Can the Minister say when the Government expects that this dispute will be settled?
– As the honourable senator knows, the dispute originated, of course, in a demarcation issue. I take the opportunity of reminding the honourable senator that one of the objectives of the Government in its proposals to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act was to make it easier for the amalgamation of unions to take place. If our attitude had been accepted, there would be more chance of avoiding problems which arise from demarcation issues than is the case at the present time, because it is harder to settle a demarcation issue when separate unions are operating in a certain field than would be the case if those unions were joined together. These are very difficult disputes. All I can say -
-But it cost $300,000.
-That is one of the difficulties. If the Ship Painters and Dockers Union were merged with a wider group of workers in the industry there would be more chance of avoiding demarcation disputes. We are finding that this position applies in industry generally. All I can tell the honourable senator at this stage is that both the State Department and Mr Clyde Cameron’s Department of Labour have offered to assist the parties in this dispute. I understand that there was some hope of some proposals which might settle the dispute being forthcoming yesterday in discussions of the Trades and Labour Council in Whyalla. I can only offer to get the latest information for the honourable senator, and when I get it I will give it to him.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Did the Prime Minister attend at a polling booth in Sydney on Saturday to vote at the referendum? Was he informed then that a postal vote had been lodged in his name? If the answer to the second question is yes, can the Senate in due course be informed who signed the papers to get the postal vote ballot paper and who completed it on behalf of the Prime Minister?
-The answer to the first part of the question is that I do not know. If the Prime Minister has any information to add in relation to the remainder of the question, he will provide it.
– My question which is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour refers to statements made at the weekend in Adelaide by representatives of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry claiming that school leavers were applying for unemployment relief payments to provide them with pocket money without first seeking employment. Have such statements been drawn to his colleague’s attention? If so, can he say or will be endeavour to find out for me whether they are true? Can he say whether there are ample employment opportunities for school leavers in South Australia? Will he investigate the statements and take steps to protect public funds?
- Senator Davidson probably remembers that last week Senator Jessop asked a similar question of me and I told him at that stage that I would make inquiries of the Minister for Labour about the matter. But I made the point, which I think is sound, that school leavers are entitled to unemployment benefits. It would seem to me that there are circumstances in which many young people do have to wait to take up positions. Jobs are advertised and the positions sometimes are not available immediately. In many cases people have to wait until positions are available, and it would seem to me to be reasonable to expect that they should receive benefits that others get because in many cases those young people are helping to keep families going or would be expected to do so. I have also noticed that while the Manager of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry made this observation, the Minister for Labour, in his recent report about the employment position, made the observation on behalf of his Department that the circumstances resulting from the shortage of tradesmen meant that employers were employing vacation students and other young people more quickly than they would do ordinarily if skilled labour were available. So whatever is happening in relation to school leavers, the position would seem to me, if that forecast is right, that they will be taken into industry more quickly than they would have been had there been that pool of skilled people that is usually available at this time of the year.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Is the Minister aware that an infant, Jennifer Nallijar, disappeared after a boating accident in waters adjacent to Palm Island on 25 November 1973 and that the only persons involved in the search were local officials, friends and relatives? Can the Minister inform the Parliament if police or the Queensland Aboriginal and Island Affairs Department ever approached the Department of Defence at any time for assistance with the search? If not, would his Department make search facilities available even at this late date if they should be requested?
– I will take up the matter with the Minister for Defence immediately and let the honourable senator know what is the position.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report on Good Neighbour Council participation in the observance of Australia Day 1973.
– Pursuant to section 40 of the Australian National Airlines Act 1945-1972, I present the twenty-eighth annual report of the Australian National Airlines Commission for the year ended 30 June 1973, together with financial statements and the report of the Auditor-General on those statements.
– Pursuant to clause 1 1 of the 1972 Airlines Agreement, Ansett Transport Industries Ltd has submitted financial information in respect of that part of the company and its subsidiaries relating to the operation of air services during the year ended 30 June 1973. This financial information has been compiled from the audited accounts of the company and has been certified as to correctness by 2 directors.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a copy of the speech the Prime Minister made at the United Nations Association Human Rights Day at the Australian National University, Canberra, on 10 December 1973.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a first time.
Senator Dame NANCY BUTTFIELD (South Australia) ( 1 1.56) - I would like to take the opportunity of the motion for the first reading of this Bill to say a few words about the report presented to the Senate 2 or 3 weeks ago by the Senate Standing Committee on Health and Welfare concerning repatriation. I hope the Government will consider the report during the parliamentary recess. I take this opportunity to give a little explanation of and perhaps justification for two or three of the recommendations contained in the report which I claim have been wilfully misrepresented and wilfully misunderstood by certain ex-service organisations. They have been very busy slating me, as a former chairman of the Committee, and threatening electoral action, which does not worry me because, after all, I am only the former Chairman of an entire Committee which came to these decisions. It also has been said that there will be a witch hunt if the report is adopted. I point out that there is no intention of there being a witch hunt but that there is a genuine concern for people who are not getting perhaps the best deal under the present situation. I am not pointing a bone at anyone. I am merely suggesting that this may be corrected in the near future.
By way of introduction to my remarks I should like to quote a short extract from one letter I have received. I have been receiving many letters on this subject, some in condemnation of the report of the Committee but many more in praise of it. The condemnatory ones come, of course, from those who claim that they will not be getting a fair deal. I wish to quote from one which is condemnatory. The letter states:
Greater emphasis on rehabilitation instead of financial compensation for disabled ex-servicemen is recommended’ from your report. Kindly explain how you would rehabilitate men over the age of SO, in which group 90 per cent of those receiving repatriation benefits fall.
It is because there is that sort of doubt in the minds of so many people, including doctors, that I would like to explain what is meant by rehabilitation. As I explained in the report, rehabilitation means returning people to the capacity to enjoy life to the fullest. It does not merely mean vocational rehabilitation, as is known in the Department of Social Security which has vocational rehabilitation centres. This is a. much wider concept. It is a concept which has developed very much in recent years. There are 3 recommendations in the report to which I would like to refer. I refer firstly to recommendation 20, which states:
The Repatriation Commission should undertake regular review of all pensions, other than fixed statutory rates ….
Recommendation 24 states:
All persons for whom pension liability has been accepted should be referred to a rehabilitation unit for assessment of residual disability and if necessary, for treatment, and that no final assessment should be made until treatment is completed.
Recommendation 30 states:
There should be a change in emphasis from pension compensation to rehabilitation.
I suggest that that is a humane recommendation. So many people who are given a pension stay out of useful work in order to retain or get an even larger pension. It is contended that those people would be very much happier if they were living the fullest life possible. It is through the rehabilitation unit that this would be made possible.
I would like to cite a case to which I attended recently, to give an example of what I mean. It is the case of a man in Adelaide- I will not mention his name unless I am asked to do so, as I do not feel that is is necessary-who has never asked for an increase in pension. He is one of those conscientious people who want to work for as long as they can: But he is sick, and over the years he has had to go into hospital from time to time, at which time he has always been granted some increase in his pension rate without having to apply for it. At present he is receiving the 100 per cent pension rate. He recently had another operation and he was given the usual form which invited him to appeal for a higher pension. He did not appeal, but he wrote on that form details of his condition, particularly his anxiety state, and stated that he found it very difficult to continue in his employment. He had a most arduous job as a bread carter. He had to start work at about 3 o’clock in the morning and work for a solid 12 hours. It was a most arduous job for a man who is sick in more ways than one and, particularly, for a man who receives a pension for an anxiety state. However, when his remarks were sent to the Department, it apparently sent them immediately to the Assessment Appeal Tribunal, and he was notified that he should appear before the Assessment Appeal Tribunal. I repeat that he had not asked for an increase in his pension rate.
His wife came to see me because they were both very concerned about what should be done. They are both conscientious, but it was obvious that both were suffering from severe nervous conditions. I suggested that they should get a Returned Services League advocate to take up their case. They refused very vehemently. They did not feel that they had ever been treated very fairly by the RSL. I then said to them: ‘Will it help you if I act as your advocate?’. That seemed to be what they wanted. So I went before the Tribunal as their advocate. I collected letters from the 2 doctors who had been treating this man and I presented them to the Assessment Appeal Tribunal, which was composed of a lawyer as chairman and 2 somewhat elderly doctors. They proceeded to question the man about some of his entitlements but not the one that was the problem of the moment, namely, his anxiety state. I suggested to them that they might shorten their proceedings if they questioned him about his anxiety state. However, that was not done. In the meantime the man was becoming very agitated. I advocated to the Tribunal that it send him to a rehabilitation unit for assessment of his anxiety state and that he be paid a temporarily incapacitated person’s pension which would enable him to devote himself to rehabilitation for as long as the rehabilitation unit required. The report states that this should be done. The Tribunal immediately said: ‘We cannot give him any increase in his pension because he is in a job’.
He was finding it increasingly difficult to stay in his job, but he had to stay in it because he could not keep his family unless he did so. We were trying to point out that he would be unable to continue in this job unless he was sent for some treatment and given a temporary pension which would enable him to keep his family. That was beyond the power of this Assessment Appeal Tribunal. It was also beyond the power or the Tribunal to refer him to a psychiatric unit for assessment or treatment. So the appeal was dismissed, which was the obvious result. I am not pointing a bone at the Tribunal. At the moment it has no power to do either of the things for which we asked. I hope that the Minister will see fit to correct this situation in view of the case that I cite.
I could see that the man was becoming extremely agitated and since I knew that already he was taking at least 28 pills a day and that previously he had tried to take his own life- due, probably, to the over-stress caused by the medication that he was receiving- I said to his wife: ‘I would suggest that, if he is agitated tonight, you get his local medical officer to refer him to the repatriation hospital for admission and for psychiatric assessment’. Inevitably he did become very agitated and he was referred to the hospital and he is there now. I have kept in touch with the psychiatrist who is treating him. He was put on very strong doses of anti-depressants. I am pleased to report that he is now in a very much improved state. He has been taken off many of the 28 pills a day which he was taking for many months and years. He is now so much better that he is very eager to get back to his full time job which, without this anti-depressant treatment, he would never have been able to do.
What I am pointing out is that this is a genuine case of somebody who wanted to work but who, because of bis psychiatric condition, was being run down until he and his wife were on the verge of complete breakdown. While he has been in hospital his wife has been referred to hospital. She also is now undergoing treatment. It is hoped that both of them will be able to fulfil their fullest function in life from now on. I therefore beg the Minister and the Government to look seriously at what is meant to be a constructive suggestion, that people should be referred to rehabilitation units for this sort of treatment. This should keep such people off increasingly large pensions and it certainly will enable them to enjoy life to the fullest.
– I shall be as brief as I can in reply to Senator Dame Nancy Buttfield. The honourable senator was good enough to tell me, at some stage last week, that she intended to raise this case, I think for the purpose of highlighting some of the recommendations of the Senate Standing Committee on Health and Welfare. At this stage I do not intend to debate or make any contribution on the general report of the Committee. The Government will study the report. At present the Repatriation Department is studying the report. As the honourable senator knows, we expect that early in the new year we will receive a report from Mr Justice Toose. That report will have to be studied closely because there has been a most comprehensive inquiry. Also, as Senator Dame Nancy Buttfield knows, Mr Justice Toose examined systems overseas. I also have regard to the fact that Senator Brown, who was the Chairman of the Committee, sought leave to continue his remarks. He is presently away sick. I think the Chairman should be allowed to make his contribution, and other honourable senators too.
In relation to the particular case which the honourable senator raised, I do not think it would do much good for me even to give the statement from the Department in reply to her representations. She intervened in the case. The Department has made a number of comments to me. Some of those comments were critical of Senator Dame Nancy Buttfield. But I am quite sure that her intention in the representations on behalf of the person concerned and in her later inquiries was to further the best interests of the patient. I know that at the present time the Department is well aware of the need to look after the person. I have an undertaking that he is being well looked after and that, if necessary, he will be put into the rehabilitation unit. I think that the general aspects of the matter are best left until the reports to which I have referred are considered. I will be happy to give Senator Dame Nancy Buttfield, if necessary, the information the Department has submitted to me in relation to her inquiries about this particular person. I do not think it would do much good our swapping arguments about whether the person has been properly treated. I think it is fair to say, as everybody recognises, that the repatatriation system in Australia is a good system.
– It could be improved.
-Well, I am quite sure that people are cared for. In fact, some of the complaints are that they are cared for perhaps too well. But the person concerned is being cared for. If the honourable senator would like at any stage to nominate some special treatment or consideration he should get, I will be only too happy to process her suggestion.
– I refer to a question which I ask this morning of the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) and an answer I received. In order to do so I must refer to two earlier questions which I asked in this chamber. On 21 November I asked the Attorney-General to say in what States the Commonwealth Deputy Crown Solicitors had received directions to brief on behalf of the Commonwealth only those counsel who are members of the Australia Labor Party. I also asked him why those directions had been given. The AttorneyGeneral then replied:
As to the States in which directions have been received to brief only members of the Australian Labor Party, I would think the answer would be none . . . From my own knowledge of the matter not only has no such direction been given but also I think the contrary in a sense applies in fact and the practice is quite inconsistent with what is alleged.
I was not satisfied with that answer and subsequently asked another question. On 28 November I asked whether the AttorneyGeneral had sought further information in Melbourne as to the matters alleged in my question and I sought confirmation that directions had been given. Senator Murphy replied that he had not made any inquiry in Melbourne. He said:
I have stated in the Senate what I understand the position to be and I have raised the matter with the Department. I understand the position to be exactly as I have stated it, namely, that persons are being briefed who certainly are not members of the Australian Labor Party.
I do not question that there are persons being briefed as counsel who are not members of the Labor Party and that much is public knowledge. The cause of my disquiet is a growing concern which has been expressed to me by the members of the Bar in Melbourne. I can speak only of the position in Melbourne because I am unaware of the position in any other State. I have been seeking information as to whether the position prevailing in Melbourne is the position which prevails in other States.
The facts in Melbourne are that the Deputy Crown Solicitor has sought from the barristers’ clerks in Melbourne the names of those counsel who are members of or who are sympathetic to the Australian Labor Party. To understand the nature of what I am saying, Mr President, it must be appreciated that in Melbourne where there are several hundred barristers in practice there are currently 6 clerks who act for them. Solicitors who wish to brief counsel are able to ascertain their availability in many cases simply by approaching the clerks of these barristers. The Deputy Crown Solicitor, approximately 3 to 4 weeks ago, sought from these clerks- to be accurate, I have confirmed that he sought the information from 4 clerks of the 6; whether or not he sought it from the other 2 1 am unable to say- the identity of the Australian Labor Party supporters, or those who were sympathetic to the Australian Labor Party, on the lists of barristers for whom the clerks act. This, of course, has become a matter of increasing knowledge to barristers in Melbourne.
I cannot accept, knowing the Deputy Crown Solicitor in Melbourne, that he would have made this approach on his own initiative. I can only believe that by way of a hint, by way of a suggestion or by way of a direction- I am unable to say- he is complying with the view or the wishes of some superior. I can only say that if this inquiry has come as a result of some hint, suggestion or direction, it is regrettable and it ought never have occurred and it ought to be countermanded. Of what concern is the political leanings or the political allegiance of a barrister to a solicitor who wishes to brief him unless, of course, in the briefing of counsel the political allegiance is the uppermost consideration? Why should such a political allegiance be of any concern to the competence of counsel to do the job for which he is briefed? I would have thought that the standards of the Bar throughout Australia are such that counsel who appear for a client do their utmost to represent that client in accordance with the standards of the profession which have, I believe, a vital and honoured place in the annals of our history. The briefing of counsel ought to be on the basis of counsel’s competence for the particular task for which he is to be briefed and that ought to be the consideration and the only consideration. I cannot see that the political allegiance, the political background and the party poitical membership of a barrister ought to have any concern to a solicitor concerned with briefing counsel for a particular task. It certainly ought not to have any concern for the Deputy Crown Solicitor or the Crown Solicitor of the Commonwealth. As far as I am aware it never has had any concern for those people. If we are to have something in the nature of spoils for the victor and jobs for the boys approach then this is the antithesis of the Bar’s independence. I hope that the Attorney-General forthrightly will assert, as the chief law officer and the titular head of the Bar in this country, that a person’s political allegiance does not have, should not have and will not have any affect upon the person to be briefed for a particular task.
I suggest to the Attorney-General that if this position remains unchallenged and uncorrected there will be the impression amongst barristers that the future for a young barrister lies in his becoming a member of the Australian Labor Party. He will regard that type of membership as in some way a means of furthering his career at the Bar. If that attitude develops then one strikes right at the outset at one of those characteristics of independence which all barristers ought to assume and ought to have in the conduct of their clients’ business. It will create further problems. It will create the problem that clients who may possibly be of a particular political persuasion will have an unwarranted rear simply because the Deputy Crown Solicitor appears to be judging a person’s competence or ability for briefing on his particular background to decide whether he has got the right sort of person for a particular brief.
I say only to illustrate the point that I am making that in the course of my practice at the Bar I appeared directly for the Australian Labor Party. Senator Murphy’s deputy of some years ago, the late Senator Cohen, was a person with whom I had the closest associations during the time that I was so acting. It did not seem proper to the solicitors who were then acting for the Labor Party that my political allegiance, which was clearly known at that time and was known to those who were my clients, should have prevented me from so acting.
The history of the Bar in Australia shows many instances of persons who have acted purely as barristers for persons who may not have had the same political persuasion. That has been pan of the strength and respect of the Bar. I feel that this request, which has demonstrably and clearly occurred in Melbourne, is striking at that independence. I hope it is of concern to the authorities of the Bar in Melbourne. I hope, if it is a matter which has occurred in other States, that the Bar Councils in those States are equally concerned. I hope that the Attorney-General will indicate clearly, unequivocally and as soon as possible that the political membership or the political allegiance of a barrister is immaterial and that briefing by the Commonwealth will be solely on the basis of the barrister’s availability and competence; and that there will be no evasion or seeking to justify a position in terms of the political allegiance of barristers who may be briefed by the Commonwealth at the moment; and that there will not be any desire to redress a balance which he thinks to be as unfortunate.
I do not accept that that consideration has prevailed in the past. It has not prevailed in the past. I do not believe that it should prevail in future. I raise this matter only because I have sensed, from the replies which I have received from the Attorney-General, an accusation that I am trying in some way to dredge up some issue. All I say is that the facts are as I have stated them. They are becoming increasingly known among barristers in Victoria, and they are concerned. I think that the Attorney-General owes it to the profession as a whole to indicate clearly that in future preferment will not be granted in any way to persons who are members of or sympathetic to the Australian Labor Party.
– in reply- I have heard what Senator Greenwood has said. He ended his speech by saying that some direction should be given that no preferment would be given to members of the Australian Labor Party. It is regrettable that he concluded his speech that way. Why did he not say that no preferment should be given to members of any political party? When the honourable senator first raised the matter he suggested that a direction had been given that only members of the ALP were to be briefed. He asked whether this direction had been given. I said: ‘No. To my knowledge, the facts indicate that the practice is quite inconsistent with the suggestion’. He has been running around trying to make up something. He cannot get away from the central fact that my statement was correct; that no such direction was given and that the suggested practice is not happening.
I have called for a list of barristers who have appeared for the Commonwealth. I think it is called the monthly return on important litigation. It was prepared in November. It may have been prepared at the beginning or at the end of November. In any event, it covers a period which ought to reveal the position. I think that the list refers to future cases. As I read through the list of persons who are to be briefed, it contains the names of well known members of the Liberal Party of Australia. Some of them are extremely well known and are identified publicly with the Liberal Party. As I turn over the pages, I do not see one name which I recognise as the name of a member of the ALP. Certainly I am dealing with the Sydney portion of the list, but I still cannot see the name of a member of the ALP. I have seen, I suppose, the names of many persons who are identifiable as members of the Liberal Party. I am not as familiar with the Melbourne scene as is Senator Greenwood, but when I look at the names in the Melbourne portion of the list I see names of persons who are well known members of the Liberal Party appearing in important litigation of the Commonwealth.
I suppose that if one looked fairly at the matter, one would say that this reasonable approach of the present Administration was not pursued under previous administrations. I am concerned that at times in the past persons of limited ability were briefed solely because they were members of certain legal offices. I leave aside the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, but in State areas it is very hard to ascertain how such persons could have been briefed on the basis of ability. I think that such a practice is to be deplored. I think that the policy over the years of preferring members of a political party ought to be altered. It will be. I will see to it that in this area no improper bias is shown in regard to members of political parties. I think everyone would agree that a person who has publicly identified himself against a particular constitutional view would, from a commonsense point of view, hardly be likely to be the person selected to present a case on behalf of the Commonwealth in favour of that view of the Constitution. That would be a matter of common sense. There may be other special considerations, but in general persons ought to be selected on the basis of ability. Where there are persons of equal ability and questions are raised, as the honourable senator has raised them and I suppose others have raised them, as to whether there is any bias in favour of the briefing of persons of a particular political party, I suppose some care ought to be taken to see that there is not such an improper bias.
As the honourable senator has raised the matter, any inquiry which would be made by any person in the Crown would, I assume, have a proper basis. I will endeavour to see that there is not any improper bias and that some balance is kept which will prevent the suggestions of bias in relation to persons of ability. I regret that these endeavours are made to deal with these matters in this way. The honourable senator started off, as I repeat, by alleging that some direction had been given, and he has to concede that the facts of the matter are inconsistent with that. Subject to what I have said, I will inquire into the matter. In the area where the test is the ability of the persons, insofar as persons are able and are being briefed consistently with their abilities I should think that there ought not to be any bias, whether in favour of any political attitudes, religious attitudes or other attitudes.
I should think that an investigation of the matter would disclose, if one were taking a statistical approach to it or taking the simple arithmetics of it and from the knowledge I have of it, that if there has been any bias it has been very much in favour not of briefing members of the Australian
Labor Party but of briefing members of the Liberal Party, and I would have hoped that the honourable senator’s remark would extend that far. I will do my best to see to it that the matter is dealt with properly. I am not satisfied that it is not being dealt with properly. I will see to it that it is. I should have thought that, if any complaint were to be made, it might have been made under previous administrations.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill proposes to amend the Canning-fruit Charge Act 1959-1966 to express the rate of charge in terms of metric instead of imperial tons. Canning-fruit charge is payable by growers at the rate of $ 1 per imperial ton on apricots, peaches and pears delivered to a cannery and accepted as of canning quality or taken into a cannery for use in the production of canned fruit. The proceeds of the charge are used by the Australian Canned Fruit Sales Promotion Committee, a statutory body authorised to promote the sale of canned fruit in Australia and overseas.
As the fruit canning industry is to change over to the metric system of weights from the commencement, early in December 1973, of the 1973-74 season, the Australian Canned Fruit Sales Promotion Committee has requested that the rate of charge be varied from the present rate of $ 1 per ton to the nearest metric equivalent. This is $1 per metric ton or tonne and represents a fractional increase of 1.6 per cent on the present rate. It is proposed that the amendment of the rate of charge should come into operation on 1 December 1 973 so that all deliveries of fruit for the 1973-74 canning season will be subject to charge at the new rate. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
– This is a very forthright and simple Bill. It involves the conversion from the imperial ton to the metric tonne. It involves also a 1.6 per cent increase in the canning fruit charges. The Opposition has no desire to defer or postpone it. Rather in a spirit of assisting the legislation through with the greatest possible expedition, I indicate that we will not oppose the Bill and are prepared to put it through all its stages immediately.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
– I move:
As this measure has been before the Senate on a previous occasion, I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The speech read as follows)-
This Bill is aimed solely at giving effect to the Budget proposal to abolish the exemption from sales tax applicable to non-alcoholic carbonated beverages containing not less than 5 per cent by volume of Australian fruit juice or its equivalent in concentrated form. The ostensible purpose of the exemption was to enlarge the market for Australian fruit but although it has provided further outlets for some varieties of fruit, the additional returns to growers represent only a fraction of the cost of the exemption which has been running at about $25m a year. As the Treasurer (Mr Crean) indicated in his Budget Speech, this is a classic example of using the wrong instruments to achieve an objective.
The government is prepared, if the need arises, to provide funds to assist with the reconstruction of any sectors of the fruit growing industry affected by the withdrawal of the exemption. As has been announced, the fruit growing reconstruction scheme is to be extended to 30 June 1974. The Bill provides that the withdrawal of the exemption is to have effect as from 22 August 1973, the day after it was announced in the Budget. This accords with the practice, aimed at avoiding disruption of trading, that sales tax changes announced in the Budget become operative on the following day. The effect of the withdrawal of the exemption is that all carbonated soft drinks will be taxable at 15 per cent as from 22 August 1973. Since that date, manufacturers have been acting in anticipation of the passage of the Bill by charging sales tax on these drinks. A memorandum explaining the provisions of the Bill is being circulated for the information of honourable senators. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
-The Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill (No. 2) 1973 removes the exemption of sales tax on aerated waters which contain at least 5 per cent of pure fruit juice. The Bill was debated previously on 22 November. On that occasion I pointed out that the Coombs task force which was appointed by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to review the continuing expenditure policies of the previous Government recommended, with the antipathy typical of it to rural industry, that that assistance which has been very important to the fruit-growing industries be removed. At that time we expressed concern at the cavalier treatment of possibly the most deserving of rural industries, bearing in mind the difficult times through which the fruit-growing industries have passed. Other sections of rural industry have had the benefit of greatly increased prices on overseas markets, but the fruit industries have suffered depressed prices and they have suffered enormously through the effects of revaluation, in relation to which reasonable consideration had to be given to the industry. Without that consideration the industry would have been in quite a hopeless position.
I notice that it is conceded in the Coombs task force report that harm could be done to the industry by the abolition of the sales tax exemption. The report states:
There is little doubt that withdrawal of the exemption would have a marked effect on the incomes of apple growers, especially in the face of current adverse market conditions for Australian apples in the Common Market countries. The effect on citrus growers is difficult to measure but it is likely that there would be some falling off in the demand for citrus juice.
There we have an admission that harm could be occasioned to the industry were the recommendation of the task force to be acted upon. Nevertheless we have before us legislation which provides for the abolition of the sales tax exemption. When this Bill was before us previously I moved an amendment to the motion ‘That the Bill be now read a second time ‘ in these terms:
Leave out all words after ‘That’, insert- the Bill be deferred until the Government reports to the Senate on the action it proposes to take on:
currency revaluation compensation for the sectors of the fruit growing industry affected by the withdrawal of the exemption;
compensation for unsalable fruit juice derivatives on hand and the losses due to assets becoming redundant as a result of the Governments decision; and
assistance for promotion and research into alternative markets for juices’.
This amendment was carried, which meant that the Bill was not read a second time but was deferred pending a report to the Senate by the
Government. This report was given to us last week. The very important thing about it is that it makes reference to $5m being made available to the growing and the processing sectors of the industry in the form of adjustment assistance. The report states that funds will be made available to fruit processors, where cases can be substantiated, to facilitate any adjustments needed as a result of the abolition of the exemption from sales tax for carbonated soft drinks containing not less than 5 per cent of Australian fruit juice. Throughout the report we have explanations of the situation, and some of these explanations are a little ambiguous and difficult to follow. For instance, on page 2 of the report it is stated:
In the two main apple exporting States, Tasmania and Western Australia, which have in the past accounted between them for over 85 per cent of Australia’s annual apple exports, 1,416 growers (i.e. over 97 per cent of those eligible in these States) have been paid a total of $1,275,176 in post-revaluation adjustment assistance up to 30 November 1973.
A small amount of this sum would have been paid in respect of pear exports and of canning fruit, since the assistance scheme applies also to deliveries of canning fruit (apricots, peaches and pears).
In other States many growers involved in the apple and pear export trade also grow canning fruit and the isolation of figures relating solely to apples is difficult.
However, 85 per cent of growers eligible under either or both aspects of the scheme in States other than Tasmania and Western Australia have been paid a total of $1,402,950 up to 30 November 1973.
I want to know whether these 2 figures of $ 1.4m and $1.2m are separate and distinct or whether they have some inter-relationship. This is not very clear to me. I would like to know to what extent revaluation compensation payments to date have actually reflected the changes in currency alignments. Does the $5m now to be allotted cover completely revaluation deficiencies arising to those growers who export .the fruit? I want to know whether they are covered completely? We want to know in pretty close detailactually, I would like an undertaking from the Minister on this point- whether the full amount of $5m will be actually expended or whether it is just to be a $5m kitty from which certain payments can be made? I ask the Minister whether the full $5m is to be paid in the form of compensation for revaluations. Can he indicate whether, if the revaluation factor is covered and some money remains, the remaining money in the balance of the account will be applied to the promotion of sales overseas and within Australia? I would like a clear assurance from the Minister on these matters.
Having said that, I state that we are prepared to accept the offer of the Government. I regard this as a very important determination in regard to the fruit growing industry. The concern we felt in November we still feel today. We are happy that the Government has seen fit to come forward with this offer. Now we want to know just where the money will be applied and whether the amount in toto, and not just pan of it, will be applied to the industry in meeting a situation in which the industry feels, and is entitled to feel, that it should receive assistance. We support the motion for the second reading of this Bill.
– The Australian Country Party also will support this Bill if it can obtain assurances from the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) who represents the Treasurer (Mr Crean) in the Senate, that the $Sm will be spent. The situation is that the $5m is aimed at providing currency revaluation compensation. Of course, this applies only to export fruit. It does not apply, as the name of the Bill suggests, to the withdrawal of sales tax on fruit juices sold within Australia. If any funds are left from this $5m after the payment of revaluation compensations to the fruit growers, we would hope that they would be spent on promotion, research or in some other way to assist the fruit juice industry in Australia. Of course, the allocation of this $5m to provide assistance was to offset the removal of the exemption foreshadowed in the Budget. It is not really something new. While we may agree with the arguments advanced by the Minister in regard to revaluation of the Australian dollar, the fact that the United States dollar has recovered to a certain extent has meant that in Great Britain, which is the main market for this industry, there has been a currency revaluation of about 3 to 4 per cent, so there is justification for money to be spent on currency revaluation compensation.
While we are still not completely satisfied with the assistance that has been given to the apple industry in particular, like the members of the Liberal Party we will approve of the Bill provided that the Government can give us assurances. The industry would like to know, as we would, what its future will be, particularly with regard to reconstruction. If the funds available in this measure are inadequate for the compensation, reconstruction could take over. Every industry wants to know whether it can continue as a viable industry or whether it has to go to the wall and be reconstructed. Can the growers have an assurance that they will be able to enter some other form of production? We would like these assurances from the Minister before we really commit ourselves to supporting this Bill.
-The Australian Democratic Labor Party is prepared to support this Bill. It is contrary to the policies and the principles that our Party has always supported insofar as we have never believed in sales tax. We think that sales tax is a bad and wrong method of tax collection and that it is totally unfair. This Bill relates to an industry that previously enjoyed exemption from sales tax. It would appear that the Government made a deliberate decision that children’s soft drinks must attract sales tax the same as the hard liquors drunk by adults. Shortly after the Government was elected it exempted contraceptives from sales tax. Now, by the implementation of this Bill sales tax is to be applied to the soft drinks of children. It is Government policy and the Government is proceeding with its policy.
We were greatly concerned that the industry had become dependent to some extent upon this exemption from sales tax and had expanded under those conditions. The fruit juice extraction industry was expanding quite considerably because of the advantage that it had in this area. A sudden cessation of the exemption created tremendous embarrassment in the industry and made redundant a lot of plant, some of which had not even been used but had been installed with the idea of promoting the sales of extracted fruit juice for use in carbonated beverages. This proposition was made attractive by the fact that manufacturers of carbonated beverages were advantaged by using fruit juices exempted from sales tax. However, as I said, this Bill represents Government policy. The Government after pressure was applied, promised assistance to the extent that it is now offering some compensation to people in the industry. We are prepared to allow the Bill to pass.
-At some stage during the debate on this Bill I would appreciate hearing from the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) because it is the effect that this Bill will have upon an industry that is his responsibility that concerns me. A sales tax benefit was given to cordial manufacturers who used 5 per cent of fruit juice in their cordial manufacturing. They were thereby given an inducement to use apple juice in particular and citrus juices as well. I am concerned chiefly with the apple juice. I hope that the Senate fully realises that although apples for the apple juice market in Tasmania were sold at a fairly low price, those apples were not of export grade. They did not have to be packed and transported and did not incur freight. It was a case that the residual production of the industry could be marketed at comparatively little cost. The industry estimates that its loss by reason of the withdrawal of this benefit will run into something like $lm.
Furthermore, it is anticipated that the thrust of these apples which will no longer find a market with the juice factories will firstly be towards export and, if not to export, to the domestic market. In those respects the industry is likely to suffer real detriment if this fruit, not really of export grade, is thrust into the export market or into the domestic market. Damage is likely to be done to each of those trades. That is why we treated this matter with serious concern and eagerly awaited the stating by the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Murphy) of the reasons for which the Senate asked when the Bill was last before it.
I am concerned about clarifying various figures given at page 2492 of the Senate Hansard. It will be seen that, in the reply to paragraph (a) of the Senate’s amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Bill, reference is made to the statement by the Minister for Primary Industry of 4 May 1973 concerning post-revaluation adjustment assistance of up to $1,500 per grower being made available following the December currency appreciation. It goes on to say that, together with the clear-fell supplementary grants, the total amount paid to Tasmania and Western Australia was $ 1.275m. The Attorney-General, in addressing himself to other matters, then spoke of the fruit growing reconstruction scheme. At page 2493 of the Senate Hansard mention is made of the possibility of an amount of $200,000 being paid to Tasmanian apple growers. Then he went on to say that money would be coming forward from the stabilisation scheme, which has averaged $2.6m a year for the past 3 seasons but which is expected to be lower this year. That section of the report concludes with a statement on the reconstruction scheme that approvals in respect of applications could be expected to amount to $lm and that approvals in respect of the 288 applications processed in Tasmania alone by 31 October 1973 amounted to $418,000. I must say, with due respect to whoever put that statement together, that I find it very unclear. I would appreciate clarification of those matters generally. I should not have thought that either devaluation payments or reconstruction payments would have really been the answer to a claim for assistance following the withdrawal of the sales tax benefit.
I come to paragraph (b) of the Senate’s amendment, which relates to compensation for unsaleable fruit juice derivatives on hand and the losses due to assets becoming redundant as a result of the Government’s decision to withdraw the sales tax benefits. In this respect the AttorneyGeneral said: . .opportunity is taken to inform the Senate of the Government’s decision to make an amount of $5m available to the fruit growing and fruit processing sectors of the industry in the form of adjustment assistance.
I would be obliged if the Minister were to tell me what ‘to the fruit growing and fruit processing sectors’ means. In what proportions and in roughly what amounts? The use of the term ‘in the form of adjustment assistance’ in relation to orchards would seem to me to carry the implication that it is to be in the form of grubbing grants or build-up measures. I take the reference to adjustment assistance with regard to the processing sector, having regard to the previous reference to losses due to assets becoming redundant, to be related to unused plant or something of that sort. All of this leaves me quite concerned to know just what the decision to make $5m available to the industry means. As Senator Laucke asked: Is it money that the Government has undertaken to pay to the 2 sections- the processing section and the orcharding section- of the industry? For what and in what amounts? I would like some clarification of those matters. I will not willingly yield to the passing of the Bill. I certainly do not support it. But it is no longer the Opposition’s function indefinitely to resist the passing of this Government money Bill, unless the statement about the $5m worth of assistance remains without clarification. I wish to know just what is the meaning of it.
I wish to make one final comment with reference to the question I asked the Minister for Primary Industry this morning about proposals for assistance to the apple industry. If we knew what the Government’s proposals were in that respect, it might do something to ease the concern we feel as to the impact of the withdrawal of this sales tax benefit. I suppose it is too much to ask that further consideration of this Bill be deferred until after that announcement has been made. Obviously, we would be in a much better position to consider the assistance to the industry, combined with the statement about the $5m worth of assistance referred to in the statement of 5 December, if we knew what Senator Wriedt proposes to put forward later in the week.
– This Bill, of course, is not my specific responsibility. Therefore, I have no desire to take out of the hands of the Minister responsible for it the many matters which have been referred to. In view of the time factor, it is perhaps difficult to embark upon some of the points that have been made concerning the statement that has been presented to the Senate. I take up, firstly, the last point which was made by Senator Wright, who has just resumed his seat. It is important to realise that this matter is not related to the question of assistance to the Tasmanian apple industry for the 1974 season. The situation in which that industry finds itself now is due to a continuing process that has been going on for some years. The matter before us at the present time is the decision by the Government to take away an exemption benefit which has applied to fruit juices. It is the Government’s intention to replace it with assistance, to the extent of $5m, to overcome the problems that may arise. It is important, to begin with, that we do not confuse the 2 issues. As I indicated this morning, I do not intend to make any statement concerning what the Government intends to do about the Tasmanian fruit situation for the 1974 season until such time as a decision on it has been properly determined by the Government.
-I was putting that the withdrawal of the sales tax benefit has some thrust on the export market and that the two could be related in that respect.
-The two will be related in the overall effect of what happens; that is quite true. The point I want to emphasise is that the matter we are talking about today concerns action that was taken by the Government in the last Budget. The other matter is a continuing one which has occurred in years gone by but which we hope will not occur in the future. They are quite distinct matters. The statement refers to revaluation payments that were made as a result of the Government’s decision in December 1972 to revalue the Australian dollar. Some concern seems to have been expressed about the manner in which those payments were determined and made.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting we were looking at the effects of the revaluation payments to the apple and pear industry as a result of the Government’s decision last December to revalue the dollar. I was making the point that the sales tax exemption is quite distinct from any assistance which may be afforded to the industry in the 1974 season. I do not wish to deal with this at great length because there is on the notice paper a Bill to create an Australian Apple and Pear Corporation which will afford an opportunity for full debate on this matter if the Senate so desires. But it is interesting to recall that the Government did adopt the principle of adjustment payments to industries which are considered to be in difficulties as a result of revaluation. As I mentioned in the Senate the other day in reply to a question, the Government did decide on a minimum payment of $ 15m to fruit growers and the canning industries throughout Australia. I do not think that much is to be gained by canvassing arguments now, but it is important to remember that the basic philosophy behind the Government’s decision then was to help those growers who needed assistance most.
Senator Maunsell made quite an important point, I think, that the industry does want to know where it is going. As a Government we have endeavoured in the short time that we have been in office to give the industry some direction at a federal level. Certainly the reconstructing processess commenced by the previous Government, which Senator Maunsell appeared to support, have been continued. But more specifically on the juices themselves it would be quite wrong, I feel, to suggest, as did Senator Little, that we are taking money from the drinks which children drink. It is important to bear in mind just what was happening to those juices. They were being denatured- and the trend throughout the world, not only in food stuffs but in many other products, is to get back to natural products. The Government did not in the Budget remove the exemption which applies to pure fruit juices. It certainly did remove this particular exemption because on any reasonable assessment of the $25m, which it was costing the Federal Treasury, that amount could hardly be justified in the light of the assistance, of the order of $2m or $3m, which was flowing to the fruit growers themselves. But because the Government realises the need for and wants to encourage the production and consumption of pure fruit juices nothing was done to remove that other taxation benefit. The Government will continue to give every encouragement in that area.
Senator Laucke was not quite able to understand the significance of the 2 amounts of figures which, I think, appear on page 2 of the statement. I think the honourable senator should bear in mind- and this is where the confusion may have been caused- that the first figure, $ 1.27m, represents payments to growers in Tasmania and Western Australia. The second figure, $ 1.402m, does in fact refer to any other fruit growers in Australia and to canning processors and so on.
– Is that exclusive of the Tasmanian and Western Australian growers?
– Yes. The revaluation adjustments scheme operates for all parts of both the apple and pear industry and the canning industry including apricots, peaches and pears. The last question to which I shall refer at this stage is: What will happen to the $5m and who, in fact, will receive it? Will it go to the fruit growers or the processors? It is not possible at this stage, I think, to make a statement clearly saying what will happen. In all these cases of adjustment it is only right and proper that industries should in fact advance a properly reasoned case as to why they should have assistance. The $5m is not intended as an amount to be expended in, say the first 12 months; any balance remaining will be used to assist both the fruit growers and the processing section of the industry to adjust to the change. That is the same principle which has been adopted in the whole fruit growing reconstruction scheme. It was the same principle which was adopted for the payments adjustments after revaluation. So I can assure Senator Laucke, who, I think, raised the point, that the Government stands by its decision made in the Budget to assist the industry and also by the statement of the Treasurer (Mr Crean) that the amount of assistance will in fact be $5m- but that it will be used judiciously. Reasoned arguments and properly documented cases must be advanced to justify the expenditure of that money throughout the industry.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) whether he has some idea at this stage how the $5m will be allocated, in the main categories. Can the Minister indicate to the Senate what amount will be allocated for revaluation adjustments? Has the Minister any anticipated figure of the compensation for unsaleable fruit juices as a result of evidence so far presented to him and applications made to him? Can he give a figure for the redundancy of assets arising from the decision to remove this sales tax exemption? Further, has he any idea what portion of the $5m is anticipated as assistance for promotion and research?
– I can fully understand Senator Laucke ‘s concern about this. It is a legitimate question to ask. I can only restate what I said earlier, that on the experience of this
Government, and probably that of the previous Government, it is not possible to say how an amount- any amount, in fact- is committed for a firm payment to be made. I can only restate, as I said earlier, that it is a matter for the industry, both in the growing section and the processing section, to put before the Government reasons why they in fact do qualify for assistance. But I just remind the Senate very briefly of the statement made by the Attorney-General Senator Murphy on 5 December in relation to this Bill, in which he said that funds would be made available to fruit processors and growers where cases could be substantiated that serious difficulties had been experienced as a result of the removal of the sales tax exemption. It is not a matter, as it says further on, of simply allocating money in a haphazard way. We will maintain the principles which we have accepted in the past on all questions of adjustment payments or assistance payments to the industry.
– I confess that I am in difficulty in understanding what the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) is trying to express to us. He has said that $5m is available to the fruit growing and fruit processing sectors of the industry in the form of adjustment assistance. I can understand the assistance to the processing sector for redundant equipment and so forth. That would be a matter on which one would have to have accurate assessment and individual application. But surely the Minister is aware of some units in the industry which claim to have been rendered redundant by the lack of markets for fruit juice. I am not so concerned with the fruit processing areas of the industry. Those people usually have a habit of being able to look after themselves.
It is the growing section of the industry with which I am concerned. To me adjustment assistance seems to be a misnomer. If adjustment assistance is meant to connote grubbing grants, I regard these as a most deplorably benighted policy and destructive of an industry. I would be looking in the growing section for some recompense to the growers for fringe fruit for which they are deprived of a market. They should get an adjustment. It should relate not, in this instance, to exportable fruit but to the juice fruit this year and next year. Unless the growers get this adjustment they will be seriously prejudiced over the above the very great difficulties that they are encountering in the export trade, which I am quite prepared to leave for the statement to be made later this week. Surely the Minister can give us something more than a general indication of the purpose of this $5m for the fruit growing section of the industry. He has said that if growers apply and prove a loss the Government will give assistance on the basis on which it has been given in the past. Cannot the Minister give us something more specific than that to explain what the growers can expect this season for this fringe juice fruit for which their market has been prejudiced.
I invite the Minister to be helpful to us. He knows the concern which is felt in the industry. He knows the absolute want of confidence, intensifying the grubbing of orchards very significantly. I ask him to indicate what the growers can expect out of this $5m by way of what is called adjustment assistance. I want some assistance which is not adjustment in the sense of grubbing out trees and compensation for that. I am looking for some assistance because the growers are deprived of the juice market for this year and the next.
-We are dealing with a matter of great importance to this industry. In the statement which the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Murphy) put before the Senate he used the words: ‘making an amount of $Sm available’. But as far as I know there is no assurance in this statement anywhere- I ask the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) to alert me to it if it is there- that the $5 will be paid to assist this industry. Under the words which the Government has used it is quite possible to pay $250,000 as a payment and, in actual fact, that could be the only payment that is made. I would like the Minister to convey to the Senate whether $5m will be an amount not only available but also paid as compensation to this industry.
– Insofar as Senator Webster’s question is concerned, I thought I spelt out the answer in the clearest terms when I spoke earlier on the matter. The $5m is available and it will be spent because the industry will require it to be spent especially when the Australian Apple and Pear Corporation is formed with its completely new marketing and research facilities. This is an area in which a great deal of work has to be done if the industry is to be brought back to a viable basis. I assure the honourable senator that suggestions like this, perhaps designed to give someone the impression somewhere down the line that we are going to talk about $5m and then not give it to the industry, are just not true. It would be better if we were to continue the debate on more pertinent points.
I come back to the earlier comments which Senator Wright raised. He said something similar to Senator Webster. He wants something for the growers. This is the simplest thing in the world. Do not let us be under any illusions about this. Both Senator Wright and I come from Tasmania. We have different views about the fruit reconstruction scheme. We have argued it in the Senate before. I have no doubt that we Will do it again when we come to discuss the Apple and Pear Corporation. But the fact is that the fruit growing reconstruction scheme was an essential scheme which was introduced at the time of the stabilisation scheme. It was intended as a parallel scheme because stabilisation was not intended to be a continuing scheme. It was to cover a bridging period whereby the Government could assist the industry while reconstruction was going on.
I think there would be few people in Tasmania anyway- where most of the reconstruction work has been done- who would say, despite what Senator Wright says, that it has not been of benefit to the industry. I have been asked specifically what can be done now about growers. With great respect, I do not need to be told of the difficulty of the position. I do not think that anybody needs to be told. I only restate what I said earlier, that the industry needs to make submissions to the Government as has been done in the past. That is not a principle from which we will depart any more than it is a principle from which, I am sure, the previous Government would have departed. If we want a reasonable degree of equity and purposefulness in the distribution of this money, those cases will need to be submitted. I cannot give any guarantee of detailed payments and of how much might go to the processing sector or to the fruit growing sector. This is a matter which wil be carried out in exactly the same way as was done in the dairy bounty, the marginal dairy reconstruction scheme in Queensland and so on. Properly documented cases need to be presented. This is not a new approach on the part of this Government. This is the principle which has been adopted in the past- I believe rightly so- and which has been continued by us. The same thing will need to be done in this case.
– I do not wish to continue this discussion indefinitely. But I just wish, quite patiently, to point out that the answer of the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) is hardly good enough from the point of view of indicating where the growing section of the industry can get advantage because of the loss of this cordial market. I would be indebted to the Minister if he would indicate the type of assistance he has in mind. Surely some alternatives have been considered. I mention the reconstruction scheme only for the purpose of putting it aside. We have already developed quite an acute difference of opinion on that, as the Minister has said. But let us put that aside. Also let us put aside the revaluation situation. This is a case of loss for a particular type of apple which has previously been juiced, the market for which has now terminated. I think that no individual grower can be expected to put forward a case on that. Is it that a State fruit board is to put forward a case on behalf of the whole of that section of the industry?
-Is that what the Minister means?
-Should the State fruit board make an assessment of the position and put it forward on behalf of the growers? I think that that could be done. Then there could be assistance at so much a case, or something of that kind. I believe the Minister has indicated that he has something like that in mind. Would he oblige me by saying whether something of that sort would be within the ambit of his intention?
– I have no desire to prolong the debate. I thought it was understood from what I said earlier about revaluation claims that this matter was put through the Australian Apple and Pear Board or the State fruit board. The same will apply in this case. I would not expect, nor would the Government expect, that individual growers would do this. It will come through the submissions of the State fruit board if the growers apply. I am not able to be any more specific than I have been because I think it would be presumptuous of the Government to in any way commit itself to say that this will be done or that that will not be done. We would not do anything without consulting the industry first. The industry must be the body to guide us as to how the most effective use can be made of this money.
– Fears have been expressed about depression of the fresh fruit markets as a result of fruit which hitherto has been used for the production of fruit juices being placed on those markets. Would such a condition of depression on the fresh fruit markets in Australia be a basis from which State fruit authorities or associations could approach the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) and indicate the adverse effect of the flooding of markets by fruit hitherto used for juicing? Would that constitute grounds for an application for compensation?
– I am not quite sure whether I understand Senator Laucke ‘s question, but as I do understand it I would say no because he is talking now about the operation of market forces. Adjustment payments relating to revaluation or sales tax exemption would not be designed to overcome normal market conditions that operate. They are designed to assist the industry to adjust to what the market is doing. There may be some overlapping in what I have said in respect of Senator Laucke ‘s question but I think I have to answer it broadly by saying no.
Bill agreed to.
BUI reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wriedt) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 5 June (vide page 23 13).
– I take this opportunity to restate the position in connection with this Bill. Honourable senators will be aware that Government amendments to the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Act 1971-72 were introduced into the Senate and given a second reading on 1 1 April 1973. Following debate on 12 April 1973 the Bill was referred, on the motion of Senator Rae, to the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. The Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs reported and the debate resumed on 30 May 1973. The Opposition parties raised numerous objections to the Bill, but particularly that the Bill gave excessive benefits to Commonwealth employees when compared to benefits available to employees of State governments and private industry. They also considered it to be premature in view of the general inquiry into national rehabilitation and compensation by the committee under the chairmanship of Mr Justice Woodhouse. After debate in Committee, the Opposition parties secured, on 5 June 1973, a postponement of the debate until the first day of sitting after 1 September 1973.
The Government considered at that time, and still believes, that it had every justification in presenting the Bill in its original form. It was part of the Australian Labor Party’s POliCy before the last election, amendments to similar effect had been moved by the Government when in Opposition, and the Government’s employees were fully aware of and justifiably expected the original proposals to be implemented. However, in view of the attitude expressed by the Opposition parties the Government, during the winter recess, prepared amendments to the Bill. These have been printed and made available to all honourable senators. The amendments have been prepared in a genuine attempt to ensure passage of the BUI. The Government believes that the amendments now proposed should make the Bill acceptable to all concerned and ensure its speedy passage.
The proposed amendments can be summarised as follows: They provide for 5 changes of substance that with consequential amendments involve 15 amendments and also 6 amendments of a drafting or technical nature. Amendment No. 1 is the first of the drafting or technical amendments. It merely makes the changes that are necessary as a consequence of the change in the citation of the principal Act provided for in the Compensation (Australian Government Employees) Bill 1973. These changes require 2 consequential amendments which appear as amendments Nos. 18 and 19. Amendment No. 2 places a ceiling on the amount that can be taken as the average weekly earnings of an employee for the purpose of calculating the weekly compensation payments for incapacity or death after the first 26 weeks of incapacity or following the first 26 weeks after the date of the death. The ceiling proposed is an amount equal to 2.5 times the last quarterly estimate of the seasonally adjusted national average weekly earnings published before the commencement of the week for which the compensation is payable.
Amendment No. 12 relates to the amount of the lump sum payable to certain dependants of a deceased employee upon their re-marriage. Amendments Nos 16 and 17 will restore the right currently provided in the Act for an employee to use his sick leave credits on a proportionate basis in order to receive a sick leave payment of the amount of the difference between the weekly compensation payment and the rate of the sick leave pay. These provisions would have been redundant under the Bill but they now
Will have relevance in cases where the weekly compensation is reduced because of the effects of the proposed ceiling.
Amendment No. 20 inserts a savings clause to ensure that the ceiling will not operate so as to place any employee in a worse position than he would be under the existing Act. Amendments Nos 3 and 4, relating to clause 13, are of a drafting or technical nature and relate to the lump sum payable for the losses specified in proposed new section 39. Amendment No. 5 relates also to clause 13 and is the second of the substantive amendments. It removes an anomaly in relation to the lump sum payable under proposed new section 39 Ibr the loss in the one accident of the thumb and 3 fingers of the one hand.
Amendment No. 6 is the third substantive amendment and it varies the provision relating to the compensation payable for death. The effect of this amendment is to combine subsections (3) and (4) of the new section 43 proposed in the Bill in a manner that will allow the Commissioner for Employees’ Compensation to apportion weekly compensation payments between two or more dependants, subject to the total of such payments not exceeding the average weekly earnings of the deceased employee and the amount payable to any one dependant not exceeding 75 per cent of those earnings. This change necessitates the consequential amendments that appear as amendments (7), (8), (9), ( 10) and ( 11)
Amendments (13) and (14) comprise the fourth change of substance and will affect the provisions relating to lump sum redemptions. These amendments will ensure that a lump sum redemption of the liability to pay weekly compensation for partial incapacity for work is not assessed on the basis of the total incapacity rate merely because the employer may not be able to place the employee in some suitable employment at the particular time the redemption is sought.
Amendment (15) is the remaining amendment of substance and it provides for the portion of a superannuation or Defence Forces Retirement Benefit pension that is not attributable to an employee’s own contributions to be offset against the weekly compensation otherwise payable in all cases, whether or not the retirement in respect of which the pension is payable resulted from incapacity due to the compensable injury.
Amendment (21) is the last of the amendments of a drafting or technical nature. It merely corrects a drafting error and, at the same time, removes a redundant provision in the schedule to the United States Naval Communication Station (Civilian Employees) Act 1971-1972.
During the previous debates there was an advocacy that these things should be stood over because of the Woodhouse inquiry. The information we have at present is that the Woodhouse inquiry is unlikely to report to the Government before May of next year. So it will be some time after that before its report will be available to the Parliament, either in its original form or as amended. The principle of no loss of pay is, of course, one that has been attacked. At least it has been attacked because of the fact that it would apply to people such as heads of departments. I should point out that since we last discussed the principle of no loss of pay it has become more widespread. The most recent amendments in this regard have been those to the legislature of South Australia, but there have been some further agreements in all of the States. I thought I should restate the intention of the Government in regard to the amendments and I hope that the amendments will receive the consideration of honourable senators to make possible the passing of the Bill.
- Mr Temporary Chairman -
– On what matter do you wish to speak?
– On this one aspect.
– We are not debating the amendments as yet.
– I wish to speak at the instigation of the Attorney-General. He wished to supplement something.
– I call Senator Mulvihill.
– I intervene largely at the instigation of the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy). There was certain controversy in the Sydney Press in the lead-up discussions to this important Bill about the responsibility of the Australian Government, particularly by the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, to its own employees. There was also correspondence from a Mr Lawrence. I took the matter up with the AttorneyGeneral. I have a communication from him explaining the facts of the Commonwealth compensation case involving Mr John Laurence Allenby. I ask leave of the Senate to have the letter incorporated in Hansard.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
Canberra, 5 December 1973.
My Dear Senator,
My attention has been invited to the attached letter from Mr J. Lawrence of Armidale, N.S.W. who refers to a letter which you apparently wrote concerning delays by insurance companies in dealing with compensation claims.
I understand that you would like some background information on the case which Mr Lawrence mentions.
Mr Lawrence would, I think, be referring to the case of John Laurence Allenby, until recently a temporary employee in my Department in Sydney.
Mr Allenby was injured while travelling from his employment on 14 March, 1967. His injuries were diagnosed as a sprained right thumb, and bruising and abrasions to his right knee.
Mr Allenby lodged a claim for compensation. While this was being considered Mr Allenby was hospitalised with a leg condition. As a consequence Mr Allenby was examined by a Medical Referee, at the direction of the Commissioner for Employees’ Compensation, to establish the relationship, if any, between’ the injuries sustained in March 1967, and the condition which resulted in Mr Allenby ‘s hospitalisation.
After considering the Medical Referee’s report, the Commissioner admitted Mr Allenby ‘s claim to the extent of the following conditions- bruising of right leg, pre-patella bursitis and cellulitis of right leg, aggravation of a pre-existing condition of varicose veins both legs, and a sprained right thumb. The Commissioner’s decision was given in June 1968.
Since that time Mr Allenby has been paid compensation at the appropriate rate for all periods of incapacity. All medical expenses have been paid.
It was in June, 1968, after the Commissioner had admitted Mr Allenby ‘s claim, that Mr Allenby first raised the question of the payment of an appropriate lump sum for the partial loss of the efficient use of his legs. It is this matter which is still outstanding and to which Mr Lawrence no doubt refers.
The payment which Mr Allenby seeks would be made under Section 39 of the Compensation (Australian Government Employees) Act 1971-73. Payment may not however be made unless the condition in question is permanent and static The matter has been under regular review by the Commissioner for Employees’ Compensation since 1968, and Mr Allenby has been examined on a number of occasions by Medical Referees and Medical Boards.
The findings to date have been that the condition of Mr Allenby ‘s legs is not static No payment has therefore yet been possible under the Act.
Mr Allenby was last examined by Medical Referees- a physican and an orthopaedic specialist- in July and September 1973 respectively. Those reports are at present with the Commissioner for Employees ‘ Compensation.
Mr Lawrence refers to the termination of Mr Allenby ‘s services. This followed complaints by Mr Allenby concerning his inability to carry out his duties because of the state of his health. He produced a medical certificate which indicated that he was suffering from mitral stenesis and hypertension. He was referred to a Government Medical Officer who certified that he was unfit for further service because of the above conditions, and because of his varicose veins condition. Mr Allenby was granted all sick leave at credit before his services were formally terminated in September 1973.
Senator J. A. Mulvihill, Parliament House, Canberra, A.C.T. 2600
– The only other comment I wish to make, conscious of the passage of time, is in regard to the processing of compensation claims. I speak on behalf of the employees at the Garden Island Naval Dockyard. As laudable or as good as compensation legislation is there seems to be a sort of no-man’s land in regard to the capacity to rapidly process claims.
I say to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Bishop) that he would appreciate, being a longtime trade unionist, that for many years there has been dissatisfaction with the slowness of compensation claims from persons employed in the Naval Dockyard when the claim goes from the Department of the Navy to the Treasury and back again. I cite the classic example of Mr Prendergast, a member of The Federated Engine Drivers’ and Firemen’s Association of Australasia, some years ago. I thought the matter had been resolved. But I have had correspondence from the vigilance committee at Garden Island which suggests that action has not been taken as quickly as it should be. I think that in this day and age when somebody has to wait into his second pay period for compensation payments it could well mean, in the average family, that things can be pretty tight.
In welcoming this Bill I say to the Minister that I am still awaiting information from the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard). I have raised this matter at the instigation of the vigilance committee and with the authority of Mr John Garland, the General Secretary of the Amalgamated Metalworkers Union. We feel this is an area in which there are over-bureaucratic tendencies. I think they should be corrected. Finally, I pay a tribute to the Attorney-General. Due to certain instigations by him with respect to the Phoenix Life Assurance Co. of Australia Ltd, in a broader field we have been able to alleviate quite a number of cases that were pending. I think that there was some unfair criticism of the AttorneyGeneral in Sydney in this particular area. Speaking for myself and for Mr Laurie Brereton, the State member for Heffernan, I think the strictures which he mentioned were very timely. I believe that the enactment of this legislation will lead, in this age of the computer, to a far speedier way to process compensation claims. This will reduce a lot of the hardship that is generally experienced by the average trade unionist when he has the misfortune to have to seek compensation.
– Order! Senator Mulvihill, I listened carefully to what you had to say. I wish to point out to you and to senators generally that we are in Committee of the Whole. I think that the remarks you made might properly have been made at another time. We are dealing with the Bill in the Committee stage at the moment. The Minister was explaining a position which had arisen following the introduction of the Bill and the movement into the Committee of the Whole at the last sitting. The Minister had the right to speak on that. Senator Wright, are you wishing to continue this debate?
– I am not happy about this. It seems to me that if I introduce the Bill into the Committee stage we can go on to debate this matter on one of the clauses. I think that would be better than debating it as a second reading debate.
– I did not intend that. I thought we were in Committee.
– We are in Committee but I have not yet put the question that the Bill stand as printed.
– I took Senator Bishop to be speaking for the purpose of enabling the Senate to resume its debate in the Committee stage of the Bill. That is the matter to which I wish to address myself. Senator Bishop quite rightly reminded us that we had had quite a forceful debate on this matter and a reference to a committee. The debate was deferred to enable the matter to have consideration. The Government has indicated that it will introduce at least one substantial amendment to the Bill. Instead of the compensation being, as under the present Act, about $60 a week, under the Government’s proposed amendment it may come to about $260 a week, that is to say two and a half times the average weekly earnings as computed from the statistician’s figures. Previously the Bill allowed compensation to the extent of full salary, but the substantial amendment proposed by Senator Bishop today limits that amount to 2.5 times the average weekly earnings. I submit that the Government’s approach, although a contribution in one respect to an understanding of the problem, does not meet the situation at all.
Although that may have been a grossly misunderstood part of Labor policy, another part of Labor’s policy was that it would consider at the earliest possible moment a national compensation scheme. Mr Justice Woodhouse, with his experience in New Zealand, has been brought to Australia to work with Mr Justice Meares to formulate such a scheme. The Liberal Party Opposition is so dissatisfied with the shortcomings of the Government’s amendment that at a later stage I shall move that the Committee report progress and ask leave to sit again, with a view to deferring consideration of this matter until at least February, by which time, it would be hoped, some report on the proposed national compensation scheme will be before us. The difficulties can be understood if I mention that in New Zealand all that Mr Justice Woodhouse was able to recommend was originally compensation up to $80 a week which has since been lifted, I believe, to $120 a week; but it has been confined to accident injuries as distinct from illness or disease. Since the new Government came into office there has been some intention of extending the scheme to that sphere. An extension of this scheme to include illness or disease obviously poses fundamental problems of the relationship between this field of compensation and the assistance which is given under social services legislation in the form of invalidity payments. Once we get to that stage we get, I suggest, problems which are quite comprehensive and fundamental and which are similar to those in the social services legislation or in the national health insurance scheme. That is the situation in New Zealand.
In Australia the Government’s Bill proposes a dimension of workers compensation for Commonwealth employees that is quite out of range with any comparable scheme of compensation in the State sphere in relation to. either State public servants or employees under State awards. The original Bill provided, in the case of death, full salary to the widow for the remainder of her life, irrespective of the remaining earning life of the husband and irrespective of the comparatively junior years of the widow. If the deceased had been on a salary of $20,000 a year, the widow, per se, would receive $15,000 a year, and if she had one child she would receive $20,000 a year. That amount is being limited to about $ 13,500 a year, that being the yearly equivalent of 2.5 times the average weekly earnings. Under State legislation the highest amount that a widow would receive would be about $15,000. She receives that as a lump sum, once and for all. It is inconceivable to me that the Government could put forward a proposition that a widow of a Commonwealth public servant should receive that amount each year for the remainder of her life. The disparity exists not merely between Commonwealth public servants and State public servants but between Commonwealth public servants and the great body of people in industry who are required to rely upon this form of compensation.
There is the same disparity in the case of a claim which is not a death claim but a claim for total incapacity. The injured Commonwealth public servant, whether he is injured by accident or by disease, receives full salary up to the limit of 2.5 times the average weekly earnings, on the proposed Government amendment, for the remainder of his life. There is a closer approximation between that benefit and the benefit paid to workers in industry, but the Commonwealth public servant would be very greatly in front of his brethren in the State public service and his brethren in industry. The payments to widows now are made weekly. Total or partial compensation payments are made weekly. To them was added years ago an adjunct for specified injuries -say, the loss of a hand. In addition to the weekly payments for total or partial incapacity, the Act provides a Schedule of specified lump sum payments. In the Commonwealth Act of 1 97 1 , the payment for a loss of an arm below the elbow was $9,450. Under the proposed Act it is $20,800. The ultimate limit for these specified injuries under the present Act is $27,000 lump sum payment in addition to weekly compensation.
– Under the present Act or the present Bill?
-The 1971 Act provides for a payment of $9,450 for the loss of an arm below the elbow. The Bill provides $20,800 for the same injury.
-What is the $27,000 which you mentioned?
-It is the ultimate limit for the loss of an eye or for the loss of both eyes.
– That is under the Bill. You said’ under the Act’.
-That is under the Bill. I thank the honourable senator for correcting me. That dimension of lump sum payment as an adjunct to the weekly payment throws the whole system out of gear. The industrial worker and the State public servant would be greatly disadvantaged if those provisions were enacted.
The extreme step has been taken of including a Schedule of specified injuries and of providing that, if the worker suffers a loss of any ability or faculty which is not specified in the Schedule, the Commissioner for Employees Compensation shall award a lump sum payment relative to the specified amount for this general range of accident or disease incapacity. That is a principle which, as I have said, balked Mr Justice Woodhouse and the New Zealand legislature up to this time, and it is such an extension of this Bill, making the ambit of the compensation so wide ranging, that we feel we would be quite irresponsible in the interests of the industrial worker, the State public servant and the selfemployed person if we did not try to fix a level of compensation that shall apply to people entitled to this form of compensation not restricted exclusively to Commonwealth public servants but available to the other classes of employees on a basis that can be provided. It is quite obvious from the figures that are talked of in New Zealand that it would be completely impossible for this legislature to provide a general range of compensation on a basis that is being provided in the Bill before us, even as limited by the amendment now stated by Senator Bishop. This is not a case of arguing the merits of any particular provision of the Bill; the question is simply, in my submission, whether it would be wise to defer the matter to ensure that we have all the best information available as to what benefits could be extended to other sections of employees before this very exceptional range of benefits is carried into law for the benefit of one class of persons, namely, Commonwealth public servants. There is no wish to deny them what is properly to be paid by way of compensation, but at the same time, if any adjustment is to be made, it is imperative that other classes be given the same treatment. It is for that purpose that I move:
That progress be reported and that the Committee ask for leave to sit again.
-Mr Temporary Chairman-
– The question is that the Committee report progress and ask for leave to sit again.
– I am speaking to that motion, Mr Temporary Chairman.
– I call Senator Byrne.
-Thank you, Mr Temporary Chairman. The Democratic Labor Party has considered this matter very carefully. When the matter first came before this chamber on the introduction of the original Bill it was referred to a Standing Committee of the Senate, which brought in a report. I and others, including Senator Wright, Senator Durack, Senator James McClelland, had sat in that Committee and considered the matter. It is significant that, following the deliberations of that Committee and the matters to which it drew attention, the matter of the quantum of compensation, the levels and the optima of compensation were reconsidered by the Government. That is most significant, because Senator Wright’s proposal here is that this matter should be further considered, and because it has been demonstrated that the action of the Opposition at that stage in asking for consideration by a committee was fruitful and received a response from the Government in that the scales were lowered considerably from what was originally contemplated.
Precisely the same position arises at the present time, because a committee is looking at the whole question involved in compensation to Commonwealth employees, and there is a judicial inquiry. It is therefore quite appropriate that, as the Government has seen fit-
– Order! My attention is drawn to standing order 281, which says:
Motions that the question be now put and that the Chairman do report progress and ask leave to sit again and that the Chairman do now leave the Chair shall be moved without discussion and be immediately put and determined, provided that a vote on the question that the question be now put shall require at least 2 1 affirmative votes.
The position is that I would consider a request for leave to speak to this motion, if you wish to continue.
– I am indebted to you for the direction from the Chair, and in the circumstances seek your tolerance and ask leave to address myself in terms of this motion and therefore to continue the remarks I have started.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I am indebted to honourable senators. I was pointing out that it is appropriate that, as the reference of this matter to one committee has resulted in the Government looking again at the matter, the deferring of this Bill until the whole matter of compensation comes under the complete judicial scrutiny it is now receiving and a report is presented is extraordinarily logical. I have been concerned that action has been taken in the face of investigations proceeding at the instance of committees of this chamber. We have had it, for example, in relation to the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control, which Committee is still considering the whole subject of the ownership of Australian resources and the mobilisation of Australian capital for committal to national development, but, without reference to that Committee, unfortunately, in any speeches that I have seen by members of the Government substantial legislation has been introduced which purports to go towards that end.
If the Committees we establish are to have any value at all, if they are not merely to make token gestures to investigations of this Parliament, then those committee reports must be considered and given their full weight and value by those who have the responsibility for preparing and introducing legislation. Therefore, if a committee is constituted to look at this whole matter of what we might call national compensation, then it is quite proper that there should be a deferment, provided it is a reasonable deferment and there will not be unduly protracted delay in presenting that report.
I have been disturbed, as I was originally disturbed, at the high level of compensation contemplated in the original Bill. I commend the Government for looking again at the matter with considerable frankness and introducing much lower and acceptable levels, but the fact remains that the levels are extraordinarily high and still quite out of the range of either State Crown authorities to match in relation to their own employees or, as has been said by Senator Wright, private employers to match in relation to industrial employees. It is proper that the Commonwealth, commanding the financial resources of the nation in a major degree, should take the lead. It is quite appropriate that it should give the guidance to the rest of the community in advanced social legislation, but it is not appropriate that, using its financial resources, it should take such a lead as makes it impossible for other elements in the community to follow, and that is what is happening in this case.
If these levels are allowed as they were originally contemplated, or even in this Bill, a vast chasm would be opening which would be virtually unbridgeable, and I do not think time or anything else could bridge it. That would then create a class of individuals in one employ which would be totally privileged against all other sections of the community, and to my mind that would not be a proper use of the financial power which rests in the Commonwealth. We do not wish- certainly I do not wish, nor does my Party- to deprive Commonwealth employees of what might be considered their legitimate claims to compensation within the capacity of the financial resources of their prime employer or in terms of the injuries they suffer, the disabilities to which they are subject or the interruption to their careers. I do not want to do that, and I would oppose any move to do it, but I think I would find myself having to oppose any extravagant provision which might attempt to achieve any of these ends. It is for that reason that I think this Bill could well receive further consideration in the light of the deliberations of the judicial committee now looking at the whole matter, when that Committee’s report is presented. I do think that the Minister at the table might indicate to the body inquiring into these matters that the Parliament has now had a Bill before it on two occasions, once deferred and now deferred for a second time, even though amendments were moved. He might indicate to it also that there is parliamentary concern that this matter should receive early attention and that the commitee of inquiry should be asked or invited to attempt to present its report as early as possible. I have no doubt that the Committee is attempting to present its report promptly, but perhaps at the instance of the Minister and in view of the circumstances that body might be able to do a little better and present its report much earlier in the autumn session of the Parliament next year than the month of May as the Minister has intimated is to be the case.
In those circumstances I feel that we are taking the proper course in adjourning the debate on this matter in order to await the outcome of the judicial inquiry at which time the whole of this matter can be explored, the propriety of the levels that should be set can be examined, and the relevance of those levels to other levels of compensation in State and private hands can also be considered. Then a scheme which would find national acceptance and one which would not prove abrasive between the Commonwealth and the States or between the Commonwealth and private employers should be adopted. In those circumstances I think the lead now taken by the Commonwealth in attempting to advance the levels of compensation would then have achieved some worthwhile purpose.
I do not intend to go into the other provisions of the BUI. As far as I can see, there has been no conflict in relation to the other provisions of the Bill. The conflict or confrontation lies purely with the levels of compensation. For example, clause 9 of the BUI proposes a major amendment to the principal Act. It seeks to amend section 30 of the Act by omitting the words: ‘the employment in which the employee was so engaged by the Commonwealth shall be deemed to have been a contributing factor to his contraction of the disease’ and substituting for those words the words: ‘the contracting of the disease shall be deemed to have arisen out of the employment in which the employee was so engaged by the Commonwealth’. The adoption of that amendment to the Act would be a major step forward, and it is a step which would receive my personal commendation. When the Bill finally comes before this chamber for discussion, I hope that that particular proposal will not be disturbed. In the circumstances I support the motion moved by Senator Wright and I trust that it will be accepted by the Government.
Senator DONALD CAMERON (South Australia) by leave- Today we have heard Senator Wright and Senator Byrne put forward precisely the same arguments as they put in April of this year when the Bill was first before the Senate. Since that time the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Bishop) has introduced amendments to the Bill which alter the provisions that were opposed by Senator Wright and Senator Byrne previously. Honourable senators will recall that the motion for the deferment of further consideration of the Bill, which was carried by the Senate, was, as an instruction to the Government, in these terms:
That the further consideration of the Bill be deferred until after the general inquiry into National Rehabilitation and Compensation by the Committee under the chairmanship of Mr Justice Woodhouse has reported . . .
Senator Byrne tried to move to that motion an amendment, which was ruled out of order. He later moved a further amendment which was carried. His amendment was to the effect that the Bill be deferred until the first sitting day after 1 September 1973. It is obvious that honourable senators opposite are now attempting to defer the implementation of the benefits contained in this Bill indefinitely. In supporting his amendment Senator Byrne, on 5 June 1973 at page 23 12 of Hansard, is reported as saying:
The object of this amendment is really to assist the passage of the Bill within rational terms. The Government has been given 3 months in which to re-examine the controverted provisions. Surely that is enough time. The Bill will be debated again on the first sitting of the Senate after the first day of September 1973 which will be very shortly after the Parliament assembles following the winter recess. By that time I am sure the Government will be in a position to come forward with some amelioratory provisions which will reduce what could be described as the undue extravagance of certain sections of the working community which is demonstrated in the provisions of this Bill. In those circumstances I commend to the Senate the amendment which I have moved.
– That is right.
-Surely the objections raised by the honourable senator at that time and emphasised more clearly by Senator Wright when he took the example of a top public servant on $20,000 per annum and multiplied it by 30 to ascertain what his dependant would receive by way of compensation, have been rectified in the amendments moved by Senator Bishop.
– No, the position has been altered but not necessarily rectified.
– The compensation has been reduced to a maximum of two and a half times the average weekly earnings which, at the present time, would amount to only something like $250 a week. In my view, that vastly improves the provision and meets the objections raised by Senator Byrne when we were discussing this matter previously. When Senator James McClelland spoke on the Bill he expressed certain doubts. He was very concerned that the purpose of the tactics adopted by the Opposition at the time was completely and entirely to defer the Bill indefinitely so that the employees of the Commonwealth would never receive the benefits proposed. During his contribution to the debate on Friday, 1 June 1973 Senator James McClelland said:
Despite his histrionics I suggest that this debate should not be on the merits of the Bill now before us but on the merits of the proposition that consideration of it by the Senate should be postponed indefinitely. I said ‘indefinitely’ advisedly. I will support these remarks fully in the course of what I have to say.
Senator James McClelland went rn to say how he believed that Senator Wright and Senator Byrne were really making reference to hypothetical cases because they were picking out isolated instances of Commonwealth Government employees in top salaried positions where the prospects of their being totally and per.manetly incapacited would be very unlikely. Neither of these honourable senators could quote any specific cases. I think Senator Wright named somebody who was about 30 years of age. After inquiries were made it was found that nobody 30 years of age in the Commonwealth Public Service was in the top salary bracket receiving $25,000 or $30,000 a year. The fact that these cases are being put forward and used as a smokescreen to defer compensation payments to 300,000 odd Government employees is that the Opposition is deliberately trying to defer the consideration of this Bill so that its provisions will not be implemented during the lifetime of the present Government. For that reason I strongly oppose Senator Wright’s motion that we report progress because I fear that if we do, the same thing will hapen in the autumn session next year and again in the Budget session next year. The Opposition has no intention of giving to employees of the Commonwealth these benefits which already are being enjoyed by all employees in South Australia. It is for that reason that I think we should continue to debate the amendments moved by Senator Bishop and put them to the vote.
-by leaveWhenever the Parliament debates matters related to compensation one always has a sympathy for those individuals who may be involved in the matters under debate. Over the years we have had problems relating to sufficient compensation being paid to individuals who are injured in the course of their employment or who are injured at places away from their employment, whether the injury so sustained was due to the conditions of employment of the individual or, as is often the case after years of work in a particular industry, to a disability in the employee’s physical condition. There are so many areas of debate in relation to sufficient compensation for people who work for an employer that it is very difficult to decide when responsibility should be left with an employer.
I imagine that it would be the view of this chamber that the greatest possible amount of benefit should be provided to any injured person in the community, whether that person be an employee, an employer or a simple housewife. There should be a level of compensation available, if the community can afford it, that will adequately compensate persons during their lifetimes for some injury or some disadvantage which has been received. They are hopes which we imagine may come to fruition in the future as conditions in society are gradually improved. We all hope that eventually the whole of Australian society will be covered by some compensation scheme. Of course, the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Bill with which we have been dealing is directed at a certain class of employees and covers, as I understand it, about onethird of the employed population.
The range of salary or benefit which is received by such employees for that employment is quite considerable. One would wish that those who are on a low rate of pay perhaps could be elevated to a rate of pay somewhere in the region of that received by those to whom some high ranking Ministers in the Government have, I believe very unfairly, referred in a financial sense as being the fatter people in the community. Generally, I see such people as carrying a much greater responsibility. Indeed, the top Commonwealth public servants have my greatest admiration for the volume of work they do and the integrity with which they carry out their work. This has been my experience of them. I think that it is completely unfair for the term ‘fat cats’ to be applied to such people by Ministers, particularly when one considers the background of some of the Labor Government Ministers who are now in this category but who not so long ago were very lowly paid and the brilliance of the contribution they have been able to make during their lifetimes. They have been elevated financially to being among these fat people receiving a salary between $25,000 and $30,000 a year. I think that it is most inconsistent that this objectionable name should have been used in relation to some of our top public servants.
Whatever be their employee status- whether they be highly paid employees or whether they be lowly paid employees- I have regard for the fact that compensation for each should be more at the one level. It should not be struck on a basis of a completely irresponsible level, as was the case with the original Bill when it was introduced into the Parliament. I give credit to the Government that on hearing the arguments of the Opposition parties, particularly in this place, it has made some rearrangement of the Bill. It is quite a detailed matter to attempt to evaluate what the situation will be for anyone who is injured in the course of his or her Commonwealth employment. When this Bill was before the Senate previously, the Senate directed that it be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs.
Our attention has been directed to the supplementary report made on the reference. That supplementary report was made by Senator Byrne, Senator Durack and Senator Wright. One could not but be impressed by the instances which were given of the variations in the benefits to be given under this Bill. I pose the question: Why does such a Bill give benefits to some individuals and deny a benefit to others? The supplementary report indicated that the benefit would not be payable, for instance, to the dependent widow of a war veteran, a state or private employee or self-employed person, to a dependent widow whose bread winner had been killed by fault of the employer, or to the incapacitated war veteran, employee in State or private employment or self-employed person. It has been mentioned, and I take the point greatly to heart, that we are introducing into this matter a lead by the Commonwealth in the granting of enormous benefits to one class of persons in the community. I stated originally that I would wish to see all people covered in some way by the benefits of such a scheme. Why are not all people covered at the present time? Why are not all State Government employees covered at this time? The plain fact is that the community is not in a position to offer that benefit at this time. I think that it is inconsistent that the Commonwealth Government, on behalf of the people of Australia, should offer to one class of people in the community this inordinate benefit in regard to compensation.
I think that recognition must be taken of the effect this could have on the private sector of the community. Supposedly at this time we have all given consideration to the inflationary trend. Our minds are being directed to reports presented by joint parliamentary committees and by Senate committees relating to profits, profit margins and to the cost of goods to the community. In regard to a reference on carpet tiles that came before the Joint Committee on Prices the other day, the point was taken in regard to the margin between wholesale and retail selling prices. Of course, one can say that the private sector will produce the profits that will enable the Government to provide the funds to grant benefits to its employees. That margin of profit will enable industry to pay taxation, whether it be by way of payroll tax, various sales taxes that may be applied, company tax on private or public companies, or the distribution of dividends which are then taxed a second time in the hands of the recipient. Private production gives the Government funds so that it can act on a matter such as this.
The criticism that is levelled at the margin of profit in the handling of particular products, whether they be from the primary sector, the manufacturing sector or the minerals sector, is often unfair. The margin between the cost of production and the sale price is in the main based on what is required by the employee. One has to take into account not only the salary or wage required by the employee but also the provision one has to make for sick leave, public holidays, annual leave, long service leave and, of great importance these days, the burden of workers compensation. Workers compensation is a very substantial commitment for private industry these days. It is a commitment which has to be taken into consideration by anyone going into business. Anyone purchasing goods for re-sale or producing goods for sale has to get them to the position where he is able to sell them. Anyone in business must take into account the impost of workers compensation. I would be willing to bet that nobody on the Government side of the chamber has made any calculation as to what impost workers compensation places on the salary and wages bill of the Government. It is a substantial percentage. If this measure to provide such benefits to a substantial part of the employable Australian community were carried it would lead to higher costs in the community.
The main point raised on the report brought forward concerning the supplementary submission of this reference was that Mr Justice Woodhouse of New Zealand was at present looking into an Australia-wide compensation scheme. The point I wish to make is that I believe it would be very appropriate if further consideration of this legislation were to be deferred. I certainly do not wish to deny the provision of workers compensation to Commonwealth public servants. They are entitled to it. But I believe that the Australian Government’s present compensation scheme for its empoyees is as good as one will find in almost any country in the world. It is certainly comparable with anything one will find in private industry in Australia. They are not being denied something which is common throughout the rest of Australia. But this Bill seeks to escalate them into a new bracket. I do not deny that they have a right to be placed in the same bracket as the rest of the employable community. We are awaiting a comprehensive report that may lay down for this or any other Government some basis whereby a contribution can be made to the whole of the Australian community. Again I refer to the fact that one sees many instances in one’s lifetime of individuals who are harmed in accidents and who appear to have no claim on anyone in the community for compensation for the disability they have suffered. Housewifes and children are but 2 classes of examples. One can readily bring to mind many examples of how it could be said that by passing this Bill we will be creating an elite in the Australian community. It is not warranted at this moment. I believe that we should wait and that we should seriously consider the implementation of an overall compensation scheme for the whole of the Australian community.
– by leave- The Government opposes the deferment of further consideration of this legislation because it believes that it has responded to the criticism by the Opposition and to the points which were made by the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs in its report. The Government regards the amendments it has introduced as being reasonable. If the Opposition thinks that they are still too extravagant- I refer in particular to the average weekly earnings ceiling of $279- it would seem to me to have been reasonable for the Opposition in the period since April to have suggested a lower figure. The Government does not see the need for any deferment. It thinks that there has been sufficient time to enable the Opposition to bring forward any additional alterations it wishes to make to what the Government has proposed.
The Government has brought forward certain amendments on the basis of movements in some States. As I mentioned earlier, it is now fairly general in industry, particularly in New South Wales, and in the public service in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania for a worker on workers compensation to get his average weekly earnings. While there is a statutory limit a worker does get his average weekly earnings.
– I suggest he does not get anything like $279 a week.
-The only limitation is a statutory one whereby the amount cannot exceed, I think, $27,000. But a worker who was getting $200 before an injury would get $200 when he is off work because of an injury. That is what I have been told is the position. I will stand corrected, but I understand that that is the position.
There has always been an uneven movement in Australia in workers compensation generally. We have become used in this Parliament to having to adjust the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Act every couple of years. Why do we adjust it? Often because the States have moved ahead of us. Honourable senators will be aware that that happened when the Act was amended in 1971. At that time the Commonwealth’s workers compensation legislation, together with that of South Australia, was the best in Australia. Since that time it has been improved by the addition of the principle of almost full pay for 26 weeks. What has happened in the meantime? Certain arguments have been put by Senator Webster, for example, and the Opposition generally. They might well have made the same comments when the Government of which they were supporters brought in an earlier Bill. We of the Australian Labor Party commended the Government of the time for its actions. That legislation was long overdue. There had been some delay over the years in adjusting the rates. For as long as I can remember, the State and Commonwealth governments have always done this. I was a member of a South Australian advisory committee on this subject for many years. It was a committee that was set up by the Playford Government. That committee used to pick the eyes out of the legislation in the other States and attempt to get South Australia to adopt the same principles. There have been complaints by Senator Wright about, for example, the loss of a faculty. That has been provided for in the South Australian legislation for many years. If a particular injury, irrespective of whether it is a major or minor injury, is not contained in the Schedule to the Commonwealth legislation it means that a Commonwealth officer is penalised not only because there is no such provision but also, as has been pointed out, in respect to average weekly earnings. There is no ceiling in South Australia. At the present time a Commonwealth officer is penalised to the extent of the lump sum payments and in respect to the funeral benefits, which have gone up to $500 in South Australia.
That has been the pattern of workers compensation in Australia. It may be argued that there should be a different method of determining workers compensation. Personally I cannot see the present situation changing. Although honourable senators opposite have argued that the inquiry by Mr Justice Woodhouse ought to be able to provide a new system of compensation for every person, which is what the inquiry has set out to do, I think honourable senators opposite will realise, without my bleating about it, that even if the committee of inquiry were to report by March or May of next year there would be a lot of complications involved. If, for example, the committee of inquiry were to bring in a set of compensation tables for everybody in the community, including those who are not employed, it would mean that the Government would have to consider its impact on the legislation in the States. I think I would be guessing accurately if I were to guess that it would take 2 years to give legislative shape to this sort of thing. The New Zealand inquiry started in 1966. While the principles have been set out they have not yet been written into the law. It is true that by adopting the principle of weekly payments for widows we are breaking new ground. We are relating to our no loss of pay principle the principle that a widow ought to get the same wage as she got when her spouse was alive. At any rate, I just bring to the attention of honourable senators that International Labour Organisation Convention 120, in fact, states that principle. It affirms the payment of a lump sum only when countries may have trouble, legislatively or administratively, in providing a weekly sum. So I do not think that deferment of this Bill until Mr Justice Woodhouse ‘s inquiry has been completed really meets the situation. I would have expected- and
I condemn the Opposition for not having done it- that if the Opposition did not agree with our ceiling it would have recommended an alternative ceiling which it considered to be more reasonable. The Government would have considered that proposition. For those reasons, the Government opposes the motion for deferment.
That the Committee reports progress and asks leave to sit again.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman- Senator Durack)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– It seems to me that I should move that the report of the Committee be adopted but the Clerk suggests, and I move:
That the Committee reports progress and asks leave to sit again on the next day of sitting.
– I move as an amendment:
That the Committee asks leave to sit again on the first sitting day of the Senate after 2 1 February 1974.
– I suggest that if there is to be a vote on this matter it is a simple amendment and ought to be dealt with by way of such amendment and not by the absurd process of moving to leave out some words and to insert other words. It is a simple amendment and ought to be dealt with that way.
– Order! The question is that the Committee report progress and asks leave to sit again on the first sitting day of the Senate after 21 February 1974.
– It is an amendment.
– I have put it as an amendment by Senator Wright.
That the amendment (Senator Wright’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
Consideration resumed from 6 December (vide page 2572).
Remainder of Bill.
– The Committee will recall that during the earlier part of the debate on the Fisheries Bill the Opposition moved an amendment which had a consequential effect upon other clauses of the Bill. The removal of the automatic forfeiture provisions of clause 20 required certain amendments to other clauses of the Bill. At the time the Committee decided to seek leave to sit again until such time as the draftsmen could have time to see what the effect of the removal of this forfeiture clause would be. As a result there are certain consequential amendments to both the Fisheries Bill and the Continental Shelf (Living Natural Resources) Bill. I suggest, if the Opposition is agreeable, that the amendments be taken together. I can see no reason why this could not be the case. I think it would save a great deal of time if they could be taken together.
– That is the amendments taken together in each Bill?
– Yes. I just leave that for the moment.
– I express to the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) my appreciation for the courtesy which he extended to me this morning when an officer of his Department discussed with me the proposed consequential or necessary amendments following the amendment which was passed in this place last week. It removed the mandatory and very arbitrary provision in respect of forfeiture. I believe that these amendments which fit in with the amendment which we sought last week could be taken collectively as the Minister has suggested. Again I thank the Minister for the courtesy which he has extended in this matter.
- Mr Chairman -
– Order! Perhaps I can clarify a point before I call you, Senator Lawrie. Under Standing Orders we cannot proceed with the amendments as suggested by Senator Wriedt. We can deal only with amendment No. 1 which relates to clause 20 on page 14. Perhaps that may assist the Committee.
– May I clarify one point? I understand that this is the correct procedure but the following amendments can be dealt with thereafter. Is that right?
– The procedure will be that we will deal with clause 20. We then will report to the Senate and recommit the Bill and the amendments can then be dealt with together.
-Do I understand that the main clause, clause 20, cannot be amended in Committee?
– It can be amended in Committee.
– Then why does the Bill have to go back to the Senate?
– For the other clauses to be dealt with.
– In effect, we are dealing only with clause 20 now?
– The main disagreement I have in regard to this Bill and the following Bill is with clause 20 in each of them. They make the Bills retrospective, and I do not like the principle of retrospective legislation. The Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) agreed, when we were dealing with these Bills, to report progress and to refer the matter to the Crown Law Office. He has returned with these suggestions which we on the Opposition side appreciate very much. They will remove many of the objections that we had to this part of the Bill. For that reason I support them.
– The Committee will recall that when I took the Chair I mentioned that the Committee was considering the remainder of the Bill. We can consider the remainder of the Bill. That is, from clause 12, which includes clause 20. We will then have to report to the Senate and the Senate will then have to recommit clauses 1 to 12.
– Is not the Committee capable of recommitting clauses?
– I am advised not.
– I move:
I am doing this subject to the recommittal of clauses 8, 1 1 and 12.
Amendment agreed to.
– The question now is that the remainder of the Bill, as amended, stand as printed.
– I am sorry, but I am not following what is happening. I thought we were dealing with clause 12 and the following clauses. Is it the intention of the Committee to deal with clause 12 when the Bill is recommitted? It seems to me to be inappropriate that we are accepting a Bill as printed when there are proposals to amend proposed section 13 of the Act, the forfeiture section.
– Clause 13 is still open to debate.
-That being so, I want to call the attention of the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) to it because he has an amendment to move to proposed section 13 and other proposed sections.
– An amendment is to be moved to leave out proposed section 13c, but I understand that that will be dealt with when the Bill is returned to the Committee.
– It is immaterial to me, so long as we are not foreclosing that position.
– No. We are not. The Bill will come back to the Committee after we report to the Senate.
Remainder of Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment.
Motion (by Senator Wriedt) agreed to:
That the Bill be recommitted for reconsideration of clauses 8, Hand 12.
– I take it that I can move the amendments together as they are all consequent upon the amendment just carried in respect of clause 20.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
In clause 1 1, leave out proposed section 13C, insert the following proposed section:- 13c Where a court convicts a person of an offence against section 1 3 or section 1 3b, the court may order the forfeiture of-
I think that covers all the consequential amendments to the Bill which are necessary as a result of the deletion of clause 20.
– I regret that I have not been privy to the consultations that have taken place. Therefore, it may be that the matter already has been explained to
Senator Laucke who is leading for the Opposition on this Bill. Perhaps the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) will bear with me. I point out that proposed section 13 (6) states:
Subject to section 1 3c, where a court convicts a person of an office against this section, the court may order the forfeiture of-
a boat, net, trap or equipment used in the commission of the offence;
b ) fish on board such a boat at the time of the offence; or
the proceeds of the sale of such fish.
Later in the Bill we find proposed section 13c. It is proposed to omit proposed section 13c and to substitute the new proposed section 13c which is contained in Senator Wriedt ‘s amendments. Proposed new section 13c is very similar to the language which I have just read from proposed new section 13 (6). Could the Minister explain to me the difference in application of proposed new section 13 and proposed new section 13c? As I understand them, both sections apply to an Australian boat or a foreign boat and they both give the court the discretionary right to order a forfeiture. Both sections give that right only upon conviction for an offence under either of the 2 sections mentioned, sections 13c (a) and 13c (b). I am in need of explanation from the Minister to find out why we are leaving out section 13 (6) and section 13c and introducing a new section very like both of them. If it is to incorporate in the one set of words what was previously a double barrelled proposition I can understand it. Does that section apply both to a foreign and an Australian boat? Does it apply only to the case of a conviction under one or other of those sections?
– I am able to advise Senator Wright only on the offences appearing in clause 13 of the Bill covering general offences under the Act. Sub-section 6 of clause 1 1 has now been deleted. I understand that there is one set of forfeiture provisions in the Bill to cover both foreign vessels and Australian vessels. I am not sure whether that explains Senator Wright’s query.
– That is the main point about which I was wishing to know.
-Senator Wright also made reference later on to the secretary.
– Yes, I will take that matter up if convenient.
Following the statement by the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) I understand that there is only one set of forfeiture provisions under proposed new section 1 3c to cover the forfeiture of both a foreign vessel and an Australian vessel and that they apply only on conviction under proposed new section 13 or 13c. I now wish to deal with proposed new section 13d. I understand that proposed new section 13d as printed in clause 12 is to be left out. A new section 13d is to be inserted as stated by Senator Wriedt ‘s amendment. I do not see any provision that old section 13d in clause 12 should be omitted. Clause 12 states:
Before section 14 of the Principal Act the following sections are inserted: - 13d. (1) A foreign boat used or otherwise involved in the commission of an offence under this Act is forfeited to Australia.
Could I have a brief indication as to where in the amendments we are leaving out proposed section 1 3D as printed in the Bill?
– I draw the attention of Senator Wright to the last amendment whereby clause 12 was to be left out. Clause 12 contained the section which is now replaced by proposed new section 13d.
– I wish to address the attention of the Minister for Primary Industry to proposed new section 13d which states:
Any boat or other property ordered by a court to be forfeited under this Act becomes the property of Australia and shall be dealt with or disposed of in accordance with the directions of the Secretary.
I should like to know whether we have established any practice following on forfeiture whereby the Crown waives the forfeiture upon the payment of expenses to which it has been put on prosecution or payment of fines that the defendant has been ordered to pay. It is my understanding of fishery practice in some States- when I last knew of it, in Tasmania- that a fishing vessel forfeited was invariably released to the owner provided the owner paid fines and expenses. I should like to know whether we have any practice in the Commonwealth in that respect. If not, will the Minister consider the matter with a view to establishing that son of practice? I take the view that the forfeiture of a boat for any offence, even the most deliberate, is a most rigorous penalty. If the court took the view that upon conviction there should be a severe penalty there would be nothing to prevent it, I take it, from ordering a payment of $10,000 provided that a vessel of $250,000 in value were released to the owner.
The other point about which I should like information is that part of proposed new section 1 3d which states:
It seems to me that to give that power to a secretary of a department is not quite the appropriate thing. The secretary is the head of the department and administers the department but it is not for him in his judgment, I suggest, to waive a forfeiture or to direct how the vessel should be disposed of. I have heard of cases recently in which a forfeited vessel has been directed to be used in some part of the Commonwealth navigation services. I would not regard that as an appropriate authority for the secretary. I should be pleased if I could have the Minister’s views upon those matters.
– Insofar as the first matter raised by Senator Wright is concerned, I am advised that at least at this stage no such action has been taken, although it resides in the power of the Commonwealth to take the action that Senator Wright suggests. My advice is that up to this stage that has not been done.
– That is to say, we have not waived any forfeiture up to date?
-That is right. Insofar as the second point the honourable senator raised is concerned, the Bill does use the term ‘secretary’ but it was pointed out in the second reading speech that clause 5 also gives effect in the Act to the principle that an official upon whom statutory powers are conferred should be subject to the directions of the Minister in the exercise of those powers. In other words, ministerial directive power remains over any delegated authority in the terms of the Act at any time. It is mainly a matter, as I understand it, of administrative procedure as to the disposal of any forfeited vessel. Nevertheless it does not mean that the power resides entirely in the hands of the secretary of the department. The secretary would remain subject to the direction of the Minister.
– In effect, at all times the Minister retains full responsibility? He is the responsible party under this legislation. In effect, the Secretary is under ministerial control.
– For the sake of the record, I should read the proposed new subsection which I was trying to find earlier. Proposed new section 6a(2) states:
The Secretary … or his delegate or a delegate of the Minister . . . other than a Minister of the House of Assembly for Papua New Guinea, is, in the exercise of his powers and the performance of his functions under this Act, subject to the directions of the Minister . . .
Amendments agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wriedt) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 6 December (vide page 2573).
Clause 20 (Application).
– This clause is identical with a clause which appeared in the Fisheries Bill. By deleting this clause the retroactive power is removed. I wish to indicate to the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) that this morning I had a talk with gentlemen of the Department in respect to this amendment and the other amendments proposed. I shall not be asking questions of the Minister now because I am content with the advice and explanation of these amendments which have been offered to me. Again I express appreciation for that courtesy.
– I indicate formal opposition to the deletion of the clause.
Remainder of the Bill- by leave- taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Motion (by Senator Wriedt) agreed to:
That the Bill be recommitted for the further consideration of clauses 12, 16 and 17.
– There are several amendments which are consequential upon the deletion of clause 20. The position is identical with the position in respect of the previous Bill. I move:
Amendments agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wriedt) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 29 November (vide page 2360), on motion by Senator Wriedt:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-As this Bill continues legislation which was introduced in 1971 by the previous Government, the Opposition supports the Bill. The circumstances surrounding rural industries today are far different from the circumstances surrounding those industries when this legislation was so urgently needed, but with the present economic world climate one cannot be sure that some primary industries will not find themselves in need of further assistance in future. Today many are benefiting from this legislation. I have a personal interest in this legislation because it was first introduced as a result of recommendations of the Federal Rural Committee of the Liberal Party at a time when I was Chairman, in the 1960s. We foresaw that serious problems could arise in the rural industries which could not be catered for with the existing banking system- problems such as the economic viability or non-viability, if I can use that word, of many properties when faced with the upward pressure of costs and the downward pressure of prices. It was realised that some farmers would find that they had to leave the land. This became not only an economic problem but also a human problem, and it was the responsibility of the community to assist them to leave if they so desired. It had to be, of course, their free choice. It also enabled other farmers to amalgamate properties so that they would become more economically viable, and it provided for the rehabilitation and training of those who, because of economic pressures, made a conscious decision to leave the land.
I believe the legislation has been of great benefit to very many farmers. Therefore, there remains a need for it to continue, and it may well have to proceed beyond the year envisaged in the legislation, which I understand is 1976. Also, of course, it provided for the consolidation of debts. This proved of tremendous value in many cases, and many farmers who today are economically viable would not have been so except for the assistance provided by this legislation.
The only other point I wish to make is that there must be continuing consultation between the Federal Government and the States as to needs, because the States are very often in the best position to know their own peculiar requirements and the problems of selected industries particularly within those States. We commend this Bill and will give the legislation our continuing support.
– The Australian Country Party appreciates the continuation of this legislation regarding rural reconstruction. We note that up to the present time about $ 137m has been released, 75 per cent of which has been loan money and 25 per cent of which has been grants. Many people say, Why should this sort of money be given to the rural industries when it is not available to other industries?’ The fact of the matter is that in the rural industries a person cannot shut down the operation even if he is running at a loss. He cannot put sheep or cattle in mothballs, and grass still grows on his property whether it is running profitably or not. The point is that in most cases the rural industries have had to continue production at a time when they have been running at a loss, and of course the nation has gained because of the export income earned by people in the wool and meat industries in particular who have been running at a loss. I believe that because of this situation we have to assist them through rural reconstruction or in other ways so that they can continue production in bad times.
In bad seasons in particular producers- in the animal industries anyway- have to make a decision either to get rid of their stock and to sell them for slaughter or to maintain them, mainly at a loss. Of course, mostly they decide that they will endeavour to maintain them, because, after all, stock cannot just be brought back into production straight away. If breeding herds are lost it takes many years to breed up the numbers and consequently most people make a decision to maintain their flocks if possible, even at a loss. This is why we need this rural reconstruction money.
We had hoped that more money would be available, particularly at this stage for farm build up. We had a situation in the rural recession in the drought period where we had a number of people who would have liked to be able to build up their properties but could not manage the finance to do so, Others, of course, were in a pretty serious financial position and, if they had sold at that stage, they would have walked off their properties with nothing. With the improved seasonal conditions and improved prices for most of our primary products some people are now prepared to increase the size of their properties whereas others wish for one reason or another to get out, and to be in a position to get out with some sort of dignity and some financial resource behind them.
The same thing applies to reconstruction, because under reconstruction as we had it over the last couple of years there were many people, particularly in the arid areas in the pastoral industry, whose financial position was such that banking institutions and rural reconstruction boards did not consider them a viable operation, and consequently they were denied assistance. Many of these people have continued to operate on the smell of an oily rag, so to speak, and have been able to maintain their properties. They or their wives have gone out to work, and they have maintained their stocks and their properties. Under today’s seasonal conditions and improved prices they have now come into the area of eligibility for rural reconstruction. In Queensland- I do not know whether this applies in other States- there are many people who have had rural reconstruction money and the Board has asked that they repay the money as fast as they can so that it can then turn around and lend to other people. I think an opportunity should now be taken to set up the rural industries, particularly in the arid areas, while the seasonal conditions are satisfactory and the prices obtained are reasonably good because, after all, all that the Government is going to do is lend these people money. It is only a matter of a few years and they will get themselves back on top.
This applies particularly to re-stocking. There are still many people in the western areas of Queensland who have grass and everything and the season has been right, but they have not the funds to re-stock. This is a national disaster, as far as I am concerned, because, when it is considered that 95 per cent of the wool is sold overseas at fairly high prices at the moment, it can be seen that this is all export income we are losing because we are not allowing these people to get back on their feet. As I see it, this is the time when money should be expended for rural reconstruction, when seasonal conditions and economic conditions are good rather than waiting until those times when people cannot very well use it. We support the continuation of this measure, and I suggest to the Minister that he look into the possibility of really getting these rural industries, particularly in the arid areas, back on their feet and in business, and working in the interests of this nation.
– in reply- I will be as brief as possible. I expected that the Opposition would support the Bill, which is a continuation of the rural reconstruction which was commenced, of course, under the previous Government. This year a fairly large sum is involved in the legislation, namely $36m, although $24m of this will presumably be expended during the year 1973-74. The only point I really want to make is regarding the matter raised by Senator Maunsell, who referred to the use of reconstruction money for re-stocking, and so on. It was never intended in the rural reconstruction scheme that moneys be used for this purpose. The scheme was designed specifically for debt reconstruction and for farm build up purposes, with, of course, the rehabilitation provisions as well. The principal channels through which this money would be directed were for debt reconstruction and for farm build up. The emphasis now, of course, is going away from debt reconstruction, as it was in the initial years, to farm build up.
It was decided earlier this year at a meeting between State Ministers and me that we would aim this year for a maximum figure of 70 per cent of the moneys being expended for build up purposes and 30 per cent for debt reconstruction. This has been exceeded. I have learned that over the last 5 months the allocations for farm build up have in fact reached 75 per cent. This reflects the much improved rural picture over the past few months. For the benefit of the Senate, particularly those honourable senators who have an interest in this matter, I seek to have incorporated in Hansard a table giving the most up to date figures on the rural reconstruction scheme, which I am sure will be of great interest.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Lawrie)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The table read as follows)-
-I will not go into the details of those figures but it is very reassuring to the Government and, I would think, also to the State governments and to rural industry generally that we have reached what, in fact, is a most advantageous position. Senator Maunsell referred to other means of financing rural matters. Rural people, in fact, do have available to them the trading bank system and farm development loans, all of which are faculties to which they can turn for the purpose of financing expansion of their farms. There is really no opposition to this legislation, and I thank the Opposition for its cooperation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 29 November (vide page 236 1 ), on motion by Senator Wriedt:
That the Bill be now read a first time.
– I intend to devote my time in this debate to discussing the continuing and ever increasing interference with Government legislation in this chamber. I think that 1973 undoubtedly will be regarded as one of the blackest years in the history of the Senate because, of the 250-odd Bills which have been passed by the House of Representatives, something like one-sixth have been deferred, delayed, amended or rejected by the Senate. I believe that this is a negation of the popular mandate that was given to the Australian Labor Party at the election a year ago. It is worth looking at what happened on 2 December when the Australian Labor Party, for the first time in 23 years, received 49.5 per cent of the vote, compared with the very poor showing of the Opposition parties. The Liberal Party received only 32 per cent of the vote, the Country Party 9.4 per cent and the Democratic Labor Party 5.25 per cent. Since that time we have seen a reaction in this chamber by those who were defeated in 1972 but who believe that they are chosen to rule. They undoubtedly have developed quite neurotic tendencies in an endeavour to frustrate the popular will of the electorate.
I believe that Opposition senators have chosen to abuse one of the safeguards planned by the founders of our Constitution. It certainly was never intended that the Senate be used to obstruct the legislative program of a recently popularly elected government. Of course, I am in good company in saying this because Senator Wright, in his dissenting report associated with the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review in 1959, said, when speaking of proposals to amend the constitution of the Senate:
It is not the constitution of the Senate which needs reform. It is the abuses in its party management which should be corrected.
That is precisely the view that we take. What we have seen taking place in this chamber in recent times is to the discredit of the honourable senators who make up the Opposition parties. For the last 23 years the parties which formed the previous Government made great play after each general election of the fact that they had received a clear mandate to carry out any proposal included in their policy statements. Yet we are now faced with a situation in which they defiantly reject significant pieces of the Government’s legislative program which were spelt out in the Government’s pre-election policy statement.
I refer Opposition senators and the people of Australia to what was said by the GovernorGeneral in this chamber when he opened the Parliament on Tuesday, 27 February. He said:
Following the clear decision of the people of Australia at the elections for the House of Representatives on 2 December 1972 and acting upon advice, I commissioned the Leader of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party to form a new Government on 5 December 1972. My new advisers have proceeded with all possible speed to act upon the mandate for change which they are firmly convinced was bestowed upon them by the people of Australia in the House of Representatives elections. My advisers will now ask this Parliament-
I interpolate that that includes this Senate- itself the fundamental means by which the will of the people can be expressed- to pass legislation embodying the central parts of the program which the people have instructed them to implement.
It is ironically significant that the founder of the Liberal Party and the Prime Minister for most of its existence- I refer, of course, to Sir Robert Menzies- chose to write an article for the Sydney Daily Telegraph’ on 1 1 March 1968.I am sure that some of the older Opposition senators will remember it well. No doubt they were all loyally nodding approval at the time the article was written. These are some of the things that the Prime Minister of the day had to say:
What are the true purpose and proper functions of the Senate? Should it really exercise its undoubted powers in such a way as to control or frustrate the policies of a government with a popular majority and mandate in the House?
He went on to say:
It would be a falsification of democracy if, on any matter of government policy approved by the House of Representatives, possibly by a large majority-
I submit that that is precisely what has happened the Senate, representing the States and not the people, could reverse the decision.
He went on to say: a Senate opposition whose party had just been completely defeated at a general election, would be in command of the Government of the nation.
That would be the result if the defeated Opposition continued to carry out its rejections of Government policy. Sir Robert went on to say in his article:
This would be absurd, as a denial of popular democracy.
Sir Robert said that the purpose of his article was to examine the powers and the authority of the Australian Senate. He went on to say:
This is an important and topical matter, for in the new Senate-
He was referring to the Senate which was elected in 1967- the Government will not have a majority in its own right, though it was, little more than a year ago, given by popular vote, a very large majority in the House of Representatives; a majority which, in the normal course, it will continue to have for the better part of the next 2 years.
I have had prepared a list of the Bills which have been before this chamber and which have been emasculated in one way or another. In other words, they have been amended, deferred, postponed or defeated, depending upon the terminology of the relevant resolution and the majority view of the day. It is an alarming state of affairs that something like 46 Bills fall into this category. At the time when I took out these figures- it was on 21 November 1973, which is just 3 weeks ago- 8 Bills had been defeated, 5 Bills had been deferred and 12 Bills had been amended. Those figures have now increased to 11 Bills defeated, 7 Bills deferred, including the Bill which was deferred today, and 25 Bills amended.
I put it to honourable senators that in our policy speech and in the speech of the GovernorGeneral at the opening of the Parliament there were laid down the fundamental cornerstones of the Labor Party program which was placed before the electors at the 1972 Federal election. I will not weary the Senate by reading various quotations from both the Labor Party policy speech and the Governor-General’s speech. But let me say that Bills on education, on workers’ compensation- and, it is contemplated, on national insurance, on the right of access to the Australian Loan Council by local authorities, on matters affecting inflation, on referendums- the present Prime Minister and the GovernorGeneral indicated three or four matters which were to go before the Australian people by way of referendum proposals- on the Australian Industries Development Corporation and on industrial matters, all of which could be regarded as cornerstones of the Government’s policies, have in one way or another been put aside, amended, rejected or deferred. Some Bills have even been referred to Senate Standing Committees for further examination. Honourable senators have done this knowing full well that after this long and arduous year there is very little likelihood that many of the Senate committees will have an opportunity to consider the matters that have been referred to them before the Senate reassembles in February or March next year. Sir Robert Menzies, after setting out and explaining the powers of the Senate, went on to comment:
In the end result, the Senate has a full power of rejecting any Bill.
This means that if a Government with a clear majority in the House of Representatives presented its Budget to Parliament, and then brought into the House of Representatives financial measures to give effect to that Budget, and had them passed by the House and sent up to the Senate, a hostile Senate could legally reject them.
This, of course, would create an impossible situation, and would make popular government unworkable.
I do not think that it is the role of the Senate to frustrate the Government and this will of the people and to conduct a filibuster-and that is what the Senate has done on a great number of the Bills before the Parliament. The Government has been placed in a very invidious position. In the months that lie ahead the Australian people will have to take into very serious consideration the fact that after 23 years in government the present Opposition Parties, which were defeated at the polls, have taken advantage of a temporary situation that exists in this chamber. Sir Robert Menzies said that nobody with a temporary majority in this chamber should take advantage of that situation in order to frustrate the Government. I do not think that anyone can say that the Government has not been energetic in carrying out its mandate. The Government has introduced a great number of Bills. It is true that this program has wearied even Government members and I am sure that it has wearied members of the Opposition. But in the flush of victory and following the terms of the GovernorGeneral ‘s speech the Government acted in order to bring about the radical change in our society which the Austraiian people sought when they elected the Labor Government just over a year ago. The Government has, with a whole variety of economic and other issues, taken equally energetic steps outside the parliamentary arena. Currency revaluation, the tariff cuts, the establishment of the Joint Committee on Prices and the Trade Practices Tribunal have been endeavours to play some part in curbing the advance of inflation which is so much a problem in the Western world today.
It is a matter of regret that the Government was unable to carry out its referendum proposals by having the Senate deal with a number of these matters when they came before us in the middle part of this Budget session. The Labor Government was forced to put matters to the electorate as a result of arrangements that had been made. A great deal more could be said about the Bills that have been emasculated in the Senate. So many of the actions of the Opposition have had the effect of completely obstructing the will of the Government and of harassing the Government in its endeavours to bring about the essential changes in our society. Having regard to the great number of Bills that are still before the Senate, it would appear likely that a number of them will even be set aside at the conclusion of this week’s deliberations. I rise to make the point that I do not believe the Senate is acting properly or maturely. I think it is taking advantage of a temporary situation and not giving the Government a go in regard to its legislative program. I hope that when we come back in the new year the Senate will reflect upon the capricious way in which it has dealt with these bills and that honourable members opposite will wake up to themselves and take a more responsible attitude in respect to the Government’s legislation.
– I thought that we were on the run home this week, to expedite the passage of Government legislation and to rise in time for Christmas. That was the Opposition’s intention this week. But Senator Gietzelt cannot expect to make the accusations that he has made at about 4.30 on the first sitting day of what is perhaps the last week of sitting for this session and get away with them. Senator Gietzelt had a very interesting quotation from an article written by Sir Robert Menzies in 1968. 1 suppose one should always be wary when the devil quotes Scripture. I do not use that saying in the sense that Senator Gietzelt is the devil or that what Sir Robert Menzies said is Scripture. But if I may indulge in the same luxury, I too have a quotation. I wish to quote what was said on 13 March 1951 by the late right honourable Joseph Benedict Chifley, the then Leader of the Opposition in another place, when he said as reported in Hansard:
All this talk that we have heard about delays and frustration has consisted merely of millions and millions of words and nothing else.
So said the late J. B. Chifley on 13 March 1951 when referring to Mr Menzies’ charges against the Opposition in the Senate. How true those words are today. Mr Chifley went on to say:
I make no apologies for the action that has been taken by the Senate towards several bills.
If we are going to throw quotations at one another, I do not think that we will get very far. When the Labor Party was in opposition in the other place but had the numbers in the Senate, it felt it quite right and proper that the Senate should be used to review legislation and to amend or defeat legislation with which it disagreed. Of course, now the boot is on the other foot and that Party has conveniently reversed its ideals on what are the rights and duties of this chamber. For the past year we have lived with a continual drone from the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) of frustration, obstruction, mandate; frustration, obstruction, mandate. But it is interesting to record that in his first year statement the Prime Minister referred to: evidence of unwarranted obstruction by the non-Labor forces in the Senate; their obstruction of the Government’s clear mandate from the people to get things done.
That is what the Prime Minister said. But he went on to say that the year had been one of great industry and great purpose. He further said:
Never before in our history has such a wide-ranging, reforming program come before the Parliament.
He went on to outline the record number of Bills introduced into the Parliament and, furthermore, the record number of Bills passed by the Parliament. Could the Prime Minister claim this legislative record if, to use his words, ‘the nonLabor forces in the Senate’ had been truly obstructive? Of course he could not. The Prime Minister’s charges are without foundation. They are baseless and the Prime Minister now stands like the huie boy who cried wolf once too often. Undoubtedly, the Prime Minister and his Government have found it unpleasant to have to submit their legislation for review by this chamber and to have it undergo scrutiny in the Committee stages. The Prime Minister and his Government must remember that the Senate is not here to rubber stamp the Government’s intentions. As I have said before, the Senate is part of the legislative process of this nation, as is clearly stated m the Constitution. We would have been abdicating our duties if we had not acted in the way in which we have acted.
One ought to remember the record of this year. We have rejected some legislation because we believe that that legislation was not in the best interests of the people of this country. We have amended some legislation and, to the Government’s credit, most of those amendments have been accepted. We have deferred some legislation so that it can be more fully considered. We have referred some legislation to committees for expert advice. Surely those actions cannot be seen by any reasonable person as being frustrating for frustration’s sake or obstructionist merely to be unpleasant. I think the Government’s dislike of the Opposition in the Senate comes not from a true belief that the Opposition has been frustrating or obstructing legislation but because it has kept the Government honest. We have made it keep its promises and pledges. We have not let it shirk its duties. As an instance of this I cite the case of the granting of 4 weeks annual leave to public servants. That is what the Government promised but it wanted to renege on its promise and grant the additional leave only to unionists. The first action of the Senate this year was to keep the Government honest.
I do not think the public believes that the Senate has been all that the Government has alleged it to be. As my colleagues and I go around Australia we find more and more people saying to us: Thank God for the Senate. Thank God for the Opposition parties in the Senate. It is only the Liberal Party senators plus the Country Party senators plus the Democratic Labor Party senators that stand between the exercising of arbitrary centralist socialist power in Canberra and the freedoms of the Australian people’. That is what is being said. It was said loud and clear last Saturday. Who was right then? What did the people do? They rejected the Government. I am sick and tired of honourable senators opposite complaining. The Government has had the opportunity since we on this side of the Parliament threw out the Commonwealth Electoral Bill for the second time in, I think, August to take all of us out. I say to honourable senators opposite: Put up or shut up. We have had nothing but constant whingeing from the Prime Minister down to even such an insignificant back bench member of the
Parliament as Senator Gietzelt. I say to Senator Gietzelt that if he has any influence in his Party he should get up at a Caucus meeting and demand that the Prime Minister take out the whole of this chamber. Pick up the challenge. Do not walk into this chamber in the dying hours of this parliamentary session and whinge and whine about what the Opposition has been doing for the whole of the last 12 months. The Government could have taken out half the Senate any day it liked since 1 July of this year.
– But the senators could not have been changed before July of next year.
-That may be so. But the Government has not been game to put up such a proposition. Since 22 August it could have taken all of us out. The only reason why it would not take all of us out was that it would have had to take out all of those down below. Honourable senators opposite know what would have happened. They know what happened in the Balcatta by-election in Western Australia. They know what happened in the Victorian State election. They know what happened in the Parramatta by-election. They know what happened in the Greensborough by-election in Victoria. They know what happened in the New South Wales general election. They know what happened to the referendums last Saturday. They have seen the gallup polls and the Australian Nationwide Opinion Polls. They know that their standing in the community is continuing to slip. Honourable senators opposite saw the Prime Minister get done over by the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Snedden, at last Thursday’s Press luncheon. That is why they have lost all their courage. Of course they have been done over. They have been done like a dinner and they do not like it. The Prime Minister knew he had been done and he did not like it. Honourable senators opposite are all on the slide. They should not come into this chamber with mock heroics. I conclude by again quoting Mr Chifley ‘s remarks:
All this talk that we have heard about delays and frustration has consisted merely of millions and millions of words and nothing else.
– This afternoon we have witnessed the greatest verbal indication ever of an immature Party in Government acting stupidly through a pistol packing back bencher by the name of Senator Gietzelt. For a member of a Government Party which is in the absurd state in which the Labor Government is in today, a year after coming into office, to get up on the first reading of a Bill not to say anything of help to the nation but to indulge in snippets of criticism which he has learned from some of the newspapers and news media commentators over the last 12 months, is, to say the least, surprising. He finished his speech by saying that the Senate has shown a lack of maturity. What sort of judge does Senator Gietzelt think he is that he can say of this chamber that it has shown a lack of maturity? His comments have given me the chance to say a few things that I wanted to say but that I had a mind to withhold. I know of the mess into which the Government has got itself through a lack of ability in regard to its program for this session, but I was going to keep what I wanted to say to myself. Senator Gietzelt should remember what I once heard my colleague, Senator Wright, say to a member of the Australian Labor Party, namely: ‘If you light a fuse you always want to have a lire brigade to put it out’. I believe that Senator Gietzelt, by his intemperate attack not upon Parliament, not upon the enemies of Australia and not upon industrial unrest but upon fellow members of the Parliament in the form of the Opposition, has lit a fuse that he may have some regrets about lighting in his attempts to put it out.
I say in rebuttal that no government has a right to claim that it is doing a remarkably good job simply because it happens to introduce a large number of Bills in its first year in office. If and when an analysis is made of the legislation finally passed by this Parliament it will be found, thanks to the reviewal status of the Senate and the hard work of the Senate, started by Opposition senators and reflected in the homework being done by honourable senators on the Government side of the chamber, a number of Bills have been well tidied up. We have had 2 examples today of Government amendments being necessary to make its legislation good. Included among the 200 measures that we have passed or dealt with in the 77-odd days on which the Senate has sat this year has been a lot of rubbish. No government worthy of its name and no government trying honestly to get credit where credit is due would include in its legislative program a number of the Bills which have been passed in the present session. They are consequential and inconsequential.
The Opposition in the Senate has been criticised because it has deferred consideration of some Bills and defeated some Bills outright. Those Bills have been bowled back up to us after the stone crusher down below has been in operation. But that is why we have 2 Houses of Parliament. The first element is to allow the public to become vocal if a measure is introduced and/or passed in another place. The second great element in our work is to review legislation. We amend it, defer it or defeat it. The news media have been referring to the actions of the Opposition. In fairness they should refer to the actions of the 3 different political parties in Opposition in this chamber. Each meets on its own and comes to its own decisions and, finding those decisions to be in accord, they agree to oppose certain measures. Over and above all that each of the parties has its own political organisation. Such organisations do not instruct them, but they can growl, they can complain and they can advise, just the same as does the Federal Executive of the Australian Labor Party. But the Government is dealing not just with 20-odd senators; it is dealing with 3 separate political entities. It is dealing with a combined Opposition which, after much thought, decides to take certain action. Members of the Opposition have been able in each case to get up and give good, solid reasons for taking the action that they have decided to take and those reasons are all in print.
I have always believed that it is a government’s job to govern. I also felt that the Government which came to power on 2 December last, or soon after that, had been in the doldrums for so long- out of office for so long- that one would have to put up with its lack of expertise. In retrospect I think that some Ministers have done remarkably well. Others have been and wil continue to be failures. But, overall, the business of this Senate has been very badly run. The Opposition has not been given a fair go on the programming of the legislation. We have had the absurd situation of changing the times and sittings of the Senate 3 times in the Government’s period of office- and I believe that the times will be changed again before we adjourn for Christmas. Instead of more time a week being given to legislation, less time a week has been given under the last 2 alterations to programming. History Will reveal, and a fair assessment of the work of the Senate wil show, that more time has been devoted to legislation because of the greater number of Bills that more measures in which the Opposition has concurred have been passed with little or no debate; and that more second reading speeches have been incorporated in Hansard to save a great deal of time. This has been done only to help the Government govern. Whenever we had not agreed with those who occupied the Opposition benches last year and in previous years- and I have listened to them for 20 years- we had long debates on every social services, repatriation and health BUI that was introduced. Nearly every BUI that came before the Parliament was savagely debated and some platitudinous amendment was moved to the second reading debate. This has seldom been done in the many measures that have been put through this Senate this year because in Opposition we have known that we would have to fight strongly to defeat some Bills but we were willing to help the Government govern and to get through that legislation in which we concurred.
Another point I make is that the Opposition Parties have co-operated far more willingly in the estimates committees than the previous Opposition co-operated in the estimates committees which were introduced by the previous Government. I believe that it is most unfair and unwise for a backbencher to get up at this stage of the game when people want to see legislation that is good passed but want to see that which is bad defeated. The Senate has been criticised in recent months for obstructing the Will of the Government. Every single item that was included in Mr Whitlam ‘s policy speech is said to have a mandate to get it through Parliament. This is utterly absurd. Nobody goes to vote for a candidate at an election in any electorate saying: I will vote No. 1 for Brown so long as he sees everything in the policy speech becomes law’. That is utter nonsense. If it were so, Parliament need not meet. It would be useless. It would mean, as Senator Murphy almost implied the other day, that we should not speak to measures. It would be the dumb Parliament. The fact is that we have done much to help the Government.
On Saturday the people clearly voted to indicate 2 things: Firstly, that they did not want power over prices and incomes centralised in Canberra and, secondly, that they did not trust the present Federal Government. The Government has seen the results of the Parramatta byelection, the New South Wales State elections and other elections held in Australia. There was no indication in any one of them that the people are pro-Labor. They are showing every day that this Government is in power that they are more against Labor. The Government should have learned that lesson on Saturday and said: ‘After all, the Opposition Senators have been reading the minds of the people. They are knocking back some of our bad legislation. Let us take a look at ourselves. Let us play the game. Let us look to Australia and not to cheap political party advantage’. And this- looking to cheap political party advantage- I believe is what the Government has done. It has gone ideology mad and is administratively incapable. I tell Government senators that it is better that they take a look at themselves rather than criticise the Opposition senators who have been manly enough to get up and fight for what is right despite the attacks and the criticisms that come from the news media of Australia. On Saturday the people of Australia said to the Senate: ‘Keep up your good work and harness this incapable mob ‘.
– I did not intend to rise on this first reading of the Honey Export Charges Bill but I do so as a result of several remarks made by the previous speaker, Senator Marriott. I can see that as a result of what Senator Gietzelt contributed to this debate he certainly got under the skin of the Opposition, particularly the skin of Senator Marriott, who seems to be emotionally upset not only by what Senator Gietzelt said but also by what has been said in the daily Press. I am surprised that a man who claims to be a mature senator could get so upset by what was said here today. I want to correct one of his statements. He referred to Senator Gietzelt ‘s reference in his speech to ‘a combined Opposition’. Senator Marriott has pointed out that it is not a combined Opposition- that the 3 Opposition Parties meet as 3 separate identities. I want to quote from an article which appeared in the ‘Murray Pioneer’, a newspaper printed at Renmark, which in its issue on 1 8 October referred to a statement made by Senator Laucke when he addressed a meeting in Renmark. The article states:
Addressing the meeting, Senator Laucke spoke of his delight at the present high level of co-operation between the Liberal and Country Parties at Federal level.
He illustrated this by pointing to the recently developed system of joint Party meetings in Canberra.
Yet we have heard Senator Marriott say that they work as separate identities. One can walk around the corridors of this Parliament House every week and see notices hanging on the meeting rooms proclaiming ‘Joint Meeting’. Who is correct: Senator Laucke or Senator Marriott? Then, of course, we had the Press statements of Mr Snedden at the week-end accusing Mr Anthony of running around the country like a blue-tailed fly. So where is the Opposition cooperation there? On the one hand, it has cooperation, on the other division.
The only other thing I want to refer to is the comment made by Senator Marriott about how wonderfully the Opposition has worked on the estimates committees. I have pointed out here, and I have had figures incorporated in Hansard to show, that the Opposition did not co-operate on the estimates committees this session. The committees devoted 20 hours more this year to their work than the next highest figure for any year since the estimates committees have been in operation. As one who sat in on several of these estimates committees meetings I know that 2 senators in particular went over and over particular subjects day after day, night after night and, quite apart from trying to examine money matters, were trying to delve into other subjects in order to ridicule people in the Government. For Senator Marriott to stand up and say that the Opposition has co-operated better on the estimates committees than did the Government when it was in Opposition is complete rubbish.
– I enter this debate as a result of having listened very intently to Senator Gietzelt and because I think that certain aspects need to be properly expanded to show that what appears to a Government senator to be the case may not so appear to an Opposition senator and also possibly to the people at large. Firstly, we continually get the statement that the Government has a mandate for this and for that. We know that when parties go before the people they put forward policies. Being one of those with probably a more simple mind I have taken the trouble to talk to the people about these matters. I have questioned people who have heard a policy speech whether they could tell me the points of the policy expounded and after they thought for a while- and some of them were quite intelligent people- they said: ‘As a matter of fact, we cannot tell you one point of the policy’. I know that governments come to office and say: ‘We put the matter before the people’. I have had discussions on this subject with members of the Labor Party. They admit that they cannot remember all the points in the policy which was put forward at the last election. I do not think anybody could remember all the things which were put forward. To me, it is a lot of moonshine when governments of various colours claim that they put forward a policy and have a mandate for everything which they put in their policy. It is quite factual that great notice is not taken by the people of many of the points in the policy and they are not in their minds when they go to vote. Therefore, when legislation comes before this chamber it comes before it for consideration by sensible people who should try to look at these things on the basis of what is best for the country. If Opposition senators or a section of the Senate Opposition feel that something is not right in regard to legislation, then it is their duty and right to say so. What is more, if legislation is not correct it is the right and duty of people within a party on the Government side to say so. That is the policy which I practised when I was on the Government side as a senator. Everybody knows that. I have taken my stand. Whenever I thought something was wrong I was prepared to vote against it.
I think it can be said to the credit of the Labor Party that, under its democratic system, when Ministers make a decision the Labor Caucus can actually change the decision of the Ministers. If the Labor Caucus can make this change in this democratic way, there is no reason why this Senate, which is duly elected by the people of this country- by the same people who vote for the other House- cannot, in the same democratic way as Caucus, change the decision of the Ministers. So we, as senators, have the right to make a change if we think it is in the best interests of the country. I am not one of those who believe that we should change a thing automatically because it comes from the other side. Legislation should be adjudicated on to decide whether it is the best available. If senators on one side of the Senate or even a mixture of all parties decide on a certain issue, and if that decision is made on an honest basis, I do not think the Senate should be castigated for making that decision.
I well recall that when we were in Government there were a number of occasions on which the then Opposition- now the Government- took steps in concert with one or two of the smaller parties represented in this chamber. The legislation relating to receipts duty tax is a case in point. I think the Australian Democratic Labor Party moved in connection with that. The Australian Labor Party, which is now in Government but which was then in Opposition, supported the DLP. The result was that the legislation was thrown out. It was an item of consequence. From memory, I think it involved something like $50m or $60m. If I recall correctly, it was part of the Budget proposals.
– That was like the sales tax on motor cars where the honourable senator moved.
-That is right. It was proposed to increase the sales tax on motor cars. As Senator Byrne mentioned I, as a Government senator, opposed that and I fought very strongly. There was another case when the then Opposition, which is now the ALP Government, offered strong opposition to increased postal charges. I think that in that case the DLP had moved and the ALP was supporting it. Because of some other influence that was at work in the ALP, a change was made. But at one time it seemed as though that legislation would be defeated. It was part of the then Government’s Budget proposals. These are things which we take in our stride. We have to recognise that the people who are opposing are elected by voters just as honourable senators on the Government side are elected. These people elect the members of the other House. Therefore representatives here, believing that they are fighting for a certain cause, have a perfect right, as senators, to take this stand.
As has been stated, the Senate is a House of review. I believe that the Senate, as its members are elected to represent States, has a much wider sphere of activity and thinking because each State comprises so many aspects whereas individual electorates can have a very small area of interest. I think that as senators we have to take a much wider view of things because of the very basis on which we are elected, that is, by the States. Therefore, I believe it is wrong to castigate the Senate because it amends legislation and because, at times, it may throw out legislation. If the Opposition, in deferring certain legislation, does it correctly and for the purpose of investigating the legislation further, then that is in the interests of achieving good legislation.
I do not think anybody should want legislation rushed through a chamber and, possibly, later find that it should not have been rushed through. This has happened before. I have seen it happen in the Parliament of my own State of Queensland. It has happened here. Legislation has had to be repaired afterwards because it has been rushed through. I feel that some of the legislation which has been deferred probably will be all the better for its deferment. I am not suggesting that because some of the legislation has been deferred I am against it. I think that the Trade Practices Bill is of very great importance. Because of its far reaching effect it is a Bill which we should consider thoroughly. I have spoken to honourable senators on this side who are members of the legal profession. I have had discussions with them. I know them to be honest men. They have said that, because of the great amount of legislation which has come into this chamber and the great consequences which flow from this legislation, it has been impossible for them to study that Bill properly.
Let us look at the actual figures. If I remember rightly, this year the Senate has passed more legislation than in any other year since 1968. That indicates that the Senate has not been stopping and loafing on legislation. The fact that we have put through a record number of Bills this year, as compared with all years back to 1968 at least, indicates that all the talk about great frustration probably has been overstated and possibly is political. I know that the Press and the various other sections of the media have been trying to talk about the Senate frustrating the carrying out of a mandate and this and that. This has been building up in the minds of the people the suggestion that the Senate is acting wrongly and contrary to the interests of the people and of the present Government.
My own view, from what I can find, is that what our Leader, Senator Withers, said is correct. Wherever I go I find people saying: ‘Thank goodness we have a Senate’. I believe that people are recognising the fact that the Senate should take hold of legislation, review it, amend it, throw it out or delay it. I cannot find in the mind of the average person any strong feeling against that. As one who stands for the Senate as a proper House of review and as a House representing the States, taking a broad view of things I believe that this year the Senate has done a remarkably good job. I think that most of the amendments that have been made or the delays that have taken place have had a worthwhile reason behind them. Under no circumstances can it be truly said that the Senate, as a House, has not functioned as it should. I believe that what the people are saying is correct, namely: Thank goodness there is a Senate’.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the second reading speech to this Bill.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Poke)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
The purpose of this Bill is to impose a charge on honey exports to provide necessary additional finance for the operations of the Australian Honey Board. The Australian Honey Board was established under the Honey Industry Act 1962 for the general purposes of regulating the export of honey and engaging in promotional activities on the domestic and overseas markets. The Board’s operations are presently financed by levies imposed on domestic sales of honey and on honey used in the production of other goods. Exports of honey which normally account for some 40 per cent of Australian production were exempted from levy when the legislation was introduced in 1 962 because of the very depressed state of the export market at that time. Since 1962 the Board’s operational costs and requirements for promotional funds have risen along with the general cost increases that have occurred. Periodic increases in the rate of levy have been made to meet this situation but there is an increasing reluctance on the part of the industry to increase the present levy on domestic honey sales.
In March 1973 the Board felt it was appropriate in light of the prevailing buoyant market conditions that the export sector should contribute to financing the Board’s operations. It recommended that a charge be imposed on honey exports at a maximum rate of lc per kilogram and that the operative rate should be a minimum of 0.3c per kilogram. Following its recommendation the Board sought the endorsement of the main honey industry organisations which indicated their general support. The matter was subsequently discussed at the meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council in August last and there was general acceptance of the need for a charge on the export of honey. The Bill gives effect to the industry proposal. It provides for an initial operative rate of charge of 0.3c per kilogram which may be varied by regulation, on the recommendation of the Australian Honey Board, to any level within a maximum rate of lc per kilogram. The Government believes that the Honey Board must receive greater financial support if it is to function properly in the future and as there has been a very buoyant market over the last 2 years, in principle, the export trade should now make a contribution to financing the Board ‘s operations. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Laucke) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Wriedt) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions with regard to the remaining stages for the passage through the Senate of all or several of the Honey Export Charge Bill 1973, the Honey Export Charge Collection Bill 1973 and the Honey Industry Bill 1973 being put in one motion at each stage, and the consideration of all or several of such Bills together in Committee of the Whole, and as would prevent the reading of the short titles only on every order for the reading of the Bills.
Debate resumed from 29 November (vide page 2361) and 1 1 December (vide page 2667), on motion by Senator Wriedt:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
– The purpose of the Honey Export Charge Bill is to impose a small charge on exports of honey in order to provide necessary additional finance for the Australian Honey Board. Thus far charges have been levied only on local sales of honey and not on that which has been exported. About 40 per cent of our honey is exported and 60 per cent is used on the home market. At the time of the introduction of charges on honey consumed on the local market the export markets were in the doldrums. The export price of honey was at a very depressed level. It was thought then that it would be unfair to impose a charge on export sales. The situation is different today and the industry generally and the Australian Agricultural Council have agreed that a charge should be made. The Honey Board will determine the amount of the charge to be levied. The operative figure at the moment has been set at 0.3c per kilogram. The maximum charge that can be applied is lc per kilogram.
The Honey Export Charge Collection Bill is complementary to the Honey Export Charge Bill and provides the machinery necessary for the collection of the charge imposed by the Honey Export Charge Bill. The third Bill, the Honey Industry Bill, provides that the amounts received under the Honey Export Charge Collection Bill shall be paid to the Australian Honey Board out of Consolidated Revenue.
The honey industry is of importance; it is worth about $ 12m a year. The Australian Honey Board has the obligation of determining export arrangements, policies and the promotion of honey in overseas and local markets. With the passage of time the Board’s financial requirements naturally have grown as have those of other organisations. The Board is just able to fulfil its obligations for the purposes for which it was set up. The Liberal Party raises no objection to these Bills and wishes them a speedy passage.
-The Australian Country Party will not offer any opposition to these 3 Bills. We support them.
Senator Laucke already has outlined the principle involved in them which is to place a levy on honey exports. The levy was not introduced originally on exports because of the depressed state of the export market at the time. Apparently the export market is now very buoyant. The levy will be 0.3c per kilogram of honey exported. The other Bill provides machinery for the collection and paying out of the money to the Australian Honey Board. The operational costs of the Board have been increasing all the time and we are told that it does not want to put further levy on local sales. For those reasons we hope that these 3 Bills have a speedy passage.
– in reply- I appreciate the co-operation of the Opposition. I understand that it does not oppose any clauses of the Bills. The proposals in the Bills were initiated by the Australian Honey Board with the support of the industry. The most effective way of getting the new proposals into operation is to give these Bills a quick passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a second time, and passed through their remaining stages without amendment, requests or debate.
Debate resumed from 6 December (vide page 2552), on motion by Senator Murphy:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
– These 3 Bills are simply machinery measures. They provide for conversions from the imperial quantitative unit to the metric system. The Honey Levy Bills provide that the maximum levy that can be applied is to be converted from lc per lb to 2.2c per kilogram. That is very close to an exact conversion. It is within 0.2 per cent. The Egg Export Charges Bill provides for a similar conversion and again the figure is very close. It is within 0.2 per cent. Actually the small variation represents a decrease in the levy. The Opposition raises no objection to these Bills. They are part of the movement across to the metric system and we support their passage.
– I wish to say on behalf of the Australian Country Party that we have no objection to these Bills and support them. Senator Laucke has pointed out already that they have been introduced simply to convert the financial arrangements in connection with the honey levy and the egg export charges into the metric system. We hope that the Bills have a speedy passage.
Bills read a second time, and passed through their remaining stages without requests or debate.
Motion (by Senator Wriedt) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions with regard to the remaining stages for the passage through the Senate of all or several of the AlburyWodonga Development Bill 1973, the Albury-Wodonga Development (Financial Assistance) Bill 1973, the Growth Centres (Financial Assistance) Bill 1973 and the Land Commissions (Financial Assistance) Bill 1973 being put in one motion at each stage, and the consideration of all or several of such bills together in Committee of the Whole, and as would prevent the reading of the short titles only on every order for the reading of the bills.
Debate resumed from 4 December (vide pages 2387, 2388, 2390, and 2393), on motion by Senator Cavanagh :
That the Bills be now read a second time.
– The Opposition will not oppose these Bills which, I understand, are before the Senate in the form of a cognate debate. On the contrary any positive step towards decentralisation and development in regional areas meets with the full approval of the Opposition Parties. I should like to refer in particular for a moment to the Albury-Wodonga Development Bill 1973 because there are some aspects of the legislation which have given concern to the residents living in that area. I believe that the questions associated with the proposal should be answered before the Bills are passed by the Senate. I hope that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) will be able to answer some of the residents’ questions. The whole bone of contention was drawn to my attention when I received a telegram from, I presume, the Secretary of the Albury-Wodonga Growth Centre Land Holders Association, Mr R. P. Adams. The telegram stated that the Albury-Wodonga residents are strongly opposed to many features of the development legislation and urge the Opposition in the Senate to refer the Bill to the appropriate Senate committee for detailed examination and full debate.
– Is that the same Mr Adams who was the defeated Liberal candidate?
-I am not aware of the identity of the gentleman to that degree. I understand that the residents in the area could be concerned about the situation. I received a deputation today from the councils of the City of Albury and the City of Wodonga. They put it to me that the consultative committee did not seem to pay a great deal of attention to consulting local people about the development in this area. It seems that the consultative committee and the State Government made some decisions and then told the local people about them rather than doing it the other way and ascertaining the local feeling first. It should be remembered that the envisaged corporation will pre empt and in fact render local government virtually unnecessary with respect to the development of 30,000 acres that is proposed to be acquired in this particular area. Clause 8 of the Bill states:
1 ) The functions of the Corporation under this Act are-
That part of the Bill mystifies me somewhat. Perhaps the Minister might let me know a little more about it. I am referring to the part which refers to ‘other services for Australia and for authorities of Australia’.
Referring to local government in particular, it seems that this Corporation will have open ended control over the development and construction of roads etc. within the area defined by this particular complex and that local government virtually will be non-existent. In effect, it means that a corporation which is selected by the Commonwealth and the States will have the say over what goes on in that area. This means that the elected representation aspect of this sort of development will be ignored. I think the local government authorities in that area have a case for participation, although I believe the matter would be more properly dealt with by State Government legislation referring to these land acquisition commissions and the Development Corporation itself. It appears to me that the State Government should consider providing some sort of time limit, perhaps 5 years, during which the Corporation can operate without local government participation and after that particular period the land should be handed back to the local government authority to deal with in the usual way.
Another matter which again I think would be more properly dealt with by State legislation is the acquisition of land. I believe that when Federal funds are being used for this purpose the land should be acquired on just terms and also that the right of appeal against a valuation ought to be provided. I do not think that there is any purpose in suggesting that that ought to be properly done in the context of these Bills. However, I suggest to the Minister that it would be appropriate for the Australian Government to recommend this action to the State governments in the matters to which I have referred.
The Opposition approves wholeheartedly the concept of the development in this area. It is in keeping with the policy of the Liberal Party to encourage development in these areas. One thing that does concern me with respect to the appointment of the Corporation is that it Will have 5 members, one appointed by the Australian Government and one appointed by each State. There Will be 2 local government appointees. I point out and stress the point that the quorum for the Corporation wil be three which could effectively allow the Government appointees completely to control the operations of the Corporation. I ask the Minister to look at that matter also and to make sure that there is proper consultation with local government.
I was a bit disappointed that the debate in the other place was somewhat curtailed when the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) rose in an attempt to speak for 3 or 4 minutes on the BUI in relation to the development in the Monarto region in South Australia. The Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) was rather unkind. Mr Giles was sat down and gagged on this occasion, in spite of the fact that he wished to speak for only a short time. I thought that the Minister adopted a very high handed attitude to Mr Giles on that occasion when he suggested that none of the questions would be answered because of the attempt by Mr Giles to have a word on this matter. That makes it more important that the Minister in this place answer the questions which I have put to him about the effect on local government and also the operation of the Corporation as it effects the operation of other authorities in Australia.
One other aspect to which I wish to refer is a question which was raised by Senator Young at an Estimates Committee meeting not long ago.
He said that some money was to be spent from the Department of Secondary Industry vote on the Albury-Wodonga area. He was referring to the proposed expenditure of $85,000 in the estimates for that Department. He assumed that a lot of this money would be spent in the AlburyWodonga area and he was not critical of this. But he also referred to the Monarto development area in South Australia and wanted to know how much money would be forthcoming from that Department for use in the South Australian project. The officer of the Department indicated very quickly that the money was not set aside for use by the States but was indicative of an undertaking to provide information and research which would assist the government concerned. I suggest that with developments of this type, particularly those on the banks of the river which means so much to South Australia, every effort ought to be exerted to ensure that pollution of the River Murray water is minimal. My great concern is that any development in States upstream of South Australia must have this point foremost in mind, as South Australia is experiencing great difficulties because of the pollution of the River Murray. I leave that thought with the Minister and ask him to keep it in mind whenever the Albury-Wodonga development is being considered. I ask him to pay due regard also to the concern which has been expressed by local government councillors in the region because I believe that local involvement in these projects is essential to their successful completion.
– I rise to make a few brief comments on these 4 Bills. At the outset I say that this legislation must surely gladden the hearts of the people who organised the National Development Conference in Canberra on 19 and 20 August 1971. This conference was sponsored by the Murray Valley Development League, the Royal Australian Planning Institute and the National Council for Balanced Development. I wish to place on record a motion which was carried at that conference. The primary resolution, which was moved by Professor Dennis Winston, was the motion drafted by the Steering Committee, which was as follows:
The National Development Conference calls upon the national Parliament and national Government to recognise and act upon a duty to give leadership and substantially to finance decentralisation and the better balance of population and employment so as to ease the pressures on capital cities and to accelerate development of country areas.
Further Conference requests that the Commonwealth Government proceed forthwith to promote the creation of a first major non-metropolitan growth centre.
It is recommended that a unit be set up within an appropriate Commonwealth Department to implement these proposals and to co-operate with the State Government
The motion was seconded by Professor Ledgar and was carried by all present. I had the good fortune to be one of those senators who attended that conference. As I said at the outset of my remarks, this legislation must surely gladden the hearts of those organisations which convened that conference. After 2 days of deliberation it came up with that resolution and we now see the fruits of that in the setting up of the Department of Urban and Regional Development, under the Minister, Mr Tom Uren. He is doing all that he possibly can, with the co-operation of the States, to put that resolution into effect.
Senator Jessop made some comments about Mr Giles being gagged in the other place when he wished to make some remarks about Monarto. I wish to direct my remarks mainly to what is happening at Monarto, which is a new city in South Australia. It is very dear to my heart because I live in the area.
– You will not be gagged.
- Senator Jessop says that I will not be gagged. Mr Giles knew that a time limit had been put on the debates on all legislation. He was Assistant Whip in the previous Government. He gagged many of our people when they wanted to carry on debates. He should not have any complaints. I refer the Senate to the figures which I gave in my speech on the Budget on 13 September. I gave a lot of figures then. I will not give them again because they are in Hansard so that anybody who likes to study them can do so. But I wish to make some remarks about the way in which Mr Giles endeavoured to mislead the people of South Australia about the money that was allocated in the Budget for the Albury-Wodonga development.
– I hope that you will not misrepresent him.
– I will not misrepresent him. I have copies of statements which he has made. In the Murray Bridge ‘Observer’ of 5 September there is a big headline in inch high letters “Mean” Budget hits Monarto’.
– I rise on a point of order. I understand that the honourable senator is required to vouch for the authenticity of that from which he is reading. Can he give me that assurance?
– What are you quoting from, Senator?
– I am quoting from an article which appeared in the Murray Bridge Observer’ of 5 September. I am quite prepared to table it.
– It is not a question of tabling it. The point of order is that under Standing Orders a senator who quotes from the newspaper is required to vouch for the authority and authenticity of the report.
– For the information of those people who doubt me, it is a Press release which Mr Giles gave of a speech which he made in the other place. If I had the time I could get a copy of that speech.
– It is a correct quotation, and you have read it?
– This is the Press release which Mr Giles gave to the paper. I have checked it with the House of Representatives Hansard. This is what he said.
– It is a correct quotation?
– It is. The article states:
The ‘mean’ Budget allocation of $ 1.2m to help in the establishment of Monarto had disadvantaged South Australia, the Federal member for Angas (MrG. O’H. Giles) claimed.
He further said that the Government had allotted $33m for the Albury-Wodonga complex. I wish to quote the actual figures in the Budget papers. There is a detailed schedule of the figures allocated. The total amount of $33m was allocated to growth centres and other projects. Mr Giles claimed that the $3 3m was for AlburyWodonga. The figures are in my speech on the Budget. They are: New South Wales, $ 13.9m; Victoria, $9.5m; Queensland, $4.4m; South Australia, $1.2m; Western Australia, $3. 5m; and Tasmania, $500,000; a total of $33m. That just goes to show what measures some people will adopt to mislead the people of Australia, as we find that in fact the $33m was spread over all the States, yet a statement was made by a member in another place who was trying to hoodwink the people into thinking that it was all allocated for Albury-Wodonga. I want to quote a few other newspaper articles.
– I hope you can vouch for them.
– They are all in Hansard, and if the honourable senator wants me to do so I can quote from my Budget speech.
- Mr President, I do not think you ruled on my previous point of order. I think it is fair enough to suggest that if Senator McLaren is quoting from Hansard he should give the page and the date of the Hansard so that we can refer to it and check the authenticity of what he says.
– What standing order concerns this matter?
-I do not know of a standing order relating to this matter, but I think if Senator McLaren intends to refer to Hansard he should give page numbers so that honourable senators can examine it. That is the normal custom, and I am sure Senator McLaren would have no difficulty.
- Mr President, I can quote from what I said on 13 September. Nobody has ever refuted what I said in my Budget speech.
-Just give the page number.
– My Budget speech appears on pages 570 to 578 of Hansard of 13 September. What I am going to say now is actually included therein. I want to relate those remarks particularly to this Bill and to refer to some of the obstacles that were put in relation to the development of Monarto. Dr Eastick addressed a political rally in the Murray Bridge town hall, and a report of the rally appeared in the Murray Valley Standard’ of 8 March 1973 stating that he had said that Monarto would be an economic risk. He gave a warning that the money would be wasted if it were put into the new town, yet Senator Jessop has just told the Senate that he is wholeheartedly behind the establishment of Monarto. I am pleased to hear that he has a different opinion from that of the State leader of his Party. We find that the Democratic Labor Party also opposed the new city. A motion was moved by Mr T. R. Critchley, the Secretary of the Democratic Labor Party in the area in which I live, and in moving the motion he said that it was becoming increasingly doubtful whether the city of Monarto would ever get off the ground. Then, of course, we find -
– All newspaper garbage.
– It is not all newspaper garbage. In the ‘Murray Valley Standard’ of 7 August it was stated that the Country Party also was opposed to the development of Monarto. In South Australia the 3 major Opposition PartiesI am not referring to the Federal spherehave come out with statements opposed to the development of Monarto. As I have done before in this place and outside on the public platform, I pose the question: Why did they oppose it? There is only one answer- they opposed it because the new city of Monarto was the brainchild of the Dunstan Labor Government. This, of course, is just opposing for politics’ sake, and I think this should not be done, particularly when a national development conference which was held in Canberra more than 2 years ago called for the very thing which this Government is doing, that is, providing for decentralisation and for getting people out of the cities to give them a better way of life. I am very proud that I belong to a government that has seen fit to put this legislation into operation and do something for the people who live in the crowded areas of the cities.
I think Mr Uren, as the Minister for this Department, should be complimented for his energy and devotion and his efforts in endeavouring to do the very thing that this legislation is designed to do. I hope that in the not too distant future Monarto will proceed as a growing centre. It is a centre that will be modelled on this fair city of Canberra. However we are hoping that the same mistakes will not be made in its development as were made in Canberra, when jobs that were done had to be re-done. This will be a wonderful thing for South Australia, quite apart from the opposition it has received. Now that this legislation has been brought into this Parliament people all over the country, particularly in South Australia, can see that this Government, together with the South Australian Labor Government, was genuine in what it said about its intention to develop the city of Monarto. No longer can it be said that this was only a pipe dream, that it could be an economic sink and that it is not viable. I congratulate the Government on bringing in this legislation.
-The proposed development of the Albury-Wodonga area is a new concept by this Government in the development of urban areas. In this case 2 State governments, New South Wales and Victoria, are involved, and, as they have apparently both agreed to go on with this development with the Commonwealth Government as a tri-partite agreement, the Country Party will not oppose the legislation. However, I should like to mention a few thoughts about the matter and say a few things that are concerning some of the local people. One is the abolition, or the almost complete abolition, of local government. I suppose when one thinks it out and realises that some outside board or commission- it will consist of 3 or 5 persons in this case- is to have the absolute say and direction in relation to running this new area and that the Commonwealth is going to provide the money, it is only fair to reason that the Commonwealth should have a say in what is being done.
But we are to have the spectacle here of the local authority being abolished, or nearly abolished, and to have taxation without representation.
Our local government system has grown up over a very long period, and the people will not take too kindly to not having any say in the election of the people who tax them for ordinary city development purposes. That will be the case in this area. Last week we debated a proposed referendum to provide money for local government, and it was stated then that there was no definition of local government. Here we will have the spectacle of local government being abolished or almost completely abolished. Will that local government share in the proposed alteration to the Constitution that we were talking about last week? That is just a side issue, certainly, but I have been talking to some representatives from that area today, and they are most concerned about some aspects of the proposed development. No date is set for the return of powers after a period of years- any number of years- in which development takes place and the Commonwealth continues to pour money into the corporation that is developing it. They have no idea when they will again get the right to elect their own local government. Like Kathleen Mavourneen, it may be for years or it may be forever that this new corporation will run or develop the area.
Apparently the new corporation, commission or whatever it is called, is to have great powers to determine how the land can be used. If a person buys land and wants to put a housing development on it, he might find that it is to be a football stadium or something like that, and he will be told what is to be done with it. Another sore point with the local people concerns the clauses about the resumption of land and the policy of the Government to revert as much of the land as it can from freehold tenure to leasehold tenure. The resumption of the land under this BUI is left to the State authorities, as I understand it, and that means that it is not subject to the Commonwealth Constitution, under which properties can be acquired only after the payment of just compensation. Therefore, if the State authorities are to handle the resumption of land they are not bound by that provision in our Constitution.
Another point- this is a very sore point with the local people- is that the resumption is to be at 1972 values. The base value for determining compensation payable will be assessed retrospectively at 3 October 1972. Added to the value assessed at that date will be a computer determined increment for the inflationary increase in land values based on comparable land sales throughout New South Wales and Vittoria. But there is no valid reason for using 3 October 1972 as the base date. It just happens to be the date on which the development of the Orange-Bathurst growth centre was announced by the New South Wales Government. The same date was then taken up by the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr Whitlam, when he announced that Albury-Wodonga would be one of the proposed Commonwealth growth centres in the event of Labor winning government. It might also be remembered that 25 January 1973 was the earliest date on which agreement on the Albury-Wodonga project was reached by the Federal, New South Wales and Victorian governments. Yet the proposal is to take a date four or five months before the date of agreement as the date on which to base land values for resumption purposes.
I want to raise another point that is not mentioned in any of this legislation. I distinctly remember the present Prime Minister, the then Leader of the Opposition, promising that if these regional growth centres, such as this one which is proposed, were developed local telephone call rates would apply to telephone calls made to the capital cities in the respective States. At the time the Prime Minister mentioned a growth centre in Queensland, but he has forgotton about that one, I think. But if he kept his promise it would mean that local call rates would apply to telephone calls made to Sydney and Melbourne from Albury-Wodonga. I agree that one of the biggest factors in discouraging decentralisation is the cost of trunk line telephone calls to branch factories and that sort of thing. But is the Prime Minister’s promise of local call rates to be completely forgotten or is this to be made a provision in a subsequent BUI? I fear that it might be quietly forgotten. As I explained before, we wil not oppose the Bill but we have some reservations. We would like to see how this scheme operates before any other Bills of this nature are brought before the Parliament.
– I wish to say a few words on these 4 Bills before the Senate, namely, the Albury-Wodonga Development BUI 1973, the Albury-Wodonga Development (Financial Assistance) BUI 1973, the Growth Centres (Financial Assistance) Bill 1973, and the Land Commissions (Financial Assistance) BUI 1973. 1 wish to emphasise particularly a matter which has already been referred to this afternoon and in which I, along with other honourable senators, have an interest. Of course, the development of the Albury-Wodonga complex is not the first major development of this type to take place in Australia. Even the development of the Monarto area, which is a development taking place in South Australia, is not the first such development which has taken place in that State. I draw attention to the very successful development of the city of Elizabeth which took place under the aegis of the Playford Government in South Australia. The Monarto development is a different matter altogether. It is differently placed in relation to the capital city. It is placed in an area which has a different rainfall and there are many other features about it which are different. But that development could well be the subject of quite a separate discussion. I mention it in passing and I want to refer to it again.
However, the measures before us, of course, specifically relate to the Albury-Wodonga development. I am a little disappointed that circumstances have prevented a longer debate and discussion in greater depth than we are having at the moment, because it is a proposition of great imagination and adventure. Certainly we will be watching its development and noting its contribution to the total distribution of population within Australia, its contribution to the total production capacity within Australia and, above all, its contribution to what I will call again the quality of life within Australia. I refer very briefly to the Albury-Wodonga Development Bill which is one of the four Bills before the Senate. I wish to direct the attention of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) to one or two of its clauses only. Clause 5 of the Albury-Wodonga Development Bill refers to the powers conferred on the Minister, and it reads in part:
The second part of the clause points out that the Australian Minister may exercise all or any of the functions and powers relating to a designated area conferred on him by or under a State Act. So the Minister shall exercise these powers conferred on him in accordance with the Agreement or he can exercise such powers as are conferred on him by a State Act. I would be grateful for a response from the Minister in due course as to whether this would include anything that might relate to the water resources for the AlburyWodonga development area. Reference was made to this matter a little earlier. The Minister will not be surprised to note my interest in it. Indeed, he replied to a question asked by me in relation to this matter some time ago. Any development of any kind, particularly one such as is projected here, must place heavy emphasis on water sources and water resources. I assume that resulting from this new development which is being undertaken now there will be heavy demands on the River Murray system. Of course, any demand on the River Murray system must have an influence on South Australia. I do not see any specific reference to this either in the notes or in the Minister’s second reading speech. It may be that I have not noted it, but I would be obliged to the Minister if he would indicate to me what is the position in regard to the demand made by the Albury-Wodonga development on the resources of the River Murray system.
Having drawn attention to this heavy relationship between this development and the River Murray system, I want to turn to the report of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution which, of course, was tabled in the Senate a couple of years ago. The Committee took great cognisance at the time of the relationship between the River Murray system, the AlburyWodonga area and South Australia. The report stated:
The Murray and its tributaries form the largest river system in Australia. The catchment comprises five-sixths of New South Wales, more than one-half of Victoria, one-sixth of Queensland and about one-fourteenth of South Australia.
The Murray … is managed, under the River Murray Waters Agreement, by the River Murray Commission, which has authority to make quantitative assessments . . . The Governments of the Commonwealth, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia are parties to this Agreement which provides that the minimum quantity of water to be allowed to pass for supply to South Australia in each year shall be sufficient to maintain certain specified flows in the lower river . . .
At the time the report was put down, these flows were listed in the report as follows: currently varying from 47,000 acre-feet a month in the winter months to 134,000 acre-feet a month in the 4 summer months of maximum demand- the total amounting to 1,254,000 acrefeet over 12 months.
The report continued:
The flow at Albury is shared equally by New South Wales and Victoria, and each of these States has full control of the tributaries in its own area below Albury, subject-
I draw attention to this proviso- in each case to the fulfilment of the South Australian allocation.
I hope that the authorities that have been concerned with the Albury-Wodonga development have taken note of this important reference in this extremely important report. The report continued:
Water quality in the Murray deteriorates progressively. In the upper reaches it is less than 30 parts per million total dissolved solids but at Waikerie in South Australia it exceeded 600 parts per million for much of the irrigation season during the 1967-68 drought.
Further on in its report the Committee expressed the view that it had no doubt that the salinity of the Murray River was one of the biggest water pollution problems facing Australia. Because of the size of the Albury-Wodonga development and, indeed, because of its importance to our total national life, it is important to point out in this debate and at this time that the needs of South Australia will be very much affected by the demands made on the River Murray system by the new development. If this is not so, I would be pleased to hear it from the Minister and I would be pleased to hear also further details of this kind of relationship. I am putting to the Senate this afternoon that the facts I have raised have some relationship to clause 5 of the Bill which deals with the powers of the Minister.
In expressing my concern about the quality and quantity of water in South Australia, I also want to draw attention to the other development area which has been referred to in this debate, that of the new city of Monarto in South Australia. I wish to quote from an article written by Dr D. W. Connell. Dr Connell gave evidence some years ago to the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution. He has recently been appointed chief chemist with the Victorian Government’s Westernport Bay Environmental Study. He is a vice-president of the Australian Littoral Society and an author of many papers on aquatic environmental topics. He draws attention in this article to the River Murray and its relationship to Monarto:
The New Town’s point of water withdrawal, as well as one for Adelaide, is situated in the final stretch of river before discharge into Lake Alexandrina. Most pollution problems generated upstream reach their maximum intensity in this region . . . If the New Town-
That is, Monarto- grows according to plan, it will constitute the largest single population centre in the Murray Valley . . . It is well to remember that the Murray Valley may be the site for other future new population centres.
Dr Connell then refers to plans made at that stage for the establishment of the scheme which is the subject of the Bill before the Senate this afternoon, the Albury-Wodonga Development Scheme. He concludes this section of the article by saying:
It could be expected that the New Town, with its comparatively large population and no doubt associated industries, will bring to the Murray Valley the potential for water pollution problems which are now associated with the large coastal cities.
When the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs concludes the debate he should be able to respond by giving us assurances on this matter because it is of particular significance to a State as the society of a new town, city or newly developed areas will make many demands upon water supply. The curious situation which exists and which I emphasised by quoting an extract from the report of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution and other references make this matter one of considerable interest. This is the only portion of the Bill to which I wish to refer at this stage. I lend my support to the venture.
-The Albury-Wodonga Development Bill 1973 is an important Bill. It is important to Victoria as well as to New South Wales. It deals mainly with the establishment of the Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation. From a reading of this Bill it would appear to a person who has lived in Canberra for some time that the general work of this Corporation will follow that of the National Capital Development Commission, as we have known it, in the Australian Capital Territory. We can see quite a deal of strength in regard to Government intervention in the development of this area. A speaker in the debate from the Australian Labor Party mentioned the credit that is due to the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, Mr Uren, in this matter. I think the Labor Party can certainly claim that the proposal for the development of Albury-Wodonga emanated from the Labor Party in Federal Government. I think also that anybody meeting the Minister, Mr Uren, will quickly assess the ability which he has to conduct this matter.
The Australian Country Party as a minor Party in numerical strength in the various States and in the Commonwealth sphere, has had over many years a great interest in decentralisation. Decentralisation in the various States has generally been governed by the attitudes that people have held, the difficulties that have been obvious in encouraging people to live in areas to which they were not attracted, and the encouragement for industries to develop so that housing could be created and used economically in the adequate development of the area. In past years there has been great development in various States, particularly in my State of Victoria. The AlburyWodonga complex will supplement the development that has occurred.
The consequences of this development are yet to be seen. Obviously, it is not the wish of the Opposition to detract from the proposal to set up the Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation. The Bill deals in a variety of ways with the appointment of the Corporation, something to which nobody would take opposition, and the various provisions which will govern the workings of that Corporation. I believe that matters of concern in the Albury-Wodonga area arise mainly out of the environmental consequences. I have no great confidence that this Federal Government would guide the matter in any way that will have respect for its pronounced views at least on environmental matters. I see great problems arising out of drainage that will occur from the Murray River. I have some sympathy for South Australia in this matter because no matter what occurs in that area there is the problem of drainage from this area if the size of the city is to be as great as was originally said in the area.
My view on this matter is that it would be much better to have a smaller complex and a number of other smaller complexes scattered throughout the States. I hope that this will eventually occur. One has little respect for the Labor Party and its pronouncement on environmental matters when one remembers the comments that were made and the great political stunts that were carried out in relation to Lake Pedder. I remember the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts in the previous government, Mr Howson, saying that the fact that he lost his seat at the last Federal election was due very much to the organisation of the Lake Pedder action group. I admit to Senator Wright that the members of that group were way off key in what they said about the great benefit that would be brought to Tasmania, but what did this Labor Government say it would do? It said that it would stop the flooding of Lake Pedder. There has been a complete negation of that attitude by the Federal Labor Government in consultation with the Labor Premier of Tasmania. I do not think they ever had any reason to suggest that they would bring about the stopping of the flooding of Lake Pedder.
The Labor Party has said it will conduct environmental impact studies before undertaking developments in city areas. What a great confidence trick it played on the people of New South Wales. Without any investigation the Labor Government said that it would build Sydney’s second airport at Galston. It had not even conducted an environmental impact study or wondered what would happen to the people of that area. The stupidity of Labor shows up in matters of environment and development. I think that we will find there will not be a study of the effect on the people and the surroundings in the Albury-Wodonga area which Labor has suggested will follow. There is great concern in the area relating to land acquisition and land tenure. We know that the socialist attitude in Australia and the pronouncement of the Labor Government are that the land should be made available on leasehold and that some monolithic socialist structure will take over and lease the land when it has purchased it. I am very pleased that the Premier of Victoria stood up to Mr Whitlam and said that Victoria would not join any such scheme if this was what it would involve. I note now that the final pronouncement is, as I understand it, that the manner in which the land will be dealt with will depend on the recommendations of the Else-Mitchell report.
I understand that there will be room for some freehold title as well as leasehold title for industry. There may be merit in both systems, but I would certainly oppose the idea that we should be led into the situation into which undoubtedly the socialist Labor Government wants to lead this country of total leasehold as far as the Northern Territory is concerned and total leasehold as far as any further development in the Australian Capital Territory is concerned. Its proposals with regard to any area developed by the States as a decentralisation proposition are that it should be controlled and leased by them if they receive Commonwealth money. However in this particular proposal we see a breakdown in the rigid policy of the Labor Government being brought about by the actions of a strong Premier of Victoria. I believe that the New South Wales Premier also had some say in the matter. I hope that as much of the area as possible will remain under the freehold title system because under that system there does accrue to the individual a greater interest in his premises than there does in the many instances in which a person has only the availability of a lease. That has been adequately demonstrated in many areas.
The local government representatives from the area are greatly concerned as to what may take place insofar as their future is concerned. Senator Lawrie has drawn attention to this matter. I know that it is stated in the Agreement, which is the Schedule to this Bill and to which clause 6 of the Bill refers, that one of the intentions of the 3 governments is that the proposed development corporation will involve, as far as possible, the established Australian, State and local government authorities in the development of the growth complex.
– What clause is that?
-The honourable senator will find the Agreement in the Schedule at page 12 of the Bill. I am referring to clause 6 of the Bill, relating to the Albury-Wodonga Area Development Agreement, which is the Schedule to the Bill. The point I make is that if the Agreement were in actual fact adhered to it would mean, I envisage, that the local government authorities would be kept in business and that the new corporation would see to it that it developed hand in glove with the central government, the State government and the local government authorities. I suggest it is highly important that this should be so. Any officials coming from Canberra or even from State instrumentalities will not have the knowledge of or be as competent in the affairs of the local area of Albury-Wodonga as the local government officials and, indeed, councillors of the area. It is my view that the Agreement should be held to and that the proposed development corporation should involve in its affairs as far as possible the established local government authorities. That is something which I hope will not be overlooked in relation to this matter.
Albury-Wodonga will be an enormous centre in another 20 or 30 years. One can only anticipate that it will be developed at extreme cost to the Australian community. That extreme cost may be fully justified. It will be interesting to learn from the Government what it envisages doing by way of offering land for housing purposes and at what prices the land will be offered. From time to time we hear of the Government and its Ministers criticising local developers for the high cost of land; yet in an article I read in one of the newspapers at the week-end there was reference to word coming out of Canberra that land costs, even with leasehold title, in the new areas of Canberra can be expected to increase greatly in the forthcoming year and that hardly a block of land is being developed in Canberra at present at a cost of not less than $6,000. We do not know what other hidden costs go into the development of such a piece of land, but we do know that the direct costs associated with the development of a leasehold residential site are about $6,000.
But when a local developer or a private enterprise developer envisages such a figure he is greatly criticised. What will be the cost of housing if the present Government remains in office and continues to pursue those policies which have brought about great shortages in building materials? As is well known to members of both the Opposition and the Government, at present those shortages are leading to a total inefficiency in building and an escalation of the cost of building. Those who are wishing to build at present may be excused for thinking that future development of the Albury-Wodonga area could be a disaster. Present policies must be reversed so that materials will be available to enable work to be carried on properly and economically.
To ascertain what will be the cost of the construction of houses under a government authority one need only look at the announcements which have been made in the last couple of days by the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) about contracts being let for further development of Darwin. My recollection is that the average price of the normal house let by the Commonwealth Government in Darwin will be in the vicinity of $ 1 5,000 to $ 16,000. That is the cost of a simple home in Darwin. That amount does not take into consideration land costs. If the average working person is to pay an economic rental on a figure like that he will have to pay at least $40 to $50 a week, which is very difficult if not impossible in view of the present situation in our society.
Irrespective of whether the development is done by private enterprise, forced along by the policies of a Government which has introduced inefficiencies or has been responsible for a lack of materials, or by the Australian Government itself, the costs would appear to be extreme at the present time. The Albury-Wodonga scheme will face problems unless private enterprise is brought into the development of the area. I hope that every provision will be made to enable the local people and the local government authorities in the area to be brought into the discussions and that much of the development which occurs in the area will not be done under government control but by the use of private enterprise.
– I rise to indicate that the Australian Democratic Labor Party will vote for the Bills now before the Senate and to say that I, like Senator Jessop, today received a deputation from the AlburyWodonga Growth Centre Land Owners Association. I endorse all Senator Jessop said in relation to his urging of the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) to consider the proposals put forward by the deputation. As the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) pointed out in his second reading speech on one of the Bills, on present growth rates there will be an additional 7 million people in Australia within the next 30 years. It is imperative that the growth of cities like Sydney and Melbourne be halted. Between 1954 and 1966 the population of Australia increased by 28.5 per cent, but the population of the metropolitan areas increased by 38.6 per cent and of other urban centres by 29.9 per cent. The 1970 census revealed that the 6 State capitals, plus Canberra and Darwin enjoyed 76 per cent of the increase of the Australian population between 1966 and 1 970 and that 53 per cent of it accrued to the 3 largest metropolitan areas.
In 1965 Dr Neutze, in his book entitled ‘Economic Policy and the Size of Cities’, studied the costs of traffic congestion in cities of different sizes. His conclusions were that each new resident would cause an increase in traffic congestion for existing residents costing about $65 per annum in Sydney, $4 per annum in Wollongong and something like 20c per annum in Wagga. The report of the Committee of Commonwealth and State Officials on Decentralisation in July 1972 estimated the amount of government expenditure on infrastructure that would be saved if between 1970 and 2000 half a million people were diverted from Sydney’s growth and divided among five existing nonmetropolitan cities. The study covered water supply, sewerage, roads, bridges, public transport and flood control. The estimated saving was something like $120m. In Australia we are building about 140,000 houses and flats a year. More than half of these structures are required to deal with the population growth. One-tenth of the other half* located in a new centre would give at the end of 10 years a capacity to house a population of something like 250,000.
It is the view of my Party that the best and most effective way of bringing about decentralisation of population would be to change the method of taxation collection so as to create a climate that would achieve decentralisation. We would urge that it be done by reducing company and income tax substantially and by placing a tax on industrial land sites that would encourage decentralisation in country areas. Having said that, let me repeat what I said at the beginning of my remarks: My Party will support the Bills before the Senate.
-The measures before the Senate are of very great interest to most people throughout the country. Owing to the need of” the Senate to proceed with other business, I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Cavanagh) proposed:
That the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
– Will Senator Cavanagh move that the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for a later hour of the day.
-Is it to be a later hour of the day?
– All right, I will move that. However, I am not too happy with this arrangement.
– I am not aware of any arrangements. The arrangements are not my responsibility.
– I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The speech read as follows)-
The Bill before the Senate provides for payments for medical benefits, hospital services and certain other specific services, and is the culmination of a great deal of investigation, planning and community debate concerning the most equitable and efficient means of providing health insurance coverage for all Australians. The Bill will enact principles for a health insurance program which were placed before the public at the last Federal election and for which the Government was given a clear mandate. They are principles which have had firm community support for several years and which have withstood, in recent months, a deliberate campaign of deceit and misrepresentation such as has seldom been seen in this country.
The legislation the Government is now proposing represents a sincere endeavour to build a new health benefits system in a way which will meet the expectations of the public for high quality health services to be readily accessible to all, which will expand rather than inhibit the opportunities for freedom of choice, which will promote efficiency in the delivery of health services and which will assist in the upgrading of hospital and community based health facilities. The principles of social equity, universal coverage and cost efficiency which form the Government’s intentions in this legislation are central to our whole philosophy of social progress. These principles have been, and will continue to be, pursued with great determination. This determination, however, has not been characterised by doctrinaire or rigid viewpoints which might exclude freedom of choice and flexibility. I submit that the course of the debate on our health insurance proposals, including our deliberately open government’ approach to our policy planning, speaks for itself about our attitude of listening carefully to responsible criticism and seeking to achieve the best balance possible between the legitimate interests of patients, doctors and hospital managements.
Honourable senators will remember that we published in April of this year the report of the Health Insurance Planning Committee which outlined a series of proposals on how a health insurance program could be introduced. When I tabled the report in this House I emphasised that its contents were proposals only and that we looked forward to widespread and valuable debate. After 6 months of debate throughout the community we published a White Paper setting out our intentions for this legislation. Objective critics throughout the country have noted that the White Paper demonstrates the Government’s receptiveness to constructive criticism about the health insurance proposals. It is in that light and in that spirit that this legislation has been drafted. As far as I can ascertain such an open government’ exercise has not been undertaken before in Australia and I feel it is a significant innovation and, although it has not yet attracted such widespread attention as the health insurance proposals, I would call the attention of honourable senators to the fact that I have also tabled in this House a discussion paper on the Australian Assistance Plan. This concept of placing our proposals for social innovations and improvements before the public for discussion before final policy details are expressed in legislation is one which I advocated as an Opposition spokesman and which, despite the advantages which can be taken by unscrupulous pressure group opponents, I believe to be both desirable and necessary.
We have undertaken this ‘open government’ exercise while adhering to the principles presented to the people of Australia for a new and equitable health insurance system and for which, I repeat, we were given a clear mandate.
Before proceeding to outline the purpose of specific clauses within the Bill, I will mention in broad detail the salient points of the health insurance program which will result from this legislation. I must first explain, however, that this
Bill is the main legislative instrument for the introduction and operation of our health insurance program. As honourable senators are aware, a Bill has already been introduced which provides for the establishment of the Australian Health Insurance Commission, the main function of which will be to operate the Program. Further legislation relating to the scope and operation of private health insurance organisations and the introduction of levies on taxable income and on motor vehicle third party and workers’ compensation insurers and the protection of individual privacy will be introduced in the autumn sittings of 1974. In the meantime provisions are included in the Bill to protect personal records. Together this legislative framework will provide for a health insurance program such as I shall now outline.
The program will enable all residents of Australia to be automatically covered by medical and hospital benefits. Pensioners at present eligible for general practitioner consultation services under the pensioner medical service will have their eligibility extended to a full range of medical services, including specialist services, under arrangements designed so that they receive these services free of charge. All other residents Will be entitled to receive medical benefits which wil total at least 85 per cent of the cost of medical services for which doctors charge the appropriate fees. In no case Will any single medical service where the scheduled fee is charged cost the patient more than $5.
Adult residents Will be issued with health insurance cards as a means of establishing entitlement to benefits. There Will be no obligation to produce the card for any purpose. I wish to emphasise that the cards will simply be a device to make the claiming of benefits as convenient as possible. Clause 5 of the BUI covers the issue of the cards. I have mentioned that legislation complementary to this BUI Will provide safeguards against the misuse of these cards and will also guarantee privacy of information for individual citizens. I draw the attention of honourable senators to what the White Paper say on the matter of the health insurance cards and privacy of information. On the matter of the card it states:
It will not be necessary for a card to be produced to a doctor or hospital for a patient to receive medical or hospital services. It must be emphasised that the purpose of the card is simply to enable members of the public to obtain benefit payments as conveniently as possible. It should be borne in mind that many existing health insurance funds require contributors to produce numbered membership cards or books to facilitate benefit claim processing. Indeed, one large fund is issuing to contributors membership cards similar to the health insurance cards proposed for the Program. ‘
On the matter of privacy in general the White Paper states:
The Government will insist that complete confidentiality regarding individual patients and doctors is maintained by the Commission. The information required for the processing of claims will be less than is now required by private health insurance funds. A special committee has been established by the Government to recommend steps necessary to guarantee the privacy of individuals. ‘
To held finance the Program taxpayers will pay a levy of 1.35 per cent on their taxable incomes. People whose incomes are below certain levels will be exempted from the levy. The maximum amount of levy any taxpayer will have to contribute in the first year of the program will be $150. This Bill does not specifically provide for the introduction of the levy. As I have mentioned, other legislation will be introduced during the Autumn 1974 sittings of this House for this purpose. I should mention that careful study will be given to the question of exemptions from the payment of the levy, with particular reference to Repatriation beneficiaries, Service personnel and low income earners.
Within the health insurance program, there will be complete freedom of patients to choose their own doctors in private practice. Both public and private hospital treatment will be provided for within the program. Patients admitted to public hospitals will be able to choose either to enter a standard ward and to receive full hospital care free of cost, or to be private patients with preference in allocation of any intermediate or private ward accommodation, under the care of their own doctors. In respect of public hospitals these arrangements will stem from separate agreements to be negotiated with the State governments. I should mention that negotiations are well advanced with several States but that the States of New South Wales and Victoria have indicated they would prefer to wait until this legislation has been passed before entering into substantive negotiations. Medical fees charged to private patients in hospital will attract medical benefits under the program. Patients who incur hospital charges will, through hospital insurance with private funds, be able to cover their hospital charges. Hospital benefit tables will be designed to meet the costs of intermediate and private ward fees in public hospitals and fees for most types of accommodation in non-public hospitals. Private medical insurance funds will be able to offer coverage against medical costs to the extent that they are not covered by benefits under the program.
That, then, is a general outline of how the program will work for the public. I would like now to outline in more detail for honourable senators the principles contained in the more significant clauses of the Bill. Before doing so, however, I remind honourable senators that the health insurance program is outlined in the White Paper which has been widely distributed and is available to all who are interested in the subject. Rather than go into perhaps excessive detail at this stage and delay the Senate I would ask honourable senators to consider what I shall now say in conjunction with the intentions and detail contained in the White Paper.
For the information of honourable senators studying the Bill, Part I, clauses 1 to 7, are the preliminary sections. Part II, clauses 8 to 23, cover the medical benefit provisions. Part III, clauses 24 to 38, cover the payments for hospital services. Part IV, clauses 39 to 46, cover health program grants. Part V, clauses 47 to 124, covers committees and review tribunals. Part VI, clauses 125 and 126, relates to financial arrangements and Part VII, clauses 127 to 133, covers miscellaneous provisions. In addition, there are 2 schedules, one setting out the schedule of appropriate fees and the second setting out the heads of agreement for the agreements to be negotiated with the States. I should also point out that the Bill is drafted so that all clauses will come into operation on the date of Royal Assent except where it is otherwise specified that a clause will operate from a date to be proclaimed. This has been done to enable administrative procedures necessary to the early introduction of the program to be implemented at the appropriate times.
While the Bill provides for all residents of Australia to be eligible for the benefits of the program, it also makes provisions which will allow, at some future time, the introduction of arrangements whereby non-residents of Australia may purchase Australian health insurance program coverage by payment of a suitable premium. The above provisions relate to the eligibility of people while in Australia. The Bill also makes provision for the payment of medical and hospital benefits to Australian residents who incur medical and hospital expenses while overseas. These payments will be made from the commencement of the program. The Government also intends to enter into negotiations with overseas governments with a view to the initiation of reciprocal arrangements for the coverage of medical and hospital costs. The authority for such agreements is outlined in clause 7 of the Bill.
The proper operation of the medical benefit arrangements within the program will depend on doctors in private practice accepting a responsibility to charge appropriate fees. This will enable benefits to be set at levels which will ensure a proper degree of financial protection for the public against the costs of medical treatment. Schedule 1 of the Bill, incorporates the determination made by the Medical Fees Tribunal under the chairmanship of Mr Justice Ludeke, for consultations and visits. It is expected that, on completion of its inquiries, the Medical Fees Tribunal will issue a further determination covering the remaining medical services in the schedule. The Government will move as quickly as possible to incorporate in the schedule the fees which the Tribunal then recommends. The Bill provides that benefits will be calculated at 85 per cent of appropriate fees outlined in Schedule 1 of this Bill or to a formula which will provide that in no case where the scheduled fee is charged, does the cost to the patient exceed $5. The operation of this formula will mean that for all medical services where the fee is greater than $33, the benefit will be more than 85 per cent. I should point out that surgical procedures and anaesthetics constitute separate medical services and that the $5 maximum gap will apply to each service.
The program is based on preservation of the patient-doctor relationship and indeed this relationship has always been an essential feature of our proposals. The methods by which a patient exercises his entitlement to benefits are part of this relationship and, under the program, will remain a matter between the patient and doctor. Basically there are three convenient methods provided in the Bill for the claiming of benefits. In precis form, the methods by which patients may receive their entitlements are:
The assignment of benefits will have particular significance for pensioners who have pensioner medical service cards. The Bill requires the Minister to request doctors to undertake that where medical services are provided to persons who present to the doctor a pensioner medical service card, the doctors should give these pensioners an opportunity of assigning their benefits to the doctor instead of receiving a doctors account. The effect of assigning benefits will be that the doctors accept the benefits as full payment for services they provide to eligible pensioners. This arrangement is designed so that, on the one hand, eligible pensioners enjoy the same entitlement to medical services as everybody else in the community and, on the other, that they are not charged anything for services they at present receive free. At present pensioners eligible for the pensioners medical service are entitled only to general practitioner surgery and home visit consultation services. They are not entitled to procedural items provided by general practitioners and they are not covered for any services provided by private medical specialists. The new arrangements will give them coverage for all of those services.
Clause 13 of the Bill sets out the arrangements which are to apply when there is a medical attendance as a result of which spectacle lenses are prescribed. For such attendances the regulations will prescribe that the benefit which will be payable will be that part of the benefit specified in the Schedule which is financed by the health insurance levy. The principle which has been adopted is that the new benefit in these cases will take the place of the fund benefit which has generally been paid in the past. Commonwealth benefit has not been paid in the past and consequently the new arrangements will not place patients at a disadvantage in comparison with the existing arrangements. The actual amount of benefit under the new arrangements will depend on the scheduled fee for the consultation concerned. This will vary depending on whether it is a consultation with a specialist to whom the patient has been referred or whether the patient consults the specialist directly. Assuming that the normal benefit where no spectacles are prescribed is, say, $16, the benefit for a consultation at which spectacles are prescribed will be 40 per cent of $16, that is $6.40. The patient will be left to pay the doctor the balance of his fee. Patients who consult optometrists will pay the optometrist’s consulting fee, which will not be eligible for benefits. Because optometrists’ consulting fees are considerably lower than medical specialists’ fees, patients generally will be left in approximately the same situation whether they consult a medical specialist or an optometrist. This is the situation which has existed under the present scheme. The arrangements incorporated in the Bill are interim measures and the Government has established a working party to thoroughly review the arrangements with a view to recommending what measures can be taken to resolve the difficult issues that exist in this matter.
In any medical benefits system it is necessary to have expert, independent committees to make recommendations on such complex matters as the scope of the medical services to be covered, the level of appropriate fees to be included in the schedule and to adjudicate on matters relating to the provision of services which attract medical benefits. The Bill, in Part V, provides for the establishment of a number of committees for the purposes I have outlined. The existing Specialist Recognition Advisory Committee for each State and the Specialist Recognition Appeal Committee are to be continued. The functions and operations of these committees will be the same as those established under the existing legislation. In fact the Bill provides for the present committees to be continue these activities.
A Medical Benefit Advisory Committee will be established with the broad functions of determining the nature and scope of medical services to be included in the Schedule and the fees for those services. The members of this Committee will be appointed by the Minister after consultation with the Australian Medical Association or any other association or college that the Minister considers appropriate. I should mention that within its broad functions, this Committee will have the power to formulate principles for the determination of fees in respect of medical services which are of undue length or complexity. This will enable appropriate benefits to be paid in particular cases where a medical practitioner is justified in charging in excess of the scheduled fee for any service. In practice the Bill provides for the Health Insurance Commission to determine fees in such circumstances in accordance with the principles laid down by the Committee.
Honourable senators will recognise that it is necessary to have a method of ensuring that false or excessive claims are not made on public funds. We have indicated, in the White Paper on our health insurance program, that we will consult with the medical profession about appropriate forms of ‘peer review’ arrangements. In this Bill, we have made provision for committees of inquiry whose functions relate to the services provided to pensioners but I wish to stress that we will be consulting with the medical profession to ensure that, on the one hand, there is no abuse of the medical benefits system and, on the other, that the professional freedoms of doctors are protected.
Under the present committee of inquiry system, there is no established right of appeal for doctors against whom rulings are made by the committees. Division 4 of Part V of this Bill establishes a Medical Services Review Tribunal to which a medical practitioner who is dissatisfied with a determination of a committee of inquiry may appeal for a review of the determination. In addition a further avenue of appeal will be available, on questions on law, to the Australian Industrial Court.
I turn now to the arrangements covering payments for hospital services. These are contained in Part III of the Bill. The administrative procedures spelt out in the Bill provide that all hospitals must be approved for the purposes of hospital payments. In this context I would point out that all hospitals currently approved under the National Health Act must apply for approval under this legislation so as to become eligible for Australian Government payments. The basis of the hospital payment arrangements will be agreements to be negotiated separately with each State Government. The agreements have not, of course, been formulated at this stage but Schedule 2 of the Bill sets out heads around which such agreements will be negotiated.
In broad terms these heads of agreements envisage arrangements under which everybody will be entitled to receive comprehensive standard ward hospital treatment free of charge. They also envisage that up to 50 per cent of the net operating costs of public hospitals will be met by the Australian Government. This commitment by the Australian Government will comprise daily bed payments at the rate of $16 payable direct to hospitals with the balance of the committment being paid direct to State Governments.
Before mentioning the arrangements for hospitals not covered by agreements with the States there is a point on terminology I think it is important to make. The term private hospital is often used to categorise all hospitals not owned by the State or Australian Governments. It should be noted, however, that there are some privately owned religious, charitable and community hospitals which regard themselves as public hospitals. These hospitals are certainly public in the sense of the functions they perform despite the fact that they may not be owned and operated by government authorities. The comments about, and safeguards for, what we referred to in the White Paper as private, religious, charitable or community hospitals are meant to apply also to the type of hospitals I have just referred to.
For hospitals not covered by the agreements with the States, the Australian Government will pay daily bed payments of $16. In addition, the Bill provides for supplementary daily bed payments to certain religious, charitable and community hospitals where these hospitals provide free treatment to patients whom they accept as ‘hospital patients’. As has been unequivocally stated in the White Paper, these hospitals will be free to set and control their own policies without Government interference and they will retain the sole right to appoint the members of their governing bodies. A corollary of this is that they will retain autonomy of management in the medico-moral area.
The financing of the program will take place through the mechanism of a Health Insurance Fund, which will be established under Part VI of the Bill. All payments authorised by this legislation will be paid by the Health Insurance Commission out of this Fund. I should mention that when the levies I have referred to earlier are in operation, the revenue derived will be paid into the Fund, as will payments from consolidated revenue and amounts recovered under the provisions of the Bill.
In conclusion, I turn to the reasons why the Government has committed itself so firmly to seeing that the legislative proposals I have just outlined are brought into operation. I mentioned at the beginning of this speech that our proposals seek social equity in health insurance. We believe this to be an obligation of government. And, we believe, the Australian Government not only has an obligation in this respect, it also has a clear duty, as the custodian of public funds, to ensure that taxpayers get the best value in terms of health services for the money they contribute. This, in turn, means we have a duty to see that money is not wasted on an inefficient system of health insurance.
As an indication of scale it is worth noting that the Australian Government will spend over $350m in the 1973-74 financial year on direct subsidies to hospital and medical benefit funds, on pensioner medical and hospital services and on repatriation medical services. There is also a substantial indirect subsidy through taxation concessions, which are of course also a cost to the Australian Government revenue. A great deal of this money will be spent in propping up the ramshackle, inequitable and wasteful private health insurance scheme- a scheme which can only retain any facade of respectability through the injection of more and more taxpayers’ money. For the record the average proportion of medical benefit refunds met directly by the Australian
Government has risen from 45 per cent in 1969-70 to 56 per cent in 1972-73.
One of the reasons for all this is simply that the 90 health funds, with their separate and often extravagant managements, are wasteful. They unnecessarily accumulate large amounts of reserves. At the last count these reserves totalled over $ 124m. The larger funds spend a significant proportion of their contributors’ funds in salesmanshipin chasing new members and in paying head bounties for each one signed up. In all some 15 per cent of the contributions of medical benefit funds is lost in administration expenses. With a universal system, in which everybody is automatically covered and in which we can dispense with the services of bounty hunters, we can cut this rate in half. The money saved will be re-applied to finance better benefits for more people. For the same total cost as would be needed to sustain the present scheme we can provide improved coverage and we can bring into our program over a million people who at present lack proper protection against the costs of medical and hospital treatment.
The Opposition now acknowledges that the present scheme has defects. They had some 20 years with the scheme but only very recently, under the pressure of the logic of our proposals, have they acknowledged that what they were once fond of hailing as ‘the best scheme in the world’ has serious deficiencies. So now, in pretending to have a policy on health insurance, they are proposing a $300m first aid job to patch up the low income family and pensioner sections of their scheme. What I must point out quite forcibly here is that this $300m would be additional to the total cost of the medical and hospital services covered by private health insurance and by pensioner medical and hospital services and repatriation medical services. The program we are proposing will, with no addition to the costs of the present system, cover everybody in the community. But the time is past for ‘band aid’ health care expedients. Like other advanced countries of the world Australia needs a health insurance program which will truly provide the doctor and the hospital of the citizen’s choice at the price he can afford.
A lot of specious nonsense has been spoken in recent months about freedom of choice and the doctor-patient relationship. Our program gives true freedom. It gives freedom from fear cif the financial consequences of illness, it gives freedom of choice of doctor and hospital and it does this in a way which does not levy a penalty on the sick and the economically less fortunate members of this community.
The present system is indeed a ‘scheme’. It is an iniquitous method of ensuring that those who can best afford health care get it more cheaply than those who can least afford it. It perpetuates social inequality and it wastes public money. Our program is not one which stems from doctrinaire beliefs but it is one which flows from a sense of social justice. It is a program which rejects the belief that health care is a commodity to be traded rather than a social utility to be used to improve the quality of living. It is at the same time a program which acknowledges the professional and vocational aspirations of those who provide health services. It is, in total, a program which is a challenge to the social conscience of this Parliament and this nation. It is indeed a program which must cause this Parliament to decide whether health care is to be a privilege to be purchased or a right to be enjoyed equally by every Australian. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Withers) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) read a first time.
Since the terms of the second reading speech are exactly the same as those which were read in another place, I seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The speech read as follows)-
The Bill before the Senate establishes the Health Insurance Commission as a statutory authority to plan and establish an organisation to administer the Government’s health insurance program. Before proceeding to outline the salient features of the Bill, I would like to emphasise that this Bill provides for the planning and establishing of an organisation to administer the receiving and payment of medical and hospital benefits claims. This broadly is the function of the Commission. Those details of the Government’s health program relating to medical benefits and hospital payments will be contained in other legislation to be introduced into the Senate in the near future. At that time the Senate will be able to fully consider the Government’s proposals for universal health benefits coverage, which have been outlined in the White Paper titled ‘The Australian Health Insurance Program ‘, which was tabled today.
The Commission will be a semi-autonomous authority consisting of 7 Commissioners. Six will be part-time Commissioners, one of whom must be a medical practitioner and another who shall be nominated by the Director-General of Social Security, and one full time Commissioner, the General Manager. The Bill provides for all 7 Commissioners to be appointed by the GovernorGeneral for periods not exceeding 5 years. All are eligible for re-appointment. Similarly, the termination of a Commissioner’s appointment can only be effected by the Governor-General. The staff of the Commission will be appointed on terms and conditions determined by the Commission with the approval of the Public Service Board.
The creation of this authority implements an undertaking given by the Prime Minister in his policy speech; that ‘in staffing the Health Insurance Fund, employment preference will be given to the employees of the present private funds, who will enjoy the entitlements, status and conditions and terms of employment accorded to Commonwealth public servants’. Special provisions are contained in the Bill to enable employees of registered medical and hospital benefit organisations, employed by the Commission, to retain their existing entitlements in relation to such matters as superannuation, sick leave, furlough, etc. These special provisions, again, are subject to approval of the Public Service Board. Amendments to other legislation, for example the Superannuation Act, are being effected to assist in the implementation of this undertaking. In this respect I draw the attention of honourable senators particularly to Clauses 30,31 and 32 of the Bill.
Provisions are included in the Bill to enable officers of the Australian Public Service to be seconded to the Commission for short periods. Officers engaged by the Commission would be covered by the Officers Rights Declaration Act. The finance provisions of the BUI relate to funds of the Commission required for administrative purposes. As I have indicated previously, authority for the Commission to make payments by way of medical benefits and hospital payments will be contained in the main body of the legislation governing the Government’s universal health insurance plan.
The Bill also contains provisions requiring the Commission to prepare an annual report, which will be tabled in both Houses of Parliament. The report will principally relate to the Commission ‘s operations for a particular year, but the Bill also provides for any direction, in respect of a matter of policy, given by the Minister to the Commission, to be published in the annual report.
One further point which I would like to mention, although it does not specifically relate to provisions contained in the Bill, concerns the confidentiality of personal medical records and other information which will be required by the Commission in receiving and paying medical and hospital benefits claims. I would point out to honourable senators that the information the Commission will need will be less in content and less invasive of privacy than that now required and held by the present private health funds, whether in computer or manual systems. Further to this, I would like to draw the attention of honourable senators to the special committee which has been appointed by the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Murphy) to advise on the protection needed to ensure privacy under the Government’s health program. This inquiry is part of a larger project being carried out by the Attorney-General to examine what measures will be needed to guarantee the individual’s right of privacy under Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Honourable senators will readily appreciate that the Commission, as a statutory authority, will be the most appropriate form of organization for the provision of an efficient service to the community in the payment of medical and hospital benefits claims.
The Government has already established an Interim Executive which has been involved in the initial planning of the Commission’s work. The Interim Executive has already commenced investigations into efficient and modern methods of operation. The Executive recommended, after consultations with the private health funds concerning transitional arrangements, an arrangement where by the present private health funds act as agents for the Commission for periods up to three years for receiving claims and paying customary ‘over the counter’ benefits. This advice has been accepted by the Government. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Withers) adjourned.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made by the Senate to this Bill.
Debate resumed (vide page 2678).
– I am not directly interested in the particular project covered by these Bills except as a very remote Australian and as one who has been invited as late as today to take a particular interest in certain aspects of the legislation. The whole idea of these new towns and cities stems from the fact that the metropolises that we have already built are stinking and confused and incapable of sustaining habitation at a decent level. It seems to me that some people think the idea is to create yet another such metropolis. It also stems from the fact that some people in this country look upon its wide expanses as being so vast that the more we can distribute the people fruitfully and purposefully over the area the better and the stronger country we can have. Senator Wriedt, for instance, might well bear that in mind when he adopts the restricted socialist attitudes that he adopts to primary industry. I just make that passing remark. I shall return to it later. I think that decentralisation is a purpose of great value. But many people have taken it to their bosom with warm charm for many years and have not supported it with their ducats- and the ducats or the dollars are wanted to make decentralisation a reality. I approach this Albury-Wodonga Development Bill in a state of some bewilderment, neither enthusiasm nor yet apathy. I look to one or two things around me to see what is in need of attention, where dollars are concerned. This Government ought to know by now that it has plunged the country into an avalanche of expenditure which will see the Government out of office very soon. You cannot run a country just by oozing money through the Treasury, thinking that nobody has to earn it and that production comes from nowhere. Consider our airways. What have we been told would be needful for a second airport if it is established in or near Sydney? Let us look at a national airport in the centre of Australia to serve all the coast-line capitals. What is needful from the point of view of bringing up to date the aerodromes and airports in the rural centres of Australia? In the past we followed a policy which was called a local development policy. The cost of the city airports had become so huge and demanding that we tried to impose upon the country people and get them to take over responsibility for their own airports. Now we are saying to them: ‘We have not got the money’. Devonport and Wynyard are 2 airports with which I am familiar. Consider even Hobart airport, which was reconstructed in 1 952. Other examples are Darwin and Brisbane. Those are enough to indicate what I mean.
Honourable senators will begin to see that we still have a few jobs which are obviously staring us in the face and overdue for development. These subtract from these confused and unmanageable metropolises in the same way as building new cities would. Shipping is another example. Shipping as it affects Tasmania should be right in the forefront of the consideration of many honourable senators from Tasmania. The cost is so crippling today that it is cheaper for industry to bring in consignments of goods weighing less than half a ton, even for heavy industry, by air. Merchants with any small consignments would not think of trusting the ships with their goods. Having reliability in mind they get them in by air. The performance of Australian coastal shipping can be illustrated by what is said in the report of the Australian Coastal Snipping Commission. For this year, on its coastal trading, it lost $960,000. The Commission at the end of that report discloses that it has just entered into an industrial agreement which will cost the Australian National Line $3.5m over the next 2 years.
Look at Tasmania’s predicament with her little islands such as King Island. Honourable senators W111 see that we are scarcely able to carry on the practical requirements of communications in that regard. I ask honourable senators to consider the central road from Adelaide to Darwin. I have travelled over it. It is a positive disgrace. It is worse than in the bullock dray days. Yet we are building Whitlamabads across the Murray when we cannot even build a decent road between Adelaide and Darwin and we have not got a reliable raU service. The other raU services around the country just beggar description.
– Your Government had 23 years to remedy the situation.
-I see that in the third last paragraph of the speech of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) on this BUI. The Government should have a magpie. For 23 years the Government has waited to quack like this. Of course there are arrears. But the growth in those 23 years, the advance in production, in education and so forth should really cause honourable senators to keep a decent silence if they maintained a little relativity about this. Australia claims it has a Great Barrier Reef. Queensland says that it is its very own. But anybody who goes up there and sees the tourist resorts, the communications which are required and the help which is necessary to build them into attractive resorts for international tourists will see what the challenges are in Australia in the way of decentralisation. If the Government got up there and started to build tourist potential every one of those coastal settlements of Queensland would start to grow and expand by natural development. They will absorb far more development than Albury and Wodonga. Australia has a unique possession in the form of Ayers Rock and the Olgas. Struggle as we may for 7 years or 10 years we cannot get to first base in establishing a community there consistent with the demands of the environment and catering for the tourists. For my part any one of these national demands is much more important and in my view- not knowing the circumstances of Albury-Wodonga closely or in a practical way- a more practical proposition than Albury and Wodonga. So much by way of preface.
The thing that startles me is that this Senate is capable of entering upon a debate on a project of this sort without, as far as I know, one foolscap page of feasibility report. I pointed this out when the legislation on the Pipeline Authority was authorised. I think it redounds to the stupidity of the Government and of Parliament- with very great respect- that there has been no costing whatever submitted to Parliament as to any one stage of this project involving- what? The modernisation of the Hume Highway? What, with regard to railways? What, with regard to the subject nearest to Senator Davidson, which is water and so on? I think it is a great pity that we entertain a project of this sort without a practical committee sifting feasibility reports, getting engineers before it who would speak of the design, the engineering, the economics and the environment of the project. Then, in 2 years time, the Government could come forward with a BUI which would be a proposition staged out so that we would be assured that it would be a parliamentary job worthy of Australia. We find in the BUI what the Minister himself is pleased to call a complex structure. Without a feasibility report he got the Ministers of the adjoining States together and they signed a rather general agreement. The core of the whole thing is a Corporation. I like the idea. If you can get a government organisation on that basis to do some of these projects, as the National Capital Development Commission has done in Canberra, it is the effective way of getting work done. But this Corporation is to have 3 executive members and 2 part-time members. One, the chairman, is to be appointed by the Australian Government and each of the other 2 executive members is to be appointed by Victoria and New South Wales.
We had a discussion about ministerial responsibility when we dealt with the off-shore oil legislation. Some people at that time thought that it was quite reasonable to turn their minds to the question of the responsibility to the Australian Parliament of designated persons in that legislation. I wonder what is the actual responsibility of this Corporation, fathered by 3 Parliaments, to the Australian Parliament? I am told that this complex was conceived in the idea that it has some basis of solving the problem of section 92 of the Constitution. I do not know how. I am told that it was conceived in the idea that by this means it can escape the obligation of paying just terms for any property that it acquires. Is it indeed the true structure of the legislation that the Corporation is not to acquire the property, that we are to make use of the States to do so, and that they think that they are exempt from the obligation of just terms if they are acquiring property for a project that is centrally an Australian Government project participated in by State governments? The public purpose for which it will be acquired is the purpose of the Albury-Wodonga city project. Tell me if that is not an Australian purpose for the purpose of just terms. So we are to have this Corporation with 3 executive members and 2 part-time members.
The next thing to notice about the legislation is that in respect of the area designated it completely usurps local government. In the case of this proposed development the situation is not as it was here in Canberra where there was no local government and a construction, engineering and developing commission was brought in for specific purposes. As I understand this legislation the Corporation is not to be merely equipped for engineering, developing and constructing purposes, embracing designing, planning and obligations as to the environment; it is also to take over all local government functions and, as one of my colleagues said, do so for an indefinite time. No time limit is fixed and the resumption of local government is left undefined. These things may appear to be a little unreal to us in the latter days of the parliamentary session and away from this complex but we had a referendum about things like this on Saturday. The Australian people do not like central management from Canberra; they prefer the people who live next to them, local governing people, and they trust them more. I come now to the question of just terms. I would like the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) to explain to me with some particularity how he proposes to meet this obligation.
– What about land speculators? Are you not worried about them?
– No, he encourages them.
– I hear some canine growl over on the Government side that I encourage land speculators. That phrase, together with 23 years of Liberal government under which they wilted, is the catch-cry of Government supporters. Of course I do not support land speculation. Of course I want to keep land cheap and reasonably priced for people. I am just pointing out to the Government that one of the things which the Australian Constitution said, in line with human rights and fundamental justice, is that if the Government wants to acquire a citizen’s property it can do so only on just terms. You could not get a simpler conception, one which is more appealing or more fundamentally just. Under the Land Commission (Financial Assistance) Bill $30m is to be provided for the States by way of assistance. The costing of the loans is such that interest will be deferred for 10 years but will be building up at the long-term bond rate throughout the whole period of that deferment. I ask the Minister to show me how the Government is going to get reasonably cheap land based on that conception of construction. How is the Government to pay just terms? The Government is saying that it will fix the value of land at the base date, October 1972, and that it can be acquired at any time within, I think, 10 years. So in 1981 the Government will go along and acquire ‘Black Acre ‘ at 1 972 values.
The whole idea of compensation being paid as a just exchange for land is that in theory the moment the State puts through the Gazette notice acquiring a person’s land the State ought to be ready to offer the money which is its equivalent value so that the owner can go out on the same market the next day and buy an equivalent and suitable property with that money. But in this instance the Government is going to defer charging the States interest for 10 years. By the same token we are expected to overlook the fact that the land owner can have his land fixed at the value of the base rate with some artificial figuring to uplift the value by some formula or other. The land can be sterilised and all development stopped until the State makes up its mind on whether it is ready to acquire it.
– It is like the old closer settlement proposals, is it not?
-I think it is rather the reverse. We used to acquire land for local settlement, to get men settled and decentralised on the land. Under this proposal it is to be done for the purpose of congesting people in another city. We have planners now who Will avoid the congestion of the past. Nevertheless, these Bills deal with a city complex. The only other point about which I ask the Minister to help me when he replies relates to a right of appeal. I want to be assured that there is a right of appeal from a value assigned to acquired land on the basis of the ValuerGeneral’s valuation. I believe that there is a right of appeal in the State legislation. I believe that it excludes improvements erected on the land since the base date unless those improvements have been put there by consent. The Government is proposing to give to this complex outfit the right to prevent improvement of the land. If it is improved without consent nothing is paid for the value of the improvements. I regret that I have had to descend into those details on a matter which is so exciting in one way but not in comparison with the things I mentioned at the outset of my speech. But it is a national project. These matters of detail to which I have referred are matters of actual practical concern to the citizens of this area.
– 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 recall that during the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate last Wednesday evening I quoted words from a speech made by Senator McLaren, as reported at page 1168 of the daily Hansard, and that I apologised to him if what I had said was not correct when he drew my attention to the report of his speech as published in the weekly Hansard. On reflection, I believe that what I said was correct. I take it for granted that the original Hansard report of Senator McLaren’s words was accurate and that it was he who erred in saying ‘I know Mr Albany ‘ if he intended to say ‘I knew of Mr Albany’. I ask you, Mr President, to authorise the Principal Parliamentary Reporter to have inserted at the end of this passage an asterisk which will refer the reader back to pages 1 168 and 2523-28 of Hansard where the report of the relevent debate appears.*
-I will look into the matter.
– I think that this matter needs study. Mr President, you are looking into the matter. I would not like you to give a direction without the Senate having the opportunity to debate the proposed unusual practice of allowing Hansard to be marked in such a way as to refer back to an earlier matter. Senator Webster raised this matter tonight. I do not know whether the words used were ‘I know’ a man, ‘I knew of a man or anything else, but Senator Webster certainly referred to the matter. Now he wants an asterisk inserted to refer the reader back to something else. I think that his request needs study.
– I will take the Minister’s remarks into consideration.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 7.3 p.m.
See pages 1 168 and 2S23-28.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
More stringent safety orders were introduced into the RAAF in July, 1973, the effect of which is to increase the distance of aircraft armed with high explosive bombs from other aircraft, facilities and personnel New works had commenced at RAAF Base, Townsville in the area usually available for the arming of aircraft, and Operational Command believed a substitute area would be available. Subsequent investigation showed that no substitute area could meetthe new safety criteria. In the event, Operational Command proceeded on the assumption that a waiver of the new safety criteria could be given in the circumstances obtaining at Townsville. However, a relaxation of the new safety standards could not be justified for a routine peacetime exercise. Because permanent HE bomb storage is not available at Townsville, the bombs were subsequently returned to 1CAMD, Kingswood.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
In flight information on this subject is not normally kept in my Department. Having, however, learned of the honourable senator’s interest in the drinking habits of his colleagues (Senate Hansard 21 November 1973, page 1954), I have ascertained that 35 bottles of champagne were consumed in flight during my trip to Japan and China; 17 bottles were of Australian origin and 1 8 bottles of French. On land, the only champagne which I can personally vouch was of French origin was served at the lunch at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. Moreover, some 360 litres of Australian champagne (80 gallons) were sent to China in response to the Australian Ambassador’s proposal that Australian wines be served at the Australian Government’s two official functions in Peking, a reception at the Australian Embassy for 200 guests and a return banquet at the Great Hall of the people for 550 guests.
Interest Rates: Primary Producers
-On 18 September 1973, Senator Wright asked me as the Minister representing the Treasurer a question without notice, seeking confirmation that the effective trading bank overdraft rate of interest prevailing now is 9.5 per cent. He also asked whether there is any differential in favour of primary industry or whether 9.5 per cent is the rate of interest currently being charged to primary producers by trading banks.
The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The rate of 9.5 per cent is the maximum overdraft rate which banks may charge on loans drawn under limits of less than $50,000, but not all such loans carry the maximum rate. A maximum rate has not been established for loans drawn against limits of $50,000 or more since Febrary 1972-interest rates on these loans are left to negotiation between banks and their customers.
As regards the second part of the question, the Governor of the Reserve Bank on 14 September announced that: “For some years banks have, at the request of the authorities, offered concessional rates on loans in a number of areas. In the light of the buoyant conditions new prevailing throughout the economy it is no longer appropriate for this request to be maintained.” Accordingly, subject to the maximum overdraft rate where applicable, the rate of interest charged on loans to primary producers will be negotiated by banks wholly on their own assessments of credit worthiness and other factors associated with the borrowing.
-On 23 October 1973, Senator Mulvihill asked the following question, without notice:
Can we have an assurance that, unlike the sorry ‘Oceanic Grandeur’ oil spillage episode, on this occasion the Commonwealth and the States will mount on effective anti-pollution exercise against the North Queensland oil slick? Can the Minister disclose the name of the offending vessel? Will the full rigour of the penal provisions in the Navigation Act or equivalent legislation be applied?
The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The National Plan to deal with pollution of the sea by oil went into operation immediately the oil slick was reported to the Marine Operations Centre on 2 1 October 1973. Dispersant and spraying equipment, which is strategically located at Cairns under the National Plan, was put into a state of readiness for immediate use. The Queensland authorities on 22 October 1973 chartered a vessel to inspect the slick and take samples for analysis and matching in case the offender was detected. The slick was further kept under observation by chartered aircraft on 23 October 1973, but the shek had moved out to open sea. The only clean-up action required was for Queensland authorities to remove globules of oil from Michaelmas Cay.
Although it is known that several vessels passed through the area at the time, it is not possible to pinpoint the offender unless the sample of oil taken can be matched with oil carried aboard these vessels. Unfortunately the vessels in question were foreign flag vessels bound for overseas ports.
An offender against the provisions of the Pollution of the Sea by Oil Act could be liable to a maximum penalty of $50,000.
Whereabouts of the Vessel ‘Blythe Star’
-On 23 October 1973, Senator Wright asked the following question, without notice:
I refer to the sad disappearance about 10 days ago of the Blythe Star’ which sailed from Hobart at 6.35 p.m. on Friday 1 2 October. I ask the Minister whether it is a fact that the Overseas Telecommunications Commission’s point of contact for communications with shipping in Hobart is closed after 5 p.m. each night and after 5 p.m. during the weekend so as to make Melbourne the only available point of contact Will the Minister assure himself that there is no possibility of deficiency in the communications contact available to shipping in circumstances of distress such as can be presumed to have overtaken this ship?
The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The coastal radio station at Hobart is operated and manned by the Overseas Telecommunications Commission during the following hours:
Monday to Saturday-7.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. A.E.S.T.
Sunday-8.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. A.E.S.T.
Up till 1 1 November 1973 Melbourne radio kept watch on the Hobart frequencies outside the above hours thus in effect giving a 24 hour service.
The overseas Telecommunications Commission have been engaged for some time in the planning and implementation of engineering works to provide the Hobart Station with improved radio receiving facilities at a new site, modern radio transmitting equipment, and the facility for remotely controlling the station from Melbourne Radio at Cape Schanck in Victoria during the hours when the Hobart Station is not locally manned.
These new facilities became fully operational on 11 November, 1973, thus permitting Hobart Radio to provide radio service on a continuous basis.
VIP Aircraft- Use by Prime Minister
-On 20 November 1973, Senator Marriott asked the Minister assisting the Minister for Defence the following question, without notice:
Will he make inquiries, and advise the Senate when the information is available, as to whether it is true, as indicated in the Launceston ‘Examiner’ of Monday, 19 November, that the Prime Minister travelled, presumably by Royal Australian Air Force V.I.P aircraft, on Saturday, 17 November, from Adelaide to Sydney to record his vote at the State election and continued to Launceston, arriving one hour late for his appointment at an agricultural show? What was the cost to the taxpayer of this excursion, if it took place? Are not postal votes available to New South Wales electors who wake up in time?
The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Before the date of the New South Wales election was announced I had accepted many invitations. Among them were invitations to be guest of honour at the National Aborigines Day Observance Committee ball in Adelaide on Friday night, 16 November and to open the Scottsdale Show on Saturday afternoon, 17 November.
After the New South Wales election was announced for 1 7 November I arranged to travel that day from Adelaide to Sydney and thence to Launceston. Like most honourable members I regard it as my obligation to vote in person and to visit polling places at elections in my own electorate.
In the changed circumstances I could not lunch with the Committee of the North-Eastern Agricultural and Pastoral Society before I opened the show. My apologies were conveyed and accepted several days before the show. When I opened it- on time- the record crowd gave every indication of welcoming my attendance and that of the Deputy Prime Minister and their local member, the honourable Lance Barnard, and of not having missed the presence of the honourable senator at all.
My predecessors and I have accepted the advice of our officials to travel by VIP aircraft.
-On 27 November 1973, Senator McLaren asked the following question, without notice:
Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to an article in the National Times’ of 19-24 November which refers to the fact that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Mr Phillip Lynch, used a light aircraft to fly to the town of Pinaroo in South Australia to attend a Liberal Party dinner. Will the Minister investigate the cost of using this aircraft and also the whole cost of the trip by Mr Lynch to attend a Liberal Country League dinner.
The Minister for Services and Property has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The use of charter aircraft is not regarded as a normal means of air transport. However, as there were no commercial air services to Pinaroo I approved the use of a charter aircraft by Mr Lynch and two members of his staff at a cost of $108. As Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Mr Lynch has the use of official car transport at any time. In this particular instance the cost involved was $ 100.56.
Trunkline Telephone Calls
-On 27 November 1973, Senator Cotton asked me the following question, without notice:
I direct a question to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Will the Minister advise the Senate why so much difficulty is being encountered in Sydney by people who are trying to make trunk line telephone calls by dialling 01 1? For the information of the Minister and the PostmasterGeneral, I recite the circumstances of one occasion involving myself. The elapsed time in trying to make the call was 10 minutes which was taken up as follows: 5 diallings with no response: 3 diallings to which I received an engaged signal: 2 diallings to which I received a recorded voice saying that I should check the telephone number and ring somebody else again: and on the final dialling it took 2 minutes 15 seconds to obtain an answer.
The Postmaster-General has now furnished me with the following information in reply:
Since the end of last year and more particularly since about May this year, the Department ‘s Main Trunk Exchange in Sydney, in common with private business and industry in general in the Sydney metropolitan area, has experienced considerable difficulty in recruiting sufficient staff to meet its needs. Moreover the staff turnover in the Main Trunk Exchange has been extremely high. Similar problems have been experienced in respect to the Phonogram Section of the Chief Telegraph Office.
In the first nine months of this year recruitment for the Intrastate (011), Interstate (018), International (016) exchanges and the Directory Assistance Centre (013) in Sydney totalled 962 telephonists while staff losses for the same period totalled 1025. In the quarter ended September, the staff wastage exceeded recruitment by 60. Overall, the staff level in the areas mentioned has been around 30 per cent below required strength and at times the shortage has been as high as 50 per cent. As a result, there has been a serious decline in the standard of service available on most trunk call booking levels, Phonograms, Directory Assistance and other special service levels. The high turnover of staff has aggravated the situation in that, while all operators are trained to a high level of efficiency, relatively few remain in employment long enough to gain the necessary degree of experience- six to nine months- to become fully proficient.
The difficulties experienced on the particular occasion mentioned by the honourable senator, are consistent with those to be expected in a situation of severe staff shortages. An automatic queuing system is associated with the 0 1 1 and most other booking and special service levels to ensure that, within reasonable limits, calls are answered in the order of origination. If, because of delay in receiving an answer, a caller hangs up and dials again, he loses his place in the queue. As the queue accommodates only a limited number of calls, it follows that if callers repeatedly hang up and dial a new call, the latter enters at the end of the queue. Congestion occurs and callers not able to get into the queue receive the engaged signal. It is not possible to state precisely why the Senator received a recorded voice announcement in two instances. However, under overload conditions such as those described, such a condition can occur.
In an effort to improve the situation the Department after consultation with the staff associations concerned recently turned its attention to recruiting part-time staff. Results so far are pleasing and in recent weeks a noticeable improvement in the standard of service on most levels has been achieved. However the situation is still far from satisfactory and will be aggravated by the heavy demands likely to be placed on all operating staffs between now and the New Year.
It is pertinent to add that for more than a decade the Post Office has foreseen that the time would come when it would be impossible to recruit the numbers of telephonists required to provide manual trunk service. It was for this reason that plans were made to introduce subscriber trunk dialling and there is no doubt whatever that, without STD, trunk line service in Australia today would be chaotic Quite clearly, to avoid delays and, indeed, to benefit from the lower cost of STD calls, the Post Office strongly recommends that callers wishing to make trunk calls should use the automatic trunk service whenever possible.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 11 December 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1973/19731211_senate_28_s58/>.